combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 01 Number 04 Fall ©Oct 2003

Verbal Shrapnel
a desiderative pastiche

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

Know your enemy.
military maxim

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
Sun-Tzu [ch 3 ax 18 The Art of War (ca490BC)]

Wherever the enemy goes, let our troops go also.
Ulysses S. Grant [1 Aug 1864 dispatch]

The enemy of my friend is my enemy; and the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
ancient proverb

He [the war horse] paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men. He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword.
Job 39:21-22 Bible

He [the war horse] saith among the trumpets, Ha ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.
Job 39:25 Bible

A good experience is a mistake you made that you survived; but a bad experience is a mistake you made that someone else was unable to survive.
modern adage

Life always administers the test before it teaches the lesson.
modern adage

An adventure is something you return home to tell about. If you don't make it back, it's just an exotic funeral.
Louis L'Amour

A warrior who does not conform to military discipline nor comply with social conventions is not a soldier ... such an armed outlaw is either an adventurer or a psychopath.

We are not naïve enough to ask for pure men; we ask merely for men whose impurity does not conflict with the obligations of their job.
Jean Rostand

Not all the water in the rough rude sea
Can wash the balm off from an anointed king;
The breath of worldly men cannot depose
The deputy elected by the Lord.
William Shakespeare [act 3 sc 2 ln 54-7 Richard II]

Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea.
Samuel Johnson (10 April 1776)

[Veterans] feel disappointed, not about the 1914-1918 war but about this [WWII] war. They liked that war, it was a nice war, a real war, a regular war, a commenced war and an ended war. It was a war, and veterans like a war to be a war. They do.
Gertrude Stein [Wars I Have Seen (1945)]

An army without culture is a dull-witted army, and a dull-witted army cannot defeat the enemy.
Mao Tse-Tung / Mao Zedong ["The United Front in Cultural Work" (30 Oct 1944)]

To believe that you can live free of your cultural matrix is one of the easiest fallacies, and has some of the worst consequences. You are part of your group, whether you like it or not; and you are bound by its customs.
Robert A. Heinlein [Beyond This Horizon (1942, 1948)]

I wanted to apologize [to you, the younger generation] for my generation's failure to instill in you the values that our parents instilled in us. In our rush to give you the material goods we never had, we forgot to give you the values we did possess.
William Raspberry

It is open to a war resister to judge between the combatants and wish success to the one who has justice on his side. By so judging he is more likely to bring peace between the two than by remaining a mere spectator.
Mohandas K. Gandhi [ch 241 vol 1 Non-Violence in Peace and War (1942)]

Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here?
Numbers 32:6 Bible

I know when I meet those men of my generation who did serve in Vietnam, I automatically feel less worthy than they are; yes, less of a man, if you want to use that phrase. Those of us who did not have to go to Vietnam may have felt, at the time, that we were getting away with something; may have felt, at the time, that we were the recipients of a particular piece of luck that had value beyond price. But now, I think, we realize that by not having had to go we lost forever the chance to learn certain things about ourselves that only men who have been in war together will ever truly know.
Bob Greene ["The I-missed-Vietnam Guilt"]

There are situations in life to which the only satisfactory response is a physically violent one. If you don't make that response, you continually relive the unresolved situation over and over in your life.
Russell Hoban

Twenty years too late, America has discovered its Vietnam veterans. Well intentioned souls now offer me their sympathy and tell me how horrible it must have been. The fact is, it was fun. Granted I was lucky enough to come back in one piece. And granted that I was young, dumb, and wilder than a buck Indian. And granted I may be looking back through rose colored glasses. But it was great fun. It was so great I even went back for a second helping. Think about it. Where else could you divide your time between hunting the ultimate big game and partying at the ville? Where else could you sit on the side of a hill and watch an air strike destroy a regimental base camp? Sure there were tough times, and there were sad times, but Vietnam is the benchmark of all my experiences. The remainder of my life has been spent hanging around the military trying to recapture some of that old time feeling. In combat I was a respected man among men. I lived on life's edge, and did the most manly thing in the world: I was a warrior in war. The only person you can discuss these things with is another veteran. Only someone who has seen combat can understand the deep fraternity of the brotherhood of war. Only a veteran can know about the thrill of the kill, and the terrible bitterness of losing a friend who is closer to you than your own family.
R.B. Anderson [Parting Shot, Vietnam was Fun? (Nov 1988)]

