a desiderative pastiche
The word experience is like a shrapnel shell, and bursts into a
George Santayana (1920, 1956)
For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare
himself to the battle?
Saint Paul [I Corinthians 14:8 Bible]
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
The history of most countries has been that of majorities —
mounted majorities, clad in iron, armed with death, treading down
the ten-fold more numerous minorities.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr [30 May 1860 speech]
Wars are, of course, as a rule to be avoided; but they are far
better than certain kinds of peace.
Theodore Roosevelt (1897)
For what is war? ... but the getting together of quiet and
harmless people, with swords in their hands, to keep the
ambitious and the turbulent within bounds.
Lawrence Sterne [Tristram Shandy (1710)]
There is no safety for honest men but by believing all possible
evil of evil men.
Life comes in a thousand shades of grey, and everyone except
madmen think what they do is reasonable, and maybe even the
madmen do too.
John D. MacDonald
No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism.
Winston L.S. Churchill
A Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and
in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly
love and kindness, has no charm for me.
Robert E. Lee [Jan 1861 letter]
THE ROAD was changing with the season, though in many ways it
still held the shape of spring, when it was churned by cavalry,
deep-rutted by guns and limbers and the heavy train of armies
pursuing and pursued. Infantry had passed here too, and the mud
still bore in places the prints — barefoot and shod —
of men who had come this way, and some of these were dead now,
and some were home, and some were traveling other roads homeward.
But all this impress was fading under the rains, and soon the
ruts and the marks of men would collapse little by little and
dissolve into summer dust. Then whatever memory the road clung to
would be gone as well, as if what had happened here had never
happened at all. Such was the way of roads then, if not of those
who journeyed them.
Howard Bahr [The Year of Jubilo (2000)]
One thing alone not even God can do,
To make undone whatever hath been done.
attributed to Agathon, the Athenian poet, by Aristotle in
The Nicomachean Ethics [also attributed to
George Santayana as "Not even God can change the past."
Just as a culture has grown decadent when its past has become
more glorious than its future, so a man is decrepit when his
regrets supplant his dreams.
paraphrase of John Barrymore
Tim pictured his father here — [a] wild young version who
flew helicopters, pretty impressed with himself, a girl on each
arm, but oblivious to the greed and desperation in their glances.
The last time Tim had seen his father, the old man had bragged
about feeling invincible, being invincible. "I'm still around
aren't I?" said Dad; "Most of the guys I knew didn't have what it
took." Tim had just looked at him, realizing that he was older
than his father had been during his Asian tour. Still no clue,
his old man — no survivor's guilt, no respect for the
cosmic roll of the dice, flip of the coin, track of the bullet
that said 'you live', 'you
die'. "Maybe you're still alive because of dumb luck
— not because you control the universe. I thought combat
was supposed to teach you that," Tim would tell him one day.
Patricia McFall [The Foreigner's Watch
"What! Are you saying that when some dip-shit lieutenant disobeys
orders and puts his men at unnecessary risk, he is being heroic?
You officer types might think that way, but
that's not what us Snuffies think. We understand
the accomplish the mission thing. But, we also
think an officer's job is to make sure we get back to The
World; and, if there is anything we don't need it's
somebody who wants to trade in our Dog Tags for
a hero medal."
Anthony F. Milavic, MAJ USMC(ret)
"That's right," he said, "I must remember that: not to
get excited. Everybody is very thoughtful. They put you
in uniform and teach you what every young man ought to know, and
take you across the ocean into the middle of hell — bombs,
bullets, shells, flamethrowers, your friends die right against
you and bleed down your neck, and after two years of that, they
bring you home and turn you loose and tell you: 'Now
remember, don't get excited'. I'm all right," he said
And then he said the one thing he had to say, while his hatred of
the necessity twisted across his gray face and left its bitter
taste upon his lips. "Gentlemen, I am operating under orders. You
are operating under my orders. You need therefore have no thought
for the consequences of tonight's work. That will be thrashed out
thousands of miles away by men who wear clean clothing and sit in
James Warner Bella [Mission With No
The white man regards the universe as a gigantic machine hurtling
through time and space to its final destruction: individuals in
it are but tiny organisms with private lives that lead to private
deaths: personal power, success and fame are the absolute
measures of values, the things to live for. This outlook on life
divides the universe into a host of individual little entities
which cannot help being in constant conflict thereby hastening
the approach of the hour of their final destruction.
policy statement of the Youth League of the African
National Congress (1944)
Let me give you my simplified Marine's perspective on democracy:
you know you're in a democracy if you can stand on a soap-box or
wave a protest sign at a crowded corner and not
wake up the next day in prison, or laying dead in a ditch.
Oliver North [radio comment on Iraq liberation (1 July
Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We
have been called by different names brethren of the same
principle. We are all Republicans — we are all Federalists.
