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Quotations about War


And now million-numbered worlds go mad and destroy each other:
Lost, lost, are the innumerable...
~James Oppenheim, "1914—And After," War and Laughter, 1916

Peace is the only adequate war memorial. ~Ehren Tool

In civilized countries education gets the crumbs that can be spared from armaments. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1903, George Horace Lorimer, editor

It'll be a great day when education gets all the money it wants and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy bombers. ~American Friends Service Committee, c.1978

Waste of Muscle, waste of Brain,
Waste of Patience, waste of Pain,
Waste of Manhood, waste of Health,
Waste of Beauty, waste of Wealth,
Waste of Blood, and waste of Tears,
Waste of Youth's most precious years,
Waste of ways the Saints have trod,
Waste of Glory, waste of God,—
~G. A. Studdert Kennedy, "Waste," The Sorrows of God and Other Poems, 1924

...O war, thou son of hell,
Whom angry heavens do make their minister
Throw in the frozen bosoms of our part
Hot coals of vengeance!...
~William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part II, c.1590  [V, 2, Young Clifford]

Give me the money that has been spent in war, and I will purchase every foot of land upon the globe. I will clothe every man, woman, and child in an attire that kings and queens would be proud of; I will build a school-house upon every valley over the whole habitable earth; I will supply that school house with a competent teacher; I will build an academy in every town, and endow it; a college in every state, and fill it with able Professors; I will crown every hill with a church consecrated to the promulgation of the gospel of peace; I will support in its pulpit an able teacher of righteousness, so that on every Sabbath morning the chime on one hill should answer to the chime on another, around the earth's broad circumference; and the voice of prayer and the song of praise should ascend like a universal holocaust to heaven. ~Charles Sumner, c.1840

I dream
giving birth
a child
who will ask
what was war?"
~Eve Merriam (1916–1992), "Fantasia," Finding a Poem, 1970

War will never cease until babies begin to come into the world with larger cerebrums and smaller adrenal glands. ~H.L. Mencken

You know, sometimes I think there should be a rule of war saying you have to see someone up close and get to know him before it's okay to shoot him. ~M*A*S*H, "Give and Take," 1983, written by Dennis Koenig  [S11, E14, Colonel Potter —tg]

All the arms we need are for hugging. ~Author unknown

Few veterans cherish a romantic remembrance of war. War is awful. When nations seek to settle their differences by force of arms a million tragedies ensue. Nothing, not the valor with which it is fought nor the nobility of the cause it serves, can glorify war. War is wretched beyond description, and only a fool or a fraud could sentimentalize its cruel reality. ~John McCain, 1999

Loud roar defiant throats of doom,
Shrill battle-cries and bugle-calls;
The bursting shrapnel-shards and balls,
Staining the soil with crimson rheum...
~Henry Bedlow (1821–1914), War and Worship; A Poem, Convictions Based on Recollections of the Revolts of 1848, 1902

If we do not end war — war will end us. Everybody says that, millions of people believe it, and nobody does anything. ~H.G. Wells, Things to Come (the "film story"), Part III, adapted from his 1933 novel The Shape of Things to Come, spoken by the character John Cabal (Thanks Bill!)

A great war leaves the country with three armies — an army of cripples, an army of mourners, and an army of thieves. ~German proverb

The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war that we know about peace, more about killing that we know about living. ~Omar Bradley

      Modern war is so expensive that we feel trade to be a better avenue to plunder; but modern man inherits all the innate pugnacity and all the love of glory of his ancestors. Showing war's irrationality and horror is of no effect upon him. The horrors make the fascination. War is the strong life; it is life in extremis; war-taxes are the only ones men never hesitate to pay, as the budgets of all nations show us.
      History is a bath of blood. ~William James, "The Moral Equivalent of War," 1910

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron. ~Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953

The most persistent sound which reverberates through man's history is the beating of war drums. ~Arthur Koestler, Janus: A Summing Up, 1975

When you're wearing a green tuxedo, you dance where they tell you. ~M*A*S*H, "Too Many Cooks," 1979, written by Dennis Koenig  [S8, E1, Colonel Potter —tg]

