National humiliation

by Ted on October 5, 2004


One of the most-cited gotchas from Thursday was Bush’s assertion that “the A.Q. Khan network has been brought to justice.”

But CNN reports that national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, appearing on Late Edition, “said Bush did not misspeak when he said that the network of Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan — the founder of Pakistan’s nuclear program who was caught selling secrets on the global black market — had been ‘brought to justice.’

“Khan is living in a villa and was pardoned this year by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. None of Khan’s co-conspirators have been brought to trial.”

Here’s how Rice explained it, from the Late Edition transcript.

“A.Q. Khan is out of business and he is out of the business that he loved most. And if you don’t think that his national humiliation is justice for what he did, I think it is. He’s nationally humiliated.”

Via Respectful of Otters. Why is it harder for Rice to say “The President misspoke” than “We think selling nuclear secrets is a trifle”? “National humiliation” is an appropriate punishment for choosing to appear on reality television. For selling nuclear secrets, it’s rather inadequate.



Uncle Kvetch 10.05.04 at 3:52 pm

A tasty morsel from the CNN report on Condi Rice:

Rice said the administration had gone as far as it could have in that direction, offering “explanation after explanation” of why it was necessary to invade Iraq.

Throw enough shit against the wall, and sooner or later…


Giles 10.05.04 at 3:53 pm

“the A.Q. Khan network has been brought to justice”

“He didnt say “the A.Q. Khan has been brought to justice” as you seem to have “misread”


Uncle Kvetch 10.05.04 at 3:59 pm

“He didnt say “the A.Q. Khan has been brought to justice” as you seem to have “misread”

You’re absolutely right, Giles–he said that Khan’s network had been “brought to justice.”

Given that, as noted above, “none of Khan’s co-conspirators have been brought to trial,” Bush’s actual statement is still a bald-faced lie, of course…but I guess that’s not what’s really important here.


des von bladet 10.05.04 at 4:01 pm

You can bring a network to justice, but you can’t get it put in the clink.


mona 10.05.04 at 4:07 pm

Well it’s even harder to say a lot of things about US-Pakistani relations that might explain this sort of thing. It’d be too nationally humiliating for both governments.


Ted Barlow 10.05.04 at 4:09 pm

From the New Yorker:

On February 4th, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, who is revered in Pakistan as the father of the country’s nuclear bomb, appeared on a state-run television network in Islamabad and confessed that he had been solely responsible for operating an international black market in nuclear-weapons materials. His confession was accepted by a stony-faced Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s President, who is a former Army general, and who dressed for the occasion in commando fatigues. The next day, on television again, Musharraf, who claimed to be shocked by Khan’s misdeeds, nonetheless pardoned him, citing his service to Pakistan (he called Khan “my hero”). Musharraf told the Times that he had received a specific accounting of Khan’s activities in Iran, North Korea, and Malaysia from the United States only last October. “If they knew earlier, they should have told us,” he said. “Maybe a lot of things would not have happened.”

After selling nuclear secrets to our enemies, A.Q. Khan is sitting in a villa, having been pardoned for selling nuclear secrets. He’s a national hero in Pakistan. None of his co-conspirators have been brought to trial.

By what possible definition have they be brought to justice?

Isn’t the most accurate response to admit that the President misspoke, rather than lashing out at me?


John Isbell 10.05.04 at 4:12 pm

Watching it live, Blitzer’s “he’s living in a villa” was an amazing moment, in the “You’re no Jack Kennedy” vein. I like to think the show had a large audience. Nor was it the only moment in Rice’s traditionally catastrophic performance. She might try not shaking her head from side to side whenever her mouth is open. It clashes with the grin.


Ted Barlow 10.05.04 at 4:14 pm


Fair enough. It’s in our best interest for the US government to give Musharraf a lot of leeway, and honest people can disagree about where we stop being realists and start being patsies. However, we shouldn’t be pointing to an obvious failure and calling it a triumph of justice.


roger 10.05.04 at 4:28 pm

Ted, have you read the report by the Jane’s Weapons guy about the weapons fair (IDEA) going on right now in Karachi? It nicely buttresses the point of your post, which is that, far from being nationally humiliated, Khan’s imprisonment-for-a-day and pardon (if only Martha Stewart could get that deal!) is symptomatic of Pakistan’s continuing determination to make the world an unsafer place for, as Bush would put it, freedom loving fighters for freedom. This is the link: The first two grafs are killers:

“…Exhibitors and attendees drive from the Sheraton to the expo center in armed convoys. Police with machine guns are stationed every 50 yards along the 30-minute drive. Snipers peek from the rooftops surrounding the expo center. Delegates are advised not to leave the hotel, which is where 11 French submarine engineers were killed two years ago on their way to work on subs that France and Pakistan are assembling here. Karachi is also where Daniel Pearl was kidnapped.

