combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 04 Number 02 Spring ©Apr 2006

Verbal Shrapnel
a desiderative pastiche

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

Congressmen who willingly take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled or hanged.
Abraham Lincoln

Many people surmise that one of the reasons we haven't been attacked here, is because they are being so successful at doing what they need to do to attack us in Iraq and elsewhere.
John Kerry [not commander-in-chief]

We enter parliament in order to supply ourselves, in the arsenal of democracy, with its own weapons .... If democracy is so stupid as to give us free tickets and salaries for this bear's work, that is its affair .... We do not come as friends, nor even as neutrals. We come as enemies. As the wolf bursts into the flock, so we come.
Joseph Goebbels (30 April 1928)

It could take a hundred years, or as little as a generation, to rediscover the freedom our Founders hammered into the U.S. Constitution. Much of our freedom has already been lost, but the rediscovery cannot even begin to emerge until the weight of government oppression grows too heavy to bear. Early Americans felt the weight of King George's oppression, until they could bear it no more. Then, they acted. Not all of the early Americans had reached the tipping point in 1776. In fact, many, if not most of the people, preferred to suffer oppression by the king, rather than to pay the cost of freedom. Many, if not most, of the people in America today, prefer to suffer governmental oppression, rather than to pay the cost of freedom. So far, governmental oppression is not too heavy; people can still do almost anything they wish – if they can get a permit.
Thomas Sowell

Commerce may be a better or happier inducement to change, but without the prospect of enforcement, even unto war, it is merely an invitation to exploit the weak and unwary with chicanery and brigandage under the guise of trade.

If there's "peace and order" in the land, then how will soldiers win medals? ... how will lawyers earn money? ... how will reporters make their reputation? ... how will women manipulate changes?
paraphrase of Thomas B. Costain

Half the world's suffering is caused by earnest messages contained in grand theories bearing no relation to reality.
P.J. [Patrick Jake] O'Rourke

Almost anything that can be praised or advocated has been put to some disgusting use. There is no principle, however immaculate, that has not had its compromising manipulator.
Wyndham Lewis ["The Family and Feminism" ch 8 The Art of Being Ruled (1926)]

If peace reigns supreme, how will people exploit each other? ... and what will everyone do with their anger? Peace never lasts long because it frustrates our natural tendencies toward violence and hatred! ... and wars never last long because our gross and bloody lusts, so shamelessly displayed for everyone to see, are so utterly shocking that we are stunned into cessation.

... and when ye may hear of wars and reports of wars, be not troubled, for these behove to be, but the end [is] not yet; for nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles; beginnings of sorrows [are] these. And take ye heed to yourselves, for they shall deliver you up to sanhedrims, and to synagogues, ye shall be beaten, and before governors and kings ye shall be set for my sake, for a testimony to them; ... And brother shall deliver up brother to death, and father child, and children shall rise up against parents, and shall put them to death, and ye shall be hated by all ....
Mark 13:7-13 YLT Bible

Our vengeance shall equal the cruelties of the Spaniards, for our forbearance is exhausted. Since our oppressors forced us into this deadly war, they will vanish from the face of America. ... Our hatred knows no bounds, and the war shall be to the death!
Simón "El Libertador" Bolívar

Everyone needs someone or something to hate. It gives their endurance more strength than anything else possibly could. It gives purpose to their suffering.
paraphrase of James Jones [Whistle (1978)]

then they shall deliver you up to tribulation, and shall kill you, and ye shall be hated by all the nations because of my name; and then shall many be stumbled, and they shall deliver up one another, and shall hate one another.
Matthew 24:9-10 YLT Bible

[L]iberals tend to blame outside forces for evil. This emanates from the secular humanistic view of people as basically good – and therefore human evil must come not from the bad choices and bad values of the evildoer, but from the unfortunate socioeconomic and other circumstances of the person's life .... [A]s you go further left on the political spectrum, it becomes increasingly difficult to blame the weak for any atrocities they commit. The Left does not divide the world between good and evil nearly as much as it does between rich and poor, and between strong and weak. Israel is stronger and richer, so Palestinian terror is excused. White America is stronger and richer than black America, so black violence is excused. The West is stronger and richer than the Muslim world, so Muslim violence is explained accordingly .... We don't know who will be the next target of Islamic or other murderers from poor or non-Western or non-white groups. All we can know is that liberal and leftist thought will find reasons to hold the targeted group largely responsible [for its own targeted position].
Dennis Prager

Islam does not need improvement of its image .... But there are some ignorant Muslims who do not understand the tenets of their faith .... It is [our] duty to repel any enemy of the Islamic and Arab countries, using 'terrorism' rather than using violence. We need an accurate definition of [the term] 'terrorism' in the negative climate in which we live – a climate that makes no distinction between a criminal and one who is prepared to sacrifice his life or a terrorist. In defining [this term], we must not be influenced by American pressures, but consider the issues in the light of shari'a. They should not tell us to fight terrorism and to fight it as they command us to. The Americans are the ones who perpetrate violence in the Arab countries! ... Islam Encourages Terrorism and Jihad – [Though] Not Terrorism in the Common Sense of the Term.
Ragab Hilal Hamida (Egyptian Member of Parliament from the Muslim Brotherhood)

