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Yesterday while wandering in the forests of Romania, I accidentally ingested a certain mushroom.  I sank to my knees and was overwhelmed with cosmic light.

A vision came to me of an alternative universe.  It was so similar to the current one that I almost mistook it for reality itself.  Perhaps the most frightening aspect of my hallucination was just how rational it all was.

My dream was so life-like that it even came with weblinks.

It started with a press conference from June 19, 2003:

Q Do you have any reaction to the IAEA's report on Pakistan's nuclear efforts? And, secondly, in his comments yesterday what kind of new line was the President trying to draw, in terms of Pakistan's seeming clandestine efforts to achieve a nuclear weapon?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President welcomes the international community's report about Pakistani attempts to develop nuclear weaponry. The report stated that Pakistan had -- there are a number of past failures by Pakistan to report material, facilities and activities as required by safeguard applications.

The report noted that the enrichment plan that Pakistan is under IAEA safeguards, and the board encouraged Pakistan not to introduce nuclear material at the pilot enrichment plant, as a confidence building measure. And then the board called on Pakistan to take two specific concrete steps. One is to permit the IAEA to take environmental samples at locations inside Pakistan. And they also call on Pakistan to ratify an additional protocol making certain that Pakistan is acting in a way that provides assurances to the international community of the peaceful nature of Pakistan's nuclear activities.

The board is concerned, the international community is concerned and the President is concerned. The President welcomes this report. It's international reinforcement of the President's message yesterday that the world, broadly speaking, joins together in fighting proliferation and making certain that Pakistan does not develop nuclear weapons.

Q Pakistan rejected those, quickly rejected those requests, though, today, according to the reports just before we left. What next?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I've seen mixed commentary on what Pakistan's reaction has been. Pakistan did not support the board. All nations of the IAEA supported this; Pakistan did not. But then Pakistan has issued statements welcoming this. So I think it remains to be seen what Pakistan's reaction will be.

But if Pakistan is not pursuing nuclear weapons, why wouldn't they cooperate fully and completely with the IAEA?

Q Ari, is there a military option on the table for dealing with Pakistan?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President wanted to see what the IAEA reported. Clearly, the United States and the international community share the same concerns about Pakistan. The President's hope is that the future of Pakistan will be decided by the Pakistani people. There is a tremendous young population in Pakistan that is yearning for a better way of life and a more tolerant way of life. That's where the President is focused.

Q Will there be more efforts to go to the U.N., to bring this before the Security Council?

MR. FLEISCHER: The IAEA just made its report. I think the world will be very interested in Pakistani reaction -- and Pakistani reaction will be telling. If the Pakistanis are pursuing peaceful nuclear energy, as they claim they are, then they have every reason to comply with the IAEA's request, particularly the two specific requests to take the environmental sample and to sign the additional protocol.

So I think the international community will watch Pakistan's next move.

Q So is the President still undecided on whether he believes Pakistan is, in fact, already committed to acquiring a weapon? Or does he -- I mean, does he think that Pakistan has actually made that decision?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President is concerned about Pakistani efforts that indicate they want to acquire nuclear weaponry. And as the President said, we -- which is an expression representing the international community -- will not tolerate Pakistani development of nuclear weaponry, which is exactly what the IAEA report is all about.

The world's protocols for fighting against proliferation are important and that's why Pakistan needs to comply.

It continued with Wolf Blitzer interviewing Condoleezza Rice on October 3, 2004:

BLITZER: Let's talk about some of the things that the president said at the debate because some of them seem to be a little bit sloppy, got repetitive, as you well know.

But listen to this one excerpt of what he said briefly about Abdul Qadeer Khan, the former Pakistani nuclear scientist who helped create the Pakistani bomb, and obviously that no longer exists. But listen to what the president said.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The A.Q. Khan network has been brought to justice.


BLITZER: To justice? The guy has been -- Khan has been freed. He's been pardoned by President Musharraf. And none of his associates have been brought to justice.

