a desiderative pastiche
The word experience is like a shrapnel shell, and bursts into a
George Santayana (1920, 1956)
May they [mothers] be seen, may their work be valued and raised
... especially the mothers who stand with an open heart and wait
– wait for their children to come home from danger, from
harm's way and from war. ... if the mothers ruled the world there
would be no goddamn wars in the first place.
Right now, I could kill George Bush. No, I don't mean that. How
could you nonviolently kill somebody? I would love to be able to
Betty Williams [keynote speech by Nobel Peace Prize
winner to the International Women's Peace Conference]
Experience proves that the man who obstructs a war in which his
nation is engaged, no matter whether right or wrong, occupies no
enviable place in life or history. Better for him, individually,
to advocate 'war, pestilence, and famine' than to act as
obstructionist to a war already begun .... The most favorable
posthumous history the stay-at-home traitor can hope for is
Ulysses S. Grant
Contrary to what you've read in the newspapers, we are not
debating whether to change course in Iraq. We are
debating whether to accept defeat in Iraq. Contrary to what
you've seen on television, there is no way for us to end the
war. If we retreat from Iraq, the war will not just continue
but expand. The only difference is that a battlefield on which we
are now killing our enemies will be transformed into a base from
which our enemies can safely plan to kill us. Yes, it's
disappointing that the American-backed government in Baghdad has
not yet met its benchmarks for enacting political and
economic reforms. Iraqi politicians have failed to pass laws
dividing oil revenue among the country's main population groups;
excluding fewer Ba'athists from obtaining government jobs; and
scheduling provincial elections in areas where Shiites, Sunnis
and Kurds are competing for power. But let's get serious: Passing
such laws is no longer our primary goal in Iraq. What is?
Preventing al-Qa'ida (and/or Iran's radical mullahs) from
defeating us on what they call the central front of the
global war being waged against America and the West. Should they
beat us in Iraq, they will be seen as giant killers.
Recruits will pound on their doors. What would our enemies do
next? No need to guess. Al-Qa'ida leaders have vowed that after
they expel the Americans from Iraq they will launch a
jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq.
While conflict may be inevitable, war is not; and while
disagreement can foster understanding and growth, violence does
What else can be done with someone too stupid or too arrogant to
learn from her own misunderstandings and from the mistakes of
others, except stay clear of the inexorable force that will crush
her while it destroys her illogical propositions, in hopes that
we have retained enough to rebuild on her ridiculous rubble.
And though I'm no warrior, I'd gladly fight for the things which
Nazism seeks to destroy. Living in a sanitary age, we are getting
so we place too high a value on human life, which rightfully must
always come second to human ideas.
Elwyn Brooks White
Comrades! We must abolish the cult of the individual decisively,
once and for all.
Nikita Khrushchev [address to the 20th Congress of the
Communist Party (25 Feb 1956)]
In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who
comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates
himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with
everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any
such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is
predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American,
and nothing but an American .... There can be no divided
allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but
something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for
but one flag, the American flag .... We have room for but one
language here, and that is the English language ... and we have
room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the
Theodore Roosevelt (1907)
A country that won't fight for its beliefs doesn't deserve to be
honored by the sacrifices of loyal defenders – those best
soldiers, those favorite sons, those earnest hostages – it
doesn't even merit the sweat of the least of them – for a
country with nothing to fight for has nothing to live for.
paraphrase of Dale Dye
The strength of a wall is neither greater nor less than the men
who defend it.
Genghis Khan [Jenghis Khan, Jenghiz Chan, Chinggis
[He] acted with perfect sincerity. We are so often mocked by the
failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations,
however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honor
when we have done our best.