Let us pray in this hour that nothing can divide us, and that God will help us against the Devil! Almighty Lord, bless our fight!
Adolf Hitler (1930)

The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.
Louis D. Brandeis [obiter dictum Olmstead v. United States (1928)]

Years after 9-11 and the crazy zeitgeist that permeated the United States, Americans have still not learned to know their enemies instead of just hating them. If we stop trying to figure out the other side, we've given up. The person on the other side is not evil, they just have a different perspective. The smartest people understand the enemy's point of view, because they understand what's driving them.
Chris Matthews [20 Nov 2005 speech at the University of Toronto]

To learn without thinking is fruitless;
To think without learning is dangerous.

Most people can't think, most of the remainder won't think, the small fraction who do think, mostly can't do it very well. The extremely tiny fraction who think regularly, accurately, creatively, and without self-delusion – in the long run, these are the only people who count.
Robert A. Heinlein

I have no trouble with my enemies, but my friends are a constant vexation.

Choose your enemy with care, for in time you will become just like him.
ancient aphorism

So long as there are men there will be wars.
Albert Einstein

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
Henry Louis Mencken

Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds.
Henry Adams [The Education of Henry Adams (1907)]

Politics is the continuation of war by other means.
restatement of Karl von Clausewitz by Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov Lenin

In a crisis, don't ever expect accuracy or authenticity, because politics is just another form of war ... and the first casualty of any war is truth.
paraphrase of Jeff Greenfield

In a crisis, civilians seek causes while soldiers make effects. In a crisis, civilians seek policies while soldiers make strategies. In a crisis, civilians seek scapegoats while soldiers make leaders. In a crisis, civilians seek escape while soldiers make resolution. In a crisis, civilians seek security while soldiers make security.

War is the trade of kings.
John Dryden

The only good bureaucrat is one with a pistol at his head. Put it in his hand and it's good-by to the Bill of Rights.
Henry Louis Mencken

Just as nobody wins a lawsuit, except the lawyers, so nobody ever wins a war, except the politicians and businessmen who promote it.
paraphrase of Robert A. Heinlein

When you listened to the president talking, you forgot the reek of unburied bodies, the mud, the lice, the barbed wire, the machineguns ... you saw farther than your [short] length of trench. You got a glimpse of the country that would come out the other side of this war. It was a place where you wanted to be too. The president made you feel the war had a point, a goal, beyond the miseries of the front.
Harry Turtledove

That skull had a tongue in it and could sing once.
William Shakespeare [Hamlet (1599)]

When you read that a town was taken, or a certain hill was taken, remember that in the process of that accomplishment, lives of fine fellows were lost, and also that during this accomplishment, for the participants, life was a horrifying massacre. You lose your buddies, fellows with whom you laughed, ate, slept, sweated. They grow to be more than mere buddies. They become blood relations to you, and they die before your eyes. Not a pleasant natural death, but an unimaginable kind of mutilation, mixed with groans and prayers, ending with a gurgling last breath. Only five minutes ago you might have been laughing with that buddy of yours.
in a letter from an unknown Japanese-American soldier serving with the 100th Infantry Battalion, a Hawaiian National Guard unit composed of Neisei, Kibei, and Sansei citizens, that was integrated into the 442nd Regimental Combat Team after its baptism by fire in WWII Italy

In every field of endeavor, the boys want to become something, while the men want to do something.
paraphrase of Eric Severide

If you're not making mistakes then you're not making an effort to advance.

These men are not an army, they are citizens defending their country. General Wright is not a soldier, he is a lawyer. The soldiers know their duties better than the general officers do and they have fought magnificently. ... You understand all this, but if you humiliated General Wright, the people of Georgia would not understand. Besides, whom would you put in his place? You will have to do as I do: when a man makes a mistake, I call him to my tent, talk to him, and use the authority of my position to make him do the right thing the next time.
Robert E. Lee [in restraining Ambrose Powell Hill at Spotsylvania (1864)]

Admiral: That part of a war-ship which does the talking while the figure-head does the thinking.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

As with so many other ruthless men who have attained the highest possible position of power, the general's talent was not for governing, but for relentlessly climbing to the top. With nowhere left to climb, these men devote themselves to retaining their authority. Having succeeded, they do not suddenly acquire a conscience, for any reformation that might improve the system would be perceived as a vulnerability.
paraphrase of Donald E. Westlake

Nothing lingers longer in a soldier's mind than a bad idea ... and the worst is that rationalized for not having come to fruition.
a Murphy Law of Combat

The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world.
Eric Hoffer [p107 The True Believer]

It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds.
Samuel Adams

When the tyrant has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or treaty, and there is nothing more to fear from them, then he is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader.

