Duckworth to Trump: Tell public ‘true costs’ of war with North Korea

SHARE Duckworth to Trump: Tell public ‘true costs’ of war with North Korea
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Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who was wounded in combat in Iraq, is asking President Donald Trump to be ready to tell the public the true cost of a war with North Korea. | File photo

WASHINGTON — As President Donald Trump continues to hurl inflammatory threats against North Korea, he also needs to level with the American people about the “true costs of war,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., said in a letter to the president.

“As the drumbeat of war accelerates, the American people must understand the potential consequences of the United States engaging in armed conflict” against North Korea, she said in the letter, sent just before Trump starts on an extensive swing through Asia.

Duckworth’s call for an “accurate assessment” of what war will mean — from troop and civilian deaths to their later care as veterans — comes as Trump heads to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Trump leaves on Friday and stops in Hawaii en route.

Trump’s heated rhetoric against North Korea’s Kim Jong Un — he taunts him as “Rocket man” while threatening “fire and fury” if he pursues more missile or even nuclear tests — has increased tensions.

Duckworth, a wounded Iraq war vet, knows a lot about the costs of war.

She lost both legs and shattered an arm when a rocket hit her Black Hawk helicopter on Nov. 12, 2004.

She also knows about the costs when troops come back home.

Duckworth is a former Assistant Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs who also served as the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs director.

In the letter, she asks Trump to make public “declassified estimates of potential casualties, costs and a range of end states that could result from a limited or full-scale war” against North Korea.

If the U.S. is headed to military conflict with North Korea, Duckworth does not want a repeat of what she said was the “lack of full debate and the absence of tough conversations during the run-up to the Iraq War.”

Neither a dove nor what she calls a “reckless hawk,” Duckworth said in her letter “I will do everything in my power to prevent a repeat of the past rush to war.”

When Duckworth and I talked on Thursday, I asked her if the information she asks for — the raw estimates of the casualties and costs of a North Korea fight — exists.

She replied, “I think the Pentagon has these estimates, at least what the military action will initially cost in terms of not just dollars, but in lives of troops and civilians.”

At a Thursday briefing, White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster suggested that Trump won’t be scaling back the heated rhetoric aimed at the leader of the nuclear nation.

“I don’t think the president really modulates his language. Have you noticed him do that? I mean, he’s been very clear about it,” McMaster said.

Trump, she told me, is a president “who likes to thump his chest and shoot his mouth off and flaunt America’s military might and nuclear arsenal in a way that is not in keeping with his role as commander-in-chief.”

McMaster said at the briefing “what is clear is the United States will respond with all capabilities available to North Korean aggression.”

That’s where the U.S. is heading.

That’s why Duckworth is asking for a “transparent accounting” of what may happen — at the start.

Not later.

Duckworth has a special perch in Congress when it comes to matters of war. She knows firsthand the price of conflict from all the perspectives, and few in Congress can make that claim.

“It is one of my roles and responsibilities here, to ask these tough questions,” Duckworth told me.

“I can be the person who can ask these tough questions without having patriotism to this nation being questioned.”

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