Barry and the Bombers

21 Apr

Following on from A.Q. Khan’s angry letter about British television, here’s another snippet that didn’t make it into the final version of the thesis.

Throughout the mid-to-late 1970s, successive US administrations attempted to use arms sales as a means of shifting Pakistan from the nuclear path. During this period, the weapon system that was always a major sticking point was the advanced A-7 attack aircraft. The Pakistanis wanted it. The Americans didn’t want them to have it. Then they did. Then they didn’t. Then they did. And so on ad infinitum.

In 1976, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger found himself attacked on a  number of fronts over the A-7s. Kissinger wanted to sell the A-7s to Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, but was constrained by Islamabad’s overt attempt to buy a nuclear reprocessing plant from France and the concomitant concern this caused in Congress.

From early 1976, Gerald Ford, Kissinger, and National Security Adviser General Brent Scowcroft came under increasing pressure over the A-7 issue. Not only were the Pakistanis desirous that the aircraft be de-linked from the nuclear issue, but Senatorial and industry figures were piling pressure on the administration. Ever since January, Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ)  – the original ‘Mr Conservative,’ failed Presidential candidate, department store owner, and ‘author’ of the bestselling The Conscience of a Conservative – had been acting as spokesman for the LTV Corporation (the A-7’s manufacturers), attempting to use his close personal relationship with Kissinger to aid LTV contacts with the government.[1]

In August 1976, just before visiting Pakistan, Kissinger reassured Goldwater about the sale during a telephone conversation, commenting that the administration had come up with a scheme where they could sell the A-7s in exchange for Pakistan giving up the reprocessing plant.[2] When LTV officials met with Scowcroft on September 20, it was obvious to the National Security Adviser that they had been extensively briefed by the Pakistani embassy in Washington.[3] Former Secretary of Commerce in the Ford administration, Rogers Morton, accompanied LTV President Paul Thayer to the meeting in an attempt to put further pressure on the government.

Morton and Thayer used the upcoming Presidential election (an election that an embattled Ford was by no means guaranteed of winning) as leverage, noting that the Pakistani contract was vital to continued full employment at the LTV plant in Texas. Thayer suggested that as Texas was a key state for Ford, the President might want to do all he could to ensure that this valuable contract was pushed through.[4] Scowcroft, despite commenting on the situation’s vast complexity, assured Thayer the administration were doing all they could to find a solution.[5]

The election itself had become – at least in part – a test of resolve on nuclear non-proliferation. Democratic Party candidate Jimmy Carter had made non-proliferation a major plank of his platform, forcing a reaction from the Ford administration. Four days before the election, Ford made the most significant presidential speech on nuclear policy for years, announcing major new curbs on reprocessing and nuclear trade, curbs that would be enlarged by Carter upon his eventual victory.

This segment about Goldwater and the LTV corporation didn’t make it into the final thesis for a handful of reasons. For one, it didn’t add much to the big picture of US policymaking, despite the fascinating confluence of Henry Kissinger, the powerful but fading Barry Goldwater, and – to use Dwight D. Eisenhower’s construction – the military-industrial complex. Secondly, and despite the kind of lobbying seen here, successive US administrations were less susceptible to economic pressure in the case of Pakistan than, for example, their British counterparts. The A-7 remained an arrow in the quiver of the Carter administration when they came to power in January, 1977, popping up time an again as both a bribe and means of coercion.



[1] Goldwater to Ford, Letter, January 26, 1976, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library (hereafter GRFPL), Presidential Country Files for Middle East and South Asia, Pakistan (6). Conscience of a Conservative was ghost-written Goldwater’s speechwriter, L. Brent Bozell Jr., the brother in law of conservative figurehead William F. Buckley. As another aside, Kissinger had a great personal fondness for Pakistan, as that country had be instrumental in aiding the normalisation of relations with China. Furthermore, the Secretary of State harboured a deep-seated antipathy towards the Indian leader, Indira Gandhi, frequently referring to her as a “bitch” or a “witch.”

[2] Goldwater to Kissinger, Telephone Conversation (transcript), August 3, 1976, Digital National Security Archive, KA15149, 1

[3] Oakley to Scowcroft, ‘Your Meeting With Rodgers [sic] Morton and LTV President Paul Thayer on A-7s for Pakistan,’ September 18, 1976, GRFPL, Presidential Country Files for Middle East and South Asia, Pakistan (6), 2

[4] Memcon, Paul Thayer, Rogers C. B. Morton, Brent Scowcroft, et al, September 20, 1976, GRFPL, Presidential Country Files for Middle East and South Asia, Pakistan (6), 2

[5] Memcon, September 20, 1976, 3

One Response to “Barry and the Bombers”


  1. Special Forces Co-operation as a Nuclear Non-proliferation Measure? | theatomicage -

    […] I’ve talked about angry letters from A. Q. Khan and the intersections between Barry Goldwater, the military-industrial complex, and the Ford administration. This time, it’s back to the UK and a non-proliferation ‘bribe’ that never went […]

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