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

Verbal Shrapnel
a desiderative pastiche

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

Yet it is mistaken, and condescending, to assume that whole cultures and great religions are incompatible with liberty and self-government. I believe that God has planted in every human heart the desire to live in freedom. And even when that desire is crushed by tyranny for decades, it will rise again.
George Walker Bush [State of the Union Address (20 Jan 2004)]

George W. Bush is a simple person — and he simply wants war. ... Mr. Bush, you never fought in a war, so you have no idea what war is like. You could have fought for your country in Vietnam, but you were a coward.
Bob Fertik (12 Sept 2002)

George Bush is a moral coward.
Howard Dean

The programs and policies of George Bush are unpatriotic.
Al Gore

George Bush is a lunatic.
Bon Jovi

Mr. Bush, you spent one million of our tax dollars to learn how to fly a combat plane. And then you got drunk — rotten, stinking drunk. So drunk that you couldn't pass the Air Force physical exam. So you were grounded from flight, and you deserted your country during war. If you were the son of an ordinary American, you would have gone to jail.
Bob Fertik (12 Sept 2002)

There was no reason for us to become involved in Iraq recently. That was a war based on lies and misinterpretations from London and from Washington, claiming falsely that Saddam Hussein was responsible for [the] 9/11 attacks, claiming falsely that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. And I think that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair probably knew that many of the allegations were based on uncertain intelligence ... a decision was made to go to war [then people said] "Let's find a reason to do so." I think the basic reason was made not in London but in Washington. I think that Bush Junior was inclined to finish a war that his father had precipitated against Iraq.
James Earl Carter Jr (22 Mar 2004)

I hate everything about this war except that we're winning it ... the only real good news will be when this terrible time in American history is over.
Andy Rooney (6 April 2003)

I have not been a supporter of his. I did not vote for him. And I was very critical of what he did here. And I must say that fortunately, he's president and I'm not. It appears as though he did the right thing and I didn't think he was doing the right thing. And, if he's listening ... I was wrong, Bush was right.
Andy Rooney [radio interview with Don Imus (10 Apr 2003) on Bush's decision to liberate Iraq]

I felt chastened. I had to think that I was a little wrong. There's no question that it's better without him in there, without Saddam Hussein. [But] You can't even be critical, either, without sounding unpatriotic.
Andy Rooney (28 April 2003)

Under the guise of 'support your neighbor' we're all expected not to criticize the president because it's unpatriotic. I think it's unpatriotic to do some of the things that this president has done to this country.
Howard Dean

Mr. Bush, you are not a legitimate President. And you do not have the power — or the right — to send our precious children off to war.
Bob Fertik (12 Sept 2002)

We've sterilized war ... made it easy. Stripped it of the smell of infection and the silence of death. We've bled off the terror and the sorrow. And because of us, the power to wage war now rests in the hands of cowards and hypocrites.
Kyle Mills ["Burn Factor" (2001)]

Cowardice, as distinguished from panic, is almost always simply a lack of ability to suspend the functioning of the imagination.
Ernest Hemingway

The difference between a coward and a brave man is mostly a matter of timing.
Robert A. Heinlein

For all men would be cowards if they durst.
John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester [A Satire Against Mankind]

More frayd then hurt.
John Heywood

Repartee: Prudent insult in retort. Practiced by gentlemen with a constitutional aversion to violence, but a strong disposition to offend.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

He discounted that kind of rough humor, having learned in the last war that the men with the quickest wit around the campfire rarely show themselves to good effect on the battlefield.
attributed to George Washington [in defense of Henry Knox]

Feare may force a man to cast beyond the moone.
John Heywood

That man is not truly brave who is afraid either to seem or to be, when it suits him, a coward.
Edgar Allan Poe

Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
William Shakespeare [sc 2 act 2 Julius Caesar]

Man gives every reason for his conduct save one, every excuse for his crimes save one, every plea for his safety save one; and that one is his cowardice.
George Bernard Shaw [act 3 Man and Superman]

When cowardice is made respectable, its followers are without number both from among the weak and the strong; it easily becomes a fashion.
Eric Hoffer [aph 203 The Passionate State of Mind (1955)]

The only thing I am afraid of is fear.
Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington

Nothing is to be so much feared as fear.
Henry David Thoreau [Journal 7 Sep 1851)]

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (4 March 1933)

