combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 04 Number 01 Winter ©Jan 2006

Verbal Shrapnel
a desiderative pastiche

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

Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq. I kind of predicted this, that is why I'm writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances. I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark.
Jeffrey B. Starr [USMC KIA Iraq]

I've been to war. Twice now, already in OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom), and I'm heading back to war within the month. Should I die in Iraq, on this, my third tour, my wife will have in her possession, a letter from me to be released to the press, should some slimy dirtbag like the NYT editor try to make it look like I served in anything other than an honorable manner. I'm proud of what I do, I do it knowingly and with full knowledge of what the background on this war is. And likely better knowledge of what the outcome can be. I'm not some poor schlep who needs a NYT reporter to "interpret" my thoughts. I've lived in the Middle East longer than the NYT stringer, I've met more common Iraqis than has the foreign correspondent, and I know more about the military soldiers I serve with than the entire NYT staff will ever know in a lifetime of mis-reporting on soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.
anonymous posting to New York Times blog

But no one who goes to war as a young man comes back in one piece. War marks the men and women who are caught up in it for life. It visits them in the hour before sleeping. It comes to them, bringing grief, pride, shame, and even laughter, in the casual moments of everyday life. It never goes away.
William Broyles Jr

For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security.
Thomas Jefferson [8 Nov 1808 message to Congress]

The spirit of this country is totally adverse to a large military force.
Thomas Jefferson [28 Feb 1807 letter to Chandler Price]

Every citizen [should] be a soldier. This was the case with the Greeks and the Romans, and must be that of every free state.
Thomas Jefferson [1813 letter to James Monroe]

Recruit: A person distinguishable from a civilian by his uniform and from a soldier by his gait.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

Veteran: A person distinguishable from a civilian by his bearing and from a noncombatant by his gaze.

Men do not take good iron to make nails, nor good men to make soldiers.
Chinese aphorism utilized by Pearl S. Buck [The Young Revolutionist (1932)]

A soldier has a hard life, and but little consideration.
Robert E. Lee [5 Nov 1855 letter to Mary Custis Lee, his wife]

And every now and then my father would talk about his days in the Resistance. He didn't talk about it much, but sometimes he'd meet another Dane who'd been doing the same thing, and then they'd get into the aquavit and beer and talk all night. I got the feeling he'd been doing something great. He and all the others had a sort of camaraderie — fighting for a cause, and they'd shared an experience they could all be proud of — brothers under the skin and all that sort of thing. I would think they should [be proud], and I guess they were right; but I somehow got the idea that Army life was all like that — that all you had to do was join up and you'd find yourself in one big brotherhood. And to me, that sounded like the cat's ass — make lifelong friendships, be able to reminisce with your buddies, stuff like that. My father tried to tell me that it wouldn't be the same, but I didn't listen. He'd done it, so there was no reason I couldn't. I overlooked two very important things: first, he wasn't actually in the Army, and second, he and the others had a common enemy in the Germans. When I joined up there was no common enemy except the officers, and there was no feeling of brotherhood at all. Everyone was out to get what he could, and screw the next man — looking out for number one I believe it's called.
Nathaniel Benchley [Sweet Anarchy (1979)]

Comradeship does not demand for its sustenance the reciprocity, the pledges of affection, the endless reassurances required by the love of man and woman. It is, unlike marriage, a bond that cannot be broken by a word, by boredom or divorce, or by anything other than death.
Phillip Caputo

