combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 03 Number 01 Winter ©Jan 2005

Verbal Shrapnel
a desiderative pastiche

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

In the next terrorist attack on America, the streets will run with blood, and America will mourn in silence because they will be unable to count the number of the dead. America has brought this on itself.
paraphrase of threat by Assam the American [Adam Gadhan (aka: Adam Pearlman); purported al-Qaida spokesman (Oct 2004)]

There is no "secret plan" for victory by any politician, and never has been; because the only way to win a war is to kill the enemy, to destroy his will to resist and to humiliate his cause through defeat. Anything less is just an interlude; and anything more is uncivilized.

We [terrorists] are the weak ones. They [Coalition allies] make demands on us that don't exist in international law. There must be reciprocity. If your city is being bombed .... Those who bomb Fallujah cannot prevent me from bombing Los Angeles. ... If we had missiles we should have bombed Los Angeles or any other city until they stopped bombing Fallujah, Samarra, and Ramadi.
Magdi Ahmad Hussein

I've learned that the countless paths one traverses in one's life are all equal — oppressors and oppressed meet at the end, and the only thing that prevails is that life was altogether too short for both.
don Juan Matus (as interpreted by Carlos Castaneda)

The truth is that war remains the same the more it changes. For all the technological gadgetry, foreign landscapes, baffling global communications, and endemic pacifism of the present age, war is still a struggle of the human spirit. In short, the more sophisticated, the more technological, the more hyped and televised war becomes, the more pundits and strategists warn us about "fourth-generational", "asymmetrical", "irregular", and "new dimensional" conflict, the more we simply forget the unchanging requisite of the will to win that trumps all other considerations.

It is necessary to turn political crisis into armed crisis by performing violent actions that will force those in power to transform the military situation into a political situation. That will alienate the masses, who, from then on, will revolt against the army and the police and blame them for this state of things.
Carlos Marighella [Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla (1969)]

If we were to promise people nothing better than only revolution, they would scratch their heads and say: "Is it not better to have good goulash?"
Nikita Khrushchev (12 Sep 1971)

The gods mercifully gave mankind this little moment of peace between the religious fanaticisms of the past and the fanaticisms of class and race that were speedily to arise and dominate time to come.
G.M. Trevelyan

If the sword ever needs to be drawn, then the scabbard needs to be cast away.
paraphrase of an English proverb: "When the sword of rebellion is drawn, the sheath should be thrown away." attributed to John Singleton Copley

But above all, what this Congress can be remembered for is opening the way to a new American revolution — a peaceful revolution in which power was turned back to the people — in which government at all levels was refreshed and renewed and made truly responsive. This can be a revolution as profound, as far-reaching, as exciting as that first revolution almost two hundred years ago — and it can mean that just five years from now America will enter its third century as a young nation new in spirit, with all the vigor and the freshness with which it began its first century.
Richard Milhous Nixon [State of the Union address (22 Jan 1971)]

There cannot be peaceful coexistence in the ideological realm. Peaceful coexistence corrupts.
Jiang Qing (Apr 1967)

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy (13 Mar 1962)

Revolution: In politics, an abrupt change in the form of misgovernment. Specifically, in American history, the substitution of the rule of an Administration for that of a Ministry, whereby the welfare and happiness of the people were advanced a full half-inch. Revolutions are usually accompanied by a considerable effusion of blood, but are accounted worth it — this appraisement being made by beneficiaries whose blood had not the mischance to be shed. The French revolution is of incalculable value to the Socialist of to-day; when he pulls the string actuating its bones its gestures are inexpressibly terrifying to gory tyrants suspected of fomenting law and order.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

Well, one parallel [with fighting in Iraq] is that the Revolutionary War more than any other war until recently has been the most bloody war we've fought. I think another parallel is that in some ways the Revolutionary War could have been avoided. It was an unnecessary war. Had the British Parliament been a little more sensitive to the colonial's really legitimate complaints and requests, the war could have been avoided completely, and of course now we would have been a free country now as is Canada and India and Australia, having gotten our independence in a non-violent way.
James Earl Carter Jr

Peoples, once accustomed to masters, are not in a condition to do without them. If they attempt to shake off the yoke, they estrange themselves even more from freedom. By mistaking for it an unbridled license to which it is diametrically opposed, they nearly always manage, by their revolutions, to hand themselves over to seducers, who only make their chains heavier than before.
Jean Jacques Rousseau

He'd always prided himself on his tolerance, but there's a limit to all good things. He regretted the occasional necessity of giving one man authority over another, because some people enjoyed that authority too much to be entrusted with it. They tended to be easily misled into a gross over-appraisal of their importance. It seemed to him that when a man was too thick-headed and too low-down trifling to hold an honest job, he was usually able to find some other damned fool willing to hand him a measure of jurisdiction over the lives of his betters.
Elmer Kelton