As we gather tonight, hundreds of thousands of American servicemen and women are deployed across the world in the war on terror. By bringing hope to the oppressed, and delivering justice to the violent, they are making America more secure. ... We have faced serious challenges together, and now we face a choice: We can go forward with confidence and resolve, or we can turn back to the dangerous illusion that terrorists are not plotting and outlaw regimes are no threat to us. ... We've not come all this way — through tragedy, and trial and war — only to falter and leave our work unfinished. Americans are rising to the tasks of history, and they expect the same from us. In their efforts, their enterprise, and their character, the American people are showing that the state of our union is confident and strong. Our greatest responsibility is the active defense of the American people. Twenty-eight months have passed since September 11th, 2001 — over two years without an attack on American soil. And it is tempting to believe that the danger is behind us. That hope is understandable, comforting — and false. ... The terrorists continue to plot against America and the civilized world. And by our will and courage, this danger will be defeated.
George Walker Bush [State of the Union Address (20 Jan 2004)]

A fearless fool is sometimes better than a wise man or a timid angel.
paraphrase of Nancy Astor [My Two Countries (1920)]

There's something about American ingenuity and American civic culture that's combined with American military courage that is producing incredible results in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and around the world.
Paul Wolfowitz (27 Feb 2004)

For all Americans, the last three years have brought tests we did not ask for, and achievements shared by all. By our actions, we have shown what kind of nation we are. In grief, we have found the grace to go on. In challenge, we rediscovered the courage and daring of a free people. In victory, we have shown the noble aims and good heart of America. And having come this far, we sense that we live in a time set apart. I've been witness to the character of the people of America, who have shown calm in times of danger, compassion for one another, and toughness for the long haul. All of us have been partners in a great enterprise.
George Walker Bush [State of the Union Address (20 Jan 2004)]

... he knew that war is treachery and hatred, the muddling of ignorant generals, the torture and killing, and sickness and tiredness, until at last it is over, and nothing has changed, except for new weariness and new hatreds.
John Steinbeck (1942)

Rather perish than hate and fear, and twice rather perish than make oneself hated and feared.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

The nation's honor is dearer than the nation's comfort; yes, than the nation's life itself.
Woodrow Wilson [26 Jan 1919 speech]

I am tired of people who have not been at war but who know all about it.
John Steinbeck (1942)

We are not descended from fearful men.
Edward R. Morrow (7 Mar 1954)

Then Jesus asked them, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" "Nothing," they answered. He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors'; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment." The disciples said, "See, Lord, here are two swords." "That is enough," he replied.
Luke 22:35-8 NIV Bible

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
Matthew 10:34 Bible

Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will bring My words upon this city for evil and not for good; and they shall be accomplished in that day before thee. But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the Lord; and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid. For I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword; but thy life shall be as a prize unto thee, because thou hast put thy trust in Me, saith the Lord.
Jeremiah 39:16-18 21KJV Bible

Every man's sword was against his fellow.
I Samuel 14:20 Bible

After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it. I sure as hell wouldn't want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military.
William Burroughs [The War Universe in Painting and Guns (1992)]

Now they're tryin' to take my guns away
And that would be just fine
If you take 'em away from the criminals first
I'll gladly give ya mine

The Charlie Daniels Band [What This World Needs Is A Few More Rednecks]

When I hold you in my arms
And I feel my finger on your trigger
I know no one can do me no harm
Because happiness is a warm gun.
John Lennon & Paul McCartney [Happiness Is a Warm Gun (1968)]

The main foundations of every state, new states as well as ancient or composite ones, are good laws and good arms ... you cannot have good laws without good arms, and where there are good arms, good laws inevitably follow.
Niccolò di Bernardo Machiavelli [ch 12 The Prince, (1514)]

Men who've seen alot of combat don't have many illusions about solving problems with weapons.
Greg Iles (2001)

It just isn't in human nature to throw away a weapon.
David Brin [Kiln People (2002)]

Weapons are an important factor in war, but not the decisive factor; it is people, not things, that are decisive. The contest of strength is not only a contest of military and economic power, but also a contest of human power and morale. Military and economic power is necessarily wielded by people.
Mao Tse-Tung / Mao Zedong [On Protracted War (May 1938)]

War is war, and not popularity-seeking.
William Tecumseh Sherman

Return with your shield, or return upon it.
familial injunction of ancient Greece and medieval Scotland

For among other evils caused by being disarmed, it renders you contemptible; which is one of those disgraceful things which a prince must guard against.
Niccolò di Bernardo Machiavelli [ch 14 The Prince, (1514)]