RICE: Well, his associates are in the process of being brought to justice. BSA Tahir (ph) is in custody. Several other members are in custody.

BLITZER: But Khan himself lives in a villa. And the IAEA would like to question him, and the Pakistani government doesn't even allow that to happen.

RICE: I think we all know that A.Q. Khan was a particular kind of figure in Pakistani lore, a national hero. And Musharraf has dealt with what is a very difficult situation about A.Q. Khan, by making certain that he's out of business, making certain that he loses the kinds of privileges that he had to travel and the like.

The important thing is that the A.Q. Khan network is out of business. And people are being brought to justice.

BLITZER: But the president would have been better saying the A.Q. Khan network has been rolled up or stopped. But brought to justice is a specific phrase...

RICE: They've both been brought to -- they've both been rolled up, and they're being brought to justice. A number of countries are pursuing prosecutions...

BLITZER: Against Khan?

RICE: ... against the A.Q. Khan network -- people like his chief operating officer, BSA Tahir (ph). South Africa is pursuing prosecutions. Europeans are pursuing...

BLITZER: But not A.Q. Khan specifically.

RICE: A.Q. Khan, in a sense, has been brought to justice because he is out of the business that he loved most.

Ah yes, the humilitation.  My dream continued with an analysis from Global Security:

Pakistan's nuclear weapons program is a source of extreme national pride, and, as its father, A.Q. Khan -- who headed Pakistan's nuclear program for some 25 years -- is considered a national hero.

In 1975, following India's 1974 nuclear test and while on holiday in Pakistan, Dr. was reported to have been asked by the then-prime minister to take charge of Pakistan's uranium-enrichment program. In early 1976, Dr. Khan left the Netherlands with secret URENCO blueprints for uranium centrifuge (one of Dutch origins featuring an aluminum rotor, and another of German make, composed of maraging steel, a superhard alloy). Convicted in 1983 in abstentia by a court in the Netherlands for stealing the designs, his conviction would be later overturned on a technicality.

Because Pakistan lacked the technical base to for a nuclear program, Khan reportedly began to clandestinely acquire the necessary materials and components required for the production of fissile material using information pertaining to URENCO's key suppliers, which he had also taken with him from the Netherlands. Theses were used to provide Pakistan with needed equipment. Indeed, according to a Dutch government report, two Dutch firms were involved in the 1976 export of 6,200 unfinished maraging steel rotor tubes to Pakistan.

During the 1990s, there were intermittent clues from intelligence that AQ Khan was discussing the sale of nuclear technology to countries of concern. By early 2000, intelligence revealed that these were not isolated incidents. It became clear that Khan was at the centre of an international proliferation network. By April 2000, the UK Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) was noting that there was an evolving, and as yet incomplete, picture of the supply of uranium enrichment equipment to at least one customer in the Middle East, thought to be Libya, and evidence linking this activity to Khan.

A.Q. Khan's official career came to an abrupt end in March 2001, when he was suddenly was forced out as director of the nuclear lab by order of President Pervez Musharraf. Though Kahn was made a special adviser to the government, the reason for his dismissal reportedly coincided with concerns about financial improprieties at the lab as well as general warnings from the United States to the Musharraf about Khan's proliferation activities.

The change in position for A.Q. Khan did not necessarily end proliferation concerns. Indeed, while in Pakistan in October 2003, a US delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage reportedly briefed Gen. Musharraf on A.Q. Khan activities. Gen. Abizaid, then head of US Central Command, repotedly conducted similar concerns to Pakistani political and military leaders.

The lack of of strict oversight over Pakistan's nuclear weapons program has been blamed with a brigadier general in charge of security for Dr. Khan's top-secret laboratory never having reported anything. Doubts remain, however, about the lack of governmental approval/supervision of A.Q. Kahn's proliferation activities; some of which were conspicuously advertised. Indeed, one of A.Q. Khan Research Laboratories' sales brochure promoted the sale of components derived from Pakistan's nuclear weapons program and critical to the making of centrifuges.

