'Father of the Islamic Bomb'
A.Q. Khan brought the nuclear bomb to the Muslim world – while the West looked the other way.
Friends saw what they wanted to see. Manufacturers in Europe and North America mostly saw dollar signs. Foreign intelligence agencies underestimated the Pakistani scientist. And Western heads of state figured they faced bigger threats than a social-climbing metallurgist.Skip to next paragraph
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Abdul Qadeer Khan surprised them all. For 30 years, Mr. Khan worked – first quietly, then increasingly brazenly – to establish his nation as a nuclear power and himself as a broker of the world's most dangerous technologies.
By the time he made a televised "confession" in 2004, after diplomatic pressure forced Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf to place Khan under house arrest, he had sold those secrets to Iran, North Korea, and Libya – and possibly others.
Today, poorly secured nuclear materials are the single greatest security threat facing the United States. Presidential hopefuls debate the best course of action in case of a nuclear attack on a major American city. Analysts call this a reasonable possibility. Our "second nuclear age" is Khan's legacy.
No wonder, then, that the globe-trotting tale of the audacious, megalomaniacal "father of the Islamic bomb" has been the subject of a mountain of investigative reporting and a shelf full of books.
Now three fine additions – "America and the Islamic Bomb" by David Armstrong and Joseph Trento, "Deception," by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, and The Nuclear Jihadist by Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins – take Khan's story a step further.
All are scathing indictments of the Western powers that knew what Khan was doing and yet looked the other way.
"America and the Islamic Bomb" is a chilling account of the political calculus that led five successive US presidents to turn a blind eye. "Deception" provides rich new information about Khan's life and work while making the case that Pakistan shares the credit and the blame for his notorious crimes.
"The Nuclear Jihadist," too, offers fresh, behind-the-scenes detail. Husband-and-wife reporting team Frantz and Collins spent four years crisscrossing the globe, interviewing intelligence officials and Khan's friends and former colleagues. The resulting account adds much to what was previously known about the origins of Khan's program.
In 1947, when bloody strife split Britain's subcontinental empire, a teenage Khan left his family in Bhopal, India, and followed masses of countrymen into the new Muslim nation of Pakistan. The violence he witnessed on his journey, and the indignities he suffered, engendered in the boy a lifelong hatred of India.