As delegations from a veritable Who’s Who of pariah states—North Korea, Myanmar, Iran, Zimbabwe, Sudan—make the rounds, a Pakistani company shows off its new cluster bombs (which, the company press release notes, “can be used against soft targets”). A Bangladeshi delegation looks approvingly at a display of Pakistani tanks.” …


chipper 10.05.04 at 4:29 pm

If national humiliation is punishment for selling nuclear secrets? And if I’m humiliated and it’s my belief that this nation has been humiliated, does that mean that I could be getting all this humiliation (punishment) for nothing? I don’t even know any nuclear secrets. What a rip-off.

ps. Flip-Flopper


yabonn 10.05.04 at 4:29 pm

“He didnt say “the A.Q. Khan has been brought to justice” as you seem to have “misread”

Then i “misread” too.


Why is it harder for Rice to say “The President misspoke” than “We think selling nuclear secrets is a trifle”?

It is not harder. She just knows that, as far as u.s. domestic politics go, people are used to a president that is not responsible.

If he was responsible for what he says, there would be an uproar about that specific lie. He’s supposed to know what he’s talking about, and this is simply false.

But he’s not, and she knows she can rely on lots of “giles” to first argue that the quote isn’t there, and then that technically, khan _has_ been brought to justice, as he was trialed, etc etc etc.

She knows too that the (maybe) controversy will be echoed in the press in the “he said she said” mode.

The president may mislead at will, he’s not responsible, and will get a free pass in all cases except the baldest lie. The “bush never _epxressly_ said there were wmd in irak” defense is still used sometimes.

Kerry, on the other hand, forgot poland.


Giles 10.05.04 at 4:53 pm

I still think its accurate – the network that had been running rampant has been “brought to justice”. I agree that it seems to have got “community serivice” which is fine if you believe in preventative sentencing but not if you believe in punishment.


Jeremy Osner 10.05.04 at 5:21 pm

It’s your fault, you damn liberals, for being soft on crime! Quit blaming our beloved president when you have nothing to bring to the table! We would have him tortured if it were not for your namby-pamby sensitivities! La la la! I can’t hear you! We’re the ones who want to punish criminals, not you — you’re the ones who want to let them off so don’t talk to me about not bringing Khan to justice! You wouldn’t know justice if it set the dogs on you!


jif 10.05.04 at 5:21 pm

Exactly how has this network been “brought to justice”? I am just completely baffled that anyone can even make a half-hearted defense of this statement.


Pete 10.05.04 at 5:26 pm

“A.Q. Khan is out of business and he is out of the business that he loved most. And if you don’t think that his national humiliation is justice for what he did, I think it is. He’s nationally humiliated.”

Like the way the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were “nationally humiliated?”


yabonn 10.05.04 at 5:36 pm

the network that had been running rampant has been “brought to justice”.


Cute quotes, btw.


John Isbell 10.05.04 at 5:38 pm

It would be interesting to see an experiment as to exactly how egregious a statement the administration could make in public and still have gileses extending the boundaries of the history of contortionists to explain how eminently logical and unproblematic it is. I want to have Bush say black is white. Or maybe the Earth is flat.
Come to think of it, this could be the actual agenda of the Bush presidency. They’re taking notes as we speak.


John Isbell 10.05.04 at 5:41 pm

Oh – obviously the classic point of reference for this experiment is the little pig in Animal Farm, Napoleon’s spokesman. Squealer, I think. A secondary character.


Luc 10.05.04 at 5:55 pm

For selling nuclear secrets, it’s rather inadequate.

As Pakistan is not a signatory of the NPT, you have to ask, why?

Is there an international or universal law against selling nuclear weapon technology? If so then you have to wonder why US/UK cooperation in developing nuclear weapon technology is allowed.

My point is that this is a Pakistani responsability.

For their view on this see this.