But what a cruel thing is war; to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world! I pray that on this day, when only peace and good-will are preached to mankind, better thoughts may fill the hearts of our enemies and turn them to peace. ~Robert E. Lee, letter to wife, Christmas Day, 1862

There has been war since the beginning of time and we are no smarter than the people that have gone before us. There is apt to be some more war. ~Will Rogers (1879–1935)

      "...You will never hang a single trooper, for hanging is becoming more unpopular every day. Powder and shot has virtually had its day, too. I am already looking for a general abandonment of warfare with guns; we 've grown away from it, so to speak. The millennium is dead sure to come in the twentieth century. Don't you believe it?"...
      "No, I don't believe it. Fighting is a freeman's mode of defense," he said...
      "It may have been a defense in the past, but has n't the world to-day something better to look forward to? Can we hate and kill our enemies and be happy?"
      A sickly smile of unbelief came to the German's face. "Mere stuff, that," he said...
      "...I believe in the start you meant well, but a curdle has got into your milk of kindness, and life is losing its sweetness for you..." ~Alwyn M. Thurber, Quaint Crippen, 1896

What this planet needs is more mistletoe and less missile-talk. ~Author unknown

But Clara's father believed that nations never see themselves clearly in the mirror, much less when war preys on their minds. ~Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind, 2001, translated from Spanish by Lucia Graves, 2004

You are not going to get peace with millions of armed men. The chariot of peace cannot advance over a road littered with cannon. ~David Lloyd George, c.1930

Sometime they'll give a war, and nobody will come. ~Carl Sandburg, 1936

In modern war you will die like a dog for no good reason. ~Ernest Hemingway, as quoted in A. E. Hotchner, The Good Life According To Hemingway, 2008

In war there are no unwounded soldiers. ~José Narosky, Si Todos Los Tiempos: Aforismos, 1977  [“En las guerras no hay soldado sin heridas.” —tg]

War would not be so cruel if it destroyed only men. ~José Narosky, Si Todos Los Tiempos: Aforismos, 1977  [“La guerra no seria tan cruel si destruyese solamente hombres.” —tg]

Peace has its victories no less than war, but it doesn't have as many monuments t' unveil. ~Kin Hubbard (1868–1930)

We kind o' thought Christ went agin war and pillage... ~James Russell Lowell

Grandpa says mankind's took over too much lately. Says folks used to leave the Last Day and the end of the world in the Lord's hands, but now they've took it over themselves, with the atom bomb. That's how-come everyone's so uneasy. They don't trust each other like they used to trust the Lord. ~Cid Ricketts Sumner, Tammy Out of Time, 1958

      Not know what fear is! I know a good many things, but I don't know anything better than that. You can't tell me anything about fear I don't know. You've no idea how I funked going out to the war. Yes — funked.
      It wasn't any ordinary funk, mind you, the little creepy feeling in your waist, and your tummy tumbling down, and your heart sort of fluttering over the place where it used to be. I believe you can get over that... It was something much worse. It — it was in my head — in my brain. A sort of madness. And it never let me alone. It was worse at night, and after I got up and began to go about in the morning — when my brain woke and remembered, but it was there all the time.
      I saw things — horrors. And I heard them. I saw and heard the whole war. ~May Sinclair, The Belfry, 1916

The mere existence of nuclear weapons by the thousands is an incontrovertible sign of human insanity. ~Isaac Asimov

I have no doubt that we will be successful in harnessing the sun's energy... If sunbeams were weapons of war, we would have had solar energy centuries ago. ~George Porter, 1973

War would end if the dead could return. ~Stanley Baldwin

War, that mad game the world so loves to play... ~Jonathan Swift, "Ode to the Hon. Sir William Temple," 1689

It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets. ~Voltaire

If it's natural to kill, why do men have to go into training to learn how? ~Joan Baez, "What Would You Do If?," 1969

Being without food, fearful for one's life, the bombings — all made me so appreciative of safety, of liberty. ~Audrey Hepburn, 1990

