The Nation's Wikileaks Conspiracy

Dec 1st, 2010 | By | Category: Conspiracy Theories, The Nation

The Nation (logo)My father used to tell me that there are only two things in life that are certain – the first is that you will someday die, and the second is that you will answer to Allah. My cheeky uncle used to say that third is taxes also, but my father used to simply brush him aside with a wave of the hand. Let me tell you that I believe my father is correct: If there is a third certainty in life it is not taxes but media conspiracy theories. At least, conspiracy theories have certainly appeared more often.

The latest media conspiracy comes from the Wikileaks documents that were released this week which naturally contains quite a few juicy gossips about Pakistan. While many of our so-called journalists are falling over themselves about what King So-and-So said about President Zardari, The Nation is keeping true to its nature and grabbing the opportunity to make a sensational story.

The disclosures of the US attempt to remove highly enriched uranium from the Pakistani reactor confirm the suspicions of certain political circles in Pakistan that the US has an eye on our nuclear assets, and while doing everything it can to strengthen India, defence-wise and economically, at the same time, it wants to enfeeble Pakistan.

Problem is, that’s not what the cables say at all. In fact, the uranium referred to has nothing to do with nuclear weapons. According to the actual documents, the uranium being discussed was in a civilian reactor that the US provided Pakistan in the 1960s. In fact, the nuclear material was not even being used, but was simply being stored near the reactor.

Here’s how the New York Times characterizes the dispatch:

The ambassador’s concern was a stockpile of highly enriched uranium, sitting for years near an aging research nuclear reactor in Pakistan. There was enough to build several “dirty bombs” or, in skilled hands, possibly enough for an actual nuclear bomb.

In the cable, dated May 27, 2009, the ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, reported that the Pakistani government was yet again dragging its feet on an agreement reached two years earlier to have the United States remove the material.

She wrote to senior American officials that the Pakistani government had concluded that “the ‘sensational’ international and local media coverage of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons made it impossible to proceed at this time.” A senior Pakistani official, she said, warned that if word leaked out that Americans were helping remove the fuel, the local press would certainly “portray it as the United States taking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.”

The fuel is still there.

Quite a different story, wouldn’t you say?

Here’s what the actual document says:

SUBJECT: U.S. REMOVAL OF PAKISTAN RESEARCH REACTOR FUEL ON HOLD

Classified By: Anne W. Patterson for reasons 1.4 (b) (d)

1. (S) Kamran Akhtar, Disarmament Director in Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Poloff on May 26 that the recent spate of media attention on Pakistan’s nuclear security has led the GOP to delay an important nonproliferation effort, the removal of U.S.-origin highly-enriched uranium spent fuel from a Pakistani nuclear research reactor. The GOP agreed in principle to the fuel removal in 2007, but has been slow in scheduling a visit by U.S. technical experts to discuss logistical and other issues. In recent months, the Strategic Plans Division and Ministry of Foreign Affairs both indicated progress on the matter and a proposed visit for late May was under review. However, according to Akhtar, a recent GOP interagency review of the program concluded that the “sensational” international and local media coverage of the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons made it impossible to proceed at this time. If the local media got word of the fuel removal, “they certainly would portray it as the United States taking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons,” he argued. The visit will have to be delayed for 3-4 months or until the political climate makes it more conducive to hosting a U.S. visit, he stated.

2. (S) Comment: As noted in previous post reporting, the GOP is extremely sensitive to media focus on Pakistan’s nuclear program. In a sign of their growing defensiveness, the Foreign Office Spokesman took significant time out of his May 21 press conference to address nuclear security, stating categorically, “there is simply no question of our strategic assets falling into the wrong hands.” To a question about reported offers of U.S. help with nuclear security, he responded, “we do not need this assistance.” With the postponement of the nuclear fuel removal, it is clear that the negative media attention has begun to hamper U.S. efforts to improve Pakistan’s nuclear security and nonproliferation practices. End Comment.

The Nation, ironically, scoffs at “the hopelessly dangerous defence of Pakistani authorities in order to prevent the US from taking away our enriched uranium”. What the editors don’t realize is that they are actually proving the validity of the very concerns of the official who warned the American Ambassador.

We have observed too often our journalists embarrassing the nation with conspiracy theories about the US trying to steal our nuclear assets. The Nation‘s characterization of the information contained in this document is not only misleading, but it perpetuates a conspiracy theory that is a danger to the national security. Attempts to characterize cooperative efforts to secure not nuclear weapons, which we have already well secured, but some old civilian reactor fuel that is not being used is not only embarrassing, it is counter to our national interest. While it is also a certainty that if militants created a ‘dirty bomb’ from such material, conspiracy theorists would try to blame the US/India/Israel bogeyman, the truth is that the blood would be on their own hands for failing to tell the people the truth so that decisions could be made in line with the national interest, and not the personal interest of some journalist.

Journalists have access to a great deal of information that the general public does not. From private discussions with sources inside the government and military agencies, to leaked documents – journalists can often see the details that their dear readers will not be privy to. But this access carries a responsibility and a duty to report honestly what is said and not to colour the statements in a way that creates unnecessary fear or panic.

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  1. […] recall, The Nation earlier this week published an editorial that claimed that Wikileaks proved a US conspiracy against Pakistan. The disclosures of the US attempt to remove highly enriched uranium from the Pakistani reactor […]

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