combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 02 Number 01 Winter ©Jan 2004

Verbal Shrapnel
a desiderative pastiche

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

I against my brother
I and my brother against our cousin
I, my brother and our cousin against the neighbors
All of us against the foreigner.
Bedouin proverb

An enemy spared is an enemy that might have to be faced again some other day.
Elmer Kelton (1999)

All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.
Romans 3:12-17 NIV Bible

You cannot teach people hate and then ask them to practice peace. But neither can you teach people peace except by according them dignity and granting them hope.
Tony Blair [18 July 2003 address to Congress]

Wars are not caused by persons wishing to kill each other. They are caused by ridiculous rivalries promoted by unscrupulous and ambitious politicians. Killing is merely the means by which they are carried on and, in due course, completed. You confuse cause and effect.
Gwyn Griffin (1967)

And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
Exodus 21:23-25 Bible

You have heard that it was said, `An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well ....
Matthew 5:38-40 Bible

Recompense to no man evil for evil.
Romans 12:17 Bible

Reparation: Satisfaction that is made for a wrong and deducted from the satisfaction felt in committing it.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

Longanimity: The disposition to endure injury with meek forbearance while maturing a plan of revenge.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness!
Isaiah 5:20 Bible

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
Romans 7:21 NIV Bible

By the victims they choose, and by the means they use, the terrorists have clarified the struggle we are in. Those who target relief workers for death have set themselves against all humanity. Those who incite murder and celebrate suicide reveal their contempt for life, itself. They have no place in any religious faith; they have no claim on the world's sympathy; and they should have no friend in this chamber.
george Walker Bush [23 Sep 2003 UN Gen Assembly address]

There never has been a time when the power of America was so necessary; or so misunderstood; or when, except in the most general sense, a study of history provides so little instruction for our present day. We were all reared on battles between great warriors, between great nations, between powerful forces and ideologies that dominated entire continents. These were struggles for conquest, for land or money. The wars were fought by massed armies. The leaders were openly acknowledged: the outcomes decisive.
Tony Blair [18 July 2003 address to Congress]

For if the truth of God through my lie hath abounded more unto His glory, why am I also yet judged as a sinner? And why not say rather (as we are slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say), "Let us do evil, that good may come"? Their damnation is just!
Romans 3:7-8 21KJV Bible

Yet even in all our might, we are taught humility. In the end, it is not our power alone that will defeat this evil. Our ultimate weapon is not our guns but our beliefs.
Tony Blair [18 July 2003 address to Congress]

But there will be terrorists, and they want to fight us. Remember this is — Iraq is a battle in the war on terror. The war on terror is being fought on many fronts, and some of them obviously [are] more visible than others. ... The war on terror encompasses more than just military action, of course, or the use of special force strike teams. Cutting off money is an important part in the war on terror. ... it's very important for people to put this — Iraq in a broader context about a war that will continue on.
George Walker Bush [15 Dec 2003 press conference]

All wars are boyish, and are fought by boys, the champions and enthusiasts of the state.
Herman Melville

We must be eager to kill, to inflict on the enemy — the hated enemy — wounds, death, and destruction.
George Smith Patton

War is cruelty. There's no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.
William Tecumseh Sherman

Once we have a war there is only one thing to do. It must be won. For defeat brings worse things than any that can ever happen in war.
Ernest Miller Hemingway

Our wars have taken from us some of our finest citizens, and every hour of the lifetimes they hoped to live. And the courage of our military has given us every hour we live in freedom.
George Walker Bush [11 Nov 2003 address to Heritage Fdn]

Regardless of how persistent our diplomacy may be in activities stretching all around the globe, in the final analysis it rests upon the power of the United States, and that power rests upon the will and courage of our citizens, and upon you [soldiers] in this field [at a military post].
John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1962)

People don't start wars, governments do.
Ronald Wilson Reagan

Army: A body of men assembled to rectify the mistakes of the diplomats.
Josephus Daniels

Diplomats are just as essential in starting a war as soldiers are in finishing it.
W.P.A. "Will" Rogers

The foolish race of mankind
Are swarming below in the night;
They shriek and rage and quarrel —
And all of them are right,
Heinrich Heine (1844)

There is always inequity in life. Some men are killed in war and some men are wounded, and some men are stationed in the Antarctic and some are stationed in San Francisco. It's very hard in military or personal life to assure complete equality. Life is unfair.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy [21 Mar 1962 comment to Reservists anxious to be released from Active Duty]

WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war ... and to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest....
Preamble, United Nations Charter (1945)

The founders [of the United Nations] sought to replace a world at war with a world of civilized order. They hoped that a world of relentless conflict would give way to a new era, one where freedom from violence prevailed. But the awful truth is that the use of violence for political gain has become more, not less, widespread in the last decade.
Ronald Wilson Reagan (26 Sep 1983 address to UN General Assembly)