And then someone heard of the mongoose, how it kills snakes with joy, and they sent a man to Africa, and he brought a brood of mongooses, and they let them loose on the island. There were so many snakes that it was like a paradise for them. You could walk for miles and hear nothing but the hissing of snakes, and the shrieks of mongooses, and the bustle and rustle in the thicket. But then the mongooses killed all the snakes, and bred so much that the island became too small for them. Chickens started disappearing. Cats also. There were rumors of rabid mongooses, and some even talked about monster mongooses that were the result of paradisiacal inbreeding. Now they're trying to figure out how to get rid of mongooses. So that's how it is ... it's all one pest after another, like revolution. Life is nothing if not a succession of evils.
Aleksandar Hemon

The scientific observer of the realm of nature is in a sense naturally and inevitably disinterested. At least, nothing in the natural scene can arouse his bias. Furthermore, he stands completely outside of the natural so that his mind, whatever his limitations, approximates pure mind. The observer of the realm of history cannot be disinterested in the same way, for two reasons: first, he must look at history from some locus in history; secondly, he is to a certain degree engaged in its ideological conflicts.
Reinhold Niebuhr

The warning given to Louis XVI: "No, sire, this is not a rebellion, it is a revolution", accents the essential difference. It means precisely that “it is the absolute certainty of a new form of government.” Rebellion is, by nature, limited in scope. It is no more than an incoherent pronouncement. Revolution, on the contrary, originates in the realm of ideas. Specifically, it is the injection of ideas into historical experience, while rebellion is only the movement that leads from individual experience into the realm of ideas. While even the collective history of a movement of rebellion is always that of a fruitless struggle with facts, of an obscure protest which involves neither methods nor reasons, a revolution is an attempt to shape action to ideas, to fit the world into a theoretic frame. That is why rebellion kills men while revolution destroys both men and principles.
Albert Camus ["Historical Rebellion" The Rebel (1956)]

War is a simple matter compared with revolution. War is an applied science with well defined principles tested in history; analogous situations may be found from ballista to H-bombs. But every revolution is a freak, a mutant, a monstrosity; its conditions never to be repeated. And its operations carried out by amateurs and individualists.
Robert A. Heinlein

Every time you play the game by the rules, someone changes the rules.
Joseph W. "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell

Where you stand on any particular issue depends on where you sit relative to that issue.
political axiom

My anti-Americanism has become almost uncontrollable. It has possessed me, like a disease. It rises up in my throat like acid reflux, that fashionable American sickness. I now loathe the United States and what it has done to Iraq and the rest of the helpless world. I can hardly bear to see the faces of Bush and Rumsfeld, or to watch their posturing body language, or to hear their self-satisfied and incoherent platitudes.
Margaret Drabble

If you are going to accept the protections of your fellow man and the privileges of the benign society wrought by them, then you must honor those brave souls and respect their shelter, even if you disagree with them ... anything less is cowardly, and anything else is traitorous.
anonymous Army nurse

Affection, indulgence, and humor alike are powerless against the instinct of children to rebel. It is essential to their minds and their wills as exercise is to their bodies. If they have no reasons, they will invent them, like nations bound on war. It is hard to imagine families limp enough always to be at peace. Wherever there is character there will be conflict. The best that children and parents can hope for is that the wounds of their conflict may not be too deep or too lasting.
New York State Division of Youth Newsletter (1975)

If a man hits the right nail on the head nobody cares where he hits it to or what it does. They care about the noise of the hammer, not about the silent grip of the nail. These nails were always being knocked in with ringing decisiveness, but what have these nails held together? What is the objective of such carpentry?
paraphrase of Gilbert K. Chesterton in "The Mildness of the Yellow Press" Heretics

If you put Jesus, Buddha, and Muhammad in the same room together, they will embrace each other. If you put their followers together, they may kill each other!
Swami Prabhavananda

Truth is strong enough to stand alone ... only lies need a government to support them.

Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of nothing, more than any man in all Venice. His reasons are as two grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff; you shall seek all day ere you find them, and when you have them, they are not worth the search.
William Shakespeare [act 1 sc 1 ln 115-8 The Merchant of Venice (1595)]

An empty bag cannot stand upright.
Benjamin Franklin ["Poor Richard's Almanac" (Jan 1740)]

A fact is like a sack-it won't stand up if it's empty. To make it stand up, first you have to put in it all the reasons and feelings that caused it in the first place.
Luigi Pirandello [act 1 Six Characters in Search of an Author (1921)]

All these statistics cannot hide the fact that ultimately the current War, like all others, is about the lives and deaths of individual human beings. And although war, as a human phenomenon, has essential elements that have repeated themselves from the dawn of recorded history, every war is unique unto itself.
paraphrase of Allan R. Millett

Facts are mere accessories to the truth, and we do not invite to our hearth the guest who can only remind us that on such a day we suffered calamity. Still less welcome is he who would make a Roman holiday of our misfortunes. Exaggeration of what was monstrous is quickly recognised as a sign of egotism, and that contrarious symptom of the same disease which pretends that what is accepted as monstrous was really little more than normal is equally unwelcome.
Max Plowman ["Subaltern on the Somme"]

Pandemonium: Literally, the Place of All the Demons. Most of them have escaped into politics and finance, and the place is now used as a lecture hall by the Audible Reformer. When disturbed by his voice the ancient echoes clamor appropriate responses most gratifying to his pride of distinction.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

The fact which the politician faces is merely that there is less honor among thieves than was supposed, and not the fact that they are thieves.
Henry David Thoreau ["Slavery in Massachusetts" (1854)]

When it comes to integrity, there are no extenuating circumstances.
Robin Cook

It recognizes no morality but a sham morality meant for deceit, no honor even among thieves and of a thievish sort, no force but physical force, no intellectual power but cunning, no disgrace but failure, no crime but stupidity.
R. Woodrow Wilson (6 Feb 1887)

Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he think himself wise in his own conceit. He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool cutteth off the feet and drinketh [in] violence.
Proverbs 26:5-6 21KJV Bible

Who combats bravely is not therefore brave,
He dreads a death-bed like the meanest slave:
Who reasons wisely is not therefore wise,—
His pride in reasoning, not in acting lies.
Alexander Pope

You know, doing what is right is easy. The problem is knowing what is right.
Lyndon Baines Johnson

[These] words mean killing is wrong. And since war is nothing but organized killing, war is wrong.
Bob Fertik (12 Sept 2002)

If we who served and those who were otherwise involved do not, through our words and deeds, challenge the revisionist history, a generation of young American fighting men will be forever denigrated and a vital chapter in our national history will be remembered erroneously.
J. Eldon Yates

Alas, how many have been persecuted for the wrong of having been right?
Jean-Baptiste Say [p154 An Economist in Troubled Times (1997)]

War is when opposing forces fight each other as hard and long as they can ... and then lie about it as loud and long as they can!

The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie.
Joseph A. Schumpeter [p43n History of Economic Analysis (1954)

Never suppose that in any possible situation, or under any circumstances, it is best for you to do a dishonorable thing ....
Thomas Jefferson

The ultimate determinant in the struggle now going on for the world will not be bombs and rockets but a test of wills and ideas — a trial of spiritual resolve: the values we hold, the beliefs we cherish and the ideals to which we are dedicated. Ronald Wilson Reagan

The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present.
Abraham Lincoln [1 Dec 1862 message to Congress]

What people believe is philosophy, and what people will do because of what they believe is politics. Philosophy is the art of the ideal, while politics is the craft of the possible.
paraphrase of Otto von Bismarck

The more one analyzes people, the more all reasons for analysis disappear. Sooner or later one comes to that dreadful universal thing called human nature.
Oscar Wilde [Fingal O'Flahertie Wills] ["The Decay of Lying" Intentions (1891)]

For assassination was political, even as diplomacy and war were political; after all, politics was little more than the short circuiting of violence. An election was held, rather than a revolution, but at all times, the partition between politics and violence was a thin and flimsy thing.
Clifford D. Simak

A prince never lacks legitimate reasons to break his promise.
Niccol di Bernardo Machiavelli [ch 18 The Prince (1514)]

They had been strong, as those are strong who know neither doubt nor hope.
Joseph Conrad [Teodor Jozef Konrad Korzeniowski]

For undemocratic reasons and for motives not of State,
They arrive at their conclusions — largely inarticulate.
Being void of self-expression they confide their views to none;
But sometimes in a smoking room, one learns why things were done.
Rudyard Kipling

Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.
John Kenneth Galbraith [2 Mar 1962 letter to President John F. Kennedy while serving as ambassador to India]

Politics is war without bloodshed, while war is politics with bloodshed.
Mao Tse-Tung / Mao Zedong

War is politics by other means.
paraphrase of Karl von Clausewitz

Politics is war by other means.

The conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerrilla wins if he does not lose.
Henry Alfred Kissinger [Foreign Affairs (1969)]

compiled by Ed Staff

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