Who are you calling petty?

What’s the point of mentioning all the books about Dr Khan if one doesn’t mention at least one book review? Thus, this article AQ Khan’s Atomic Vision: How a petty postal inspector became the world’s leading nuclear salesman by Douglas Farah in yesterday’s Washington Post, which looks at three of the most recent. Though I think we disagree with the use of the word petty. Nobody who dreams of helping build nuclear weapons can be accused of being petty. Pompous perhaps; maybe even a megalomaniac. But petty? Never!

Farah’s lead states:

Despite being incommunicado, Khan is such a compelling figure that three teams of investigative reporters have come out with books on him this fall. While differing in emphasis, they arrive at some important, common conclusions. Together, they dispel any notion that Khan was an independent actor or that he operated on the fringes of legality, beyond Pakistani government control. They also show that US, British and other intelligence services knew a great deal about him. Most damning, they provide evidence that Khan’s operation could have been shut down in the ’70s or ’80s – long before this bitter, egomaniacal physicist was able to provide nuclear technology to Iran, Libya, North Korea and possibly other state and non-state actors.

Instead, successive US administrations turned a blind eye to Khan’s network in return for short-term favors from Pakistan, first in funneling arms to the mujaheddin combating the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and, after 9/11, in helping with the global war on terror. At times, Khan also profited from sheer bumbling by Western intelligence agencies and their failure to understand, until it was too late, how global networks of front companies could buy small pieces of nuclear weapons technology in hundreds of separate transactions, some legitimate and some not.

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