Power over men belongs to men alone, as God is not responsible for the order and disorder of the world ... His realm is not of this world, but of the next.
paraphrase of William of Occam/Ockham

It is sad to remember that when anyone has fairly mastered the art of command, the necessity for that art usually expires – either through the termination of the war or through the advanced age of the commander.
George S. Patton Jr [War As I Knew It (1947)]

Some commanders will put their butt on the line to protect their troops, while other commanders will put their troops on the line to protect their butt!
a military chiasmus

Too often commanders take refuge from confronting morality by issuing lawful orders, the results of which may be indistinguishable from irresponsibility or inhumanity ... this is not leadership but dictatorship, and is reprehensible and dishonorable, unworthy of the bond and trust of comradeship.

A good battlefield commander is rare because he is always suspended between dismissal and disrespect, between praise and punishment – if he isn't left hanging over the edge, then he's getting a medal hung on him or a court martial hung over him, and he can be lowered anytime into his grave.
paraphrase of World War Two German soldier

We have already eaten breakfast to the accompaniment, in our morning newspapers, of too many Yankee Go Home signs, too many riots, too many denunciations of ourselves, to believe that leadership, even in the cause of peace, can reward us with international laurel wreaths.
Hubert H. Humphrey [31 May 1966 address at Huron College, SD]

Peace, the deeper concept of peace, is not [appropriate] for the human race, never was meant for [the use of] the human race. Conflict is our meat. The desire to beat the other fellow to it, the hankering for glorification, the tendency to heave out one's chest and say: "I'm the guy that done it!", the satisfaction of tackling a hard job and doing it, even looking for a hard job just for the hell of doing it!
Clifford D. Simak

It seems that the wrong people always speak first, shouting so loud that they cannot listen. I don't understand why it's always easier to fight than talk. As a man who tries to understand both sides, I am always miserable; but a man who sees only his own side is at peace with himself.
paraphrase of Elmer Kelton

It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.
Mark Twain [Samuel Langhorne Clemens]

People with virtue must speak out;
People who speak are not all virtuous.

Friendship: A ship big enough to carry two in fair weather, but only one in foul.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

Domestic policy can only defeat us; but foreign policy can destroy us.
attributed to John F. Kennedy by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr [The Imperial Presidency (1973)]

You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.
Jeannette Rankin

Victory sometimes carries more responsibilities than gains. That is because it marks the return of conscience. In a time of war, conscience is put aside, and it used to be kept aside, at least in so far as the conquered were concerned. It used to be a case of the spoils for the victors and woe for the conquered. War had some sense then. But nowadays we suffer from the mistake of being half civilized. We turn barbarian during the war as a matter of patriotism, and civilized when the war is over as a matter of humanitarianism. We first kill off as many of the enemy as we can by as efficient a method as we can devise, and then save as many of them as we're able, with all the energy involved at our disposal. War, in fact, has become an atrocious waste of time. Unconditional surrender brings, as its corollary, unrestricted rehabilitation. If it were possible to devise a method whereby each side could half win a war and no more, things of course would be different. But then, that cannot be done.
Leonard Wibberley [The Mouse that Roared (1955)]

The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants.
Albert Camus

The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.
Henry Louis Mencken

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.
C.S. Lewis

A friend cannot be known in prosperity; and an enemy cannot be hid in adversity.
Ecclesiasticus 12:8 Apocrypha

Each sunset and every mile leaves more than dust behind ... they mark the passage of remembered friendships, of forlorn dreams, and of abandoned hope.

He doesn't want you for friends, that's why he did it. You see, when guys have been in the line as long as we have, you find out it's no good to make friends, 'cause when a friend gets it — well, it's rough on you. The buddies that come with you you're stuck with, but you don't make no new ones. It's the dyin' truth.
Gil Doud and Jesse Hibbs [1955 film version of To Hell and Back by Audie Murphy]

Friendless: Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of fortune. Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

True friends stab you in the front.
Oscar Wilde [Fingal O'Flahertie Wills]

Truth exists ... only falsehood has to be invented.
George Brock

Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in the blood of his followers and the sacrifices of his friends.
Dwight David Eisenhower [12 July 1945 speech at Guildhall in London, England]

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13 Bible

War was hell on men, but in its way, it was as bad or worse on women [who stayed at home and could not fight].
Elmer Kelton

For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.
J. Rudyard Kipling (1919)

Most women defend themselves. It is the female of the species – it is the tigress and lioness in you – which tends to defend when attacked.
Margaret Hilda Thatcher

War is a woman ... so beautiful when first kissed.
Ernest Haycox [Bugles in the Afternoon (1944)]

Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Psalms 85:10 Bible

compiled by Ed Staff

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