If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or
to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as
monuments to the safety with which error of opinion may be
tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.
Thomas Jefferson [1801 Inaugural Address]
Contemplate the mangled bodies of your countrymen, and then say,
"What should be the reward of such sacrifices?" ... If ye love
wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the
animating contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not
your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed
you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity
forget that ye were our countrymen!
The bottom line is this: Republican or Democrat, approve or
disapprove of the decision to go to war, you need to support our
efforts here. You cannot both support the troops and protest
their mission. Every time the parent of a fallen Marine gets on
CNN with a photo, accusing President Bush of murdering his son,
the enemy wins a strategic victory. I cannot
begin to comprehend the grief he feels at the death of his son,
but he dishonors the memory of my brave brother who paid the
ultimate price. That Marine volunteered to
serve, just like the rest of us. No one here was drafted. I am
proud of my service and that of my peers. I am ashamed of that
parent's actions, and I pray to God that if I am killed my
parents will stand with pride before the cameras and reaffirm
their belief that my life and sacrifice
mattered; they loved me dearly and they firmly support
the military and its mission in Iraq and Afghanistan. With that
statement, they communicate very clearly to our enemies around
the world that America is united, that we cannot be intimidated
by kidnappings, decapitations and torture, and that we care
enough about the Afghani and Iraqi people to give them a chance
at democracy and basic human rights.
Kevin Brown [Open Letter to America from a Marine Cobra
AH-1W Pilot in Iraq (11 Sep 2004)]
One of the most horrible features of war is that all the war
propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes
invariably from people who are not fighting.
George Orwell [Eric Arthur Blair]
The plain fact is that free speech in international affairs is a
very dangerous privilege, and that its exercise would probably do
vastly more harm than good. Nations get on with one another not
by telling the truth, but by lying gracefully. The truth, no
matter which way it runs, is always unpleasant and often
paraphrase of Henry Louis Mencken
If you believe everything you read, better not read.
If you are not a thinking man to what purpose are you a man at
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
It is the same in all wars: the soldiers do the fighting, the
journalists do the shouting, and no true patriot
ever gets near a front line trench except on the briefest of
George Orwell [Eric Arthur Blair]
Diplomacy: The patriotic art of lying for one's country.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce
Diplomacy without armament is like music without instruments.
Frederick II "the Great"
For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible, and no one
can now doubt the word of America.
George Walker Bush
I have heard talk and talk, but nothing is done. Good words do
not last long unless they amount to something. Words do not pay
for my dead people. They do not pay for my country, now overrun
by white men. They do not protect my father's grave. They do not
pay for all my horses and cattle. Good words will not give me
back my children.
Chief Joseph the Younger ["An Indian's View of Indian
Affairs", The North American Review no 269 vol
Civilization is not inherited; it has to be learned and earned by
each generation anew; if the transmission should be interrupted
for one century, civilization would die, and we should be savages
Will and Ariel Durant [The Lessons of
The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary
arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib
assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been
tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises;
and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false.
I have a rendezvous with death
At some disputed barricade,
When spring comes round with rustling shade
And apple blossoms fill the air.
But I've a rendezvous with death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true.
I shall not fail that rendezvous.
Alan Seeger [nb: KIA 1916]
There lie many fighting men,
Dead in their youthful prime.
Never to laugh nor love again
Nor taste the summertime.
Joyce Kilmer [Rouge Bouquet (7 March
This war was a revolution against the moral basis of
civilization. It was conceived by the Nazis in conscious contempt
for the life, dignity and freedom of individual man and
deliberately prosecuted by means of slavery, starvation and the
mass destruction of noncombatants' lives. It was a revolution
against the human soul.
anonymous [p15 Time (14 May 1945)]
When the deserving receive their just deserts, the innocent
always suffer with the guilty.
We are going to win the war, and we are going to win the peace
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1941)
And when he goes to heaven
To Saint Peter he will tell:
Another Marine reporting, sir;
I've served my time in hell.
epitaph on the Guadalcanal grave of Marine PFC Cameron
The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of
liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.
Dwight D. Eisenhower [6 June 1944 Normandy landing]
Gentlemen, we are being killed on the beaches. Let us go inland
to be killed.
Norman D. "Dutch" Cota [Omaha Beach (6 June 1944)]
Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set
upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our republic, our
religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering
humanity. Lead them straight and true: Give strength to their
arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
Franklin D. Roosevelt [D-Day prayer (6 June 1944)]
We shall not grow wiser before we learn that much that we have
done was very foolish.
Friedrich A. Hayek [The Road to Serfdom
From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.
