Cheney covered up Pakistani proliferation

Here’s a report by Jason Leopold that alleges Dick Cheney covered up Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation so that the US could sell it fighter planes.

Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and top members of the administration reacted with shock when they found out that Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan’s top nuclear scientist, spent the past 15 years selling outlaw nations nuclear technology and equipment. So it was sort of a surprise when Bush, upon finding out about Khan’s proliferation of nuclear technology, let Pakistan off with a slap on the wrist. But it was all an act. In fact, it was actually a coverup designed to shield Cheney because he knew about the proliferation for more than a decade and did nothing to stop it.

In 1989, the year Khan first started selling nuclear secrets on the black-market; Richard Barlow, a young intelligence analyst working for the Pentagon prepared a shocking report for Cheney, who was then secretary of defense under the Bush I administration: Pakistan built an atomic bomb and was selling its nuclear equipment to countries the U.S. said was sponsoring terrorism.

But Barlow’s findings, as reported in a January 2002 story in Mother Jones magazine, were “politically inconvenient.”

“A finding that Pakistan possessed a nuclear bomb would have triggered a congressionally mandated cutoff of aid to the country, a key ally in the CIA’s efforts to support Afghan rebels fighting a pro-Soviet government. It also would have killed a $1.4-billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Islamabad,” Mother Jones reported.

Ironically, Pakistan, critics say, was let off the hook last month so the U.S. could use its borders to hunt for al-Qaeda leader and alleged 9-11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Cheney dismissed Barlow’s report because he desperately wanted to sell Pakistan the F-16 fighter planes. Several months later, a Pentagon official was told by Cheney to downplay Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities when he testified on the threat before Congress. Barlow complained to his bosses at the Pentagon and was fired.

It seems that today Cheney is advising Bush II to deal with Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation much in the same way he did more than a decade ago. Give the country a pass, lie to the public about the seriousness of the matter and tell Pakistan you’ll turn the other cheek if the country agrees to allow U.S. troops to use its borders to hunt for bin Laden before the November election [Online Journal, via Pakistan Facts]

It is almost certain that the US turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s nuclear shenanigans right from Ronald Reagan’s time – but Cold War realpolitik caused the US to follow a blinkered foreign policy. Sy Hersh covered this in the New Yorker in 1993. But thi is the first time Cheney is being personally associated with the Pakistan cover-ups.