Contempt: The feeling of a prudent man for an enemy who is too formidable to safely be opposed.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

They can kill us, but they can't eat us. That's against the law!
Gil Doud and Jesse Hibbs [1955 film version of To Hell and Back by Audie Murphy]

To me it seems that the consummation which has overtaken these men shows us the meaning of manliness in its first revelation and in its final proof. Some of them, no doubt, had their faults; but what we ought to remember first is their gallant conduct against the enemy in defense of their native land. They have blotted out evil with good, and done more service to the commonwealth than they ever did harm in their private lives. No one of these men weakened because he wanted to go on enjoying his wealth; no one put off the awful day in the hope that he might live to escape his poverty and grow rich .... In the fighting, they thought it more honorable to stand their ground and suffer death than to give in and save their lives. So they fled from the reproaches of men, abiding with life and limb the brunt of battle; and in a small moment of time, the climax of their lives, a culmination of glory, not of fear, were swept away from us.
Pericles [funeral oration memorializing the Athenian dead in the Peloponnesian War recorded by Thucydides]

Naïve is a word that people who don't care about things use to describe people who do.
Ethan Black [All the Dead Were Strangers]

The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten.
Calvin Coolidge [27 July 1920 speech]

The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.
George Washington

To travel by water without fear of sea-serpents and dragons, — this is the courage of the fisherman. To travel by land without fear of the wild buffaloes and tigers, — this is the courage of hunters. When bright blades cross, to look on death as on life, — this is the courage of the warrior. To know that failure is fate and that success is opportunity, and to remain fearless in times of great danger, — this is the courage of the Sage.

He who would assist a lord of men in harmony with the Tao will not assert his mastery in the kingdom by force of arms. Such a course is sure to meet with its proper return. Wherever a host is stationed, briars and thorns spring up. In the sequence of great armies there are sure to be bad years. A skilful (commander) strikes a decisive blow, and stops. He does not dare (by continuing his operations) to assert and complete his mastery. He will strike the blow, but will be on his guard against being vain or boastful or arrogant in consequence of it. He strikes it as a matter of necessity; he strikes it, but not from a wish for mastery. When things have attained their strong maturity they become old. This may be said to be not in accordance with the Tao: and what is not in accordance with it soon comes to an end.
Lao-Tzu ["Tao Te Ching" #30]

... it is a maxim in general not to suffer ourselves to be dictated to by the enemy.
Karl von Clausewitz

We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again.
Nathanael Greene [April 1781 letter after the Battle of Hobkirk's Hill]

Oppression that is clearly inexorable and invincible does not give rise to revolt but to submission.
Simone Weil

Will power is only the tensile strength of one's own disposition. One cannot increase it by a single ounce.
Cesare Pavese [15 Jan 1938 entry The Burning Brand: Diaries 1935-1950 (1952; tr 1961)]

Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak, and that it is doing God's service, when it is violating all His laws.
John Adams [2 Feb 1816 letter to Thomas Jefferson]

The war against Vietnam is only the ghastliest manifestation of what I'd call imperial provincialism, which afflicts America's whole culture — aware only of its own history, insensible to everything which isn't part of the local atmosphere.
Stephen Vizinczey ["Condemned World, Literary Kingdom" (21 Sep 1968) in Truth and Lies in Literature (1986)]

If we ever pass out as a great nation, we ought to put on our tombstone, 'America died of the delusion that she had moral leadership'.
Will Rogers

Where the people possess no authority, their rights obtain no respect.
George Bancroft (1834)

Power intoxicates men. It is never voluntarily surrendered. It must be taken from them.
James F. Byrnes (1956)

Nature in darkness groans
And men are bound to sullen contemplation in the night:
Restless they turn on beds of sorrow; in their inmost brain
Feeling the crushing wheels, they rise, they write the bitter words
Of stern philosophy & knead the bread of knowledge with tears & groans.

