combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 01 Number 01 Winter ©Jan 2003

Verbal Shrapnel
a desiderative pastiche

The word experience is like a shrapnel shell, and bursts into a thousand meanings.
George Santayana (1920, 1956)

There is more truth in one sword than in ten-thousand words.
Islamic proverb

I would willingly die for my country at a moment's notice, and on the command of my president.
Dan Rather [journalist volunteering for "war on Terrorism"]

There's no whore like an old whore.
Brian Mulroney [comment on latest Sunshine Patriots]

You have to know that if the Iraqi army crossed the Jordan River, I would personally grab a rifle and fight, and die.
William Jefferson Davis Clinton [draft-dodger and impeached president aspiring to become a Freedom Fighter]

Terrorists often claim to be fighting wars, and to be doing no more than is necessary in war. This is nonsense. War is certainly the natural expression of collective resentment; but it occurs between organised groups and is fought openly, against a collective enemy. It is possible to fight a war with undiminished respect for the rights of the enemy individual. Indeed, that is the duty of every soldier. But the terrorist must disregard this duty and disobey the law of war. His feelings towards the individual are abolished by his loathing of the group, and it is this — rather than his cowardice, cruelty, or intemporate hate — that constitutes his true moral corruption.
Roger Scruton [Untimely Tracts (1987)]

Arena: In politics, an imaginary rat-pit in which the statesman wrestles with his record.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

He has no enemy, you say;
My friend your boast is poor,
He who hath mingled in the fray
Of duty that the brave endure
Must have made foes. If he has none
Small is the work that he has done.
He has hit no traitor on the hip;
Has cast no cup from perjured lip;
Has never turned the wrong to right;
Has been a coward in the fight.
Alexander Anton von Auersperg ["Anastasius Grun"]

Beware of the man who does not return your blow: he neither forgives you nor allows you to forgive yourself.
George Bernard Shaw

If you do the right thing because you don't know any worse, then you have not acquired virtue by default. True morality begins with choice; and the greater the challenge, the better the morality. You can only be truly good when you have prospected your capacity for evil. Idealism censors reality; and prohibition invalidates integrity.
paraphrase of William McIlvanney

War is a matter not so much of arms as of expenditure, through which arms maybe made of service.

People good at carrying guns rarely are qualified to build an economy.
Nguyen Cao Ky [preliminary comment on 2002 return to SRV]

War is good for the economy ... invest your son!

Each [Vietnam veteran] has a gentleness I find rare in most others, and beneath it a spiritual sinew that I ascribe to their experience in the war. I don't think I'll ever have what they have, the aura of I have been weighed on the scales and have not been found wanting, and my sense at this point is that I will always feel the lack of it.
Christopher Buckley ["Viet Guilt", Esquire September 2002]

... [I] realize the truth of the emotions I have been feeling lately about that particular subject. I sense a strong feeling — "shame" is not too strong a word — among many men who did not go to Vietnam, and perhaps now is the time to bring that feeling out into the open. Those of us who did not go may have pretended that we held some moral superiority over those who did, but we must have known — even back then — that that was largely sham.
Bob Greene ["The I-missed-Vietnam Guilt"]

The People, made awkward by their inexperience from a generation of peace, were easily slain and quickly defeated by their attackers.
Don Coldsmith

The injustice of defeat lies in the fact that its most innocent victims are made to look like heartless accomplices. It is impossible to see behind defeat, the sacrifices, the austere performance of duty, the self-discipline and the vigilance that are there — those things the god of battle does not take account of.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

There is absolutely no thought given to proper marketing of Vietnam's main attractions. The country has beautiful beaches, but the government thinks a war crimes museum is a tourist attraction.
Nguyen Cao Ky [preliminary comment on 2002 return to SRV]

False history gets made all day, any day,
the truth of the new is never on the news
False history gets written every day
Adrienne Rich

Although men make history, no man knows what history he is making until much later, when it has become historical.

Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly found, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living. All history is the record of man's signal failure to thwart his destiny — the record, in other words, of the few men of destiny who, through the recognition of their symbolic role, made history.
Henry Miller

History does nothing; it does not possess immense riches, it does not fight battles. It is men, real, living, who do all this .... It is not history which uses men as a means of achieving — as if it were an individual person — its own ends. History is nothing but the activity of men in pursuit of their ends.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels ["The Holy Family" (1844-1845)]

History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.
Abba Eban

In the course of history, men come to see that iron necessity is neither iron nor necessary.
Friedrich W. Nietzsche ["Man Alone With Himself" aphorism 514 Human, All-Too-Human (1878)]

History is made only to be immediately forgotten.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana ["Life of Reason" (1905-6)]

But what experience and history teach is this — that peoples and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.
Georg W.F. Hegel [intro to "The Philosophy of History" (1807)]

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.
Karl H. Marx ["The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte" (1852)]

Gentlemen, you must not mistake me. I admit that he is the sworn foe of our nation, and, if you will, of the whole human race. But, gentlemen, we must be just to our enemy. We must not forget that he once shot a bookseller.
Thomas Campbell [excusing himself in proposing a toast to Napoleon at a literary dinner]

I consider women a great deal superior to men. Men are physically strong, but women are morally better .... It is woman who keeps the world in balance.
Mrs. Chalkstone [14 May 1863 speech at the Woman's National Loyal League convention]

Nations, like men, have their infancy; and, also like men, nations have their decline.
anonymous [paraphrase of "Nations, like men, have their infancy." by Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke]

Students of history are horror-struck at the massacres of old; but in the shambles, men are being murdered to-day.
Herman Melville

Only the history of free peoples is worth our attention; the history of men under a despotism is merely a collection of anecdotes.
Sebastien-Roch Nicolas De Chamfort

Malthusian: Pertaining to Malthus and his doctrines. Malthus believed in artificially limiting population, but found that it could not be done by talking. One of the most practical exponents of the Malthusian idea was Herod of Judea, though all the famous soldiers have been of the same way of thinking.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

Religions, which condemn the pleasures of sense, drive men to seek the pleasures of power. Throughout history power has been the vice of the ascetic.
Bertrand Russell

Long experience has shown that armies can not be maintained unless desertion shall be punished by the severe penalty of death. Must I shoot a simple-minded soldier boy who deserts, while I must not touch a hair of a wiley agitator who induces him to desert? I think that in such a case, to silence the agitator, and save the boy, is not only constitutional, but, withal, a great mercy.
Abraham Lincoln

I would like to say something, not just to Vietnam veterans in New England, but to men who were in Vietnam, who I hurt, or whose pain I caused to deepen because of things that I said or did. I was trying to help end the killing and the war, but there were times when I was thoughtless and careless about it and I'm ... very sorry that I hurt them. And I want to apologize to them and their families.
Jane Fonda [1988 news release from "20/20" interview granted to placate protests that were delaying movie production in New England] [When American POWs finally began to return home (some of them having been held captive for up to nine years) and describe the tortures they had endured at the hands of the North Vietnamese, Jane Fonda quickly told the country that they should "not hail the POWs as heroes, because they are hypocrites and liars." Fonda said the idea that the POWs she had met in Vietnam had been tortured was "laughable," claiming: "These were not men who had been tortured. These were not men who had been starved. These were not men who had been brainwashed." The POWs who said they had been tortured were "exaggerating, probably for their own self-interest," she asserted. She told audiences that "Never in the history of the United States have POWs come home looking like football players. These football players are no more heroes than Custer was. They're military careerist and professional killers" who are "trying to make themselves look self-righteous, but they are war criminals according to law."]

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Martin Luther King Jr

Guilt may be apportioned and divided more than ten-thousand times without being diminished.

He who forgives readily only invites offense.
Pierre Corneille

We are not pleasant people here; for the story of war is always the story of hate. It makes no difference with whom one fights ... the hate destroys you.
Agnes Newton Keith

The offender never forgives.
Russian proverb

After the war is over, the victors write the history, and the vanquished write the poetry.

Forgiveness is the fragrance of the violet which still clings fast to the heel that crushed it.
George Roemisch

Our enemies will tell the rest with pleasure.
Bishop William Fleetwood

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
Martin Luther

Wars begin with noble sentiments and flags waving; but they end with ignoble passions and flags draped.

Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, ... meditate on these things.
Philippians 4:8 Bible

compiled by Ed Staff

Table of

C O M B A T, the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones