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Does Bush Think Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan Has Been Brought to Justice?

Last night in his first debate with Senator Kerry, President Bush said, “The A.Q. Khan network has been brought to justice.” He later said, “We busted the A.Q. Khan network. This was a proliferator out of Pakistan that was selling secrets to places like North Korea and Libya.” They (various people and organizations — the US, the British, the IAEA) did catch A.Q. Khan mainly because they stumbled over his activities in Libya when Libya renounced its WMD activities. Did Libya renounce its WMD because of US pressure. We’ll probably never know exactly what motivated Qadhafi, but it’s likely that he was motivated more by trying to settle Lockerbie-PanAm bombing under pressure from the British than because of any American breakthroughs.

So, what about A.Q. Khan? After the debate, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Karen Hughes about Bush’s statement. He asked, “Do you believe that A.Q. Khan, who delivered nuclear materials to North Korea, to Libya, to other countries, has been a brought to justice?” Karen Hughes replied, “Wolf, his ability to trade on the black market nuclear materials has been severely damaged and compromised, yes.” Wolf followed up, “But I get back to A.Q. Khan. He’s a free man in Pakistan, he was pardoned by President Musharraf. Does that mean he has been brought to justice, after all that he did in circulating banned nuclear equipment around the world?” Karen Hughes replied “Well, again, Wolf, what I can tell you about A.Q. Khan is that his ability — the president has made anti-proliferation a centerpiece of his initiative. The A.Q. Khan network’s ability to deliver and trade in nuclear materials on the black market has been shattered.”

So, A.Q. Khan is not selling nuclear materials at the moment, but he’s walking around a free man, with millions of dollars in the bank from his past activities. And, we don’t know exactly what he was doing before we stumbled on his operation, because Pakistan’s president won’t let US agents talk to him, and Bush won’t pressure Musharraf to let them. Did Khan help Al-Qaida with nuclear weapons? We don’t know.

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