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

Verbal Shrapnel
a desiderative pastiche

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

People – for civilization is only the accumulations from innumerable people sharing the experience of a place over time – do not know what a burden they impose upon the souls of their finest compatriots when they insist that these estimable scions be both honorable and compassionate. Like every society, our laws make us less than humane, and our charity makes us less than reasonable, such that either would be a worthy obligation, but together are intolerable, since their mutual necessity for compromise is quite corrupting. It is no wonder that inconsistency is the persistent state of the imperfect human condition, waxing and waning by extremes. People arise by hopeful promises, and decline by unrequited pledges. This relentless conflict can only destroy one's spirit, and degrade our culture.

War is neither the cause nor the result of hate ... rather it is the arena where love and hate battle. If someone hates something enough to want to destroy it, then that effort of destruction violates the love of whoever made it, and they will resist those attacks. A bad man goes to war because he has already surrendered to evil. A good man goes to war because he loves something more than himself. A bad man loses his soul in war, and its devastation disspirits him; while a good man finds his soul in war, and victory refreshes his spirit. Bad men seek to prove that all men are weak and vulnerable, while good men attract the goodness in others, which reinforces them. War is not the problem ... men are ... and without war, men would be worse. The warpath to love is hard and lonely.
adaptation of Forrest Carter

Our acts, passionate and sincere in their necessity, can take us places that our souls will not follow, searing images into our minds that leave us mute, leaving us to slowly bleed to death from within our broken hearts ... to have felt our brave hope and terrible fear turn into horrible lust and transcendent joy is more than any mere mortal should ever be expected to bear! A warrior in battle feels like he has a foot in two worlds: one in Heaven and one in Hell, scorched on one side and frozen on the other, simultaneously sundered and melded, and pierced by love and hate from all sides. It is worse than torture because it is entirely volitional.

The principles which men give to themselves end by overwhelming their noblest intentions.
Albert Camus [pt 3 "State Terrorism and Rational Terror" The Rebel (1951)]

The long term versus the short term argument is one used by losers.
John E.E. Dalberg-Acton

You know what makes a good loser? Practice.
Ernest M. Hemingway [Papa, a Personal Memoir (1976)]

If you show me a good loser, [then] I'll show you a loser.
Marc Olden

Lose as if you like it; win as if you were used to it.
Tommy Hitchcock (1932)

They say I can't take up my rifle
An' fight 'em now no more,
But I ain't a' gonna love 'em,
An' that's for certain sure.
An' I don't want no pardons
For what I was, an' am;
An' I won't be reconstructed,
'Cuz I don't give a damn!
rebel ditty (1867)

Either come back with your shield – or come back on it.
a mother's injunction to her son in ancient Greece

Come back dead.
a Japanese father's admonition to his son in the period before democracy

Nice guys finish last.
Leo Durocher ["Take a look at them. All nice guys. They'll finish last. Nice guys. Finish last." (5 July 1946)]

Show me a good and gracious loser, and I'll show you a failure.
Knute Rockne

If fighting is sure to result in victory, then you must fight, even though the ruler forbid it; if fighting will not result in victory, then you must not fight even at the ruler's bidding.
Sun-Tzu [The Art of War (ca490BC)]

It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from its government.
Thomas Paine

They're voting with their feet.
comment by V.I. Lenin about Czarist troops fleeing WWI battles [also cited as "They voted with their feet."]

