The "busting" of A.Q. Khan and other tall tales


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Geraldine Sealey
October 1, 2004 10:57PM (UTC)

When President Bush patted himself on the back last night for "busting" the "A.Q. Khan network," many of the 55 million Americans watching -- most of whom probably never heard of Mr. Khan -- probably thought that sounded pretty darn good. But who is this A. Q. Khan, and has his network been "brought to justice," as Bush claimed? Hardly.

Abdul Qadeer Khan, also known as the father of Pakistan's nuclear program, was pardoned by Pervez Musharraf after admitting he gave nuclear technology to other countries, including North Korea and Iran. Bush, who said last night that nuclear proliferation "in the hands of a terrorist" enemy was the greatest threat to our national security supported the pardon of A.Q. Khan, even though he admittedly proliferated nuclear technology right into the hands of the last two nations standing in Bush's Axis of Evil.

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Not only has Khan been pardoned, the Washington Post reports that "not a single person involved in his network has been prosecuted anywhere." And just today, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency complained to the BBC that Pakistan won't even let the UN watchdog agency interview Khan.

The misrepresentation of A.Q. Khan's status wasn't the only factual-fudging we saw last night. Salon's Jeff Horwitz detailed Bush's overstatement on how many Iraqi security forces have been trained.

Bush repeated his bogus claim that three-quarters of al-Qaida leadership have been "brought to justice." As we pointed out last month (he says this one a lot), a 9/11 commission member said of this line, it "sounds like it was pulled out of somebody's orifice."

The Progress Report has the goods on several Bush misstatements, quoting other news sources:

-- MISSTATING THE RATIONALE FOR WAR IN IRAQ: Bush tried to rebut Kerry about the prewar need for more patience on Iraq, saying diplomacy wouldn't have persuaded Saddam to disarm. Writes the Boston Globe, "It was almost as though the president has forgotten that no stockpiles of forbidden weapons have been found in Iraq."

-- MISSTATING VOTER REGISTRATION SUCCESS IN AFGHANISTAN: Bush stated, "10 million people have registered to vote in Afghanistan." The problem: most sources agree there aren't even 10 million eligible voters in the country ...

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-- MISSTATING NORTH KOREA DIPLOMACY: Bush inexplicably claimed Kerry's proposal to have direct talks with North Korea would end the six-nation diplomacy that the administration has pursued over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, claiming it would also "drive away China, a key player in the negotiations." He was unable to explain this charge, however."

-- MISSTATING NUCLEAR NONPROLIFERATION EFFORTS: Last night, Bush said he'd increased spending by "about 35 percent" on nonproliferation efforts since he took office. The Washington Post points out that in his first budget, "he proposed a 13 percent cut -- about $116 million -- and much of the increases since then have been added by Congress."

And Fact-Check.org's post-debate truth-squadding concluded that both candidates had some issues with the truth from time to time:

"Bush glossed over significant problems with US reconstruction efforts in Iraq when he claimed that the US is 'spending money' and that 100,000 Iraqi security forces have been trained. And Kerry overstated the case when he said Bush allowed Osama bin Laden to escape from Tora Bora by "outsourcing" fighting to Afghans. Bush misquoted Kerry, distorting his position on withdrawing troops from Iraq. And Kerry said the Iraq war has cost $200 billion, when the cost so far is actually just over $120 billion."

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Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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