combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 06 Number 01 Winter ©Jan 2008

Verbal Shrapnel
a desiderative pastiche

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

You don't have money to fund the war or children, but you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the President's amusement.
Fortney Hillman "Pete" Stark Jr (19 October 2007)

Negative comments from politicians played over television have a dramatic effect on morale, especially on troops who are otherwise indifferent and disdainful of politics in general. I cannot tell you how many times I have overheard marines and soldiers talking about various inconsiderate comments made from the likes of John Kerry, Murtha, Reid, and Pelosi about how we cannot win, how we should be brought home, etc. The Kerry comments really cemented his reputation with the troops and upset people [here] more than anything else. It is unnerving to volunteer for service during wartime hoping to be deployed and having to listen to a politician explain how the troops need to come home, especially when we clearly have not finished what we started. There is a widespread perception amongst the marines I know, even those uninterested in politics, that the Democratic Party does not want us to win in Iraq for whatever reason. This is true even amongst Democrats who still maintain the Party viewpoint on almost every other issue but the war. Morale is always a tricky issue to deal with, and it is difficult to tell a marine to buck up when he sees important people back home undercutting his primary reason for existing at the moment.
David Goldich, CPL USMC (Iraq 2007)

National [war] efforts to date have been corrupted by partisan politics that have prevented us from devising effective, executable, supportable solutions. These partisan struggles have led to political decisions that endangered the lives of our sons and daughters on the battlefield. The unmistakable message was that political power had greater priority than our national security objectives.
General Ricardo S. Sanchez

You will never be alone as long as you can live with your decisions, and you will never be disappointed as long as you maintain your own integrity.

The military builds muscle on the body politic, and danger keeps those muscles well toned.
paraphrase of Jeff Rovin

Militarism is the great preserver of our ideals of hardihood, and human life with no use for hardihood would be contemptible.
William James [The Moral Equivalent of War (1910)]

A man who experiences no genuine satisfaction in life does not want peace .... Men court war to escape meaninglessness and boredom, to be relieved of fear and frustration.
Nels F.S. Ferre

It is required of a man that he share the action and the passion of his times at peril of being judged not to have lived [fully].
Oliver Wendell Holmes

Just as wilderness without the untamed is not genuine, and adventure without risk is not authentic, so soldiering without sacrifice is not true soldiering, and war without destruction is not real war. It's not that peril and devastation are so appealing, but that life without meaning is pointless.

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?
Mohandas Karamchand Mahatma Gandhi

Nothing serious ever gets accomplished in this world unless someone's willing to die for it.
G. Gordon Liddy (2003)

There is indeed an increasing tendency among modern men to imagine themselves ethical because they have delegated their vices to larger and larger groups. To act on behalf of a group seems to free people of many of the moral restraints which control their behavior as individuals within the group.
Reinhold Niebuhr

If the excesses of mob violence are just the indulgences of immaturity or the atavism of primitives, then modern armies, with all their disciplined complexity, are not more civilized for being more extreme in their destruction.

The sight of a battlefield is one of the most awful lessons in international ethics which a civilized man can receive.
E.L. Godkin

So long as antimilitarists propose no substitute for war's disciplinary function, no moral equivalent of war, ... so long they fail to realize the full inwardness of the situation.
William James [The Moral Equivalent of War in Memories and Studies (1911)]

War is too serious a matter to entrust to military men.
Georges Clemenceau

War, without virtue in itself, breeds virtue. It breeds patience in the impatient, and heroism in the cowardly. But mostly it breeds patience. For war is a dull business, the dullest business on earth. War is a period of waiting. Each day of it is crammed with the little hesitations of men uncertain of themselves, and awed by their ghastly responsibilities. The responsibilities of life and death. The responsibilities of God that have been thrust into their hands.
Harry Brown [A Walk in the Sun (1944, 1971)]

So strong is the propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.
James Madison [#10 The Federalist (1787)]

Unconditional war can no longer lead to unconditional victory. It can no longer serve to settle disputes. It can no longer be of concern to great powers alone. For a nuclear disaster, spread by winds and waters and fear, could well engulf the great and the small, the rich and the poor, the committed and the uncommitted alike. Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.
John F. Kennedy

If there be one principle more deeply rooted than any other in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest.
Thomas Jefferson [28 July 1791 letter]

Power usually lasts ten years, but influence not more than a hundred.
Korean proverb

If enough influential people excuse it, whatever "it" may be, then nothing will ever be wrong; and if nothing is ever wrong, then everything must be right ... and are my enemies not destroyed when we have made peace?

