combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 02 Number 03 Summer ©Jul 2004

Verbal Shrapnel
a desiderative pastiche

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

A soft answer turneth away wrath.
Proverbs 15:1 Bible

Inconstancy causes misunderstandings, which can cause wars.
George F. Will

An adversary can be paralyzed by inconsistency, but will soon ignore the unexpected in favor of a more rapid attainment of goals. It is therefore more efficacious to create persistent uncertainty, even perturbation, with the careful crafting and sly insinuation of strategic ambiguity.
anonymous diplomat

Many U.S. actions during the [Vietnam] war ran counter to the Geneva Convention. I used a pretty harsh word [in description] and I regret the harshness of it, but the reality is that ... countless numbers of books have been written that have chronicled how we went awry over there.
John Forbes Kerry

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ought to be tortured in the Nazi gulag.
Randi Rhodes [Air America Radio (WLIB NYC)]

President Bush should be taken out and shot.
Al Franken [Air America Radio (WLIB NYC)]

There are Americans whose conduct, if not directly supportive of the [terrorist] enemy, is indistinguishable from someone who is.
Rush Limbaugh [EIB network (14 May 2004)]

We all have private ails. The troublemakers are they who need public cures for their private ails.
Eric Hoffer

The White Protestant's ultimate sympathy must be with science, factology, and committee rather than with sex, birth, heat, flesh, creation, the sweet and the funky; they must vote, manipulate, control, and direct, these Protestants who are the center of power in our land, they must go for what they believe is reason when it is only the Square logic of the past.
Norman Mailer

A ruling intelligentsia, whether in Europe, Asia or Africa, treats the masses as raw material to be experimented on, processed, and wasted at will.
Eric Hoffer

Its my fondest wish, that some day, every American will get down on their knees and pray to God that some day they will have the opportunity to live in a Communist Society.
Jane Fonda [1970 USC speech]

An ass may bray a good while before he shakes the stars down.
George Eliot [Mary Ann (or Marian) Evans]

If you understood what communism was, you would hope, you would pray on your knees that we would some day become communist. I, a socialist, think that we should strive toward a socialist society, all the way to communism.
Jane Fonda [1970 Duke Univ speech]

The intellectuals and the young, booted and spurred, feel themselves born to ride us.
Eric Hoffer

Nowhere at present is there such a measureless loathing of their country by educated people as in America.
Eric Hoffer

All the reputedly powerful reactionaries are merely paper tigers. The reason is that they are divorced from the people. Look! Was not Hitler a paper tiger? Was Hitler not overthrown? ... U.S. imperialism has not yet been overthrown and it has the atomic bomb. I believe it also will be overthrown. It, too, is a paper tiger.
Mao Tse-Tung / Mao Zedong

It is better to kill ten innocents than let one enemy escape.
Vietnamese political maxim

It is better to free ten criminals than to convict one innocent.
American legal maxim

America's intentions [in liberating Iraq] are honorable. I believe that, and we must find a way of making the rest of the world believe it. We want to do the right thing. We care about the rest of the world.
Andy Rooney (12 April 2004)

The core responsibility of any government is to ensure the safety and security of its citizens – these are the foundations for every other right of citizenship, the essential conditions for every other freedom.
Anne McLellan

I know that some people question if America is really in a war at all. They view terrorism more as a crime, a problem to be solved mainly with law enforcement and indictments. After the World Trade Center was first attacked in 1993, some of the guilty were indicted and tried and convicted, and sent to prison. But the matter was not settled. The terrorists were still training and plotting in other nations, and drawing up more ambitious plans. After the chaos and carnage of September the 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers. The terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States, and war is what they got.
George Walker Bush [State of the Union Address (20 Jan 2004)]

Treating soldiers fighting their [politician's] war as brave heroes is an old civilian trick designed to keep the soldiers at it. But you can be sure our soldiers in Iraq are not all brave heroes gladly risking their lives for us sitting comfortably back here at home. ... We pin medals on their chests to keep them going. We speak of them as if they volunteered to risk their lives to save ours, but there isn't much voluntary about what most of them have done. ... We must support our soldiers in Iraq because it's our fault they're risking their lives there. However, we should not bestow the mantle of heroism on all of them for simply being where we sent them. Most are victims, not heroes.
Andy Rooney (12 April 2004)

