By Miriam Raftery
September 22, 2017 (San Diego) – In an interview aired on KUSI this week, Congressman Duncan D. Hunter (R-Alpine) repeatedly called for the U.S. to launch an attack on North Korea in response to nuclear threats.
“Kim Jon Un needs to think about whether he likes his wine, women and caviar or whether he wants to have the devil blown out of him by the United States, which is where we’re heading,” said Hunter, adding, “why would I not hit you first? Why would we not do a preemptive strike?”
Hunter, a combat veteran and member of the House Armed Services Committee, noted that years of negotiations with North Korea have failed while the country has continued to develop its nuclear program, recently launching missiles over Japan.
“You could assume right now that we have a nuclear missile aimed at the United States and here in San Diego…We could be under direct fire from the North Koreans.” Then he stated, “I would preemptively strike them. You could call it declaring war, call it whatever you want, but preemptively striking them and taking them out. I personally think that’s the only thing that’s going to get them to not have nuclear missiles aimed at the United States.” View the full interview at the link above.
The North Korean leader has made repeated threats to launch nuclear weapons at the U.S., most recently threatening Guam. He is believed to have recently succeeded in miniaturizing nuclear weapons capable of fitting onto a missile war head, though it’s unknown how accurate the aim would be, with disagreement among experts over how far a weaponized warhead launched from Korea could reach.
In an inflammatory United Nations address this week, Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korean and called its leader, “Rocket Man.” President Donald Trump tweeted, ““Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!”
Hunter called President Donald Trump’s U.N. speech “really great.”
Hunter’s call for a first strike on North Korea drew swift responses from opponents in both the Republican and Democratic Party who have announced intentions to challenge Hunter for his seat in next year’s election. Below are their responses, published in full:
Andrew Zelt, a Republican and Sheriff’s sergeant running against Hunter, told ECM, “Unfortunately Congressman Hunter has overstepped on his rhetoric in order to prove he is strong on defense. Mr. Hunter's statement about a preemptive strike on North Korea shows a poor display of rationality and leadership. Secretary Mattis himself has already explained to the American people before about the steep price a war with North Korea would have. Millions of innocent South Korean lives would be caught in the crosshairs of such a war.”
Zelt adds, “North Korea has to be dealt with in a strong tone and they must know the United States means business when it comes to their ongoing development of nuclear weapons and their threats to our allies. North Korea must understand the full might of the United States military will come down on them if they attack either us or one of our allies. However, a preemptive strike is not an option. Thankfully, Mr. Hunter is not the one making these decisions. It is my hope that Mr. Hunter would reflect upon his comments and change his stance of wanting a preemptive strike against North Korea.”
Josh Butner, a Democratic challenger aiming to win Hunter’s seat, is a retired Navy Seal Lieutenant Commander and Jamul Dulzura School Board trustee. He issued this statement:
"Having served in the SEAL teams near the DMZ (demilitarized zone), I know for a fact that we need real pathways to stability on the Korean Peninsula rather than reckless rhetoric that will only endanger the lives of Americans and our South Korean allies. It is time that the international community comes together in order to harness our collective power to let North Korea know that they stand alone against the peaceful nations of the world."
Ammar Campa-Najjar, another Democratic challenger, has previously worked in the U.S. Labor Department and also as communications director for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He issued the most detailed response to what he called Hunter’s “immature and premature war with North Korea.” Below is his full response:
“This week, Congressman Duncan Hunter Jr. called for a preemptive strike against North Korea. Without any regard for the millions who would die, including Americans living throughout the pacific, Hunter made the leap from military posturing to calling for nuclear war. Does he really think America is safer when we legitimize the rantings of a man-child dictator who has too much to lose by attacking the United States?
You're wrong, Duncan Hunter. The world is a better place when America leads by the power of its example, not the example of its power.
Talk is cheap Duncan, war is not. It costs trillions of dollars, thousands of American lives, including 22 veterans a day who take their lives due to the horrors of war. If elected, I’ll bring my war experiences to urge restraint from my fellow members of congress and President Trump.
Even president Donald Trump -- who said he would attack North Korea only "if it is forced to defend itself or its allies" -- has shown more restraint than Hunter, and rightfully so.
While Hunter calls for World War III, Trump’s campaign architect Steve Bannon is cautioning against military action, saying “until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don't die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don't know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here.”
It's alarming that even during these unhinged political times, Hunter has become the most reckless politician in America. I’m not even talking about his ongoing criminal investigation for campaign fraud.
I'm torn because I respect Hunter for his military service; he fought the wars we wage abroad, but has failed to fight the battles we wage within our district: income inequality, rising healthcare and housing costs, public safety and law enforcement, protecting our environment and the American people from unnecessary wars.
Many of Hunter Jr.'s comrades believe he's violated a code of conduct expected of a military man and patriot. For example, Hunter doesn't believe in PTSD, a struggle I live with myself that claims the lives of 22 veterans a day. He believes veterans should "take a bill, drink a beer and go to bed."
That same lack of regard for veterans who are marred by war drives Hunter's call for North Korean blood. As my disabled retired Marine friend always says, "if you really want to honor veterans, stop making new ones. I didn't go to war so my children would have to as well."
Hunter fails to recognize the dangers of a pre-emptive strike. It would trigger a nuclear arms race that nobody wants, everyone fears, and not a single soul in the world knows how to end.
So, what's the alternative -- just sit back and take threat from North Korea? Hell no. Without deadly intervention, America's military can proactively debilitate and defend against any threat from Pyongyang.
Hunter is calling for war because “you could assume, right now, that we have a nuclear missile aimed at the United States, and here in San Diego." He goes on to say “they can reach the US mainland. They might be able to hit it within a block radius. They may be aiming for Coronado but hit El Cajon,” he said.
Unbelievable. El Cajon is home to the biggest Christian Iraqi population in America outside of Michigan. Invoking El Cajon to justify another war based on assumptions regarding weapons of mass destruction is cruel and manipulative.
Members of Congress shouldn't make life and death decisions based off assumption. What I'd call for is enhancements to our military intelligence, followed by a full congressional intelligence briefing to determine with more certainty that North Korea has the capability to target the United States and any indication that a launch could become imminent. Other less threatening conflicts in the Middle East have competed with our intelligence resources to detect such milestones.
We can also explore our options to undermine the North Korean plot through crippling cyber warfare, and continue to invest in our own missile defense systems, which are capable of intercepting North Korean ICBM’s.
Most importantly, we must engage the international community. South Korea and Japan have long lived under the threat of a potential attack from North Korea. China own interest in becoming a world power has brought them more in alignment with America’s interests; they continue work within international norms as seen with their renewed interest in environmental protection efforts. We need to leverage international community to encourage China to take a more proactive role in deescalating tensions with North Korea. Lastly, we must engage the United Nations Security Council more effectively. This cannot be viewed as a United States versus North Korea challenge but a global peace effort.
The rhetoric from members of Congress such as Duncan Hunter appeal to our immediate need for strength in the face of evil, but it works against our long-term security and survival as a nation.
The future belongs to tomorrow, we are merely borrowing this world from our children. It’s time to elect leaders who have a stake in the future – who will build for tomorrow, today. It is time we send leaders to Washington who will protect and serve the American people for generations to come,” Campa-Najjar concluded.