We should keep silent about those in power; to speak well of them almost implies flattery; to speak ill of them while they are alive is dangerous, and when they are dead is cowardly.
Jean de la Bruyère ["Of Great Nobles" aph 56 Characters (1688)]

When you hear somebody usin' words ag'in somebody, don't go by his words, for they won't make no damn sense, [but] go by his tone, and you'll know if he's mean and lying.
Forest Carter [The Education of Little Tree (1976)]

It should be noted that when he seizes a state the new ruler ought to determine all the injuries that he will need to inflict. He should inflict them once and for all, and not have to renew them every day. Whoever acts otherwise, either through timidity or bad advice, is always forced to have the knife ready in his hand. ... Violence should be inflicted once and for all; people will then forget what it tastes like and so be less resentful.
Niccolò Machiavelli [ch 8 The Prince (1514)]

Those in possession of absolute power can not only prophesy and make their prophecies come true, but they can also lie and make their lies come true.
Eric Hoffer [aph 78 The Passionate State of Mind (1955)]

Power! Did you ever hear of men being asked whether other souls should have power or not? It is born in them. You may dam up the fountain of water, and make it a stagnant marsh, or you may let it run free and do its work; but you cannot say whether it shall be there, it is there. And it will act, if not openly for good, then covertly for evil; but it will act.
Olive Schreiner [ch 4 pt 2 The Story of an African Farm (1883)]

You cannot have power for good without having power for evil too. Even mother's milk nourishes murderers as well as heroes.
George Bernard Shaw [act 3 Major Barbara (1905)]

He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
Sun-Tzu [The Art of War (ca490BC)]

Retreat, hell! We're attacking in a different direction!
O.P. Smith [Chosin Reservoir (1950)]

Retreat, hell! We just got here!
Lloyd Williams [Belleau Wood (1918)]

An army, like a snake, goes on its belly.
Frederick II "the Great"

A preoccupation with peace is simply a desire for death. From the day we are born we must fight to survive. When we are not fighting the elements, we are fighting each other. When we stop fighting for air, for food and water, for sex and power, then we begin dying. And anyone who does not want to fight for his share has lost the will to live. Peace is just another form of suicide.
paraphrase of Sigmund Freud [The World and its Discontents]

There is nothing I love so much as a good fight.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (22 Jan 1911)

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends –
It gives a lovely light!
Edna Saint Vincent Millay

When folks get heated up, there ain't no halfway. It's one thing or the other ... the sheep or the goats, followers or avoiders, friends or foes. You're either with them or against them.
paraphrase of Ernest Haycox (1939,1967)

Peacetime, in the time of capitalism, can only be understood as the preparatory interval between wars. That idea is intrinsic to understanding the socialist perspective on war and peace.
Erich Ludendorff

For WAR, consisteth not in Battle only, or the act of fighting; but in a tract of time, wherein the Will to content by Battle is sufficiently known .... So the nature of War, consisteth not in actual fighting; but in the known disposition thereto, during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is PEACE.
Thomas Hobbes [ch 13 Leviathan (1651)]

It is paradoxical that violence not only breaks the peace, but it takes violence to restore the peace.

The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern.
John E.E. Dalberg-Acton

Men do not make laws. They do but discover them. Laws must be justified by something more than the will of the majority. They must rest on the eternal foundation of righteousness. That state is most fortunate in its form of government which has the aptest instruments for the discovery of law.
Calvin Coolidge [address to the Massachusetts State senate (7 Jan 1914)]

Herein lies a riddle: How can a people so gifted by God become so seduced by naked power, so greedy for money, so addicted to violence, so slavish before mediocre and treacherous leadership, so paranoid, deluded, lunatic?
Philip Berrigan

We are a conquering race. We must obey our blood and occupy new markets and if necessary new lands.
Albert J. Beveridge [27 April 1898 address]

The desire to conquer is itself a sort of subjection.
George Eliot / Mary Ann Evans [bk 1 ch 10 Daniel Deronda (1876)]

If the Nuremberg laws were [equally] applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.
Avram Noam Chomsky

It's remarkable how many political solutions today are directed toward dealing with the problems created by previous political solutions.

Conquest is the missionary of valour, and the hard impact of military virtues beats meanness out of the world.
Walter Bagehot [ch 2 sct 3 Physics and Politics (1872)]

Violence is the first resource of the insane, and the last resort of the foolish.
paraphrase of Isaac Asimov

The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem, it is generally employed only by small children and large nations.
David Friedman

At once the most preposterous and the most dangerous of contemporary beliefs is 'nothing was ever settled by violence'. A cursory reading of history makes it clear that virtually every important development in the history of mankind has been, for good or ill, a product of violence.
Jack Kelly

The use of violent force may not be fair or right, may be incapable of justification, but because nothing else prevents or persuades evil, protects the innocent from wrongdoing, then it remains essential ... and it is a mark of our humanity that we can regret its necessity.

Our strengths are our weaknesses.

Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.
Ernest M. Hemingway

The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword, because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops ....
Noah Webster [An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution (1787)]

Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.
Mao Tse-Tung / Mao Zedong [6 Nov 1938 speech "Problems of War and Strategy"]

Power may be at the end of a gun, but sometimes it's also at the end of the shadow or the image of a gun.
Jean Genet [pt 1 Prisoner of Love (1986)]

Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.
Saul Alinsky ["Tactics" Rules for Radicals (1971)]

You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.
Alphonse Scarface Capone

I had wished to instruct the brothers myself, that their hearts might grow much larger than the castles and armour of all the godless rascals on earth. Forward, forward, forward while the fire is hot! Let your swords be ever warm with blood; forge the hammer on the anvil of Nimrod raze his tower to the ground!
Thomas Münzer

Peace purchased at the cost of any part of our national integrity is fit only for slaves, and even when purchased for such a price it is a delusion, for it cannot last.
Wm.E. Borah

By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty.
Massachusetts motto [Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem.]