In his startling televised confession Wednesday, Abdul Qadeer Khan insisted he acted without authorization in selling nuclear technology to other governments. A.Q. Khan admitted selling nuclear technology to Iran, Libya, and North Korea. A.Q. Khan asked for clemency, but the Pakistani government made no public announcement about whether he is to be prosecuted. The confessed proliferation took place between 1989 and 2000, though it is suspected that proliferation activities to North Korea continued after that date.

My strange dream continued with a press conference given by Bush in Afghanistan:

Q -- Pakistan states that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but you seem to doubt them. There seems to be some sort of standoff. You don't think that the standoff will affect the security of the region, and do you think there is a way out of this standoff?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Pakistan must not have a nuclear weapon. The most destabilizing thing that can happen in this region and in the world is for Pakistan to have a -- develop a nuclear weapon. And so the world is speaking with one voice to the Pakistanis that it's okay for you to have a civilian power -- nuclear power operation, but you shall not have the means, the knowledge to develop a nuclear weapon.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists also haunted my vision:

It is unclear how much weapons-grade uranium Pakistan has. For two decades, Pakistan pursued a gas centrifuge uranium-enrichment method to produce fissile material for its nuclear weapons, at what is now known as the Abdul Qadeer Khan Research Laboratories in Kahuta. By the early 1990s, some 3,000 centrifuges were thought to be operating. Although Pakistan declared a moratorium on the production of highly enriched uranium in 1991, experts think it resumed production well before the May 1998 nuclear tests. The most reliable estimate is that Pakistan has produced enough fissile material for 30--52 nuclear weapons.

Like other nations that have developed nuclear weapons, Pakistan does not seem content with a first-generation nuclear weapon and may be pursuing other designs and refinements.

U.S.-manufactured F-16s are most likely to be used by the Pakistani Air Force to deliver nuclear weapons, although other aircraft, such as the Mirage V or the Chinese-produced A-5, also could be used.

The mushroom's evil powers infiltrated my mind with a report from the CIA issued last year:

Forecasting a "Yugoslavia-like fate" for Pakistan, the US National Intelligence Council (NIC) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in a jointly prepared Global Futures Assessment Report have said "by year 2015 Pakistan would be a failed state, ripe with civil war, bloodshed, inter-provincial rivalries and a struggle for control of its nuclear weapons and complete Talibanisation".

The blasted fungus reminded me that Pakistan and India have gone to war 3 times, in 1947-48, 1965 and 1971, to say nothing of constant skirmishes and fighting in Kashmir.  

Yet look what strange visions the mushroom brought me on Iran.  Bush went to visit the country in March of this year:

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: I also expressed Iran's gratitude to the President for the assistance that we got in the relief operations and the reconstruction activity of the earthquake in our hour of need. I don't think without the assistance of the Chinooks of United States and the medical teams, the hospitals, that we could have met the challenges of the relief operation in the earthquake. And we look forward to increased involvement -- or sustained involvement of United States in assisting us in the reconstruction activity.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Mr. President and I reaffirmed our shared commitment to a broad and lasting strategic partnership. And that partnership begins with close cooperation in the war on terror. President Ahmadinejad made a bold decision for his people and for peace, after September the 11th, when Iran chose to fight the terrorists. The American people appreciate your leadership, Mr. President, and so do I.

Iran has captured or killed hundreds of al Qaeda terrorists. Iran has lost brave citizens in this fight. We're grateful to all who have given their lives in this vital cause. We honor the Iranians who continue to risk their lives to confront the terrorists.

We support democracy in Iran. President Ahmadinejad understands that in the long run, the way to defeat terrorists is to replace an ideology of hatred with an ideology of hope. And I thank you for your extensive briefing today on your plans to spread freedom throughout your country. President Ahmadinejad envisions a modern state that provides an alternative to radicalism.