Let me be clear, for the last year I have worked in a Regimental Headquarters behind a computer turning big Orders into littler Orders. Had I not been here, there would have been no negative or positive impact on the fight. We don't have Divisions storming beaches here, or battalions going head-to-head with enemy battalions; the fight here is at the Platoon and Company level -- that's just the way it is. I have never been shot at, there was little-to-no danger to me personally, and the greatest threat I faced was (and is) carpal-tunnel syndrome. The Army needed numbers, and numbers is what I gave them. I say that only to say this: I am acutely aware that my contribution has been a little bit more than a lot of other people's but so very much less than the guys who came here and took fire, or kicked down doors, or drove convoy routes every day to keep supply trains running, or killed insurgents. Those kids are the heroes of this war, they are the ones who defend our civilization daily; I thank God for them, and I am thankful that I got to watch from somewhat close-up. And so in a couple of weeks this deployment will end for me in much the same way as it began -- a chartered military airlift plane; the sandy, dusty fields of the Middle East; and a small group of soldiers -- all of us with very little in common, but all with that common thread or two that I mentioned earlier. Only this time we're getting on the plane rather than getting off. Granted we have changed, whether we've changed for the better remains to be seen. We may not soon be able to leave this year behind, despite how much we may want to, but one thing is certain; I am glad it is over, and if I had to, I'd do it again. I'd certainly do it a little differently, but I'd do it again.
a Reserve U.S. Army Intelligence officer ending a tour with a Cavalry unit in Iraq

Here before us lie the bodies of comrades and friends. Men who, until yesterday or last week, laughed with us, joked with us, trained with us. Some of us have buried our closest friends here. We saw these men killed before our very eyes. Any one of us may have died in their places. Indeed, some of us are alive breathing at this very moment only because men who lie here beneath us had the courage and strength to give their lives for ours. Here lie officers and men, Negroes and whites, rich men and poor [all] together. Theirs is the highest and purest democracy. We shall not foolishly suppose, as did the last generation of America's fighting men, that victory on the battlefield will automatically guarantee the triumph of democracy at home. This war, with all its frightful heartache and suffering, is but the beginning of our generation's struggle for democracy.
chaplain's eulogy at Iwo Jima

The issue here is not guilt or innocence, or even justice or morality. The issue here is the past ... the shadows stretch from here to home. We, as soldiers, were collectively reviled and spit on at that time, and we don't owe anyone any explanation for our actions, or [for] any new revelations about that war. If we have any guilt, it is a shared guilt. If we have any honor, it's amongst ourselves only. We are bound together for all time by blood and common nightmares. I tell you this, my friend, this [investigation of conduct in a distant war] has little or nothing to do with [any individual participant]. To a greater or lesser degree, we are all [that individual participant].
Nelson DeMille [Up Country (2002)]

He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression, for if he violates this duty, he will establish a precedent that will reach himself.
Wiley B. Rutledge [in Supreme Court review of the "war crimes" conviction of Yamashita]

By this you may see who are the rude and barbarous Indians: for verily there is no savage nation under the cope of Heaven, that is more absurdly barbarous than the Christian World. They that go naked and drink water and live upon roots are like Adam, or Angels in comparison of us.
Thomas Traherne [Third Century #12 Centuries (1672; 1908)

The real test of a man is not when he plays the role that he wants for himself, but when he plays the role destiny has for him.
Vaclav Havel

When we finally got there, wherever "there" was, tired and dirty, thirsty and scared, the night erupted in explosions and pops that momentarily flashed horrific scenes of hell, which disoriented and confused us. All the movements seemed pointless, and all the activity was violent. It made no sense at all, and there was no time to try to make sense out of it. You knew what your job was, and you did it. If you lived through it, that's all you ever knew about a fight, about the battle, about the war. All of that frightful insanity stripped you down to your essential core, and that was the only other thing you knew: you learned what you were made of.
anonymous WWII Marine Raider on New Georgia, Solomon Islands

I did find the grave of an enemy I never knew, the man I could have been; and I discovered I had more in common with my old enemies than with anyone except the men who had fought at my side. My enemies and I had shared something almost beyond words.
William Broyles Jr

Let it be your constant method to look into the design of people's actions, and see what they would be at, as often as it is practicable; and to make this custom the more significant, practice it first upon yourself.
Marcus Aurelius [bk 10 sct 37 Meditations]

