Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) told a capacity crowd of Georgetown students that the Trump administration is bringing the country dangerously close to war with North Korea.

The prospect of a war between the United States and a nuclear-capable North Korea has become increasingly likely, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) said Thursday night in a speech in the Healey Family Student Center, warning that President Donald Trump’s “irresponsible” rhetoric threatens U.S. national security.

“I am hearing the drums of war being heard again, and they are growing louder each and every day,” Duckworth told a capacity crowd of about 100 students. Her comments came in an event titled “The Rush to War on the Korean Peninsula and Recalibrating Congressional War Powers,” the Georgetown University Lecture Fund’s inaugural event this semester.

Duckworth, first elected in 2012, previously represented the state’s 8th district for two terms in the House of Representatives. An Iraq War veteran, Duckworth is also the first woman with a disability to be elected to Congress and the first elected Asian-American congresswoman from Illinois.

The senator specifically called out a series of recent tweets, in which Trump taunted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and threatened him with the use of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, as drawing the United States closer to potential conflict.
In his most recent tweet about North Korea on Jan. 2, Trump appeared to mock the North Korean leader.

“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works,” he tweeted.

“Donald Trump is basically writing Kim Jong Un’s propaganda for him,” Duckworth said. “With every threat, we get a little bit closer to war, and we don’t have room to spare.”

Tensions with North Korea have escalated in recent months as the regime claims it has the capacity to launch an attack on the U.S. homeland. Fears of conflict escalated Saturday, when a Hawaii state agency accidentally sent a false emergency alert notification to state residents warning of an incoming ballistic missile.

Before entering politics, Duckworth served for 23 years in the U.S. Army Reserve Forces, including as a helicopter pilot in the Iraq War. She was awarded the Purple Heart after losing both of her legs piloting a Black Hawk helicopter over Iraq in 2004.

Duckworth’s range of political and military experiences makes her particularly knowledgeable on the threat North Korea poses to U.S. security. Lecture Fund Chair Aiden Johnson (COL ’19) said while introducing Duckworth to the audience.
For Duckworth, who returned from a trip to the Korean Peninsula just two days before the event, the threat North Korea poses to the United States and its allies is unquestionably serious, but the specific risks are still surfacing.

“Much of what will unfold in the coming months is still unclear, but one thing is very clear,” Duckworth said. “Kim Jong Un poses a serious and deadly threat.”

The United States must try to understand North Korea’s capabilities so they can develop an effective counterapproach, Duckworth said.

“I don’t think most Americans have a full grasp of what’s really at stake here,” Duckworth said. “There’s a lot more Congress should be doing to ensure that the military is prepared for whatever comes their way.”

To develop answers to these questions, Congressional committees must have extensive discussions, Duckworth said, even if Trump continues to act “irresponsibly.”

“Trump may be acting irresponsibly, but that doesn’t mean Congress should also,” Duckworth said. “Congress must have an honest debate about what going to war really means for our service members and the future of our country.”

Duckworth said ultimately any U.S. military action in North Korea would likely result in mass civilian and military casualties.

Various options floated by foreign policy professionals for potential U.S. strikes in North Korea include attempting to destroying the regime’s nuclear launch sites, a targeted attack on the state’s political leadership or a one-off “bloody nose” attack that would frighten Kim Jong Un into negotiation. Some policy experts have said any of these strikes could lead to all-out war on the Korean continent, if not strikes on the U.S. homeland.

“There’s no such thing as a surgical strike when it comes to North Korea,” Duckworth said, “Once you strike North Korea, you’re talking about a ground invasion.”

Concluding her speech, Duckworth touted Americans’ strength to overcome military threats.

“Our troops need to know they have the legal backing of our country,” Duckworth said. “The strength of our nation doesn’t come from a president flaunting our nuclear weapons, it comes from our people and our values.”

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