The elections scheduled for 2007 are a great opportunity for Iran. The President understands these elections need to be open and honest. America will continue to working -- working with Iran to lay the foundations of democracy. And I appreciate your commitment.

We're proud to help our Iranian friends recover from the devastation of the earthquake. We just saw a film of the earthquake. It is staggering what the people of this country have been through. It is unbelievable how many people lost their lives, how many people have lost their homes. And we're proud to help. We're proud to help a great Iranian military take the lead. We're proud to stand with the NGOs and those who deliver compassion as this country rebuilds. We stand by our commitment, our pledge of one-half billion dollars for recovery and reconstruction.

I was also haunted by a press conference from 2003, when President Ahmadinejad was visiting the Bush family at Camp David in 2003:

Q: Mr. President Bush. It's a very positive statement for bringing peace into South Asia, which is already nuclearized, but during the 20 years of honeymoon period of India with Soviet Union, India is the one who launched nuclear program, and insecure and a smaller Iran, in search of its security, did the same thing. Now, when you are starting a stable relationship with India, what kind of security concerns you are going to address about the territorial integrity of Iran and security concerns, because Iran is much smaller in the conventional weapons, and that's why they have gone nuclear?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I think -- we've spent a lot of time on this subject, not only today, but during previous meetings. I assured President Ahmadinejad that the United States wants to help toward achieving a peaceful solution. What you've just described is the reason why there needs to be a peaceful solution on this issue and other issues.

Q Mr. President, you mentioned you'd like to see a movement toward democracy in --


Q You mentioned that you would like to see a movement toward democracy in Iran. What would you like to see happen? There's a report that he might dissolve the parliament there.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, the President and I talked about the reforms that he's putting in place, and the democracy to which he is committed. One of the things that he has done that is most impressive for the long-term stability of Iran is to address education reform. A good education system is one that is going to mean more likely for any country, including ourselves, to be a freer country, and a more democratic country.

And he is -- he's taking on the issue in a way that is a visionary and strong. He's dealing with the Madrassahs in a way that is productive and constructive. He is working on a national curriculum that will focus on basic education. I'll let him describe his vision. But this country is committed to democracy, and we're committed to freedom.

I immediately began to flashback to a Newsweek article:

Hardscrabble madrassas, in the north Waziristan town of Mirali, are where many Taliban leaders got their start two decades ago during the CIA's war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Today, those jihad academies continue to indoctrinate new generations of holy warriors, passionately loyal to the banner of radical Islam and inured to lives of hardship. Such schools pose a grave challenge to the Bush administration's plans for the region. "How do we stop those who are financing the radical madrassa schools?" asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a recently leaked memo. "Is our current situation such that `the harder we work, the behinder we get?' " More than a year ago Pakistan's leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, promised to defang the madrassas. Instead, he formed a political alliance with the schools' radical Islamist supporters against the mainstream secular opposition. "Musharraf talks a lot, but nothing happens," says Maulana Abdul Qadr, principal of the Darul Uloom Zuberia madrassa, near Peshawar.

Musharraf's job often seems hopeless. Not even the mullahs know how many madrassas Pakistan has. The government's latest guess is 27,000 or more. Many are peaceable institutions wishing only to train devout Muslims, not warriors or terrorists. But others steep their students in the doctrine of holy war and function openly as jihad enlistment centers. Many youngsters take inspiration from older schoolmates. Zahidullah, 31, a grad student in Islamic law at the Bahrul Uloom madrassa in Pakistan's northern mountains, boasts of how many recruits he has gained for the outlawed Kashmiri guerrilla force Harkatul Mujahedin: "Many youths here are anxious to join the jihad when I tell them stories of our heroic Islamic resistance against Indian aggression."

I was haunted by this United Nations report:

The picture of illiteracy in Pakistan is grim. Although successive governments have announced various programmes to promote literacy, especially among women, they have been unable to translate their words into action because of various political, social and cultural obstacles.