The troops will march in, the bands will play, the crowds will cheer, and in four days everyone will have forgotten. Then we will be told we have to send in more troops. It's like taking a drink ... the effect wears off, and you have to take another.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy [re: Maxwell Taylor's Vietnam report (1961)]

War is a matter not so much of arms as of expenditure, through which arms maybe made of service.
Thucydides [bk 1 ch 83 sec 2 History of the Peloponnesian Wars]

The wars in Laos mostly resemble pillow-fights. When two armies can no longer avoid battle, the side that remembers not to throw down its weapons when fleeing declares victory.
attributed to U.S. military advisor

The loss in physical force is not the only one which the two sides suffer in the course of the combat; the moral forces also are shaken, broken, and go to ruin.
Karl von Clausewitz

Confrontations are like haircuts: some are good and some are bad, but none of them can change the essential nature of one's own hair ... that nothing will ever alter the unforgettable or unforgivable nature of the truth inside one's head.
paraphrase of T. Jefferson Parker (2002)

Battles could be won ... the war, never. The important thing was not to surrender.
Lawrence Sanders

Even the propagandists on the radio find it very difficult to really say let alone believe that the world will be a happy place, of love and peace and plenty, and that the lion will lie down with the lamb and everybody will believe anybody [after this war].
Gertrude Stein [Wars I Have Seen (1943-5)]

Among the wise and high-minded people who in self-respecting and genuine fashion strive earnestly for peace, there are the foolish fanatics always to be found in such a movement and always discrediting it — the men who form the lunatic fringe in all reform movements.
Theodore Roosevelt (1913)

A man must not swallow more beliefs than he can digest.
Havelock Ellis [ch 5 The Dance of Life (1923)]

If peace is not an option, then violence is inevitable.

Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence. Any man who has once proclaimed violence as his method is inevitably forced to take the lie as his principle.
Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (1973 Nobel Prize lecture)

If the war is about power, then the side with the most guns will win; but if it's about ideas, then the side with the biggest lie will win ... at least until they are overthrown, and it starts all over again. It doesn't take long to discover that the peace that was so dearly bought is not worth the war that was paid for it!

Every military organization prepares for the next war by studying the last war; but the side that is victorious will most rapidly adapt and innovate their proven doctrine.
military maxim

We can best help you to prevent war not by repeating your words and following your methods but by finding new words and creating new methods.
by Adeline Virginia Stephen Woolf (1938)

A master of the art of war has said, 'I do not dare to be the host (to commence the war); I prefer to be the guest (to act on the defensive). I do not dare to advance an inch; I prefer to retire a foot.' This is called marshalling the ranks where there are no ranks; baring the arms (to fight) where there are no arms to bare; grasping the weapon where there is no weapon to grasp; advancing against the enemy where there is no enemy.
Lao-Tzu [#69 Tao Te Ching]

People always talk about preventing another world war. Look around you. World peace is what's destroying this planet. ... You see, son, you can live through a war and they call you a survivor, maybe even a hero, but no one ever survives peace. We all die wondering what we might have done differently.
John Hockenberry (2001)

"Maybe when life [after the war] is less complicated."
"Does life get any less complicated [than war]?"
"Possibly not," he said, "but there are good complications and bad ones."
"We have a choice?"
"No; but to seize the good ones when they come along, that's the thing."
Robert Wilson (2001)

"War is not a natural state, sir. It is not a fact of nature, something that man must adapt to or accept, like floods or small pox. We create it. We perpetuate it. And it is incumbent on us to do the best job we can, or we suffer the consequences. The worst consequence of fighting a war is not if you lose, sir. The worst thing you can do is win badly. The losers go back to their people and endure the shame or the humiliation, and the politicians make excuses — they were out gunned or out fought — but still they hold on to their cause, create their martyrs. The winner, he has proven that his cause is stronger — perhaps might makes right — the glory, all the celebrations, and the parades are his. But if the winner has not won completely, efficiently, [then] the loser will not respect him, will never accept that the defeat was just. They will begin to find strength. The cause, the martyrs will come back to life; and before you know it, there is another war. And if the winner isn't careful, all his boasting and bluster may make him blind to history."
Jeffrey M. Shaara (2000)

Men since the beginning of time have sought peace ... all in turn have failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war .... If we do not now devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door.
Douglas MacArthur [1945 radio address after Japan's surrender]

There is no calamity greater than lightly engaging in war. To do that is near losing (the gentleness) which is so precious. Thus it is that when opposing weapons are (actually) crossed, he who deplores (the situation) conquers.
Lao-Tzu [#69 Tao Te Ching]