I might add that as a non-signatory to the NPT Pakistan’s own obligations towards the IAEA stern from its Item/Facility specific Safeguards Agreement on which it has an excellent record of compliance. Nor is Pakistan under any investigation by the IAEA for any violation of its international obligations. Accordingly, our cooperation with the IAEA is entirely voluntary. Of course, as a responsible nuclear weapons state, we accept international norms and on that basis have been cooperating with the IAEA. We also voted for the recently adopted UN Security Council resolution 1540 despite our reservations that the Security Council is not an appropriate body to deal with the issue of non-proliferation. It is our view that treaty regimes are more equitable and systemic in nature. Instead of political aspects they rely more on the technological aspects and issues and as a result they tend to provide better solutions.

The point being, that there isn’t much justice to go around. Only the Pakistani security and weapon export laws.

Thus Bush’s line may be silly, but claiming that Khan should be brought to justice is equally silly. “What justice?” would the next question be.

All the more reason to try to get Pakistan (and India, Israel, Cuba) inside the NPT.


Ccoonnddoolleezzaa Rriiccee 10.05.04 at 6:00 pm

You know, California should look into this “humiliated” thing, because the three-strikes law’s been on the books for awhile now and the life sentence for a third strike doesn’t seem to have been a heavy enough punishment to end all crime.


jif 10.05.04 at 7:00 pm

If there is no crime for which Khan would have been brought to justice, doesn’t this just undermine the claim to have prompted such an end even more? He’s claiming credit not only for something that didn’t happen, but for something that is not possible within the current international law structures. Doesn’t this just make it doubly silly- and misleading? Unless of course there is a law prohibiting Pakistani “networks” from selling such things. And that “network” is now sitting in jail somewhere.


abb1 10.05.04 at 7:20 pm

I still think its accurate – the network that had been running rampant has been “brought to justice”.

Indeed, why not? We have already lost ‘terrorism’, ‘liberation’, ‘defense’ – what’s so special about ‘justice’? Why shouldn’t its meaning be “slap on the wrist” from now on?

It’s good to know, though, that when he said: “I’ve directed the full resources for our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and bring them to justice” on 9/11/01 he meant that the law enforcement community has been directed to buy Osama a nice house.


mona 10.05.04 at 7:27 pm

Ted – I was only being sarcastic about Rice’s “brought to justice” – of course I agree completely with you that it’s preposterous to say that, and actually, I do *not* think it’s in the US best interests to give Musharaf & co. a lot of leeway, at least with “best interests” referring to interests of citizens (in both countries) rather than powers – that’s what my sarcasm was about :)

That Rice had to say something so ridiculous only shows how debatable (for want of a better word) the relations with the Pakistani regime and services are. At best it’s mutual exploitation, really old style realpolitik…


Jon H 10.05.04 at 8:17 pm

I suspect many Pakistanis would be all for spreading nuclear weapons to other Islamic states.

So if Khan and his network are humiliated, it’s because they were put out of action at the demand of the US, not because of their proliferation work.

Which also suggests that, under the right circumstances, Pakistan will be doing it again in the future.


Aaron G. 10.05.04 at 9:58 pm

Rice, in trying to cover for Bush’s lie, is lying herself. Far from being humiliated, A.Q. Khan is evidently still a national hero to many, if not all, Pakistanis.


Luc 10.06.04 at 1:32 am

If there is no crime for which Khan would have been brought to justice, doesn’t this just undermine the claim to have prompted such an end even more?

You could compare it to the way those responsible for delivering arms to Iran in the Iran Contra affair were brought to justice.

Justice was done, and all involved lived happily ever after.

The only difference is that it involved nuclear technology this time. And Pakistan acknowledged that, and say they are committed to prevent that in the future.


jet 10.06.04 at 4:34 pm

I think a lot of you are missing some perspective. This guy wasn’t just a national hero, but a major political force in the country. And let us not forget this is a country where if Osama ran for office, he’d stand a good chance of winning. So the fact that this guy was tried, sentenced to house arrest for life, his network not only shut down, but dismantled with documents seized, is in any realistic sense, an incredible triumph of the rule of law. If he would have received a harsh sentence or death, the country’s current low grade civil war would in all probability turn into an open civil war.

Maybe Bush should have been clearer, but then again maybe he expected his critics to have at least some small knowledge of the subject and circumstances if they would open their mouths.

So yes, in fantasy land, where Kerry goes to the UN, makes an incredibly smooth case, and UN peace-keepers arrest Khan, try him in the Hague, and sentence him to 25 years, Bush’s results look pretty bad. But since Kerry is keeping all his magically fairy dust to himself until he gets to be president, we’ll have to live with more old-fashioned non-magical results.

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