The essential American character is hard, insular, stoic, and lethal.
paraphrase of David Herbert Lawrence

We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.
Omar Nelson Bradley

Problems worthy of attack prove their worth by hitting back.

Fighting isn't about bravery. It's about failure ... failure to communicate, failure to compromise, failure to say I'm sorry.
Steven Bochco (2003)

War will reveal more to a man about himself than anyone would ever want to know ... and having learned, there is nothing he can do to change it, though he wish it could be otherwise.
paraphrase of James W. Huston (2002)

Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.
Frederick Douglass

The most violent element in society is ignorance.
Emma Goldman

He had undergone a fundamental change. He was no longer a man who knew how to kill – he had become a killer who still wore the trappings of a man. It wasn't his fault. In living with the cunning and ruthlessness of an animal, he had become an animal. In waking each morning with a sense of impending death, he had lost all respect for life.
William P. Kennedy (1993)

There are many reasons for becoming a soldier. It may be a matter of hereditary luck or abject hunger or heroic virtue or fugitive vice; it may be an interest in the work or a lack of interest in any other work.
Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Wars change in the details, but soldiers pretty much stay the same.
James Brady (2003)

Armies, for the most part, are made up of men drawn from simple and peaceful lives. In time of war they suddenly find themselves living under conditions of violence, requiring new rules of conduct that are in direct contrast to the conditions they lived under as civilians. They learn to accept this to perform their duties as fighting men.
Gil Doud and Jesse Hibbs [prologue delivered by General Bedell Smith in 1955 film version of To Hell and Back by Audie Murphy]

Killing someone is more difficult than it seems. Soldiers are specially trained to do it, and so are cops. Society gives them permission to do this terrible thing for the greater good, and it still messes them up afterwards.
paraphrase of Steven Bochco (2003)

Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one!
Charles Mackay [Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841)]

Tut, I have done a thousand dreadful things. As willingly as one would kill a fly; And nothing grieves me heartily indeed. But that I cannot do ten thousand more.
William Shakespeare [Titus Andronicus (1594)]

At bottom, we are not homo sapiens [rational humans] at all. Our core is madness. The prime directive is murder. What Darwin was too polite to say is that we came to rule the earth not because we were the smartest, or even the meanest, but because we have always been the craziest – [the] most murderous motherfuckers in the jungle.
Stephen Edwin King

Sanity is like a clearing in the jungle where the humans agree to meet from time to time and behave in certain fixed ways that even a baboon could master.
Wilfrid Sheed [In Love with Daylight (1995)]

Out of the crooked tree of humanity, no straight thing can ever be made.
Immanuel Kant

Few of us can easily surrender our belief that society must somehow make sense. The thought that The State has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied.
Arthur Miller

Thought for many is like visiting a foreign land. When we go there, we go as tourists, and like most tourists, we feel uncomfortable and out of place. Like most tourists, we therefore move on before too long, going somewhere else and doing something else.
paraphrase of Robert McAfee Brown

I think I feared guns and violence because they were so much a part of me. Perhaps no one is more aware of, and is enticed by, and frightened of violence than the man whose brain is a bomb.
Joe R. Lansdale

War is a stupefying and brutalizing business ... but that does not mean that the people involved in it are either stupid or brutish!
anonymous Marine Corps officer (1965)

In our own time we have seen domination spread over the social landscape to a point where it is beyond all human control. ... Compared to this stupendous mobilization of materials, of wealth, of human intellect, of human labor for the single goal of domination, all other recent human achievements pale to almost trivial significance. Our art, science, medicine, literature, music and "charitable" acts seem like mere droppings from a table on which gory feasts on the spoils of conquest have engaged the attention of a system whose appetite for rule is utterly unrestrained.
Murray Bookchin [Epilogue Statecraft as Soulcraft (1984)]

Only the bee stores more than he can use, and so he is robbed by the bear, and the coon, and the Cherokee. It is so with people who store and fat themselves with more than their share. They will have it taken from them. And there will be wars over it, and they will make long talks trying to hold more than their share. They will say a flag stands for their right to do this. And men will die because of the words and the flag. But they will not [be able to] change the rules of the way.
Forest Carter [The Education of Little Tree (1976)]

Do not think me gentle because I speak in praise of gentleness, or elegant because I honor the grace that keeps this world. I am a man crude as any, gross of speech, intolerant, stubborn, angry, full of fits and furies. That I may have spoken well at times, is not natural. A wonder is what it is.
Wendell Berry ["A Warning to My Readers"]

compiled by Ed Staff

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