Dem demands Trump provide potential death toll for war with North Korea

Dem demands Trump provide potential death toll for war with North Korea
© Greg Nash

Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthSenate Democrats ditch Hyde amendment for first time in decades Building back better by investing in workers and communities LIVE COVERAGE: Senators press military leaders on Afghanistan MORE (D-Ill.) is calling on President Trump to release unclassified estimates of how many people would die in a war with North Korea.

“I fear the country is being deprived of an accurate assessment of what war against the DPRK would entail,” Duckworth wrote Wednesday in a letter to Trump, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name. “Every citizen requires a transparent assessment of these costs to hold their elected representatives accountable for votes that carry life or death consequences.

“Accordingly, I am requesting you act swiftly to provide the public with declassified estimates of potential casualties, costs and a range of end states that could result from a limited or full-scale war against the DPRK.”


Tensions between the United States and North Korea have ratcheted up in recent months, with Kim Jong Un advancing his nuclear and missile program and Trump threatening “fire and fury” if the country harms the U.S. or its allies.

The rhetoric has led some to fear Trump is considering pre-emptive military action.

U.S. officials have stressed that the United States would prefer a diplomatic solution, as any military actions could have devastating consequences on South Korea. But they have not taken military options off the table.

A recent Congressional Research Service report, first reported by Bloomberg, estimated that between 30,000 and 300,000 people would be killed in the first days of fighting, even if North Korea only uses conventional weapons.

In her letter, Duckworth cites former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon’s August speculation that 10 million people in Seoul could die in the first 30 minutes of conflict.

“The American people, through their representatives in Congress, make the decision to declare war, not the Executive Branch,” she wrote to Trump. “Whether the public ultimately supports preemptive military action against the DPRK, or decides that a diplomatic solution is a superior course of action, we should all agree that the national conversation on when and why the United States goes to war must always be anchored around a set of cold hard facts.”

Duckworth, a veteran who lost both of her legs in the Iraq War, also cited the “lack of full debate” in the run-up to that war, highlighting the Bush administration’s dismissal of then-Army chief of staff Eric ShinsekiEric Ken ShinsekiFormer VA secretaries propose National Warrior Call Day to raise military suicide awareness Why aren't more Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Biden's Cabinet? Biden VA pick faces 'steep learning curve' at massive agency MORE’s estimate that several hundred thousand soldiers would be needed to stabilize Iraq. 

“We must never allow the consequences of war to be hidden from Americans,” she continued. "To be clear, I am not a dove, but I am also not a reckless hawk, with scant appreciation for what the men and women in uniform, and their families, sacrifice every single day on behalf of our great nation. As long as I am serving in the United States Senate, I will do everything in my power to prevent a repeat of the past rush to war.”