William Blake

Throw away thy rod,
Throw away thy wrath;
O my God,
Take the gentle path.
George Herbert

Now arms, however beautiful, are instruments of evil omen, hateful, it may be said, to all creatures. Therefore they who have the Tao do not like to employ them. The superior man ordinarily considers the left hand the most honourable place, but in time of war the right hand. Those sharp weapons are instruments of evil omen, and not the instruments of the superior man; — he uses them only on the compulsion of necessity. Calm and repose are what he prizes; victory (by force of arms) is to him undesirable. To consider this desirable would be to delight in the slaughter of men; and he who delights in the slaughter of men cannot get his will in the kingdom. On occasions of festivity to be on the left hand is the prized position; on occasions of mourning, the right hand. The second in command of the army has his place on the left; the general commanding in chief has his on the right; — his place, that is, is assigned to him as in the rites of mourning. He who has killed multitudes of men should weep for them with the bitterest grief; and the victor in battle has his place (rightly) according to those rites.
Lao-Tzu ["Tao Te Ching" #31]

Tyranny destroys or strengthens the individual; freedom enervates him, until he becomes no more than a puppet. Man has more chances of saving himself by hell than by paradise.
E.M. Cioran ["On the Verge of Existence" Anathemas and Admirations (1986)]

For verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.
Mark 11:23 Bible [and Matthew 21:21 Bible]

Our war against terror is proceeding according to principles that I have made clear to all: Any person involved in committing or planning terrorist attacks against the American people becomes an enemy of this country, and a target of American justice. Any person, organization, or government that supports, protects, or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent, and equally guilty of terrorist crimes. Any outlaw regime that has ties to terrorist groups and seeks or possesses weapons of mass destruction is a grave danger to the civilized world — and will be confronted. And anyone in the world, including the Arab world, who works and sacrifices for freedom has a loyal friend in the United States of America.
George Walker Bush [1 May 2003 speech from USS Abraham Lincoln]

The godly have been swept from the land; not one upright man remains. All men lie in wait to shed blood; each hunts his brother with a net. Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire — they all conspire together. The best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge. The day of your watchmen has come, the day God visits you. Now is the time of their confusion. Do not trust a neighbor; put no confidence in a friend. Even with her who lies in your embrace be careful of your words. For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man's enemies are the members of his own household.
Micah 7:2-6 NIV Bible

The real trouble with war (modern war) is that it gives no one a chance to kill the right people.
Ezra Loomis Pound

The bloodthirsty hate the upright.
Proverbs 29:10 Bible

Preserve me from violent men, Who plan evil things in their heart, and stir up wars continually.
Psalms 140:1-2 RSV Bible

When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.
Proverbs 16:7 Bible

I think it runs much deeper than mere anger. I think when loneliness and fear drive a person too deep inside himself, faith shrivels into hopelessness. I think when tenderness diminishes and bitterness intensifies, rancor becomes a very sacred thing. And I think when the need for some form of meaningful human contact becomes an affliction, a soul can be tainted with madness, and allow violence to rage forth as the only means of genuine relief. A final grotesque expression of alienation that evokes "feeling something" in the most immediate and brutal form. The ghosts of my birth seem to agree with that. You read the account of the Utica killings in the paper, and then move quickly on to news about a train wreck in Iran, or a flood in Brazil, or riots in India, or the NASDAQ figures for the week, and unless you're from the town of Utica or in some way knew one of the victims of the man who killed them, you forget all about it; because you can't understand how a person, a normal enough person, a person like you and me, could do such a horrible thing. But he did; and others like him will; and all you can hope for is not to be one of the victims. You pray you will be safe.
Gary A. Braunbeck ["Safe" (1999)]

An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.
Viktor E. Frankl

Nothing can save us that is possible.
W.H. Auden ["For the Time Being"]

We live mainly by forms and patterns ... if the forms are bad, we live badly.
Walter Van Tilburg Clark

Never enter a war unless the exit is already known ... preventing defeat is not equivalent to achieving victory.
military maxim

If you can't call it 'war', then you can't call its result 'victory' ... even though it was.
Wesley K. Clark [re: Bosnia (2000)]

In war there is no substitute for victory.
Douglas MacArthur [19 Apr 1951 speech to Congress]