...there hardly ever existed such a thing as a bad Peace — or a good War... ~Benjamin Franklin, 1780

After much Occasion to consider the Folly and Mischiefs of a State of Warfare, and the little or no Advantage obtained even by those Nations who have conducted it with the most Success, I have been apt to think that there has never been or ever will be any such Thing as a good War or a bad Peace. ~Benjamin Franklin, 1782

I join with you most cordially in rejoicing at the Return of Peace. I hope it will be lasting, & that Mankind will at length, as they call themselves reasonable Creatures, have Reason and Sense enough to settle their Differences without cutting Throats: For in my Opinion there never was a good War, or a bad Peace. ~Benjamin Franklin, 1783

But enough of these petty Personalities. I quit them to rejoice with you in the Peace God has blest us with, and in the Prosperity it gives us a Prospect of... We are now Friends with England and with all Mankind. May we never see another War! for in my Opinion there never was a good War, or a bad Peace. ~Benjamin Franklin, 1783

All wars are planned by older men
      In council rooms apart,
      Who call for greater armament
      And map the battle chart.
But out along the shattered fields
      Where golden dreams turned gray,
      How very young their faces were
      Where all the dead men lay.
Portly and solemn, in their pride
      The elders cast their vote
      For this or that, or something else,
      That sounds the warlike note.
But where their sightless eyes stare out
      Beyond life's vanished joys,
      I've noticed nearly all the dead
      Were hardly more than boys.
~Grantland Rice (1880–1954), "The Two Sides of War," 1921  [Quoted from a later version of the poem; 1921 wording differs. —tg]

Man, in his sensitivity, does not give names to animals he intends to eat but goes on giving names to children he intends to send to war. ~Robert Brault,

Es fer war, I call it murder,—
There you hev it, plain an' flat;
I don't want to go no furder
Than my Testyment fer that;
God hez sed so, plump an' fairly,
It's ez long ez it is broad,
An' you've gut to git up airly
Ef you want to take in God.
~James Russell Lowell

      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 with 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.
      Man is the only animal that robs his helpless fellow of his country — takes possession of it and drives him out of it or destroys him....
      Man is the only Patriot. He sets himself apart in his own country, under his own flag, and sneers at the other nations, and keeps multitudinous uniformed assassins on hand at heavy expense to grab slices of other people's countries, and keep them from grabbing slices of his. 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, What Is Man?

Yet, in little more than a single century (from 1820 to 1945), no less than 59 million human animals were killed in inter-group clashes of one sort or another... We describe these killings as men behaving 'like animals', but if we could find a wild animal that showed signs of acting this way, it would be more precise to describe it as behaving like men. ~Desmond Morris, The Human Zoo, 1969

When I went over there to fight for Democracy I was just a kid. I didn't have any great ambitions, neither did I have any desire to kill anybody. I was brought up to believe that the shedding of blood was a crime against God and man. Well, I did what they asked me to, like a good soldier... Why, your own mother wouldn't recognize you if she saw you... crawling in the mud and sticking a bayonet in a man who never did you any harm. I'm telling you, it got so filthy and poisonous I didn't know who I was any more... I wasn't an animal because if I had been an animal I'd have had better sense than to get myself into such a mess. Animals kill one another only when they're hungry. We kill because we're afraid of our own shadow, afraid that if we used a little common sense we'd have to admit that our glorious principles were wrong. Today I haven't got any principles... I have only one ambition left — to get enough booze under my belt every day so as to forget what the world looks like... I want to be left alone; I want to dream my dreams, to believe as I once believed, that life is good and beautiful and that men can live with one another in peace and plenty. ~Henry Miller, The Wisdom of the Heart, 1941

Last winter once, in the Wilderness,
In the noise and the smoke and the stink and the wet,
      All of us swore, if we got home,
      To forget.
      It's pleasanter now
      To remember...
It's pleasant, the curl of the smoke
      Of only tobacco.
It's pleasant to tighten the trigger finger
      Warm on the stem of your pipe—
      And nothing go off.
It's pleasant, here at the mill,
      With only your time to kill...
~Mark Van Doren, "Reverie After War: 1866," Spring Thunder and Other Poems, 1924

