Op-Ed by Carey Wedler
This week, many Americans are more terrified of North Korea than usual, with some scrambling to buy supplies in case of a nuclear apocalypse as at least one local government offers advice to residents on how to survive a blast. Though Americans are unsure about Trump’s approach to North Korea, a majority agree that the country is a serious threat as much of the media repeatedly hammers home just how dangerous the situation has become.
But amid round-the-clock coverage of the threats hurled back and forth between and Kim Jong-un, others stories continue to break. Though these stories may be garnering slight attention in the mainstream conversation, they are drowned out by the North Korea narrative. That’s because the media loves a good feeding frenzy, especially when it comes to potential death and annihilation from an external threat.
Here are five developments to stay informed about as Americans collectively run around like radioactive chickens with their mutated heads cut off.
1. A nuclear plant is leaking and poisoning workers in Washington
The Hanford Site, located in Washington State, leaked radioactive plutonium particles on June 8, sickening workers and traveling as far as three miles from the facility. The contractor tasked with cleaning up the site, which has been leaking for years, withheld information until this week when local outlet KING obtained an internal memo discussing the situation. Multiple workers have tested positive for “internal exposure” to radiation as those in charge of demolishing the Plutonium Finishing Plant (PFP) continue their task, which was underway when the release of radioactive vapor occurred.
The contractor charged with helping to take down the PFP, CH2m Hill, has downplayed the risk of the recent leak. Overall, estimates predict it will take between 50 and 75 years to clean up the entire Hanford Site, which experts have deemed “the most toxic place in America” and “an underground Chernobyl waiting to happen.” Ironically, as Americans shudder at the prospect of nuclear war, the direct threat Hanford poses is ultimately a consequence of their own government’s nuclear ambitions; Hanford produced the “Fat Man” bomb that decimated Nagasaki at the end of World War II. Further, multiple nuclear sites around the country are also leaking, highlighting the ongoing dangers of poorly maintained nuclear infrastructure and the lack of accountability from those in charge of them.
2. Under Trump, the U.S. has dropped almost as many bombs in 2017 as it did last year
During the 2016 election, some Trump supporters championed him as an anti-war candidate who could disrupt Hillary Clinton and the war hawks’ trajectory. Trump asserted she could easily spark World War III. As Trump saber-rattles against North Korea, ultimately becoming what he warned against, he has also perpetuated America’s penchant for military violence in other parts of the world. Foreign Policy reported this week that “Under Trump, the United States has dropped about 20,650 bombs through July 31, or 80 percent the number dropped under Obama for the entirety of 2016. At this rate, Trump will exceed Obama’s last-year total by Labor Day.” The increase has particularly affected Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, as well as other countries in the Middle East. They have also incurred heavy civilian losses with no apologies from the Trump administration. These increased military operations – which were high to begin with under Obama — come with little to no diplomatic strategy, according to Foreign Policy.
3. The president advocates more failed tactics to combat drug addiction
Signaling his intent to impose heavy-handed government policies both abroad and at home, Trump announced this week that he supports a “law and order” approach to the opium epidemic sweeping the United States. This “solution” mirrors the one proposed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who believes criminal enforcement is key to stopping drug use. Their strategy ignores effective models set by other countries that focus on treatment and decriminalization, instead choosing outdated and failed policies. Earlier this year — in addition to criminal enforcement — Sessions advocated a revival of Nancy Reagan’s “Just say no” campaign, which clearly failed considering America’s addiction problem continues to plague communities. In announcing his “law and order” mentality this week, Trump claimed “Strong law enforcement is absolutely vital to having a drug-free society,” demonstrating his ignorance of human nature; humans have been using drugs for thousands of years, and previous crackdowns on drug use have failed to address the problems of addiction.
4. Police continue abusing citizens
As the U.S. government grandstands against North Korea, its own law enforcers continue to harass and murder Americans, often with impunity. This week, the family of Aaron Bailey, an unarmed motorist who was shot and killed by Indianapolis police at the end of June, revealed that according to his autopsy, he was shot four times in the back following a brief pursuit that ended in Bailey crashing his car and police subsequently killing him. Though the investigation is ongoing, the Indy Star notes that “In Indianapolis, no police officer in recent years has been charged with a crime in connection with an officer-involved shooting.” On Wednesday, Washington, D.C. authorities announced that an officer who shot and killed an unarmed motorcyclist last year will not face charges. This is a common occurrence in the United States, where at least 611 people have already been killed by police this year.
5. The market does not approve of Trump’s violent rhetoric
Though Trump brags about his positive effect on the economy, his recent “fire and fury” claims – and subsequent comments that he should have been even harsher in his comments toward North Korea — have negatively affected the stock market. Fortune reports that Dow, S&P, and Nasdaq were all down late this week (they were also rattled after the first round of threats). The Dow dropped 204.69 points (.93%), after Trump’s second round of threatening statements, Nasdaq fell 134.46 (2.13 percent), and S&P tumbled 35.81 points (1.45 percent). Fortune notes the decline comes as “as mixed messaging from the White House has led to uncertainty over whether the Trump administration has a coherent plan to contain Kim Jong-un’s regime and nuclear ambitions.” The losses follow nine days of all-time highs, which the president proudly touted. One sector to make gains, however, from the defense industry, which is unsurprisingly rallying amid Trump’s drum-beating comments. In positive news, however, Bitcoin reached an all-time high of $3,500 for reasons likely unrelated to the military-industrial complex.
As the media continues to bombard Americans with fear — and the Trump administration continues to puff its chest at external threats from impoverished countries without the capacity to actually harm American citizens — established power structures continue to reign supreme. The North Korean drama ultimately does little more than distract Americans from the internal threats they face from the ruling class not in far off lands, but right here at home.