Keep in mind that the presumption that the artist can create is the twin of the proposition that nothing matters, that the universe operates without consequence or meaning. Briefly stated and without evangelical impulse, if God does not exist and neither does His order, then we are all free to do as we wish, to make our own order, and the one that prevails will simply be the one that can marshall the greatest power. This, the rule of force, is the legacy of nihilism, which is the gift of the belief that the universe is devoid of purpose.
Mark Helprin

Because we cannot imagine anything as great as God, we imagine something as insignificant as power. Because we cannot envision anything more than what we already know, we visualize a portion of the whole becoming greater than the sum of its parts. Because we cannot imagine anything larger than life, we imagine ourselves to be the culmination of all life. And because we can only conceive minor affairs and petty acts, we must inflate them ... we are so very proud to have attained "peace in our time" and "brotherly love" and "goodness for all our days". We fail to recognize that our finest achievement is our compassion for the suffering of others.
paraphrase of Mark Spragg (2003)

Never ascribe to an opponent motives meaner than your own.
J.M. Barrie [3 May 1922 rectorial address, St. Andrew's University, Scotland]

Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.
Oscar Wilde [ch 6 The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)[

Nobody ever did anything very foolish except from some strong principle.
David Cecil, Lord Melbourne (1939)

I never knew a man [the quiet American] who had better motives for all the trouble he caused.
Graham Greene

It is easy in a time of great events ... to overlook one of the hard facts of history: a nation may lose its power and integrity slowly, in minute particles. We believe that a nuclear cataclysm is unlikely, but that our free life may well be lost in a succession of bits and fragments.
William Julius Lederer and Eugene Burdick [epilogue The Ugly American (1958)]

When the human race exterminates itself, it will end, not with a bang or a wimper, but with a snappish quibble ... our epitaph shall be that we always had a very good excuse for everything.

Verily I say to you, this generation may not pass away till all these may come to pass. The heaven and the earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. `And concerning that day and the hour no one hath known – not even the messengers of the heavens – except my Father only....
Matthew 24:34-6 YLT Bible

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
by T.S. Eliot [The Hollow Men (1925)]

If you are ever compelled by circumstance or happenstance to act in a manner that violates morality, or conflicts with personal standards and community laws, then don't lie to yourself about it. Don't excuse yourself with concerns about the victim, or explanations about protection, or rationalizations about infractions ... never justify your conduct. As long as you are a contributing member of society, its particular and peculiar laws don't matter, because the distinction is not between self and others, but between self and God. Divine judgement or ultimate determination is the only assessment that matters. Without ascribing or imputing motives beyond oneself, never come to terms with or become comfortable with your conduct. And never talk about it with anyone ... not your closest friend, dearest love, or trusted confessor, at no time or place. No one else needs to know. Nobody else can change any part of it. It is private, if not secret, in the same way that prayer is personal and restricted. Recognize that it happened, realize that it's over, so now get on with your life. Cherish whatever you've learned, since you'll probably need it again.
paraphrase of Bill Pronzini

Operating on the presumption that one can be a god leads very quickly to sterility, and though an entire cultural apparatus may be primed to say it isn't so, what is sterile is sterile, and eventually you know.
Mark Helprin

I came into this world, not chiefly to make this a good place to live in, but to live in it, be it good or bad.
Henry David Thoreau [Civil Disobedience (1849)]

Private: A military gentleman with a field-marshal's baton in his knapsack and an impediment in his hope.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

A soldier's life is organized boredom.
Benjamin Franklin

Dragoon: A soldier who combines dash and steadiness in so equal measure that he makes his advances on foot and his retreats on horseback.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

A fine sword is made by beating the metal a thousand times, folding and beating it a thousand more, then beating it a thousand more ... in the exact same way that a superior soldier is made. He will stand in any climate, march in his sleep, and fight when he is exhausted. He is strong enough to resist the agonies of pain and the temptations of fear. He is tough and hard and lethal and so very beautiful ... just like his sword.
paraphrase of Japanese samurai