Peace is the short interval when nations toil to pay the costs of past and future wars. ~Herbert V. Prochnow

The wonderful innocence that was hers by the gift of God. Ruth knew no more of worldly wickedness and wisdom than did the flowers in her garden, or the grass in her field. Her idea of business — "Henry, why do people who have enough money try to get more money?" Her idea of politics — "I am sure that if the mothers of various nations could meet, there would be no more wars." ~E. M. Forster, Howards End, 1910

After every war
      someone has to tidy up.
      Things won't pick
      themselves up, after all.
Someone has to shove
      the rubble to the roadsides
      so the carts loaded with corpses
      can get by...
~Wisława Szymborska (1923–2012), "The End and the Beginning," The End and the Beginning, 1993, translated from the Polish by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh

The refuge of the morally, intellectually, artistically and economically bankrupt is war. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

The boy who was first to die
For the cause they are fighting for
Links his arm and walks with the lads
Who are going to die in the war.
He bled in agony
A very long time ago.
Now they greet him comradely,
With eyes that newly know.
They are brothers-in-arms in the old,
Old war that is never done...
~Mary Carolyn Davies, "At Wipers and Calvary," The Drums in Our Street: A Book of War Poems, 1918

The following list of ports of call between Panama and Valparaiso contains the name of every important point on the coast, and gives the relative positions of many places which, if the war continues, will become familiar, for whatever evil war brings in its train, it has value in teaching us geography. ~J. Douglas, Jr. (late of Quebec), "The Seat of the War in South America," in Rose-Belford's Canadian Monthly and National Review, August 1879  []  ["War is God's way of teaching us geography." ~Paul Rodriguez, 1987]

The era of true peace on earth will not come as long as a tremendous percentage of your taxes goes to educate men in the trades of slaughter... ~Reginald Wright Kauffman, "To Guide Our Feet into the Way of Peace," 1910

The way to win an atomic war is to make certain it never starts. ~Gen. Omar N. Bradley, 1948

War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace. ~Thomas Mann

Courage in war is safer than cowardice. ~Proverb

Well, in my opinion, maybe wars wouldn't happen if men simply had better manners. ~Dickinson, "I Like a Look of Agony," 2021, written by Macdonald, Edebiri, Green, Greller, & Zucker  [S2, E9, Mrs. Dickinson —tg]

We have failed to grasp the fact that mankind is becoming a single unit, and that for a unit to fight against itself is suicide. ~Havelock Ellis

...the American war in Vietnam seemed to me wrong. Certain blood was being shed for uncertain reasons. ~Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried, 1990

The trouble with selfish motives is that they harden into principles, and you end up sending your kids to war for them. ~Robert Brault,

Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime. ~Ernest Hemingway, as quoted in A. E. Hotchner, The Good Life According To Hemingway, 2008

War. The dark time of valour, loss and hope where a man is controlled by his gun; where a gun is controlled by his hatred. Completely uncontrollable. ~Daniel Ha

Two foes who slew
Each other, lay
In slow decay;
From them there grew
This poppy which I pluck today.
Here where I keep a rendezvous
With you
The hatred of two men
Leads round to love again.
      All hate
      To love leads, soon or late.
~Mary Carolyn Davies, "On an Old Battlefield," The Drums in Our Street: A Book of War Poems, 1918

If it were proved to me that in making war my ideal had a chance of being realized, I would still say "No" to war. For one does not create a human society on mounds of corpses. ~Louis Lecoin (1888–1971)

War is fear cloaked in courage. ~William Westmoreland, c.1966

GUNPOWDER  A black substance much employed in marking the boundary lines of nations. ~Charles Wayland Towne, The Foolish Dictionary, Executed by Gideon Wurdz, Master of Pholly, Doctor of Loquacious Lunacy, etc., 1904

But men are so serious. Why? Why violence? Why hatred? Why war? If people want to make war, they should make a colour war, and paint each others city up during the night in pinks and greens. ~Yoko Ono

Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon. A happiness weapon. A Beauty Bomb. And every time a crisis developed, we would launch one. It would explode high in the air — explode softly — and send thousands, millions, of little parachutes into the air. Floating down to earth — boxes of Crayolas. And we wouldn't go cheap, either — not little boxes of eight. Boxes of sixty-four, with the sharpener built right in. With silver and gold and copper, magenta and peach and lime, amber and umber and all the rest. And people would smile and get a little funny look on their faces and cover the world with imagination. ~Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, 1986

Profoundly different meanings attach to the word peace. In the dictionary of democracies peace is a desirably permanent condition of amicable relations with all other nations. In the dictionary of dictatorships peace means: a quiet and an undisturbed period in which to prepare for war, either a national war or, in the Russian case, the international class war. ~Dorothy Thompson, "Political Dictionary," 1936

War is hell, but that's not the half of it, because war is also mystery and terror and adventure and courage and discovery and holiness and pity and despair and longing and love. War is nasty; war is fun. War is thrilling; war is drudgery. War makes you a man; war makes you dead. ~Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried, 1990

War is an act of hot anger. The power of the league of nations to enforce peace is not in any force of arms but in the potency of the boycott by the world of the nation which would disturb the peace. No army is needed for that purpose, President Woodrow Wilson said in stressing anew the theory that the boycott and blockade will always be an effective weapon. It will starve an offending nation into submission. ~"Wilson Scores All Who Oppose Treaty," The Free Lance–Star, 1919  [a little altered —tg]

WAR  Trying to make the blood of a Nation blot out the bile of its Rulers. ~Charles Wayland Towne, The Altogether New Foolish Dictionary, by Gideon Wurdz, 1914

'Mid palms and cacti bivouacked,
      Reclused from worldly cark and care,
      A din of conflict freights the air,
      And cloistral calm with tumult racked.
Clairaudient in my solitude,
      Yet dubious if the stir proclaim
      A strife in Freedom's cherished name,
      Or mock heroics of a feud;
Some factious brawl, corrupt in deed;
      A demagogic enterprise,
      To cozen, dupe and victimize
      The purblind gulls of others' greed...
~Henry Bedlow (1821–1914), War and Worship; A Poem, Convictions Based on Recollections of the Revolts of 1848, 1902

      I have just seen it quoted again. Yes, it appears solemnly in print, even now, at the end of the greatest war in history. Si vis pacem, para bellum. Being separated for the moment from my book of quotations, I cannot say who was the Roman thinker who first gave this brilliant paradox to the world, but I imagine him a fat, easy-going gentleman, who occasionally threw off good things after dinner. He never thought very much of Si vis pacem, para bellum; it was not one of his best; but it seemed to please some of his political friends, one of whom asked if he might use it in his next speech in the Senate. Our fat gentleman said: "Certainly, if you like," and added with unusual frankness: "I don't quite know what it means."
      But the other did not think that that would matter very much. So he quoted it, and it had a considerable vogue. Two thousand years from now people will still be quoting it, and killing each other on the strength of it. Or perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps two thousand years from now, if the English language is sufficiently dead by then, the world will have some casual paradox of Bernard Shaw's or Oscar Wilde's on its lips, passing it reverently from mouth to mouth as if it were Holy Writ, and dropping bombs on Mars to show that they know what it means.
      Si vis pacem, para bellum. So it follows that preparation for war means nothing. It is an action which is as likely to have been inspired by an evil motive as by a good motive. When a gentleman with a van calls for your furniture you have means of ascertaining whether he is the furniture-remover whom you ordered or the burglar whom you didn't order, but there is no way of discovering which of two Latin tags is inspiring a nation's armaments.
      However, I can produce a third tag in the same language, which is worth consideration. Si vis amare bellum, para bellum. It is a pity, but Universal Peace will hardly come as the result of universal preparedness for war, as these dear people seem to hope. It will only come as the result of a universal feeling that war is the most babyish and laughably idiotic thing that this poor world has evolved. Our writer says sadly that there is no hope of doing without armies—we are not angels. It is not a question of "not being angels," it is a question of not being childish lunatics. Possibly there is no hope of either, but I think we might make an effort.
      ~A.A. Milne (1882–1956), "The Record Lie," c.1919  ["If you want peace, prepare for war." Latin adage, c. 4th century BC. Note: I've paraphrased Milne's essay. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