A just war is hospitable to every self-deception on the part of those waging it, none more than the certainty of virtue, under whose shelter every abomination can be committed with a clear conscience.
Alexander Cockburn (8 Feb 1991)

It is not the cause for which men took up arms that makes a victory more just or less, it is the order that is established when arms have been laid down.
Simone Weil

Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace.
Romans 14:19 Bible

Peace is normally a great good, and normally it coincides with righteousness, but it is righteousness and not peace which should bind the conscience of a nation as it should bind the conscience of an individual, and neither a nation nor an individual can surrender conscience to another's keeping.
Theodore Roosevelt (4 Dec 1906)

The work of righteousness shall be peace.
Isaiah 32:17 Bible

Thus Belial, with words clothed in reason's garb,
Counseled ignoble ease, and peaceful sloth,
Not peace.
John Milton [bk 2 Paradise Lost (1667)]

The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.
Exodus 14:14 Bible

I will give you peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid.
Leviticus 26:6 Bible

He [God] makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow, and shatters the spear, He burns the chariots with fire!
Psalms 46:9 RSV Bible

A man must feel he belongs to something. As long as he floats around space, doing little chores that start and end with his hands, and never reach his heart, he's no good to himself. Some things are real, and some are only tinsel paper that people wrap themselves in ... having nothing more important to do with their time. Dust is an honest thing ... and so is sweat, and the bruises you get from fighting. ... Some [men] do [understand], and some don't [realize it at all]. Some [men] are good, and some are pretty bad; but the point is that when the trumpet blows Boots and Saddles, they'll all swing up together ... and when action begins, they'll all run forward together. That is what men were made for.
Ernest Haycox [Bugles in the Afternoon (1944)]

Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down.
Job 14:1-2 Bible

"You guys ... you guys come back from the war; you think because you made it out alive that everything and everybody has got to lay down right in front of you. Everything is a gift now, wrapped up special with a bow on it just for you. You think because you've made it you're never going to die, but I'm telling you it's only a reprieve that you got ... just a reprieve. Guys like you, you just don't get it."
George P. Pelecanos

You don't save the peace by breaking it ... I wish that men would learn that simple lesson.
Inglis Fletcher [The Scotswoman (1954)]

Can any peace be dishonorable? How many more will die while the [peace] negotiations plod along? I also wonder what would happen if the widows of soldiers and the mothers of men who have died on both sides sat down and talked peace. I feel they would cut right through the ideological barriers that so often bog peace processes down. Somehow I think they'd find an end to all this with haste and without argument.
David K. Harford ["A Death on the Ho Chi Minh Trail" (1999)]

Women think peace is valuable enough to preserve by not fighting at all; and men believe that peace is important enough to protect by fighting for it.

Seek peace, and pursue it.
Psalms 34:14 Bible

This [assemblage of wounded and dead] was the glory of battle. This was the end of the band playing, and the bright pennants flying, and all the dreams of gallantry and personal triumph. A man dreamed of glory, and it came to this. A [commander signaled] ..., and the regiment went into battle line. The voices of men shouting out their power and their excitement. And afterwards, the smoke and heat and dust folded over them, and death struck. And long, later in the aftermath's stillness, men lay physically and spiritually smashed ... and thought only of water, and rest, and peace.
Ernest Haycox [Bugles in the Afternoon (1944)]

Before honor is humility.
Proverbs 15:33 Bible

To my mind, as you know, there's but one good reason for fighting, but that reason is undeniable. It may be that only by fighting can we bring peace to the land.
Inglis Fletcher [The Scotswoman (1954)]

If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
Romans 12:18 Bible

It is an honor for a man to cease from strife.
Proverbs 20:3 Bible

Peace, being more than the simple cessation of war, is poignantly defined by whether the sentinels are facing out, or whether they are facing in.