If you wish to change the world, the place to begin is with your own hands, your own heart and your own mind.
Robert Pirsig [Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance]

To reform a world, to reform a nation, no wise man will undertake; and all but foolish men know, that the only solid, though a far slower reformation, is what each begins and perfects on himself.
Thomas Carlyle [Signs of the Times (1829)]

The amelioration of the world cannot be achieved by sacrifices in moments of crisis; it depends on the efforts made and constantly repeated during the humdrum, uninspiring periods, which separate one crisis from another, and of which normal lives mainly consist.
Aldous Leonard Huxley [ch 10 Grey Eminence (1941)]

Every reform, however necessary, will by weak minds be carried to an excess, which will itself need reforming.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge [ch 1 Biographia Literaria (1817)]

If we are wrong, we will have destroyed a [terrorist] threat that, at its least is responsible for inhuman carnage and suffering. That is something I am confident history will forgive. But if our critics are wrong, if we are right as I believe with every fibre of instinct and conviction I have that we are, and we do not act, then we will have hesitated in face of this menace, when we should have given leadership. That is something history will not forgive.
Tony Blair [18 July 2003 address to Congress]

No free nation can be neutral in the fight between civilization and chaos.
Colin Powell (13 Sep 2003)

And this is a brutal dictator. He's a person who killed a lot of people. But my views, my personal views aren't important in this matter. What matters is the views of the Iraqi citizens. And we need to work, of course, with them to develop a system that is fair and where he will be put on trial and will be brought to justice — the justice he didn't, by the way, afford any of his own fellow citizens.
George Walker Bush [15 Dec 2003 press conference]

Men must be capable of imagining and executing and insisting on social change if they are to reform or even maintain civilization, and capable too of furnishing the rebellion which is sometimes necessary if society is not to perish of immobility.
Rebecca West [pt 4 The Meaning of Treason (1949)]

We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom.
Stephen Vincent Benet

The most terrible fight is not when there is one opinion against another, the most terrible is when two men say the same thing — and fight about the interpretation, and this interpretation involves a difference of quality.
Søren A. Kierkegaard (1850)

No one is to blame. It is neither their fault nor ours. It is the misfortune of being born when a whole world is dying.
Aleksandr Ivanovich Herzen [From the Other Shore (1849)]

There is nothing stable in the world; uproar's your only music.
John Keats [1818 letter]

That which makes someone a good poet also makes them a poor soldier; but if the good soldier can survive his terrible education, then he will have also learned how to be a good poet or parent or priest.

There's something simple about it — like the Golden Rule. If you want boys to be decent, if you care about helping them grow up to be good men, why just get them out into the open, take them on hikes, teach them to tie knots, to make fire with flint and steel, to believe that the Kingdom of Heaven is not a bull stock market, but a khaki uniform that a boy wins by proving he has accepted the ludicrous belief that it is admirable to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. Silly, of course.
Jerome Weidman ["Good Man, Bad Man" The Saturday Evening Post (1 Jul 1967)]

I have not changed my philosophy of how a President ought to act during wartime, which is to set the strategy, lay out the goals and empower the military people — both civilian and uniform — to make the decisions necessary to achieve the objective. And they will make those recommendations about troop levels and what is necessary.
George Walker Bush [15 Dec 2003 press conference]

We all felt that the men about us were making history, and that we were looking at heroes, if we could only find them out.
M.E.W. Sherwood [ch 5 An Epistle to Posterity (re: 1862; 1897)]

Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, incommunicable past.
Willa Cather [My Antonia (1918)]

History changes with each successive generation.
Russian addage

We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.
Frederick Douglass

It has become fashionable in our modern, more cynical time to reexamine our history, to throw a supposedly new light on those who are famous for their accomplishments, to instead expose their faults, to topple the statue of the hero, to replace the honor and respect with the sensational and the shameful, as though it were the only meaningful way these [historical] characters can be relevant to today's world. I most adamantly disagree. That we know so much about these characters today is a testament to their accomplishments, their extraordinary achievements, and, yes, their astounding heroism. That they can so easily become targets is a testament to their humanity.
Jeffrey M. Shaara [Rise to Rebellion, a Novel of the American Revolutionary War (Oct 2000)]

Down these mean streets must go a man who is not himself mean; who is neither tarnished nor afraid. ...He must be the best man in his world, and a good enough man for any world.
Raymond Thornton Chandler [The Simple Art of Murder (1950)]

All the wrong people remember Vietnam. I think all the people who remember it should forget it, and all the people who forgot it should remember it.
Michael Herr (15 Jan 1989)

