combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 05 Number 01 Winter ©Jan 2007

Verbal Shrapnel
a desiderative pastiche

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

As democracy takes hold in Iraq, the enemies of freedom will do all in their power to spread violence and fear. They are trying to shake the will of our country and our friends, but the United States of America will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins.
George Walker Bush [State of the Union Address (20 Jan 2004)]

Actually, the United States is facing a [huge] problem in Iraq right now: it can not expand [the war in Iraq to] a war against Iran. ... [That is why] they are using threats against Syria, but these countries have no choice but to defend themselves .... The Americans are digging their own grave and eventually [they] will collapse, just as the Soviet Union collapsed.
Abdullah Muhammad Sindi PhD (26 Dec 2005)

The debate sparked by the Iraq war over American rashness vs. European escapism is dwarfed by what the world now faces. Both sides of the Atlantic should put their best minds together on how to deal with the common danger of a wider war merging into a war of civilizations against the background of a nuclear-armed Middle East. the big threat lies in the erosion of nation states and the emergence of transnational groups.
Henry Alfred Kissinger

In hemmed-in situations, you must resort to stratagem. In desperate position, you must fight.
Sun-Tzu [The Art of War (ca490BC)]

America is great not because of what she has done for herself, but because of what she has done for others. In another age, we helped liberate Europe from Hitlerís tyranny, and ended Japanese imperialism in Asia. In extraordinary acts of generosity, we helped rebuild Europe and Japan and transform former enemies into the closest of allies. I believe the liberation of Iraq will be judged by history to be of similar nobility.
John Sidney McCain, Capt USN(ret), US Senator (20 Mar 2003)

It is their war and you are to help them, not win it for them.
Thomas Edward Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia"; T.E. Shaw)

For an army to win at war, young men must die.
Dwight David Eisenhower

It was elating, but only afterwards. At the time [of the more than three-quarters of a mile shot], there was no high-fiving. You've got troops under fire, taking casualties, and you're not thinking about anything other than finding a target and putting it down. Every shot is for the betterment of our cause.
Jim Gilliland, SSG Shadow Team leader, Task Force 2-69 [16 Jan 2006 interview about 27 Sep 2005 sniper activity]

To fight fairly is to fight on someone else's terms, which is a stupid way of subjecting yourself to pain and woe.
Martin Caidin (1974)

Men believe that war changes the rules of the game, but war is really God's way of changing the order of progression ... it's not just that we march to a different drummer during battle, but that our direction of march as well as our pace and tempo are forever changed by such engagements.

This task force understands that we cannot kill our way to victory. If you look over the long term, we've made tremendous progress on the ground. But this is long-duration work. We are trying to change a culture at every level.
COL Kenneth Tovo, CO, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force - Arabian Peninsula, Balad, Iraq

You never underestimate your enemy. Money doesn't solve everything, and neither does armor and neither does a lot of things flying around the air and floating in the sea. Ultimately, this [war] is a test of human wills. I can tell you that the kind of warfare we're in here, the military component is only a piece of it. You know that from Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. We have to balance what we call the kinetic, which is the trigger-pulling stuff, with the nontrigger-pulling stuff that ultimately affects the people, the masses of people that are the prize. We have plenty of people to kill and capture and, you know, that need killing and capturing. But the real prize is not gained only through military means, and so what we have to do is make sure that we're useful as part of the broader system of national power.
Peter Schoomaker

The only question is whether you can run a war on a timetable like a railroad and whether you need to announce your plans to your enemies.
Thomas Sowell

Soldiers in peace are like chimneys in summer.
John Ray

Managing the Armed Forces is an investment. George Marshall said that "Before the war, I had all the time in the world [for preparation] but no money, and once the war began, I had all the money but no time", so the budget will get balanced at the expense of military experience and expertise. It's easy to cut down oak trees but it takes time to grow them back!
paraphrase of Peter Schoomaker

If our soldiers are not overburdened with money, it is not because they have a distaste for riches; if their lives are not unduly long, it is not because they are disinclined to longevity.
Sun-Tzu [ch 11 ax 27 The Art of War (ca490BC)]

Soldiers were lined up outside the paymaster's door. Soldiers were always lined up. There seemed to be something in soldier law that everybody had to do the same thing at the same time, which meant that they always had to line up and wait. Apparently soldiers weren't allowed to have a notion to go and do something alone, and get it done while nobody was in the way. Instead, they had to wait until they were all told to go to the same place at the same time, so that they were all in each other's way, and had to wait. It seemed like a poor way of doing things, but it did make it possible for soldiers to stand around together complaining to each other, which seemed to be a favorite pastime of the soldiers.
James Alexander Thom (2000)

You lived too long, we have supped full with heroes,
they waste their deaths on us.
C.D. Andrews [no 459 "To a Pilot Lost in Aragón" in London Town (March 1938)]