War does not determine who is right — only who is left. ~Montreal Star, quoted in Reader's Digest, February 1932, see:

War is simply the survival of the tiger and lion in man. It settles everything on the plane of physical force. War does not decide what is right, but what is strongest. It never decides a moral principle. ~The Boston Post, 1896  []

The wound combat makes in you, as a writer, is a very slow-healing one. ~Ernest Hemingway, as quoted in A. E. Hotchner, The Good Life According To Hemingway, 2008

This world is not a Sunday School; it is a slaughter-house, and always has been. Peace or war, what does it matter? There is no such thing as peace, and never can be. Competition is just peaceful war with far more cruel weapons than either shot or shell. War is competition stripped of all disguise — without the velvet glove. ~G. A. Studdert Kennedy

...war is our race's most popular diversion, one which gives purpose and color to dull and stupid lives. ~Robert A. Heinlein (1907–1988)

Go search your heart, America…
Turn from the machine to man,
Build, while there is yet time, a creative Peace…
While there is yet time!…
For if you reject great Peace,
As surely as vile living brings disease,
So surely shall your selfishness bring war.
~James Oppenheim, "1914—And After," War and Laughter, 1916

What a fine-looking thing is war! Yet dress it as one may, dress and feather it, daub it with gold, huzza it, and sing swaggering songs about it, what is it, nine times out of ten, but murder in uniform...? ~Douglas Jerrold (1803–1857)

In what light we are view'd by superior Beings, may be gather'd from a Piece of late West India News, which possibly has not yet reach'd you. A young Angel of Distinction being sent down to this World on some Business for the first time, had an old Courier-Spirit assign'd him as a Guide. They arriv'd over the Seas of Martinico in the middle of the long Day of obstinate Fights between the Fleets of Rodney & DeGrasse. When thro' the Clouds of Smoke he saw the Fire of the Guns, the Decks cover'd with mangled Limbs, & Bodies dead or dying, the Ships sinking, burning, or blown into the Air, and the Quantity of Pain, Misery, and Destruction the Crews yet alive were thus with so much Eagerness dealing round to one another; he turn'd angrily to his Guide, & said, You blundering Blockhead, you are ignorant of your Business; you undertook to conduct me to the Earth, and you have brought me into Hell!— No, Sir, says the Guide; I have made no Mistake; this is really the Earth, and these are Men. Devils never treat one another in this cruel manner; they have more Sense, and more of what Men (vainly) call Humanity!  ~Benjamin Franklin, letter to Joseph Priestley, 1782

Is it a rascal rabble-trick?
      Is Freedom's purpose festered thus?
      And this mere sputum and the pus
      Of ulcerous bodies politic,
Corrupt at heart? their aim to rob,
      To roister, ravage, loot and kill;
      Murder, the Sergeant of their drill,
      Their force's Sovereign head, King Mob?
~Henry Bedlow (1821–1914), War and Worship; A Poem, Convictions Based on Recollections of the Revolts of 1848, 1902

...a day of battle is a day of harvest for the devil. ~William Hooke (1601–1678)

For though war is evil, it is occasionally the lesser of two evils. ~McGeorge Bundy (1919–1996), "They Say in the Colleges," in Zero Hour: A Summons to the Free, 1940

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
      That mark our place; and in the sky
      The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below. //
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
      Loved and were loved, and now we lie
            In Flanders fields...
~John McCrae (1872–1918), "In Flanders Fields," in Punch (London), 1915 December 8th

I have a scheme for stopping war. It's this — no nation is allowed to enter a war till they have paid for the last one. ~Will Rogers (1879–1935)

Washington seems to be more concerned about political mud than radioactive dust. ~Walter Winchell, 1959