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's great civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage.
Alexander Tyler [re: fall of the Athenian Republic]

Rome fell September 4, 476AD. It was overrun with illegal immigrants: Visigoths, Franks, Anglos, Saxons, Ostrogoths, Burgundians, Lombards, Jutes and Vandals, who at first assimilated and worked as servants, but then came so fast they did not learn the Latin Language or the Roman form of government. Highly trained Roman Legions moving rapidly on their advanced road system, were strained fighting conflicts worldwide. Rome had a trade deficit, having outsourced most of its grain production to North Africa, and when Vandals captured that area, Rome did not have the resources to retaliate. Attila the Hun was committing terrorist attacks. The city of Rome was on welfare with citizens being given free bread. One Roman commented: "Those who live at the expense of the public funds are more numerous than those who provide them." Tax collectors were "more terrible than the enemy." Gladiators provided violent entertainment in the Coliseum. There was injustice in courts, exposure of unwanted infants, infidelity, immorality and perverted bathhouses. 5th-Century historian Salvian wrote: "O Roman people be ashamed .... Let nobody think otherwise, the vices of our bad lives have alone conquered us."
William Federer

Democracies don't have their freedoms taken away from them by some external military force. Instead, they give their freedoms away, politically correct piece by politically correct piece.

You can shackle a man without taking his freedom, and you can release his bonds without giving him freedom; so the only thing you can do with a free man is share his freedom.

In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its faults, — if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people, if well administered; and I believe, farther, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other."
Benjamin Franklin [Constitutional Convention, speech]

Power intoxicates men. It is never voluntarily surrendered. It must be taken from them.
James F. Byrnes [15 May 1956 The New York Times]

And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that. All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.
John E.E. Dalberg-Acton

There is nothing so good that politicians can't make it bad and nothing so bad that politicians can't make it worse.
Thomas Sowell

For rulers who think it [rebellion] possible take care to ensure [against] the risk by ruling reasonably. This brings about a condition fatal to all political stability, namely that you never know where to have the politicians. If the fear of God was in them, it might be possible to come to some general understanding as to what God disapproved of, and Europe might pull together on that basis. But the present panic, in which prime ministers drift from election to election, either fighting or running away from everybody who shakes a fist at them, makes a European civilization impossible. For peace and prosperity depend upon the loyalty of states to civilization. Every meaner consideration should have given way to this loyalty.
George Bernard Shaw [preface Back to Methuselah (1921)]

War is the surest enemy of democracy.

In order for us human beings to commit ourselves personally to the inhumanity of war, we find it necessary first to dehumanize our opponents, which is in itself a violation of the beliefs of all religions. Once we characterize our adversaries as beyond the scope of God's mercy and grace, their lives lose all value. We deny personal responsibility when we plant landmines and, days or years later, a stranger to us – often a child – is crippled or killed. From a great distance, we launch bombs or missiles with almost total impunity, and never want to know the number or identity of the victims.
James Earl Carter Jr (10 Dec 2002)

We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations far away. We have learned that we must live as men, not as ostriches, nor as dogs in the manger.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Pleasant it is, when over a great sea the winds trouble the waters, to gaze from shore upon another's tribulation: not because any man's troubles are a delectable joy, but because to perceive from what ills you are free yourself is pleasant.
Titus Lucretius Carus

History may not have credited a country's economy for winning a war, but national economies have been blamed for losing a war ... likewise honor. It is strength that wins wars. Money and pride are just representatives of power ... as a standing military is a representative of force, a reminder of consequences.

I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies ... if the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of currency ... the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent that their fathers conquered.
Thomas Jefferson

Politicians and economists always offer a "change of history" as their motivation, but history always emphasizes terminal events ... and it is the military, on both sides of the alteration, that generates the final conclusion.
paraphrase of Albert Speer

History teaches that war begins when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap.
Ronald Wilson Reagan

The liberty we cherish, and in which we want all people to share, has a price. Young Americans are paying it tonight in Iraq – not out of any grand design for empire, not for oil, not out of dislike for the Iraqi people, but for love – love of America, love for her founding principles, love for her way of life, and love for the greatness that history has judged to be hers, not because of riches or power, but because of her abiding commitment to the cause of human freedom.
John Sidney McCain, Capt USN(ret), US Senator (20 Mar 2003)

Trouble doesn't come from someplace out there, but from someplace in here ... not outside of us, but inside of us.