And, you know, sin is particular and individual. It's not like crime, where society has to assume everyone equal before the law, and judge which acts are worse for the social order, and punish them accordingly. You can damn yourself very thoroughly for acts that aren't even illegal. And, of course, some acts are made excusable by situation. Soldiers kill in war, and soldiers can be honorable ... in fact, we insist that they be. And that's probably the reason we license them to kill for us, so they have to be good men.
Robert K. Tanenbaum [True Justice (2000)]

Do you know what the one thing is that they [elite warriors] all have in common? They all hate politicians. The two professions couldn't be more fundamentally different. Commandos live by a warrior's code ... honor and integrity above everything. Do what you say, and mean what you do. Politicians just say whatever will keep them in office. Now where you run into a problem is when you have the unprincipled honorless politician telling the principled honorable warrior what to do. The way the relationship works, with the politicians in the position of authority, they're destined to foster disgust and animosity among the troops.
Vince Flynn (2002)

I don't know what effect these men [generals] will have upon the enemy, but, by God, they terrify me.
Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington [Aug 1810 dispatch]

All leadership can be defined in two words: Follow Me!.
Roy Boehm [as both SEAL creedo and infantry motto]

The general must be first in the toils and fatigue of the army. In the heat of summer he does not spread his parasol nor in the cold of winter don thick clothing. In dangerous places he must dismount and walk. He waits until the army's wells have been dug and only then drinks; until the army's food is cooked before he eats; until the army's fortifications have been completed, to shelter himself.
Ping Fa [Military Code (fifth century BC)]

To a surprising extent the war-lords in shining armour, the apostles of the martial virtues, tend not to die fighting when the time comes. History is full of ignominious getaways by the great and famous.
George Orwell [Eric Arthur Blair] [Who Are the War Criminals? (1943)]

Perfect soldier, perfect gentleman ... never gave offence to anyone not even the enemy.
A.J.P. Taylor [re: Field Marshal Alexander in 16 March 1973 letter]

The Creator has not thought proper to mark those in the forehead who are of stuff to make good generals. We are first, therefore, to seek them blindfold, and then let them learn the trade at the expense of great losses.
Thomas Jefferson [6 Feb 1813 letter]

The man who hires another to forge distinction for him deserves as little as he gets.
Rex Stout

A general is just as good or just as bad as the troops under his command make him.
Douglas MacArthur [16 Aug 1962 speech to Congress]

In enterprise of martial kind,
When there was any fighting,
He led his regiment from behind —
He found it less exciting.

W.S. Gilbert [act 1 The Gondoliers]

We have in the [military] service the scum of the earth as common soldiers.
Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington [2 July 1813 dispatch]

He learned the arts of riding, fencing, gunnery,
And how to scale a fortress — or a nunnery.

George Gordon, Lord Byron [cto 1 st 38 Don Juan]

I am convinced that the best service a retired general can perform is to turn in his tongue along with his suit, and to mothball his opinions.
Omar Nelson Bradley [17 May 1959 Armed Forces Day address]

You have to understand the mentality of a commando. They've given everything they have to this country, and in return, they see those [political] whores selling America down the drain. I don't mean all of them ... there are some good honest politicians, but they are a rarity. Most of those guys are lying misdirected egomaniacs. They think it's just a game. There's alot of hate and distrust between the military and Washington ... there always has been. And it's even worse when you start talking about special forces personnel.
Vince Flynn (2002)

On becoming soldiers we have not ceased to be citizens.
address by Oliver Cromwell's soldiers to the English Parliament [Humble Representation (1647)]

When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the Citizen.
George Washington [26 June 1775 address to the New York legislature]

No profession or occupation is more pleasing than the military; a profession or exercise both noble in execution (for the strongest, most generous and proudest of all virtues is true valour) and noble in its cause. No utility either more just or universal than the protection of the repose or defence of the greatness of one's country. The company and daily conversation of so many noble, young and active men cannot but be well-pleasing to you.
Michel Eyquem, Seigneur de Montaigne (1588)

War of all things proceeds least upon definite rules, but draws principally upon itself for contrivances to meet an emergency; and in such cases the party who faces the struggle and keeps his temper best meets with most security, and he who loses his temper about it with correspondent disaster.
Thucydides [History of the Peloponnesian Wars]

Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For He wounds, but He also binds up; He injures, but His hands also heal. From six calamities He will rescue you; in seven no harm will befall you. In famine He will ransom you from death, and in battle from the stroke of the sword. You will be protected from the lash of the tongue, and need not fear when destruction comes.
Job 5:17-21 NIV Bible

Courage is, however, by no means an act of the understanding, but likewise a feeling, like fear; the latter looks to the physical preservation, courage to the moral preservation. Courage, then, is a nobler instinct. But because it is so, it will not allow itself to be used as a lifeless instrument, which produces its effects exactly according to prescribed measure. Courage is therefore no mere counterpoise to danger in order to neutralise the latter in its effects, but a peculiar power in itself.
Karl von Clausewitz

The trials that we have to undergo are sent to us for a good purpose, and we must think so, and learn to bear up with them in that spirit. Never despond but be cheerful as possible under all sufferings — and bless our good fortune, and be thankful that we are spared worse evils. As it is now we have won the respect of all the outside world by our valor, our patience, our endurance, and our trust in the final success of our cause. This we have gained when at first the opinion of the world was against us — the north had pursued a systematic course of vituperation and villification, detracting from us in all things — but now even those who were our bitterest enemies grant us the possession of the most noble qualities, and the Yankees themselves acknowledge our superiority of courage and spirit to themselves. They wonder how it is that our half clad, half starved soldiers can fight so well. The idea of anyone fighting for principle has never for once entered their understanding.
Lafayette McLaws [16 November 1862 letter]

It's only the civilized who are horrified at brutality — even when the brutes are their own kind, even when the victims are their sworn enemies.
Don Feder

The courage of a soldier is found to be the cheapest and most common quality of human nature.
Edward Gibbon [ch 26 vol 3 The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-88)]

Valor: A soldierly compound of vanity, duty and the gambler's hope.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

There is no question what the roll of honor in America is. The roll of honor consists of the names of men who have squared their conduct by ideals of duty.
R. Woodrow Wilson

Veterans are often haunted by their memories of war because there is nothing that any government can say that will make their experiences of death and destruction seem right and proper and good. At some fundamental level, no matter how justified, every combatant knows that killing another person is wrong. It affirms our deep appreciation for the sanctity of life, and presents us with the paradoxical recognition that freedom must be relinquished to be attained, that life must be sacrificed to be preserved.
anonymous Army nurse

You're not a man anymore — you are a soldier. Your comfort is of no importance, and Lieutenant, your life isn't of much importance. If you live, you will have memories — that's about all you will have. Meanwhile, you must take orders and carry them out. Most of the orders will be unpleasant, but that's not your business. I will not lie to you, Lieutenant — they should have trained you for this, and not for flower strewn streets. They should have built your soul with truth, not led [you] along with lies. But you took the job, Lieutenant — will you stay with it or quit it? We can't take care of your soul.
John Steinbeck [The Moon is Down (1942)]

I think it's very clear that one of the biggest costs of war is borne by the men who fight it — and I don't mean the ones who die — but even more by the ones who live through it and have to carry the memories and the scars, both physical and emotional.
Kevin L. Hoffman (2004)

There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day: we have to prove that we are as good today as we were yesterday. But when we have a valid alibi for not achieving anything we are fixed, so to speak, for life.
Eric Hoffer [p181 The Passionate State of Mind]

After the second world war, returning veterans often said they had just been doing their jobs, or didn't talk about their service at all. Yet they knew the stakes of the fight they had been in, and the magnitude of what they had achieved.
George Walker Bush [11 Nov 2003 address to Heritage Fdn]

"In regard to your question about medals," he wrote back, "I got a few, but mostly for the wrong reasons. What I'm most proud of is just having the honor to have served with my Marines. No matter what anyone's view of the war was, they would've liked the men I fought with. They had manners. They took care of each other, rescued the wounded, suffered with dignity, and accepted that they would die in Vietnam. The medals don't mean shit. They're lost in a drawer somewhere. And some fine young men never came home. My greatest honor is to have known them."
Murry A. Taylor

Heroes may not be braver than anyone else. They're just braver five minutes longer.
Ronald Wilson Reagan (22 Dec 1982)

Military virtue in an Army is a definite moral power which may be supposed wanting, and the influence of which may therefore be estimated — like any instrument the power of which may be calculated.
Karl von Clausewitz

The feeling about a soldier is, when all is said and done, he wasn't really going to do very much with his life anyway.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr (11 March 1983)

compiled by Ed Staff

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