Go, tell the Spartans, thou who passest by
That here obedient to their laws we lie.
Simonides of Ceos [epitaph for Thermopylae]

Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.
Psalms 39:4 Bible

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
I Corinthians 15:26 Bible

There will be no lasting peace either in the heart of individuals or in social customs until death is outlawed.
Albert Camus [Reflections on the Guillotine Resistance, Rebellion and Death (1961)]

Death is the last enemy: once we've got past that I think everything will be alright.
Alice Thomas Ellis [19 Aug 1992 In the Psychiatrist's Chair BBC Radio 4 broadcast]

In the attempt to defeat death man has been inevitably obliged to defeat life, for the two are inextricably related. Life moves on to death, and to deny one is to deny the other.
Henry Miller [Creative Death The Wisdom of the Heart (1947)]

Your body must become familiar with its death -- in all its possible forms and degrees -- as a self-evident, imminent, and emotionally neutral step on the way towards the goal you have found worthy of your life.
Dag Hammarskjöld [Night is Drawing Nigh Markings (1957; 1963)]

Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have.
James Baldwin [Letter from a Region in My Mind (1962; 1963)]

I have wrestled with death. It is the most unexciting contest you can imagine. It takes place in an impalpable greyness, with nothing underfoot, with nothing around, without spectators, without clamour, without glory, without the great desire of victory, without the great fear of defeat.
Joseph Conrad [Teodor Jozef Konrad Korzeniowski; Heart of Darkness (1902)]

Never fight against heavy odds, if by any possible maneuvering you can hurl your own force on only a part, and that the weakest part, of your enemy and crush it. Such tactics will win every time, and a small army may thus destroy a large one in detail, and repeated victory will make it invincible.
Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson [attributed by John D. Imboden in Century magazine]

All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.
Sun-Tzu [The Art of War (ca490BC)]

Force, and fraud, are in war the two cardinal virtues.
Thomas Hobbes [Leviathan (1651)]

No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.
Edmund Burke [ch 2 pt 2 The Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1756)]

Never believe a straggler, and rarely believe a casualty.
leadership maxim

Multitude: A crowd; the source of political wisdom and virtue. In a republic, the object of the statesman's adoration. "In a multitude of counsellors there is wisdom," saith the proverb. If many men of equal individual wisdom are wiser than any one of them, it must be that they acquire the excess of wisdom by the mere act of getting together. Whence comes it? Obviously from nowhere -- as well say that a range of mountains is higher than the single mountains composing it. A multitude is as wise as its wisest member if it obey him; if not, it is no wiser than its most foolish.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

Consult no council on war, for these counselors never fight, except for primacy among themselves.
paraphrase of Henry W. Halleck [13 July 1863 telegram to George Gordon Meade: "Call no council of war. It is proverbial that councils of war never fight."]

There is no council, high or low, that knows the ways of men as well as any crew doing hard or even dangerous work together.
paraphrase of Clair Huffaker (1973)

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
Dwight D. Eisenhower [17 Jan 1961 Farewell Address]

Do not take counsel of your fears.
variously attributed to Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Andrew "Old Hickory" Jackson, Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, George Smith Patton Jr. , et al

In art as in politics, entrenched institutions with an affinity for survival give off the scent of revolution even as they sustain a suffocating order.
Mark Helprin

People react to fear, not love -- they don't teach that in Sunday School, but it's true.
Richard Milhous Nixon [prologue Before The Fall by William Safire (1975)]

He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear.
Ralph Waldo Emerson [Courage Society and Solitude (1870)]

How does one kill fear, I wonder? How do you shoot a spectre through the heart, slash off its spectral head, take it by its spectral throat?
Joseph Conrad [Teodor Jozef Konrad Korzeniowski; ch 33 Lord Jim (1900)]