A mind at peace does not engender wars.
Sophocles [Oedipus Rex]

A nation, like a person, has a mind that must be kept informed and alert, that must know itself, that understands the hopes and the needs of its neighbors – all the other nations that live within the narrowing circle of the world. ... And a nation, like a person, has something deeper, something more permanent, something larger than the sum of all its parts. It is that something which matters most to its future which calls forth the most sacred guarding of its present.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Every tree and every blade of grass appears to be enemy soldiers.
unknown author of ancient Chinese story

When I was in the army, many years ago, I was an infantryman, and in the course of what I saw, and did, and came to understand, I was broken. Sometime after I had returned to the United States and my life had resumed, I rounded a corner in the Metropolitan Museum in New York and saw a painting I had known all my life but which I had not until that moment been able to understand. This was Winslow Homer's masterfully restrained portrait of a veteran returning to his fields. The generation touched by fire in the Civil War understood the great import of this painting, they knew why the veteran had his back turned to the painter, why he was alone, why he worked in utter quiet, why the light was so clear, the scene so tranquil. After years of war and destruction, they understood, and after having passed this painting for the first time as a man, so did I.
Mark Helprin

In the days and in the years that are to come we shall work for a just and honorable peace, a durable peace, as today we work and fight for total victory in war. ... We can and we will achieve such a peace.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt

If you agree to do something, do it; don't come back with an explanation. Explanations as to how you came to fail are not worth two cents a ton. Nobody wants them or cares for them.
John Peter Altgeld

Freedom: Exemption from the stress of authority in a beggarly half dozen of restraint's infinite multitude of methods. A political condition that every nation supposes itself to enjoy in virtual monopoly. Liberty. The distinction between freedom and liberty is not accurately known; naturalists have never been able to find a living specimen of either.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

... for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.
The Declaration of Arbroath (6 Apr 1320)

It ain't the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog [that matters]!
folk chiasmus

In every arduous enterprise we consider what we are to lose as well as what we are to gain; and the more and better stake of liberty every people possess, the less they will hazard in a vain attempt to make it more.
Edmund Burke

He who wishes to fight must first count the cost.
Ts'ao Kung

He had never been convinced of that [the purported benefits of progressive civilization]. What his people had gained in security they had lost in independence. They had been given knowledge at the expense of wisdom. Faith had taken the place of religions. They had secured life and surrendered livings.
Jeff Rovin

American intelligence, and especially American SIGINT, signals intelligence, is the frontline of defense in [these] dramatically changed circumstances, circumstances in which if we fail to do our job well and completely, more Americans will almost certainly die. The speed of operations, the ruthlessness of the enemy, the pace of modern communications have called on us to do things and to do them in ways never before required. We've worked hard to find innovative ways to protect the American people and the liberties we hold dear. And in doing so, we have not forgotten who we [as fellow Americans] are either.
Michael V. Hayden, GEN AUS [23 Jan 2006 address to the National Press Club by the principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence and the former Director of the National Security Agency]

Fighting insurgents is messy and slow, like eating soup with a knife.
Thomas Edward Lawrence ["Lawrence of Arabia"; T.E. Shaw]

It's very hard to fight a terrorist war without intelligence. By definition, you can only win battles against terrorists preemptively – that's to say, you find out what they're planning to do next Thursday and you stop it cold on Wednesday. Capturing them on Friday while you're still pulling your dead from the rubble is poor consolation.
Mark Steyn

No society that's unfair is ever stable; so to wreck it, just exploit the unfairness.
agent provocateur

We must find the strength to fight for this idea [liberty]; and the compassion to make it universal.
Tony Blair [18 July 2003 address to Congress]

We [the USA] are the outpost of freedom, and if we don't defend it [liberty] around the world, then we won't defend it at home.
Rush Limbaugh (14 March 2005)

Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent, and debate.
Hubert H. Humphrey

As long as people believe in absurdities, they will continue to commit atrocities.
Fran‡ois Marie Arouet Voltaire

Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War. He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and calm pulse to exterminate his kind. He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out…and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel. ... And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood off his hands and works for the universal brotherhood of man – with his mouth.
Mark Twain [Samuel Langhorne Clemens; What Is Man?]

