“If we become distracted by the noise in the corporate media relating to the regional conflicts between Iran and Israel, we could fall short in our progress.“
A student group in Eastern Iowa asked me to talk about nuclear disarmament in the context of Iran and Israel this week. When the United States and Russia own most of the nuclear weapons in the world, the topic seemed to be a curious choice. Israel has been somewhat opaque about its nuclear program and while it has signed, but not ratified, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), it is not a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Iran has signed and ratified the NPT and like Israel has signed, but not ratified, the CTBT. The invitation came shortly after the corporate media coverage of Iran’s recent development of uranium enrichment near the holy city of Qom, so I understood that the corporate media once again influences what Iowans are talking about in our community.
The reason Iran is in the news is reasonably straightforward. As signatory of the NPT, Iran has the right to the peaceful use of nuclear technology. The trouble is that in 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) determined that Iran had not been forthcoming about its uranium enrichment program, as required by the NPT. The IAEA conducted an investigation and their Board of Governors reported Iran’s noncompliance with the NPT to the United Nations Security Council. The Security Council demanded that Iran suspend its enrichment programs. The Council imposed sanctions after Iran refused to do so. When the uranium enrichment facility in Qom was made public in 2009, this heightened awareness of Iran’s apparent belligerence precipitated the current discussions between the parties about further sanctions and/or diplomacy. The corporate media latched on to an easy news story.
Why is Israel part of what Iowans want to hear? This too is pretty straightforward. Iran seeks hegemony in the region where Israel pursues its right to exist. Google Trends showed an uptick in news stories about Iran after the awareness of the enrichment facility in Qom, and this resonated against the common thread of potential threats to Israel.
While the Iran-Israel nuclear discussion is important, if the United States fails to do its part to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons by negotiating a New START agreement with Russia and by ratifying the CTBT, regional conflicts like the one between Iran and Israel can be expected to worsen.
Whether the president’s nuclear disarmament policy of working towards “a world without nuclear weapons” will succeed remains to be seen. The pro-nuclear weapons camp is lined up against the president. For every positive thing the administration accomplishes, hawkish talking points immediately and vigorously emerge in the corporate media. Popular Public Television talk show host John McLaughlin has declared the president’s policy of “a world without nuclear weapons” to be “the most stagnant thinking of 2009,” declaring that “it will never happen.”
Nothing could be further from the truth than the idea that the president is weak on national security. The administration recently announced that an additional $700 million will be added to the nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship program, bringing the annual budget to $7 billion. This is clear evidence that the administration is willing to make a political calculation that the loss of support among peace groups may lead the country to support a new START treaty with Russia and ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. START and CTBT are key steps down the path towards a world without nuclear weapons. The administration is busy taking the necessary steps to prove the naysayers wrong, expending resources and alienating parts of its constituency to do so.
What I said to the students during my talk is that we need to keep our eyes on the prize of a world without nuclear weapons. If we become distracted by the noise in the corporate media relating to the regional conflicts between Iran and Israel, we could fall short in our progress. My advice is and will be to support a president who is willing to take on political struggles necessary to ensure that the United States does its part to advance progress in nuclear disarmament. That’s my advice to the reader as well.
~Paul Deaton is a native Iowan living in rural Johnson County and weekend editor of Blog for Iowa. He is also a member of Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility and Veterans for Peace. E-mail Paul Deaton