Winston L.S. Churchill [eulogy for Neville
He was a soldier tried and true. Clad in a rough uniform,
shielded by his heart and armed with his mind, his quenchless
spirit led our every charge against fortified odds. He was not
decked with spangles and led by fife and drum into the madness of
battle ... such intoxicated soldiers have not been rare in any
army of any period. But he was there, on the field, in the
forefront of every hopeful advance, given no furlough from the
desperate struggle, until mustered out of his call to arms by the
last parade before the one Greatest Leader of all.
paraphrase of Clarence Seward Darrow [eulogy for John
Do nothing shameful.
parental admonition to their Japanese-American sons
when departing for the defense of their adopted nation
Good conduct means that you shouldn't get caught
doing wrong, and honorable means that if you are
caught, then you should accept the consequences!
Avoid shame but do not seek glory – nothing so expensive as
Sydney Smith [v 1 ch 4 Memoir (1855)]
I will not by the noise of bloody wars and the dethroning of
kings advance you to glory: but by the gentle ways of peace and
Thomas Traherne ["First Century" (1672)]
Patriotism is often an arbitrary veneration of real estate above
George Jean Nathan
The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away
from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter
noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it
Joseph Conrad [Teodor Jozef Konrad Korzeniowski;
“Heart of Darkness (1902)]
I came here to die with you or live with you. Dying ain't hard
for such as you and me. It's the living that's hard.
Forrest Carter [Asa Earl Carter]
We can breathe the air of liberty only to the extent that we are
ready to bear the burden of moral responsibility associated with
To come with me, you must bear your own cross.
Sun Myung Moon ["Whoever does not bear his own cross
and come after me cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:27
Why do we kill people who are killing people to show that killing
people is wrong?
The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately
responsible, whether they're following orders
or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be
inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is
Joel Stein [Warriors and Wusses Los
Angeles Times (24 Jan 2006)]
There are two things which cannot be attacked in front: ignorance
and narrow-mindedness. They can only be shaken by the simple
development of the contrary qualities. They will not bear
John E.E. Dalberg-Acton
If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do
read the newspaper you are misinformed.
Mark Twain [Samuel Langhorne Clemens]
I thought it was a good idea to let you all know what the
perspective is over here. I'm tired of hearing the media's skewed
version, [hearing] the politicians squabbling over what they read
in a report, and [hearing] the average ill-informed American
ranting about things he knows NOTHING about.
I've been over here a couple of months now, and I've learned more
about this country than a year's worth of watching CNN. I've sat
in mission briefs with colonels, talked with village elders, had
tea with sheiks, played with the kids. And I agree with the
president. We need more troops and we need to take greater
action. The insurgents who battle the Coalition forces are from
outside the country. And the biggest problem down here isn't the
insurgents. It's the politicians.
SPC "Doc" Shurley, 2/5 Cav, 1st CB (17 Jan 2007)
Official records are indispensable for fixing dates and time of
major events and troop movements. But anyone familiar with the
way the records of combat units during battle are made up will
know that they seldom tell the essential facts of what happened,
and how, and why. They are often the products of indifferent
clerks transcribing, at places remote from the scene of action, a
minimum of messages for something – anything – that
will satisfy the official requirement for a report. Those who
know the most about an action or an event seldom take the time to
tell, or write, about it. They are too tired, or too nearly dead,
or they are [simply] dead.
Roy E. Appleman [South to the Naktong, North to the
I should very much like to give you a lesson in practical
morality with the help of a few bullets.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
The first thing a hunter learns is how to detect his prey; then
he learns how to avoid becoming prey to another hunter.
James Alexander Thom (2000)
Hunters give their animals respect. If you have no respect for
what you do, you're not going to be very good, or you're going to
make a mistake. We try to give the benefit of the doubt [in
target selection]. You've got to live with it. It's on your
conscience. It's something you've got to carry away with you.
Jim Gilliland, SSG Shadow Team leader, Task Force 2-69
[16 Jan 2006 interview about 27 Sep 2005 sniper activity;
confirmed by LTC Robert Roggeman, CO Task Force 2-69, who said:
"It's a very godlike role. They (snipers) have the power of life
and death that, if not held in check, can run out of control. ...
Every shot has to be measured against the Rules of Engagement,
(with) positive identification and proportionality."]