The unmistakable odor of the dead pervades everything ... the distinctive stench of those slain in combat penetrates the clothing and even the very minds of the survivors ... until it can never be forgotten.
paraphrase of Robert Bowen

When you first see a corpse sprawled in an ungainly fashion on the battlefield, you suddenly realize that there is no other dead thing in all of Creation that is quite so entirely useless as the human body, once devoid of its animating spirit.
paraphrase of Clair Huffaker (1973)

I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
T.S. Eliot [The Burial of the Dead in The Waste Land (1922)]

How beautiful is death, when earn'd by virtue!
Who would not be that youth? What pity is it
That we can die but once to serve our country!
by Joseph Addison [act 4 sc 4 Cato (1713)]

I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.
Nathan Hale (22 September 1776)

Like figures on an ancient clock,
Warrior, or saint, or clown
(All's one to the machine) that wake
When each stale hour is done,
And with preliminary whirr
Play their allotted role,
Stiffly advance, engage, retire
Trembling a little still,
So blandly nodding Death and I
Nearer and nearer march,
At the click of night and the click of day,
— Click-clack! We approach, we approach!
by C.D. Andrews [An Idle Song for the Journey in London Town (Summer 1934)]

We sometimes congratulate ourselves at the moment of waking from a troubled dream; it may be so the moment after death.
Nathaniel Hawthorne [25 Oct 1836 entry Passages from the American Notebooks (1868?)]

Death ... [is] the only thing we haven't succeeded in completely vulgarizing.
Aldous Huxley [ch 31 Eyeless in Gaza (1936)]

It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives. The act of dying is not of importance, it lasts so short a time.
Samuel Johnson (26 Oct 1769)

It is hard to have patience with people who say "There is no death" or "Death doesn't matter." There is death. And whatever is matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn't matter.
C.S. Lewis [pt 1 A Grief Observed (1961)]

They will live a long time, these men of the South Pacific. They had an American quality. They, like their victories, will be remembered as long as our generation lives. After that ... they will become strangers. Longer and longer shadows will obscure them, until Guadalcanal sounds distant on the ear like Shiloh and Valley Forge.
James Albert Michener (1947)

When it comes to my own turn to lay my weapons down, I shall do so with thankfulness and fatigue, and whatever be my destiny afterward, I shall be glad to lie down with my fathers in honour. It is human at least, if not divine.
Robert Louis Stevenson [autumn 1894 letter]

I will be conquered; I will not capitulate.
Samuel Johnson (Nov 1784)

He that is taken and put into prison or chains is not conquered, though overcome; for he is still an enemy.
Thomas Hobbes [A Review and Conclusion Leviathan (1651)]

I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.
Acts 10:34 Bible

Extinction is the only end to war.
paraphrase of Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Only the dead have seen the end of war.

Because of its tremendous solemnity death is the light in which great passions, both good and bad, become transparent, no longer limited by outward appearances.
Søren Kierkegaard (17 July 1840)

Opinions founded on prejudice are always sustained with the greatest of violence.
Francis Jeffrey

There is no prejudice so strong as that which arises from a fancied exemption from all prejudice.
William Hazlitt [The Round Table (1817)]

No man is prejudiced in favor of a thing knowing it to be wrong. He is attached to it on the belief of it being right.
Thomas Paine [The Rights of Man (1791)]

Man associates ideas not according to logic or verifiable exactitude, but according to his pleasure and interests. It is for this reason that most truths are nothing but prejudices.
Rémy de Gourmont [The Dissociation of ideas (1899)]

Prejudices are so to speak the mechanical instincts of men: through their prejudices they do without any effort many things they would find too difficult to think through to the point of resolving to do them.
G.C. Lichtenberg [aph 17 Notebook A Aphorisms (1765-99)]

That which is asserted without proof may be dismissed without proof.
classic apothegm

The best way to lie convincingly is to tell the truth unconvincingly.
Robert A. Heinlein

What men value in this world is not rights but privileges.
H.L. Mencken [#36 Minority Report: H.L. Mencken's Notebooks (1956)]

