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Profile: Robert Oakley

Robert Oakley was a participant or observer in the following events:

US ambassador to Pakistan Robert Oakley.US ambassador to Pakistan Robert Oakley. [Source: Terry Mitchell / Public domain]According to some accounts, by this time it is common knowledge in certain Washington circles that Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Despite this, the US government and Congress continues to pretend that Pakistan does not have such weapons, so that aid to Pakistan and the anti-Soviet mujaheddin based there can continue (see 1987-1989). A former top-level Reagan Administration official will later question the integrity of members of Congress who outwardly pretended to be tough on nuclear proliferators, but did not really want the aid to be cut off: “All this morality horse****. We were caught in a dilemma, and I didn’t know how to solve it: there was no way to stop the Pakistanis.… All this talk about breaking the law—it’s just a morality play. Of course everybody in Congress knew. The Administration was carrying out a popularly based policy in Afghanistan. If we’d cut off the aid to Pakistan, would we have been able to withstand the political heat from Congress?”
Former Ambassador: Congress 'Acquiesced' to Pakistani Program - According to the New Yorker, “many former members of the Reagan and Bush Administrations,” such as former ambassador to Pakistan Robert Oakley, will say that the essential facts about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program were known fully at this time to Congress, whose members “acquiesced” to the program, because of the Soviet-Afghan War and the popularity of Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in the US. Journalist Seymour Hersh will later comment, “Oakley’s point seemed to be that passive approval by Congress of bad policy somehow justified bad policy.”
Glenn: Nonproliferation Initiatives Thwarted - Senator John Glenn (D-OH) will say that most lawmakers did not want to know anyway: “I always thought in terms of the bigger picture—the nonproliferation treaty… We made a commitment that we’d cut off aid to transgressors, and we had to keep faith with those Third World people who signed with us. I didn’t think I had any option but to press for enforcement of the law against Pakistan.” He adds: “The Administration would always come to me and say how important it is to keep the arms flowing through to Afghanistan. I’d take my case on nonproliferation to the floor and lose the vote.”
Solarz: Balancing Concerns between Pakistan, Afghan War - Congressman Stephen Solarz (D-NY), one of the strongest opponents of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program during the Soviet-Afghan War, will admit that he and others who cared about non-proliferation constantly tried to balance that concern with a desire to support the anti-Soviet effort, which was based in Pakistan. “There were legitimate concerns that the Afghan war might spill over to Pakistan, and I felt we needed to give the President flexibility,” Solarz will say. “I didn’t want us to be in a worst-case scenario in case the Soviets moved across the border. I thought I was being responsible at the time.” Referring to allegations made by former State Department, CIA, and Pentagon analyst Richard Barlow that the administration was well-aware of the program and constantly lied to Congress (see July 1987 or Shortly After), he adds, “If what Barlow says is true, this would have been a major scandal of Iran-Contra proportions, and the officials involved would have had to resign. We’re not dealing with minor matters. Stopping the spread of nuclear weapons is one of the major foreign-policy issues of the nation—not to mention the law of the land.” (Hersh 3/29/1993)


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