Killing: the unlawful or arbitrary deprivation of life.
official definition of the U.S. Department of
You see my son, I am mortally wounded; you can do me no good; go
fight for your Country.
Thomas Knowlton (16 September 1776)
I may be compelled to face danger, but never fear it, and while
our soldiers can stand and fight, I can stand and feed and nurse
It is not unseemly for a man to die fighting in defense of his
Homer [The Iliad]
They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die
for one's country. But in modern war, there is nothing sweet nor
fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good
Ernest M. Hemingway
All history is modern history.
Wallace Stevens [Adagia, Opus
Against war one might say that it makes the victor stupid and the
vanquished malicious. In its favor, that in producing these two
effects it barbarizes, and so makes the combatants more natural.
For culture it is a sleep or a wintertime, and man emerges from
it stronger for good and for evil.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche [aph 444 "Human,
All-Too-Human" A Glance at the State (1878)]
Provoking a war is like teasing a wild animal, and going to war
is like having sex with that wild animal ... it's stupid and
dangerous, and the results will only stop when the beast is
finished. It doesn't matter what your initial motives were ...
what your strategic plan or engagement policy or withdrawal
tactic might have been ... because the unleashed forces are
beyond human control as soon as they are precipitated.
It takes both sides to make peace, but only one side to make war.
It takes two to make peace, but only one to make war.
anonymous [maxim also cited: "It takes two to create
heaven, but only one to create hell."]
It takes two sides to make war. It only takes one side to make a
attributed to Al Samawah (1991)
It is far easier to make war than to make peace.
Georges Clemenceau [14 July 1919 speech, Verdun,
It is always harder to make peace than to make war.
A country cannot simultaneously prepare and prevent war.
There is nothing so likely to produce peace as to be well
prepared to meet the enemy.
In peace, like a wise man, he appropriately prepares for war.
Ausus Raptor ["In pace, ut sapiens, aptarit idonea
He, therefore, who desires peace should prepare for war. He who
aspires to victory should spare no pains to form his soldiers.
And he who hopes for success should fight on principle, not
Vegetius [De Rei Militari (AD4c)]
To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of
George Washington [first annual "State of the Union"
address to Congress (8 Jan 1790)]
Arms once taken up should never be laid down but upon one of
three conditions: a safe peace, a complete victory, or an
Jeanne Albret, Queen of Naverre
Anyone who really wants to go to war, has never truly been there
before! No one can appreciate the real value of peace without
having been to war.
Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be
attained through understanding.
Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom nor
credit for courage.
Sun-Tzu [The Art of War (ca490BC)]
'Tis better to be fortunate than wise.
The punishment of wise men who refuse to take part in the
government is to live under the government of worse men.
Preparation for war is the surest guaranty for peace ... as ...
an armament fit for the nation's needs, not primarily to fight,
but to avert fighting.
Theodore Roosevelt ["Washington's Forgotten Maxim"
speech to Naval War College (1897)]
The innocent stones may bury an anxious hammer, or break an
unskilled one, but there will always be another hammer to pound
rock; so it is better to be the hammer than the crushed stones.
When force prevails, ways and means are less vital than ends.
War will disappear, like the dinosaur, when changes in world
conditions have destroyed its survival value.
Robert A. Millikan
Do you mean to tell me that some men, sitting in their room
thousands of miles away, can make a decision about my life, even
though I am innocent and harmless, that will utterly destroy me,
my family and friends, my colleagues and neighbors, just because
they believe certain things that are not true? ... and
afterwards, when they learn of their mistake, nothing will change
in the way they conduct public affairs, and they will proceed to
wreck other innocent lives? ... ruining the peaceful hopes of
ignorant and naive people who are only guilty of minding their
own business? ... whose crime in this secret court is being at
the wrong place at the wrong time, rendering them disposable in
some power play? ... all in the name of a just and proper war
against their distorted definition of wrong or evil? And you tell
me there's nothing anyone can do to prevent it? How have we come
to this state of affairs?
paraphrase of Ted Allbeury
A cock has great influence on his own dunghill.