What men prize most is a privilege, even if it be that of chief mourner at a funeral.
James Russell Lowell [6 Oct 1884 address Democracy and Other Addresses (1886)]

One forgets joy, but one never forgets sorrow.
Mikhail Yurievich Lermontov [A Hero of Our Time]

It is when we try to grapple with another man's intimate need that we perceive how incomprehensible, wavering, and misty are the beings that share with us the sight of the stars and the warmth of the sun.
Joseph Conrad [Teodor Jozef Konrad Korzeniowski; ch 16 Lord Jim (1900)]

You cannot have both truth and what you call civilisation.
Iris Murdoch [ch 9 A Severed Head (1961)]

I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.
Barry Goldwater [16 July 1964 speech]

I want to remind you that extremism in the defense of peace is no vice ... and let me also remind you that moderation in the resistance of repression is no virtue!
parody of notorious Goldwater slogan by YIPpie protestors (1968)

Men are rewarded for learning the practice of violence in virtually any sphere of activity by money, admiration, recognition, respect, and the genuflection of others honoring their sacred and proven masculinity. In male culture, police are heroic and so are outlaws; males who enforce standards are heroic and so are those who violate them.
Andrea Dworkin [ch 2 Pornography (1981)]

There are no hundred percent heroes. Every man can be broken when things happen to him in a certain order with a momentum and an intensity that awaken ancient fears in the back of his mind. He knows what he must do but suddenly the body will not obey the mind. Panic becomes like an unbearably shrill sound. It has never happened to me, but I have been so close that I know that somewhere sometime it could happen. The myth of the unbreakable hero has shattered too many good men.
paraphrase of John D. MacDonald

There is nothing strange about fear: no matter in what guise it presents itself it is something with which we are all so familiar that when a man appears who is without it we are at once enslaved by him.
Henry Miller [The Enormous Womb The Wisdom of the Heart (1947)]

It's [honor is] an emblem for what they've done here, isn't it? They say everything is anything but what it is, and that makes them heroes. It's the way they live with themselves: they keep on believing their own lies.
Robert Houston

Soldiers who wish to be a hero
Are practically zero.
But those who wish to be civilians,
Jesus, they run into millions.

Bravery is a quality not to be dispensed with in officers -- like charity, it covers a great many defects.
Benjamin Stoddert [13 Dec 1798 letter to James Simons]

The proper time for courage is every time it matters.

Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day that says: I will try again tomorrow.
Mary Anne Radmacher

Look at an infantryman's eyes, and you can tell how much war he has seen.
Bill Mauldin [Up Front (1945)]

The time to play the hero is when they're passing out medals and everyone is watching.
paraphrase of Elmore Leonard

As there is a use in medicine for poisons, so the world cannot move without rogues.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Anytime medals are being passed out, good men have died.
anonymous veteran

The single best augury is to fight for one's country.
Homer [The Iliad]

When a nation is filled with strife, then do patriots flourish.
Lao-Tzu [bk 1 ch 18 Tao-te-Ching]

When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Patriotism having become one of our topicks, Johnson suddenly uttered, in a strong determined tone, an apophthegm, at which many will start: "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." But let it be considered that he did not mean a real and generous love of our country, but that pretended patriotism which so many, in all ages and countries, have made a cloak of self-interest.
James Boswell [on 7 April 1775 in Life of Samuel Johnson (1791); Ambrose Bierce disagreed in The Devil's Dictionary: "With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first {resort of a scoundrel}."]

