Khan Game

Fullerton congressman wants U.S. to ask Pakistans A-Bomb Daddy some questions

When Kim Jong Il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad finally lose it, when their bluster, fist-shaking and anti-Western imprecations flow seamlessly into the concrete action of the apocalypse—angels in the form of nuclear-tipped missiles descending from the sky at 15,000 miles per hour—you can blame Abdul Qadeer Khan. And George W. Bush.

Khan is the Pakistani physicist who fathered his country's nuclear arsenal in 1998, an achievement long sought by the Islamic nation so it could match neighboring India A-bomb for A-bomb. But following Khan's 2004 confession that he shared nuclear secrets with two-thirds of George W. Bush's Axis of Evil, Pakistani officials quickly arrested him—and just as quickly pardoned him, placing the evil genius under indefinite house arrest in a mansion surrounded not by barbed wire, but flowers.

The Bush administration didn't protest: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf faces assassination if he ever turns Khan over to American authorities, and Bush counts on Musharraf as one of his few allies in the War on Terror.

Royce
Royce

But Ed Royce is less forgiving. On May 25, the Fullerton Republican congressman—who chairs the House's Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation—held hearings to determine whether Khan's smuggling network still posed a threat to American security. The committee's conclusion: yes.

The committee gave the White House a single recommendation: get Khan.

"We have given Pakistan a get-out-of-jail-free card on the single worst case of proliferation in the past 50 years," New York Democratic Congressman Gary Ackerman said during the meeting. David Albright, a former United Nations weapons inspector and current president of the Institute for Science and International Security, testified that the Khan case is "far from closed" and that he finds the Bush administration's "lack of cooperation frankly embarrassing to the United States and to those of us who believe that the United States should take the lead in bringing members of the Khan network to justice for arming our enemies with nuclear weapons."

But the most damning statements came from Royce, a seven-term congressman who is almost invisible when he's standing next to the rest of Orange County's chest-thumping Republican congressional delegation.

"Khan's network has done incalculable and potentially catastrophic damage to international security," he said. "It has opened an era in which many states, including among the most unstable and most hostile to the U.S., can now expect to develop nuclear weapons. This is Khan's grim legacy."

Royce—who didn't return calls for comment—added that "vigilance and greater international pressure on Pakistan to air out the Khan network is in order."

Royce's attack on the administration elicited something worse than a yawn from Bush officials; they've yet to respond. Ditto for the American media, which has reported almost nothing out of the hearing.

But Royce sparked an uproar in Pakistan, where portraits of Khan—some with a delightful mushroom cloud blooming in the background—grace public squares. A reporter for Dawn, the country's leading English-language newspaper, complained that "there was no one" at Royce's committee hearing "to defend Pakistan as lawmakers and witnesses launched a tirade of accusations, often unsubstantiated, against Islamabad." Pakistan's Foreign Office, meanwhile, issued a terse statement: "The [Khan] case has been closed, and all important information had been collected and shared with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United States." The Senate of Pakistan unanimously passed a resolution condemning Royce's request that Pakistan allow the United States to question Khan—all this from a country Bush claims is our ally. That's your War on Terror, where the friend of your friend is your enemy, or maybe your friend's enemy, but in any case, whatever.

GARELLANO@OCWEEKLY.COM

 
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