I DON'T SUPPORT our troops. ... Supporting the troops is a position that even Calvin is unwilling to urinate on. ... But I'm not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken – and they're wussy by definition. It's as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn't to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward. ... I'm not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War, but we shouldn't be celebrating people for doing something we don't think was a good idea. All I'm asking is that we give our returning soldiers what they need: hospitals, pensions, mental health and a safe, immediate return. But, please, no parades.
Joel Stein [Warriors and Wusses Los Angeles Times (24 Jan 2006)]

Vietnam, My Lai, pullout, deadline, cutoff – all the old remembrances are returning, as the graying antiwar generation of the 1960s will not go quietly into the night. Abu Ghraib and Haditha are the new Tiger Cages and napalm; George Bush is the Johnson or Nixon of our age; and "no blood for oil" is similar to the old mythical conspiracies of why we were in Vietnam.
Victor Davis Hanson ["Vietnam, After All? Formulaic warfare" National Review Online (June 09, 2006)]

Ignorance should at least create caution but it seems to do just the opposite. People with little knowledge about the military, and no personal experience, often have the most sweeping and unrealistic expectations, and even demands, to make on people whose lives are at risk in battle.
Thomas Sowell

I'd rather die for speaking out, than to live and be silent.
Fan Zhongyan

Beautiful that war and all its deeds of carnage must in time be utterly lost,
That the hands of the sisters Death and Night incessantly softly wash again, and ever again, this soil'd world;
For my enemy is dead, a man as divine as myself is dead,
I look where he lies white-faced and still in the coffin -- I draw near,
Bend down and touch lightly with my lips the white face in the coffin.
Walt Whitman [Reconciliation]

Their memory is engraved on our hearts.
Michael J. Durant [In the Company of Heroes (2003)]

I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.
Deuteronomy 30:19 Bible

Since the dawn of time every one will die,
Let the history books note my death with loyalty at heart.
Wen Tianxiang

There's only one test of loyalty that matters: one's dedication to our common principles. We are not great because everyone is the same, but because everyone shares the same opportunity and the same protection. And for those who have fought and bled for those ideals, their loyalty shall never be suspect, nor their sacrifice ever taken for granted.
unknown World War Two veteran

In case you haven't noticed, we ... dehumanize our own soldiers, not because of their religion or race, but because of their low social class. Send 'em anywhere. Make 'em do anything. Piece of cake.
Kurt Vonnegut

I don't believe that generals have a great respect for human life. Of course a lot of nonsense is talked about the value of human life. You might just as well say that the counters used in playing poker have an intrinsic value. Their value is whatever you'd like to make it, more or less, as circumstance changes. For a general giving battle, men are merely counters, and he's a fool if he allows sentimentality to cause him to look upon them as human beings. Just because these counters can feel and think, they're quite capable of refusing to be used any more if they believe they're being squandered. Anyhow, that's neither here nor there.
paraphrase of W. Somerset Maugham (1943)

You think everyone over there is a college graduate? They're 19 and 20-year-old kids who couldn't get a job .... You know, the soldiers are not scholars, they're not war experts .... They're not the best people to ask about the war because they're gonna die any second.
Richard Belzer

What a society gets in its armed services is exactly what it asks for, no more, no less. What it asks for tends to be a reflection of what it is. When a country looks at its fighting forces, it is looking in a mirror; the mirror is a true one, and the face that it sees will be its own.
General Sir John Hackett

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
And if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints.
Rudyard Kipling [Tommy]

Barrack: A house in which soldiers enjoy a portion of that of which it is their business to deprive others.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

To end the neutrality or indifference of the people, and to bind their contributions to our liberation, it was necessary to declare that the war be unto the death ... making our country a wasteland, irreconcilable and unappealing to all but our own patriots.
paraphrase of Simón "El Libertador" Bolívar (1812)

Patriotism is just another word for fanaticism.
Ted Allbeury

Why could not people let each other be? ... Like a blade thrust into the warmth of his life came a dread, a shrinking from that word religion, a chill bewilderment that men could hate each other for worshipping the same God with different words.
A.J. Cronin [The Keys of the Kingdom (1942)]

President Ahmadinejad has placed at the centre of international attention, a very important question on the truthfulness of the version that Europe and the Zionists have imposed on the world on the murder of Jews during the years of the great [Second World War] war, and therefore we are of the opinion that it is useful and necessary to organise an international conference on that theme, where all the historians and researchers, even those that do not believe in the official version, will be able to express themselves freely. We want to offer a free and democratic platform to the historians to examine in-depth this myth, seeing that in different European countries there exist laws against democracy and freedom that to do not allow intellectuals who believe in a version distinct from that which is officially pronounced on the Holocaust.
Mehdi Afzali [re: Tehran conference sponsored by the Association of Islamic Journalists]

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan

... it is high time ... that the promoters of aggressive, ruthless war and treaty-breakers should be stripped of the glamour of national heroes and exposed as what they really are: plain, ordinary murderers.
Joseph Keenan [1946 press release by the U.S. chief prosecutor at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East ("War Crimes Trial")]

Peace is sweet but peace without dignity and freedom is no peace at all.
slogan of Mogadishu Islamists