Men were vessels, to carry the dreams of the race. The bright visions of gallantry and courage and daring which made the light stream fresh and quick. The steadfast visions of honor and loyalty, and the great flame of faith. The good and the bad died for those visions, never wholly realizing why they fought. The good and the bad lived to enjoy the peace which came of nights like these, never fully understanding how their peace was secured for them. The name of this little battle in a remote western valley would fade as time went on, until few people knew of it, or the reason for it. But even if they forgot it, it would still be a part of that red thread which ran continuously through the fabric of the country. Battles of the past had stained the thread, and this battle now would add its scarlet color ... and other battles yet to come. Some of these battles were just, and some were unjust. Some were necessary struggles of survival. Some need never have been fought. But there was never any way of knowing. A man was faithful and he fought, and had his hopes of betterment. ... The just and the unjust, the faithful and the crooked, the pure and the sinful. All were one; breathing a common air and pacing a common earth. The most pure with his temptations. And the most dissolute with his moments of grandeur. All were one; walking forward through the sunlight and the dark. Each with his end, but each a part of the light stream that came out of time ... and went on into time. This was his country, and this was his part and his place. ... Tonight the camp lay at fitful rest, and each of the living nourished his memories, his wishes, and his hatreds; but all were waiting together for tomorrow. And again would stand together. Their lot was a common one. The commonness of it made all of them good.
Ernest Haycox [Bugles in the Afternoon (1944)]

This war was a revolution against the moral basis of civilization. It was conceived by the Nazis in conscious contempt for the life, dignity and freedom of individual man and deliberately prosecuted by means of slavery, starvation and the mass destruction of noncombatants' lives. It was a revolution against the human soul.
Time (14 May 1945)

As the past recedes from memory and takes form on the printed page, historians and other commentators have begun to depict victory in that terrible conflict in soft words. A number have suggested that the Allied war effort was nothing more than the opposite side of the same coin — that the Allied cause was as morally bankrupt as the Axis cause, that an American or British war crime can be found for every one committed by the Germans or Japanese. Across the ledger from Nanking, Rotterdam, Belgrade, Oradour-sur-Glane, or Malmëdy, they place the Allies' refusal to bomb the rail lines to Auschwitz, the starvation of German POWs at war's end, and the incineration of Hiroshima — that worst of all "crimes against humanity." These advocates for moral equivalence are wrong. In considering the war's human cost, those of us privileged to live at the dawn of a new millennium should renew our effort to remember why the war was fought and why so many were called to pay the ultimate price for victory. The wars unleashed by the Japanese in 1937 and by the Germans in 1939 came close to destroying the two great centers of world civilization and to imposing in their stead imperial regimes founded on racial superiority, slavery, and genocide. They did not succeed because of the extraordinary efforts and sacrifices made by Allied soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines from around the world ....
Williamson Murray & Allan R. Millett [A War to Be Won: Fighting the Second World War (2000)]

'Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.
George Washington (17 Sept 1796 Farewell Address)

Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been unfurled, there will [America's] heart, her benedictions, and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.
John Quincy Adams (4 June 1821)

America is a nation with a mission, and that mission comes from our most basic beliefs. We have no desire to dominate, no ambitions of empire. Our aim is a democratic peace — a peace founded upon the dignity and rights of every man and woman. America acts in this cause with friends and allies at our side, yet we understand our special calling: This great republic will lead the cause of freedom.
George Walker Bush [State of the Union Address (20 Jan 2004)]

I think that a young state, like a young virgin, should modestly stay at home, and wait the application of suitors for an alliance with her; and not run about offering her amity to all the world; and hazarding their refusal .... Our virgin is a jolly one; and tho at present not very rich, will in time be a great fortune, and where she has a favorable predisposition, it seems to me well worth cultivating.
Benjamin Franklin (22 Sept 1778 letter)

An alliance is like a chain. It is not made stronger by adding weak links to it. A great power like the United States gains no advantage and it loses prestige by offering, indeed peddling, its alliances to all and sundry. An alliance should be hard diplomatic currency, valuable and hard to get, and not inflationary paper from the mimeograph machine in the State Department.
Walter Lippmann ((5 Aug 1952)

Union of the weakest develops strength
Not wisdom. Can all men, together, avenge
One of the leaves that have fallen in autumn?
But the wise man avenges by building his city in snow.

Wallace Stevens [Like Decorations in a Nigger Cemetery in Ideas of Order (1936)]

There is a difference, however, between leading a coalition of many nations, and submitting to the objections of a few. America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country.
George Walker Bush [State of the Union Address (20 Jan 2004)]

Alliance: In international politics, the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted in each other's pockets that they cannot separately plunder a third.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

Our nation is strong and steadfast. The cause we serve is right, because it is the cause of all mankind. The momentum of freedom in our world is unmistakable — and it is not carried forward by our power alone. We can trust in that greater power who guides the unfolding of the years. And in all that is to come, we can know that His purposes are just and true. May God continue to bless America.
George Walker Bush [State of the Union Address (20 Jan 2004)]

compiled by Ed Staff

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