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Controlling the Media, Narrowing the Conversation

The mainstream media has great power to influence the public conversation about national and international policies. Not only are they able to choose the news and opinion pieces that they feature in their newspapers and news broadcasts, but they also choose the slant they put on the news and which letters they run in response to their articles.

I recently responded with letters to two articles in The New York Times. Since the paper chose not to print either of these letters, I am sharing them on the websites of alternative media, including the website of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (wagingpeace.org).

My first letter concerns North Korea’s fourth nuclear test on January 6, 2016.

In “Stopping North Korea’s Nuclear Threat” (January 8, 2016), the authors argue, “North Korea’s leaders still believe that nuclear weapons will prevent others from attacking them…This is fanciful.” But is it? Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi both gave up their respective country’s nuclear weapons programs and their countries were subsequently attacked and they were overthrown and killed. These are inducements to nuclear proliferation that have not been lost on the North Korean regime.

The best way to assure that nuclear weapons are not transferred or used by North Korea or by any of the other nuclear-armed countries, is for all nine of them to negotiate in good faith for complete nuclear disarmament. The U.S. can’t assure the success of these negotiations, but it can use its convening power to initiate and lead them. All nine nuclear-armed countries need to be at the table and have their voices heard. Unless this happens and the negotiations are successful, no one in the world will be secure.

The second letter concerns the planned modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

U.S. security officials, past and present, are taking positions on the modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, as reported in “As U.S. Modernizes Nuclear Weapons, ‘Smaller’ Leaves Some Uneasy” (January 11, 2016). What is glaringly absent from their arguments, however, is the U.S. legal obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to negotiate in good faith for an end to the nuclear arms race and for complete nuclear disarmament. The modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal (and its delivery systems and infrastructure) directly violates the treaty obligation to end the nuclear arms race and will also spur other nuclear-armed countries to modernize their nuclear arsenals. Further, the failure to negotiate for complete nuclear disarmament encourages nuclear proliferation, which could lead to nuclear terrorism and nuclear war.

Nuclear modernization, expected to exceed $1 trillion, not only violates our legal obligations under the NPT, but diverts billions away from providing food, shelter, education and health care to those in need. Nuclear modernization will benefit only the arms merchants and is a trapdoor to nuclear catastrophe.

If the United States does not recognize its own responsibility for nuclear weapons proliferation and fulfill its obligations for nuclear disarmament under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it should expect countries such as North Korea to pursue their nuclear options. Further, if the U.S. continues to modernize its nuclear arsenal rather than fulfill its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it is making not only nuclear proliferation more likely, but also nuclear war and nuclear terrorism. These are issues that deserve a hearing and a conversation among the American people, especially in this election year when we are electing, arguably, the most powerful leader in the world. His or her views on nuclear policy must be part of our national debates. The lack of a national conversation about U.S. nuclear policy adversely affects the security of every American and every citizen of the world.