Official statistics released by the Federal Education Ministry of Pakistan give a desperate picture of education for all, espcially for girls. The overall literacy rate is 46 per cent, while only 26 per cent of girls are literate. Independent sources and educational experts, however, are sceptical. They place the overall literacy rate at 26 per cent and the rate for girls and women at 12 per cent.

My dream was about to end, but not without some grim statements first.

From CNN:

On the nuclear issue, Musharraf said he thought it unlikely the U.N. Security Council would impose sanctions against Pakistan, adding he believes most member countries "are rational enough not to make such a great mistake."

U.S. officials have said they are pursuing a diplomatic resolution to the standoff with Pakistan, though President Bush has said no option is off the table.

"Asked about the possibility of a U.S. attack on Pakistan, Musharraf said he did not believe such a military operation would take place, but he warned, "My nation is a strong nation. It can defend itself."

He said, "We are suspicious of the American government. ... They want to portray themselves as masters of the world. They are showing certain behaviors that have led to their mistrust. We don't negotiate with them as a matter of principle."

Even Tony Blair got into my skull.  From UPI:

British Prime Minister Tony Blair Monday refused to rule out the possibility that he would support military action against Pakistan over its nuclear programs.

"Nobody is talking about a military invasion," said Blair, at his monthly Downing Street press conference, when asked if he would consider lending British support to military action taken by the United States. Blair insisted that "Pakistan is not Iraq."

"People do however want to send a very strong signal to Pakistan because some of the comments made by the president of Pakistan are completely unjustifiable, and Pakistan is supporting terrorism in the region to the detriment of democratic governments, it is in breach of its nuclear obligations and people want it to comply," said Blair.

Questioned on the issue in Parliament last week, Blair backed U.S. President George W. Bush on his decision to keep all military options, including targeted nuclear strikes, on the table.

Pressed as to whether he would consider supporting the use of force against the Islamic Republic, Blair would say only: "It's not very sensible at this moment in time to send a signal of weakness; we want to send a signal of strength."

Indeed.  Luckily Bush said that plans for attacking Pakistan were "wild speculation".

As the evil mushroom's influence waned, Seymour Hersh article from last year floated across my retinas:

In my interviews, I was repeatedly told that the next strategic target was Pakistan. "Everyone is saying, `You can't be serious about targeting Pakistan. Look at Iraq,' " the former intelligence official told me. "But they say, `We've got some lessons learned--not militarily, but how we did it politically. We're not going to rely on agency pissants.' No loose ends, and that's why the C.I.A. is out of there."

The civilian leadership in the Pentagon has argued that no diplomatic progress on the Pakistani nuclear threat will take place unless there is a credible threat of military action. "The neocons say negotiations are a bad deal," a senior official of the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) told me. "And the only thing the Pakistanis understand is pressure. And that they also need to be whacked."

The core problem is that Pakistan has successfully hidden the extent of its nuclear program, and its progress.

In a recent essay, Patrick Clawson, a Pakistan expert who is the deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (and a supporter of the Administration), articulated the view that force, or the threat of it, was a vital bargaining tool with Pakistan. Clawson wrote that if Europe wanted coöperation with the Bush Administration it "would do well to remind Pakistan that the military option remains on the table."

The Administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Pakistan at least since last summer. Much of the focus is on the accumulation of intelligence and targeting information on Pakistani nuclear, chemical, and missile sites, both declared and suspected. The goal is to identify and isolate three dozen, and perhaps more, such targets that could be destroyed by precision strikes and short-term commando raids. "The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Pakistan and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible," the government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon told me.

Yikes! When I woke up I was lying on the ground, my mouth full of pine needles, shouting "Invade Pakistan! Bomb Islamabad!" over and over again.  My friend doused me with a glass of water and I thankfully began to sober up, realizing the whole thing was just an awful, awful dream.  

I'll stick to buying mushrooms in the store from now on.

Cross-posted from the doubleplusungood crimethink website Flogging the Simian


Originally posted to Soj on Tue Apr 25, 2006 at 03:23 AM PDT.

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