In the end, Vietnam was lost on the political front in the United States; not on the battle front in Southeast Asia.
Richard Milhous Nixon [No More Vietnams (1985)]

All gave some — some gave all!
lyrical phrase popular after Vietnam War

Above all, Vietnam was a war that asked everything of a few and nothing of most in America.
Myra MacPherson [Long Time Passing: Vietnam and the Haunted Generation (1984)]

No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then, and it is misremembered now. Rarely have so many people been so wrong about so much. Never have the consequences of their misunderstanding been so tragic.
Richard Milhous Nixon [No More Vietnams (1985)]

Some of the critics viewed Vietnam as a morality play in which the wicked must be punished before the final curtain and where any attempt to salvage self respect from the outcome compounded the wrong. I viewed it as a genuine tragedy. No one had a monopoly on anguish.
Henry Alfred Kissinger [ch 8 The White House Years (1979)]

Our men had gone to war but it was difficult to find out what was happening in that war. I remember a time, sixty-odd years later, when the malevolent eye of television turned war into a spectator sport, even to the extent, I hope that this is not true, that attacks were timed so that the action could be shown live on the evening news. Can you imagine a more ironically horrible way to die than to have one's death timed to allow an anchorman to comment on it, just before turning the screen over to the beer ads?
Robert A. Heinlein [To Sail Beyond the Sunset (1987)]

The Vietnam War has been the subject of thousands of newspaper and magazine articles, hundreds of books, and scores of movies and television documentaries. The great majority of these efforts have erroneously portrayed many myths about the Vietnam War as being facts.
Richard Milhous Nixon [No More Vietnams (1985)]

And there's another thing I've always noticed: that arguments sound a lot different indoors than outdoors. There's a kind of insanity that comes from being between walls and under a roof. You're too cooped up, and don't get a chance to test ideas against the real size of things.
Walter Van Tilburg Clark

A handful of soldiers is always better than a mouthful of arguments.
G.C. Lichtenberg (1765-99)

Better is a handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.
Ecclesiastes 4:6 Bible

To a reasonable man, only unreason is unreasonable. Blows, by nature, are not intolerable.
attributed to Epictetus

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
George Bernard Shaw ["Maxims for Revolutionists: Reason" Man and Superman (1903)]

O God, O God,
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
William Shakespeare [act 1 sc 2 Hamlet]

Man dies of cold, not of darkness.
Miguel de Unamuno [ch 4 The Tragic Sense of Life (1913)]

Despair is the price one pays for setting oneself an impossible aim. It is, one is told, the unforgivable sin, but it is a sin the corrupt or evil man never practises. He always has hope. He never reaches the freezing-point of knowing absolute failure. Only the man of goodwill carries always in his heart this capacity for damnation.
Graham Greene [bk 1 pt 1 ch 2 sct 4 The Heart of the Matter (1948)]

One thing I've learnt about peace processes. They're always frustrating, often agonising and occasionally seem hopeless. But for all that, having a peace process is better than not having one.
Tony Blair [18 July 2003 address to Congress]

Because I remember, I despair. Because I remember, I have the duty to reject despair.
Elie Wiesel [11 Dec 1986 Nobel lecture]

Let judges secretly despair of justice: their verdicts will be more acute. Let generals secretly despair of triumph; killing will be defamed. Let priests secretly despair of faith: their compassion will be true.
Leonard Cohen ["Lines From My Grandfather's Journal" The Spice-Box Of Earth (1961)]

The spread of freedom is the best security for the free. It is our last line of defence and our first line of attack.
Tony Blair [18 July 2003 address to Congress]

So long as we have failed to eliminate any of the causes of human despair, we do not have the right to try to eliminate those means by which man tries to cleanse himself of despair.
Antonin Artaud (1925)

To sit back hoping that someday, someway, someone will make things right is to go on feeding the crocodile, hoping he will eat you last — but eat you he will.
Ronald Wilson Reagan (7 Nov 1974)

Americans are a peaceful people, and this nation has always gone to war reluctantly, and always for a noble cause. America's war veterans have fought for the security of this nation, for the safety of our friends, and for the peace of the world. They humbled tyrants and defended the innocent, and liberated the oppressed. And across the Earth, you will find entire nations that once lived in fear, where men and women still tell of the day when Americans came and set them free.
George Walker Bush [11 Nov 2003 Arlington Nat'l Cemetery address]

Gentle folk rest peacefully in their comfortable homes each night, because their security is guarded by rough men, who stand ready to do violence for their protection.
paraphrase of George Orwell [Eric Arthur Blair]

Our men and women in uniform are warriors and they are liberators, strong and kind and decent. By their courage, they keep us safe; by their honor, they make us proud.
George Walker Bush [11 Nov 2003 address to Heritage Fdn]

compiled by Ed Staff

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