Publilius Syrus [#397 Sententiae]
So long as our government requires the backing of an aroused and
informed public opinion ... it is necessary to tell the hard
No one should ever confuse enthusiasm with capability. People
like things that are fast and noisy and powerful whenever there's
danger. There's a tendency to confuse what looks good with what
is good, and that difference can result in disaster. If you say
that you'll do something then you'd better be able to do it.
paraphrase of Peter Schoomaker
When politicians get big things wrong, they still get re-elected.
When academics get big things wrong, they get tenure. When
Special Forces officers get even the smallest thing wrong, people
die. That gives SF leaders a seriousness you rarely encounter
elsewhere – unless it's among others in uniform.
To plan secretly, to move surreptitiously, to foil the enemy's
intentions and balk his schemes, so that at last the day may be
won without shedding a drop of blood.
Where tigers and crocodiles reign, a thoughtful life is simply a
matter of choosing one's preferred manner of death ... like
favoring the birds or the insects with one's corpse.
For what can war but endless war still breed?
Military science consists in knowing what is relevant,
while military art consists in knowing when it's
War: A by-product of the arts of peace. The most menacing
political condition is a period of international amity. The
student of history who has not been taught to expect the
unexpected may justly boast himself inaccessible to the light.
"In time of peace prepare for war" has a deeper meaning than is
commonly discerned; it means, not merely that all things earthly
have an end — that change is the one immutable and eternal
law — but that the soil of peace is thickly sown with the
seeds of war and singularly suited to their germination and
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce
Peace is an interval of confusion between wars.
Peace is the necessary interval of recovery and preparation
between wars, for nothing is ever resolved, except that its
confrontation is postponed.
In war, nothing is ever finished.
Karl von Clausewitz [also "For the conqueror the combat
can never be finished too quickly, for the vanquished it can
never last too long."]
You shall love peace as a means to new wars—and the short peace
more than the long one.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche ["On War and Warriors"
Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883)]
Before today, I knew nothing of war. I'd never trained to fight
nor planned an attack. Everything I'd heard made it seem horrible
and devastating, something that no one would ever want to happen.
And now that I've been in combat, I know that this is the most
valuable thing that a man can do. He can do many other things,
some very important, but if he doesn't defend them with his
blood, then neither he nor they is worthwhile. War is
simultaneously thrilling and terrifying, exhilarating and
frustrating. Even though I was alert and aware, it was somehow
confusing; but when I persisted, it resolved itself. It happens
too fast to be understood, and so slowly that every sense knows
all its details. Now that it's over, I miss it ... and I'll
remember its every aspect for the rest of my life. This episode
has forever redefined me.
adapted from Bruce Sterling (2004)
I think a curse should rest on me &ndashh; because I love this
war. I know it's smashing and shattering the lives of thousands
every moment – and yet – I can't help it – I
enjoy every second of it.
Winston L.S. Churchill [1916 letter]
War will exist as long as there's a food chain .... [it's] better
that we study to conduct war as decently as possible, and as
little as necessary.
P.J. [Patrick Jake] O'Rourke
War is the natural state of man.
variously attributed to Thomas Hobbes, Herbert Spencer,
Ernest Renan, Charles James Fox, John Adams, et al (homo homini
Men speak of natural rights, but I challenge any one to show
where in nature any rights existed or were recognized until there
was established for their declaration and protection a duly
promulgated body of corresponding laws.
I wonder, among all the tangles of this mortal coil, which one
contains tighter knots to undo, and consequently suggests more
tugging, and pain, and diversified elements of misery, than the
family tie ... a twisted skein of loyalty and duty, hope and
faith, love and possession that is betrayed by personal failings
and individual foibles, by uncertainty and animosity, by
carelessness and selfishness, from parents and commanders,
siblings and comrades, descendants and subordinates. Such an
interlaced fastening can only be sundered ... never untied and
re-tied ... and once severed, is made useless by its destruction.
adapted from Edith Wharton (1909)
When the dispute divided this country, they tried to remain
neutral ... friends to both, enemy to neither ... and both sides
hated them until they were finally destroyed.
paraphrase of Ernest Haycox (1942)
According to our religious tenets, no one has any legitimate
cause to hate his fellow man ... and while that supposition may
be true, it is entirely meaningless, because no one needs any
cause to hate his fellow man! ... it's natural, normal, innate.
