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This bill has life-or-death consequences

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

February 6th, 2018 3:26 PM

I write as a member of the Oak Park Advocacy Team, a group of concerned Oak Park citizens aligned with the concerns and activities of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker lobbying group, to promote support for two bills — S. 2047 in the Senate, and H.R. 4837 in the House of Representatives. 

These bills propose that no military action be taken against North Korea without prior approval of Congress. Sen. Tammy Duckworth is a co-sponsor of the Senate proposal, Rep. Danny Davis (7th District) of the House proposal. 

The confrontation that has threatened to occur between North Korea and the United States presents us with the prospect of two nuclear-armed powers facing off against one another in a densely-populated area that includes nearly 30,000 troops on the Korean Peninsula, and approximately 300,000 U.S. citizens in Japan and Korea combined. Incidents in Hawaii and Japan in recent weeks have demonstrated the possibility of human error leading inadvertently to a confrontation between the two powers in an area where a variety of state actors have complex and sometimes conflicting interests and objectives. 

Add to that the often-mercurial personalities heading the North Korean and U.S. governments, and the lack of communication and consequent dearth of information each nation has about the other, and the possibility of accidental nuclear confrontation is clear. 

By re-affirming the legislative branch's authority to make war, these bills would provide the ability for the U.S., through its duly-elected Congressional representatives, to create space for deliberation that takes into account the diplomatic and military perspectives on the situation, and to consider the possible ramifications of declaring and prosecuting war. Coupled with efforts to create "back-room" channels for diplomacy, it would greatly enhance the ability to counter human or technological error that might inadvertently bring the relevant parties into a conflict none can afford. 

Senator Duckworth has been particularly strong in support of S. 2047, and recently gave a major speech at Georgetown University on the concerns she has about the developing situation on the Korean Peninsula (https://www.duckworth.senate.gov/news/press-releases/duckworth-highlights-risk-of-war-with-north-korea-calls-on-congress-to-reclaim-constitutional-war-power-responsibilities.) We applaud and are grateful for her advocacy on this issue. I ask readers to contact their elected representatives, thanking them for their co-sponsorship of these bills, or encouraging them to become co-sponsors of them.

Ralph Strohl 

Oak Park 

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