Randall Jarrell [The Death of the Ball Turret
Is the world a better place for all the death and suffering we
have endured for the sake of these visions [of more perfect
societies]? The moral content of human experience does not differ
much I think from one epoch to another. All we shall ever know of
order and meaning is that we live and nurture life in others,
that we grow food and eat it, that we beget children and that we
die. What else is there? And yet, we have the soldiers ... always
the soldiers coming at us, faceless and solemn, through the mists
of dawn, and armed with noble causes, descending upon our little
village [that's] waking to the ever fresh delight of the
uncreated day ... scaring the children, scattering the chickens,
infuriating the dogs ... to insist that there is greater purpose
and splendor to our lives than breakfast in the pool of morning,
the unhurried walk of a high haunched woman, orange trees in
blossom, and a page of fine prose like claret in the mouth.
Andrew Jolly [A Time of Soldiers (1976)]
But it was a long trail yet, a long and lonesome way, before the
brightness of real peace would live in the hearts of man —
until no man ran howling, wild with fear, any kind of fear, would
there be actual peace — until the last man threw away his
weapon, any sort of weapon, the tribe of man could not be at
Clifford D. Simak [Way Station (1963)]
His masculine honor, it appeared, had been outraged. To the hint
that he was less than he ought to be, there could be no answer,
save a bath of blood. Unluckily, all this took place in the
United States, where the word honor, save when
it is applied to the anatomical chastity of women, has only a
comic significance. One hears of the honor of politicians, of
bankers, of lawyers, even of the honor of the United States
itself — everyone naturally laughs — so everyone
laughed at him. More, it ascribed his dudgeon to mere publicity
seeking, which caused him to rise to even higher dudgeons still.
paraphrase of Henry Louis Mencken
Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who
want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm — but
the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they
justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to
think well of themselves.
T.S. ELiot [p111 The Cocktail Party (1974)]
If we don't have anyone else to fight, we'll fight each other!
old Scottish adage
Men never do evil so fully and cheerfully as when we do it out of
All I'm saying is [that] violence can be helpful. Sometimes it's
the best way to make your point.
Speak softly and carry a big stick.
I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill
him with a terrible resolve.
attributed to Soh Yamamura Yamamoto, Imperial Japanese Navy
Admiral commenting on Pearl Harbor attack
Jackson suddenly exclaimed, "How horrible is war!" "Horrible,
yes," McGuire replied, "but we have been invaded. What can we
do?" "Kill them, sir!", Jackson shouted in savage tone, "Kill
13 Dec 1862 comment by Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson during
the battle of Fredericksburg as reported by Hunter Holmes
The only thing worse than having a war is losing one.
And for America, there will be no going back to the era before
September the 11th, 2001 — to false comfort in a
dangerous world. We have learned that terrorist attacks are not
caused by the use of strength; they are invited by the perception
George Walker Bush [7 Sep 2003 nat'l address]
No nation has ever been attacked because it was too strong.
paraphrase of "Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came
about because the U.S. was too strong." by Ronald Wilson Reagan
(29 June 1980)
Anyone who thinks he understands the situation here simply does
not know the facts.
attributed to an ambassador to Laos
There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an
achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything
permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day: we
have to prove that we are as good today as we were yesterday. But
when we have a valid alibi for not achieving anything we are
fixed, so to speak, for life.
Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating
than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.
Martin Luther King Jr
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of
its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to
live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.
The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may
at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own
good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval
of their own conscience.
Perhaps the only true dignity of man is his capacity to despise
Nowhere at present is there such a measureless loathing of their
country by educated people as in America.
Eric Hoffer [First Things, Last Things]
I don't mind a healthy debate, but don't ever use a line of crap
like that on me again. I'm not one of your naïve college
students, and I'm not some little sycophant[ic] political
activist. I've seen people killed, and I've killed people in the
service of our country. Your idealistic philosophical theories
might fly in the hallowed halls of Congress, but they don't work
in the real world. Violence is a fact of life. There are people
who are willing to use it to get what they want, and in order to
stop them, they need to be met with violence. If it wasn't for
war, or the threat of waging war, people like Adolf Hitler and
Joseph Stalin would be running the [entire] world. And you would
get shot for going around saying stupid things like: "violence
only begets violence"!
Vince Flynn (2002)
Examine the records of history, recollect what has happened
within the circle of your own experience, consider with attention
what has been the conduct of almost all the greatly unfortunate,
either in private or public life, whom you may have either read
of, or hear of, or remember, and you will find that the
misfortunes of by far the greater part of them have arisen from
their not knowing when they were well, when it was proper for
them to set still and to be contented.
Adam Smith [The Theory of Moral Sentiments]
To save your world you asked this man to die: Would this man,
could he see you now, ask why?
W.H. Auden [Epitaph for an Unknown Soldier
If you are able, save for them a place inside of you and save one
backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no
longer go. Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may
or may not have always. Take what they have taught you with their
dying and keep it with your own. And in that time when men decide
and feel safe to call the war insane, take one
moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind.
Michael Davis O'Donnell [MIA/KIA 1970 near DakTo
compiled by Ed Staff