For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.
Isaiah 59:3 KJV Bible

If you show a slogan to an American, he will admire it so much that he'll either kill for it, or die for it.
paraphrase of William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers (1925)

Logomachy: A war in which the weapons are words and the wounds punctures in the swim-bladder of self-esteem – a kind of contest in which, the vanquished being unconscious of defeat, the victor is denied the reward of success.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

We have to face the fact that either all of us are going to die together or we are going to learn to live together and if we are to live together we have to talk.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Truth will do well enough if left to shift for herself .... She has no need of force to procure entrance into the minds of men.
Thomas Jefferson

Truth will not set you free – it will only change your shackles, and fetter you to a different master.
anarchic declaration

You see, a fool slogan can get you into anything, but you never heard of a slogan getting you out of anything. It takes either bullets, hard work, or money to get you out of anything.
William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers (1925)

Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America. It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others.
Margaret Chase Smith ["Declaration of Conscience" (1 June 1950)]

At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to state this or that or the other, but it is not done .... Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness.
George Orwell [Eric Arthur Blair]

Such as it is, the press has become the greatest power within the Western World, more powerful than the legislature, the executive and judiciary. One would like to ask: by whom has it been elected, and to whom is it responsible?
Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn

Vietnam was the first war ever fought without any censorship. Without censorship, things can get terribly confused in the public mind.
William C. Westmoreland [Time 5 Apr 1982]

Nothing can be more contemptible than to suppose Public Records to be true.
William Blake ["Annotations to Bishop Watson" in An Apology for the Bible in a Series of Letters Addressed to Thomas Paine (1798)]

The loud little handful will shout for war. The pulpit will warily and cautiously protest at first .... The great mass of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes, and will try to make out why there should be a war, and they will say earnestly and indignantly: It is unjust and dishonorable and there is no need for war. Then the few will shout even louder .... Before long you will see a curious thing: anti-war speakers will be stoned from the platform, and free speech will be strangled by hordes of furious men who still agree with the speakers but dare not admit it .... Next, statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.
Mark Twain [Samuel Langhorne Clemens]

Every war is a battleground of contending ideas ... begun with passionate phrases and ended with exhausted clichés. New words can always be invented, but a dead language means nothing to the living. If speech is to matter, it must be demonstrated, surely and unequivocally. Imprecise and erratic utterances are an invitation to chaos.

If it [U.N.] cannot – or will not – distinguish between terrorists who target civilians and a democracy that seeks to stop the terrorism while minimizing civilian casualties, [then] it has become part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.
Alan Dershowitz

There is always a well-known solution to every human problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken

Everything in war is very simple, but the simplest thing is difficult.
Karl von Clausewitz

We live in a world of unnecessary complexity ... such is our curse. We don't believe that the mad world is sufficiently mad, so we create even greater madness, and then point to the chaos we have created as proof of our theory. Ours is a tragic history, but the greatest comedy of all is tragedy.
paraphrase of Stuart M. Kaminsky

There is no greater chaos than when violence suddenly and unexpectedly rips through a crowd of artless people, instantly changing its indifferent selfishness or innocent peace or ignorant joy into maddened panic.
paraphrase of David Baldacci (2003)

It is staggering that anyone could be so self-infatuated as to single out their own particular policy preferences as anti-war. Anyone who is not a sadist or an idiot is anti-war. The only serious issue is how best to limit, deter or conclude war. But responsibility for confronting this issue is evaded by those preoccupied with the moral preening of being anti-war.
Thomas Sowell

