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IDEMA: Why North Korea wants nuclear weapons

• Aug 16, 2017 at 2:00 PM

North Korea is back in the headlines with its series of successful missile tests. North Korea can now reach the United States, and it will be only a matter of time before they develop a nuclear bomb which can be placed at the tip of a missile.

What should be our response?

Before we let the hawks in Washington lead us into another war, we should step back and understand, historically, why North Korea wants an arsenal of nuclear weapons. If we put ourselves into the shoes of North Koreans, we might well ask: Wouldn't we want nukes, too?

Ukraine got rid of its nukes, with the assurance of the United States, Great Britain and Russia that all would be well. Well, how did that work out? Nukes might very well have prevented the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

Or take Libya. It freely gave up its nukes, only to see its government toppled by the United States and France. Do we think North Korea is ignorant of this recent history?

Let's delve deeper into history. Since World War II, the United States has interfered in the elections and sovereignty of 61 countries. We rightly are upset about Russia's tampering in our 2016 election, but our anger comes from living in a glass house ourselves.

Most famously, our government and that of Great Britain overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953 and installed the Shah, who ruled ruthlessly until he, too, was overthrown. The issue here was the desire of the government of Iran to nationalize the oil holdings of British Petroleum.

In the 1950s, we overthrew the government of Guatemala because the government wanted to distribute much of the land owned by the United Fruit Co. to give the poor an opportunity to farm. The United Fruit Co. had much power in Congress and within the White House.

Under the Nixon administration, our CIA again contributed to the overthrow of a democratically government, this time in Chile.

Some of us remember the Bay of Pigs. Even more of us remember our catastrophe in Vietnam where we tried to prop up a corrupt and unpopular government in South Vietnam. America prevented the agreed-upon national election on reunification which was to occur after the French finally left Vietnam with its tail between its legs. The CIA knew that the Communists would win that election in a landslide, so the agreed-upon election never happened and the Vietnam War resulted.

Of all the peoples of this Earth, Americans have the least knowledge of history and the lessons we learn from it. We do not read history books, or books for that matter. We get our news from TV and the social media, which offer little in the way of historical context and the lessons to be learned.

The Church, you would think, would instruct congregations about history since the Bible is filled with history, as is the history of the Church itself. But I see little evidence that Christians have the ability to glean wisdom from history, which could shape foreign policy if such wisdom were widely shared and applied to current affairs.

There is much criticism of President Trump on the airwaves these days. But I never hear what I think is his glaring weakness as president, that he does not read books and does not like reading in general. He loves to watch TV! He is like the character played by Peter Sellers in the movie "Being There," whose total knowledge of the world comes from watching TV.

But the president is not the only American guilty of this. Perhaps the majority of Americans do not read books, especially books of history, and thus most of us are shaped by TV and our computers far more than by history or literature.

So, we should not be surprised that North Korea wants nukes to prevent any hostile takeover by the United States. Our actions since World War II have made many nations fearful of our imperial intentions. What must change is our militarism in many parts of the world, which has led to many wars and our huge national debt. I am beginning to hear war drums in Washington for a strike against North Korea, which would be a catastrophe for millions and greater profits for those least affected by wars within our military-industrial-congressional complex.

The Democrats are in search of a message — well, here it is. But I doubt we will hear many Democrats arguing for turning swords into plowshares.

— By the Rev. Henry Idema, Tribune community columnist

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