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.
Barbara Ehrenreich [The Worst Years of Our Lives]

When I am abroad, I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I come home.
Winston L.S. Churchill

War is not heroic. War is not patriotic. War is psychotic. War is Hell.
Bob Fertik (12 Sept 2002)

I've seen a lot of patriots and they all died just like anybody else if it hurt bad enough and once they were dead their patriotism was only good for legends; it was bad for their prose and made them write bad poetry. If you are going to be a great patriot i.e. loyal to any existing order of government (not one who wishes to destroy the existing for something better) you want to be killed early if your life and works won't stink.
Ernest Hemingway [12 Jan 1936 letter]

As an American, I want to see our nation recapture the strength and unity it once had when we fought the enemy instead of ourselves.
Margaret Chase Smith [Declaration of Conscience (1 June 1950)]

I left Baghdad and a war that has every indication that we are winning, to return to a demoralized country much like the one I returned to in 1971 after my tour in Vietnam. Maybe it's because I'll turn sixty years old in just four months, but I'm tired:
          I'm tired of spineless politicians, both Democrat and Republican, who lack the courage, fortitude, and character to see these difficult tasks through.
          I'm tired of the hypocrisy of politicians who want to rewrite history when the going gets tough.
          I'm tired of the disingenuous clamor from those that claim they Support the Troops by wanting them to Cut and Run before victory is achieved.
          I'm tired of a mainstream media that can only focus on car bombs and casualty reports because they are too frightened to leave the safety of their hotels to report on the courage and success our brave men and women are having on the battlefield.
          I'm tired that so many Americans think you can rebuild a dictatorship into a democracy overnight.
          I'm tired that so many ignore the bravery of the Iraqi people to go to the voting booth and freely elect a Constitution and soon a permanent Parliament.
          I'm tired of the so called Elite Left that prolongs this war by giving aid and comfort to our enemy, just as they did during the Vietnam War.
          I'm tired of anti-war protesters showing up at the funerals of our fallen soldiers. A family, whose loved ones gave their lives in a just and noble cause, only to be cruelly tormented on the funeral day by cowardly protesters is beyond shameful.
          I'm tired that my generation, the Baby Boom - Vietnam generation, have such a weak backbone that they can't stomach seeing the difficult tasks through to victory.
          I'm tired that some are more concerned about the treatment of captives then they are the slaughter and beheading of our citizens and allies.
          I'm tired that when we find mass graves it is seldom reported by the press, but mistreat a prisoner and it is front page news.
          Mostly, I'm tired that the people of this great nation didn't learn from history that there is no substitute for victory.
by Joe Repya

Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.
Bertrand A.W. Russell

Propaganda is persuading people to make up their minds while withholding some of the facts from them.
Oliver North

It seems that American patriotism measures itself against an outcast group. The right Americans are the right Americans because they're not like the wrong Americans, who are not really Americans.
Eric Hobsbawm [Marxism Today (Jan 1988)]

Always mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy, if possible; and when you strike and overcome him, never let up in the pursuit so long as your men have strength to follow; for an army routed, if hotly pursued, becomes panic-stricken, and can then be destroyed by half their number.
Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson [attributed by John D. Imboden in Century magazine]

Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions.
Sun-Tzu [The Art of War (ca490BC)]

Under all conditions, well-organized violence seems to him [Stalin] the shortest distance between two points.
Leon Trotsky [Lev (or Leib) Davidovich Bronstein]

The most obvious or direct route between any two points invariably proves to be the longest or hardest way.
a Murphy Law of Combat

Adolf Hitler was a Jeanne d'Arc, a saint. He was a martyr. Like many martyrs, he held extreme views.
Ezra Pound [9 May 1945 interview]

Hitler is no worse, nay better, in my opinion, than the other lugs. He makes the German mistake of being tactless, that's all.
Henry Miller [March 1939 letter to author Lawrence Durrell]

A man who believes in nothing is capable of anything.
James Hynes

I'm tired of hearing politicians yelling about what they stand for, what they believe, what they think the voters believe. I'm an adult. I earn my own living, take care of my family, and can think for myself. From the available information, I can make a decision. I don't need a politician to do that for me. I just want the politicians to shut up and listen for a change!
anonymous paratrooper interviewed for a Man on the Street broadcast segment

compiled by Ed Staff

Table of

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