Your system is not the only option the military has open to it; but it's the only one that will work. I am the military, General. The time of the uniformed thug is over. Now they're only useful for posturing in front of cameras, or as pawns to be sacrificed while people like me fight the real war. How could you ever possibly understand what it is to be a soldier? Ah, the honor and dignity of war. The courage it takes to fire missiles at helpless villagers. The inestimable bravery it takes to bomb technologically backward countries from the stratosphere. How many children have you set on fire, Colonel? And how did it make you feel to kill thousands with the touch of a button? ... the stroke of a pen? Did it make you feel like God?
Kyle Mills ["Burn Factor" (2001)]

I pondered all these things, and how men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name.
William Morris [ch 4 A Dream of John Ball (1888); a religious leader of Wat Tyler's 1381 "Peasants' Revolt"]

If The Cause is tainted by doubt, the resulting hesitation may cause defeat; but if the military sacrifices that enabled victory are discovered to be protecting a Big Lie, then the mighty force may just continue fighting until there is nothing left.

Never in the history of warfare have so many made so much for such destructive purposes.
Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett [A War to Be Won: Fighting the Second World War (2000)]

How is the world ruled and led to war? Diplomats lie to journalists and believe these lies when they see them in print.
Karl Kraus (1918)

Historian — An unsuccessful novelist.
H.L. Mencken [A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949)]

History repeats itself. Historians repeat each other.
Philip Guedalla

History is the hidden battleground of present day politics, and there is ever increasing pressure [for distortion] on the concepts of historical truth and historical fact.
Romila Thapar

Let no man write my epitaph; for as no man who knows my motives dare now vindicate them, let not prejudice or ignorance asperse them. Let them rest in obscurity and peace! Let my memory be left in oblivion, my tomb remain uninscribed, until other times and other men can do justice to my character.
Robert Emmet [19 Sep 1803 speech from the dock on the eve of his execution]

Anybody can make history. Only a great man can write it.
Oscar Wilde [Fingal O'Flahertie Wills; "The Critic as Artist" Intentions, (1891)]

I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.
Psalms 120:7 Bible

I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.
Winston L.S. Churchill

What we call heroism is that determined endurance for one moment more than our enemy.
Caucasian proverb

The high sentiments always win in the end, the leaders who offer blood, toil, tears and sweat always get more out of their followers than those who offer safety and a good time. When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic.
George Orwell [Eric Arthur Blair]

There is no home here. There is no security in your mansions or your fortresses, your family vaults or your banks or your double beds. Understand this fact, and you will be free. Accept it, and you will be happy.
Christopher Isherwood

Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal.
Thomas Hobbes

Security is like liberty in that many are the crimes that are committed in its name.
Robert H. Jackson [dissent in U.S. v Shaughnessy (1950)]

The bourgeois treasures nothing more highly than the self ... And so at the cost of intensity he achieves his own preservation and security. His harvest is a quiet mind which he prefers to being possessed by God, as he prefers comfort to pleasure, convenience to liberty, and a pleasant temperature to that deathly inner consuming fire.
Hermann Hesse

Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.
Frederick Douglass [April 1886 speech]

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Benjamin Franklin [11 Nov 1755 speech]

He that's secure is not safe.
Benjamin Franklin [Poor Richard's Almanack (Aug 1748)]

The man who looks for security, even in the mind, is like a man who would chop off his limbs in order to have artificial ones which will give him no pain or trouble.
Henry Miller

A man who has nothing which he cares about more than he does about his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the existing of better men than himself.
John Stuart Mill

Men are afraid to rock the boat in which they hope to drift safely through life's currents, when, actually, the boat is stuck on a sandbar. They would be better off to rock the boat and try to shake it loose, or, better still, jump in the water and swim for the shore.
Thomas Szasz

There is no calamity which a great nation can invite which equals that which follows a supine submission to wrong and injustice and the consequent loss of national self-respect and honor, beneath which are shielded and defended a people's safety and greatness.
Stephen Grover Cleveland

A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
Second Amendment, U.S. Constitution

Disobedience, in the eyes of any one who has read history, is man's original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion.
Oscar Wilde [Fingal O'Flahertie Wills] ["The Soul of Man Under Socialism" in Fortnightly Review (Feb 1891)]

A man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one.
Henry David Thoreau

compiled by Ed Staff

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