Those who come seeking peace without a treaty are plotting.
Sun-Tzu [The Art of War (ca490BC)]

Errors and defeats are more obviously illustrative of principles than successes are .... Defeat cries aloud for explanation; whereas success, like charity, covers a multitude of sins.
Alfred Thayer Mahan [Naval Strategy (1911)]

The only thing more inaccurate than a weather report is a battle report from the front.
Christopher Reich

The known facts are not all the facts.
military maxim

Statesmen are afraid of the suburbs, of the newspapers, of the profiteers, of the diplomatists, of the militarists, of the country houses, of the trade unions, of everything ephemeral on earth, except the revolutions they are provoking. And they would be afraid of these if they were not too ignorant of society and history to appreciate the risks. And to know that a revolution always seems hopeless and impossible [until] the day before it breaks out. And indeed never does break out until it seems hopeless and impossible.
George Bernard Shaw [preface Back to Methuselah (1921)]

The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know.
Harry S. Truman [Plain Speaking by Merle Miller (1982)]

Fear is an instructor of great sagacity and the herald of all revolutions .... He indicates great wrongs which must be revised.
Ralph Waldo Emerson ["Compensation" in Essays: First Series 1841)]

I've noticed that most of the people calling for peace are doing it from a safe place, usually after a good meal.
Louis L'Amour [Callaghen (1972)]

We who prayed and wept for liberty from kings and yoke of liberty accept the tyranny of things we do not need. In plenitude too free, we have become adept beneath the yoke of greed. Those who will not learn in plenty to keep their place must learn it by their need when they have had their way and the fields spurn their seed. We have failed their grace. Lord, I flinch and pray, send Thy necessity.
Wendell Berry

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
John Stuart Mill

An honest man is always a terrible foe, unless he is a fool.
Max Brand [Frederick Faust]

The art of war is like the art of the courtesan; indeed, they might be called sisters, since both are the slaves of desperation.
Pietro Aretino

Diplomacy: the art of doing the nastiest things in the nicest way.

Machination: The method employed by one's opponents in baffling one's open and honorable efforts to do the right thing.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

It is not possible to create peace in the Middle East by jeopardizing the peace of the world.
Aneurin Bevan [4 Nov 1956 speech on Suez crisis]

Whoever thinks of stopping the uprising before it achieves its goals, I will give him ten bullets in the chest.
Yasir Arafat [on the Intifada Daily Telegraph (19 Jan 1989)]

The Gulf War was like teenage sex. We got in too soon and out too soon.
Tom Harkin [Independent on Sunday (29 Sept 1991)]

The tormenting dilemma of the Middle East is this: either we have one people too many, or one state too few.
Afif Safieh [Independent on Sunday (3 March 1991)]

Should there be maniacs who raise the idea [of Palestinian self-government], they will encounter an iron fist which will leave no trace of such attempts.
Yitzhak Shamir [London Times (11 Aug 1988)]

It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse. It is obviously much easier to find inhabitants for an inferno or even a purgatorio.
Ezra Pound (1963)

A fool's paradise is a wise man's hell!
Thomas Fuller [bk 4 ch 20 The Holy State and the Profane State (1642)]

The lions and the gazelles may share the comforts of a secluded grove for sleeping, but only the lions are at rest.
ancient Arab proverb

If begging should unfortunately be thy lot, knock at the large gates only.
Arabian proverb

He who eats alone, chokes alone.
Arabian proverb

There is not a Mussulman alive who would not imagine that he was performing an action pleasing to God and his Holy Prophet by exterminating every Christian on earth, while the Christians are scarcely more tolerant on their side.
Denis Diderot [Conversations with a Christian Lady (1774; repr 1966)]

Muhammad brought down from heaven and put into the Koran not religious doctrines only, but political maxims, criminal and civil laws, and scientific theories. The Gospels, on the other hand, deal only with the general relations between man and God and between man and man. Beyond that, they teach nothing and do not oblige people to believe anything. That alone, among a thousand reasons, is enough to show that Islam will not be able to hold its power long in ages of enlightenment and democracy, while Christianity is destined to reign in such ages, as in all others.
Alexis Charles Henri Maurice Clérel de Tocqueville [vol 2 pt 1 ch 5 Democracy in America (1840)]

We have proved we are not modern. We have proved we are not religious in the real sense of the word. We have proved that we cannot afford democracy.
Muhammad Heikal [Independent (11 March 1992)

The trouble with Reason is that it becomes meaningless at the exact point where it refuses to act.
Bernard Devoto ["The Easy Chair" in Harper's (May 1941)]

The irrational in the human has something about it altogether repulsive and terrible, as we see in the maniac, the miser, the drunkard or the ape.
George Santayana [The Life of Reason (1905-6)]

I can stand brute force, but brute reason is quite unbearable. There is something unfair about its use. It is hitting below the intellect.
Oscar Wilde [Fingal O'Flahertie Wills] [The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)]

compiled by Ed Staff

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