And that's why the mayhem will never stop. We humans are
endlessly inventive when rationalizing our motives and impulses.
We are thoughtlessly terrible, but whenever provoked into
justifiable retaliation, we have been much worse than
unreasonable or uncivilized ... we can be horribly cruel and evil
paraphrase of Lawrence Block
The idea that everything must "justify itself before the bar of
reason" goes back at least as far as the 18th century. But that
just makes it a candidate for the longest-running fallacy in the
Meanwhile, those men stood talking together, easy, calm in their
manner and calm in their minds. How could they do this? How could
such people exist? To kill innocent inoffensive families for some
... what? ... for some temporary geopolitical advantage to
somebody somewhere which would, given the history of such things,
not even accomplish anything. If all the schemes and machinations
of these realist political tough guys were any
damned good, the world would be sorted out by now, wouldn't it?
... for good or for ill, somebody would've won. But they don't
care. They're pragmatists. They ride roughshod over real human
beings for ephemeral advantages in a contest that never ends.
They've traded-in their humanity for something they think is
better. They don't smell their own stink. Do they always have to
win? Do they make their messes and just move on? Untouchable?
Full of their rotten expertise? Was there
nothing for him to do but play the part of mouse
among these cats?
Donald E. Westlake (2002)
There can be no peace until fear is destroyed and hate is buried
by war. More and greater violence is sometimes the only solution
paraphrase of Vince Flynn
Let them hate as long as they're afraid.
Gaius Caesar Caligula
He who serves the revolution plows the sea.
Simón "El Libertador" Bolivar
He who resists the revolution feeds the sea.
He who avoids the revolution walks above the sea.
Trying to remain neutral in war is like trying to remain still in
a storm-tossed boat.
anonymous Vietnamese refugee
The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who maintain
their neutrality in a time of crisis.
Adversity has the effect of eliciting talent which, in prosperous
circumstances, would have lain dormant.
Horace [Quintus Horatius Flaccus]
Fire is the test of gold; adversity the test of the man.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca
I am going to explain to you why we went to war. Why mankind
always goes to war. It is not social or political. It is not
countries that go to war, but men. It is like salt. Once one has
been to war, one has salt for the rest of one's life. Men love
war because it allows them to look serious. Because it is the one
thing that stops women from laughing at them.
John Fowles [The Magus]
Cheaters moan and quitters cry, weaklings whimper and thinkers
plead, but women still scream and men still laugh! Is so, has
been and will always be such.
It is not human to be wise. It is much more human to err ... and
saintly to err on the side of mercy.
Rafael Sabatini (1922)
The passage of time heals nothing. The only thing that changes
during this intervening period is that enough other things happen
such that what once mattered so much has been displaced and
become remote – no longer urgent and vital, but not
forgotten – and it simply doesn't matter as much anymore.
paraphrase of David Baldacci (2003)
Philosophical temperament is not a result of elapsed time, but
the decline of our vital elements ... if we remained vigorous as
we matured with knowledge and experience, we would be even
deadlier adversaries than we are already!
Just as a man who cannot forgive another's insult would have no
friends at all, so a nation that cannot forget another's betrayal
would never have any allies.
[After Dunkirk,] Churchill said in the Parliament very simply,
"Wars are not won by evacuations." And we need to remember that
today. They're not won by retreat or wishful thinking. They're
won by determination, they're won by understanding the nature of
the enemies we face, and the consequences, I would say the dire
consequences of failing to understand them or failing to defeat
Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the
powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.
They should take, who have the power, and they should keep, who
William Wordsworth [st 9 Rob Roy's Grave]
When the rich wage war, it is the poor who die.
Jean-Paul Sartre [The Devil and the Good
compiled by Ed Staff