I was very careful to send Mr. Roosevelt every few days a statement of our casualties. I tried to keep before him all the time the casualty results because you get hardened to these things and you have to be very careful to keep them always in the forefront of your mind. — George C. Marshall
My Take – Every decision I make, both monumental and miniscule, has consequences. Sometimes, the harshest consequences aren’t paid by me. Instead, my decisions and actions will affect someone else. I must keep that in mind, especially when it comes to my firearms. One moment, one decision, one pull of a trigger can have a horrific impact on others, both those who deserve it and those who don’t. I must always remember that I, and I alone, am responsible for everything I do, and that what I do can cause others pain.
When it comes to leaders at high levels, it is even more important that they be aware of the consequences of their decisions. Reminders about casualties, either through lists placed on a desk or reports in the news, keep their heads in the game. Presidents can treat war like a game of Risk or a video game, and sometimes even the people back home can do the same thing. Witness the ratings for CNN during Operation Desert Storm for that. When the images of planes, tanks, and rockets are sanitized from the death and suffering that accompany their use, on both sides, war becomes entertainment.
I think that’s why I never objected to pictures of our dead returning to Dover being on the news, assuming that their families permit it. We need reminders that every time we send our young men and women out to do something, some of them are not going to come back whole and some of them are not going to come back alive. When we forget that, we forget that our soldiers are human and they become faceless automatons sent out to do our bidding. When we forget that real people fight wars, we go to war without thought to the consequences and without resorting to other solutions first. By being mindful of the cost of our decisions and desires, we minimize the suffering of those who are the instrument of our decisions. We must still be prepared to send them to defend our country, but we must always remember them and by so doing, we will hold their efforts and blood as precious, which to me is how it should be.