My instinct as an individualist and artist has always warned me most urgently against this capacity of men for becoming drunk on collective suffering, collective pride, collective hatred, and collective honor. When this morbid exaltation becomes perceptible in a room, a hall, a village, a city, or a country, I grow cold and distrustful; a shudder comes over me, for already, while most of my fellow men are still weeping with rapture and enthusiasm, still cheering and venting protestations of brotherhood, I see blood flowing and cities going up in flames.
Hermann Hesse

It's not that politicians never want to know the truth, or are incapable of speaking it, but that they always want to make it into something more useful or more profitable.
paraphrase of Vince Flynn (2001)

If you tell the truth only because you might get caught in a lie, then you're not honest, but merely cunning.
paraphrase of Suzanne Brockmann (2002)

I have noticed that if you have deeply held political opinions, you can pretty much make anything and everything fit them.
paraphrase of Robert B. Parker

Political language ... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
George Orwell [Eric Arthur Blair]

Battle: A method of untying with the teeth a political knot that would not yield to the tongue.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

Controversy: A battle in which spittle or ink replaces the injurious cannon-ball and the inconsiderate bayonet.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life.
Adolf Hitler [1 February 1933 Proclamation]

There have been a lot of memorable days in our country's history, but some of them we'd rather forget. September 11th, 2001 is one of those. It isn't a day to celebrate, but it's a day we shouldn't forget, either .... Death by design. Some people who hated Americans set out to kill a lot of us and they succeeded. Americans are puzzled over why so many people in the world hate us...We know that and we're trying to protect ourselves with more weapons. We have to do it, I guess, but might be better if we figured out how to behave as a nation in a way that wouldn't make so many people in the world want to kill us.
a CBS News commentator

Since these spoiled brats come from a privileged lifestyle in a protected culture where words seldom have any consequences, as long as you choose the right ones, words don't seem like weapons to them.
paraphrase of Gerard van der Leun

The problem with the shrinking landscape of our modern crises is that well educated and well paid professionals no longer put their lives on the line for anything except privilege or advantage, and firmly believe that anyone who accedes to more noble motives is either foolish or stupid.
paraphrase of Robert K. Tanenbaum (2003)

We must avoid using misleading and offensive terms that link Islam with those who subvert this great religion or who distort its teachings to justify terrorist activities...Fascist ideology doesn't have anything to do with the way global terrorist networks think or operate, and it doesn't have anything to do with the overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world who practice the peaceful teachings of Islam.
Russ Feingold [Wisconsin Democrat Senator objecting to use of the term "Islamic fascists" as a descriptor]

Cry less, breathe more; talk less, say more; hate less, love more; and all good things are yours.
Swedish proverb

Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul.
Pope Benedict XVI [at Regensburg University]

Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.
Manual II Paleologos of Byzantine (14th-Century Orthodox Christian emperor)

Jihad is not about spreading Islam with the sword.
Javed Ahmed Gamdi

Words are weapons, and it is dangerous ... to borrow them from the arsenal of the enemy.
George Santayana [Orbiter Scripta (1936)]

Language can infiltrate and control a society more effectively than a military force.
Jeff Rovin

Poetry, what is it? Just a voice, a bit of an eddy in the air, and gosh, what use would that be against machineguns?
George Orwell [Eric Arthur Blair]

When words fail, war begins; and when dispute fails, words make peace.
paraphrase of Wilford Funk ["When words fail, wars begin. When wars finally end, we settle our disputes with words."]

Mischief begins with words.
Edmund Burke

It is scary how easily so many people can be brainwashed by sheer repetition of a word.
Thomas Sowell

Like every argument I ever had a part of, nobody changed anybody.
Rex Stout

When a thing is said to be not worth refuting you may be sure that either it is flagrantly stupid – in which case all comment is superfluous – or it is something formidable, the very crux of the problem.
Miguel de Unamuno [ch 5 The Tragic Sense of Life (1913)]

compiled by Ed Staff

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