21. THE NEW YORK TIMES: AMERICA'S PRO-NUKE NEWSPAPER
Six years ago, the Navy proposed Stapleton Staten
Island, in the heart of New York Harbor, as the Homeport for the battleship Iowa
and its flotilla, the Surface Action Group. While the Navy has refused to confirm
or deny the presence of nuclear weapons on the ships, retired Admiral Eugene Carroll,
deputy director of the Center for Defense Information, asserted that Tomahawk
nuclear cruise missiles, the nuclear Terrier missile, and nuclear anti-submarine
rockets will be carried on the Surface Action Group.
If the US government
were building a nuclear weapons base in Central Park, it would be headline news
day after day. Congressman Ted Weiss called the Navy's plan to store nuclear missiles
on ships docked at the Staten Island Homeport an idea as "nutty as placing
them in Central Park." New York is one of the busiest harbors in the world
and mishaps are not uncommon. The Coast Guard reported 609 shipping accidents
in NY harbor between 1976 and 1980. The Navy itself reported two nuclear weapons
accidents and 628 less serious "incidents" between 1965 and 1985. Many
of those were on ships similar to the Surface Action Group.
A draft of an emergency preparedness plan for the Homeport, released
in March 1988, said that in the event of a shipboard accident, "Plutonium
dust suspended in the air can be kept out of the lungs by placing a
handkerchief over the nose and mouth or remaining inside a building
with ventilation secured and doors and windows closed. ... Even if one
thinks they have inhaled plutonium it is not a medical emergency. It
can be significantly eliminated from the body by medical procedures."
the Homeport issue hasn't been well covered. Only Newsday and the Staten Island
Advance have reported on the issue with any regularity. The Village Voice has
occasionally run good pieces, but the New York Times, NY Daily News, and NY Post
have not made it a priority. Television coverage has been spotty at best. But
Leonard Marks, chairman of the NY Lawyers Alliance for Nuclear Control who represent
a coalition of citizens against the Homeport plan, singled out the New York Times
for special criticism: "The Times has been totally coopted in favor of the
Homeport from the very beginning. They have run almost nothing on any aspect of
the protests ... The Times is definitely biased against the peace movement."
fact the Times has had a longstanding pro-nuclear editorial policy, according
to an EXTRA! investigation. The Times editorialized against the nuclear freeze
in 1982; when Michail Gorbachev announced a unilateral moratorium on Soviet nuclear
weapons tests in 1985, the Times vigorously denounced it as a "cynical propaganda
blast;" and the Times crusaded in favor of Long Island's Shoreham nuclear
power plant in over two dozen editorials including one (5/13/88) that called the
decision to shelve the project a threat to "the nation's security" because
it eroded "public confidence in nuclear power."
When EXTRA! called
the city desk of the New York Times for a comment, an editor responded: "The
Navy's Homeport? Actually I'm not familiar with it. What is it?"
one Times reporter confided to EXTRA!, "I'm dying to write a story about
the Homeport, but they won't run it."
1988, "New York City's Big Secret: The Nuclear Homeport," by Josh Daniel,