US Sen. Warren: Weigh risk of civilian casualtiesAP , Associated Press
Feb. 27, 2014 12:09 PM ET
BOSTON (AP) — U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is warning that the nation must do more to weigh the risk of civilian casualties before the use of military force.
Warren said that while civilian causalities are unavoidable in war, there are moral and military reasons for debating how to minimize those deaths and how to respond when they occur. She said the death of a civilian can motivate friends and relatives to take up arms against the U.S.
"When military action is on the table, do we fully and honestly debate the risk that while our actions would wipe out existing terrorists or other threats, they also might produce new ones?" Warren said, according to a transcript of a speech she gave at Georgetown University in Washington on Wednesday.
The Massachusetts Democrat said the military should establish training programs that directly address civilian casualties. She said the military has begun to put together educational and training materials based on experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq.
She said the nation should support those efforts and make sure that preventing civilian casualties is woven into the military's education, training and planning.
Warren also said efforts to track civilian casualties during any military engagement need to be improved.
She said releasing that information publicly would help the country make better decisions about military force while demonstrating to the world that America takes civilian casualties seriously.
She also said that the country needs to decide what to do in the wake of civilian casualties. In Iraq and Afghanistan, she said, U.S. commanders began to find ways to express regret and compensate families.
"The failure to make civilian casualties a full and robust part of our national conversation over the use of force is dangerous — dangerous because of the impression that it gives the world about our country, and dangerous because of how it affects the decisions that we make as a country," she said.
"Whatever our righteous intentions, the world does not hold us blameless when civilians die," she added.
The focus of the speech was a bit of a departure for Warren, who has spent much of her time in the Senate focusing on the economy, the nation's banking system, and pocketbook issues such as mortgages, debt and student loans.