The war is not in Europe. No. It's here
In our parlor, underneath the chandelier
Where Evan used to sit...
We must not feel worried; for he's fine and fit,
And proud to be out there and do his bit.
It's strange that I should mind, should fret or fear—
Or feel the war is not in France, but here—
~Mary Carolyn Davies, "Evan," The Drums in Our Street: A Book of War Poems, 1918  [a little altered —tg]

I've got a full belly and healthy kids who still dance under the rain clouds. Es un momento fugaz. How long can we even claim this small spot of peace? It is a privilege threatened by war. And war, at its most elemental, is death for all of us. "Not in my back yard" no longer exists, America. ~Cherríe L. Moraga, "From Inside the First World: On 9/11 and Women-of-Color Feminism," 2001

Tongues of wisdom, are they dumb?
Caps and bells, not cap and gown?
That two fingers give a crumb
While our guns beat cities down?
~Olive Tilford Dargan (1869–1968), "En Route"

O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun-flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it — for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen. ~Mark Twain, "The War-Prayer"  [Published posthumously in A Pen Warmed Up in Hell, Frederick Anderson, 1972. Thanks, Barbara Schmidt of! —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

...Then came the war; and I went with the rest
To learn my lessons, with death as a guest...
The days and nights that I spent overseas,
The bombing of cities, of people, of trees...
That Hell of hating and killing, of shot and shell...
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, "The Hard Way," 1940s  [a little altered —tg]

The festering mass of human wretchedness about me offended not now my senses merely, but pierced my heart like a knife... I not only saw but felt in my body all that I saw... On each brutal brow was plainly written the hic jacct of a soul dead within. As I looked, horror struck, from one death's head to another, I was affected by a singular hallucination. Like a wavering translucent spirit face superimposed upon each of these brutish masks, I saw the ideal, the possible face that would have been the actual if mind and soul had lived... Therefore now I found upon my garments the blood of this great multitude of strangled souls of my brothers. The voice of their blood cried out against me from the ground. ~Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward: 2000–1887, 1888  [This was not written in the context of war but societal metaphor of a miserable population and the character's dream hallucinations. —tg]

If you shoot one person you are a murderer. If you kill a couple persons you are a gangster. If you are a crazy statesman and send millions to their deaths you are a hero. ~Author unknown, 1939 newspaper, see also "If only one man dies of hunger, that is a tragedy. If millions die, that's only statistics" attributed to Joseph Stalin and "a single man killed is a misfortune, a million is a statistic" attributed to an anonymous Frenchman, 1948  []

The effects of human wickedness are written on the page of history in characters of blood: but the impression soon fades away; so more blood must be shed to renew it. ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827

Men always said that Death was old,
A slow, bent man with wrinkled hand
Who with a shining sickle, stern and cold
Went reaping through the land.
But now we have learned bitterly
They only spoke with ignorant tongue.
This year has touched our eyes and now we see
That Death is fair and young...
~Mary Carolyn Davies, "Young Death," The Drums in Our Street: A Book of War Poems, 1918

I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. It is truly enough said that a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience. Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice. A common and natural results of an undue respect for law is, that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, powder-monkeys, and all, marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart... Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power? ~Henry David Thoreau, "Resistance to Civil Government," a.k.a. "Civil Disobedience," 1849

Its hurly-burly warlike made,
      With cannon roar and clarion ring,
      And yet a ruffian ranting thing,
      A brawling mob's fanfaronade;
Or rallying slogan, wild huzza,
      Rude shock of armies, hissing bombs,
      The carbine-clatter, roll of drums,
      The maddening, murderous coil of war;
Its 'larums weird, its frenzied shrieks
      Of women in sacked cities, when
      The red streets clogged with armèd men,
      But dead—each finding him she seeks.
~Henry Bedlow (1821–1914), War and Worship; A Poem, Convictions Based on Recollections of the Revolts of 1848, 1902

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 worth a war, is worse... A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. ~John Stuart Mill, "The Contest in America," 1862

You can't say that civilization don't advance, however, for in every war they kill you in a new way. ~Will Rogers, 1929

Youth, crucified to save the world,
Hangs on the cross...
~Mary Carolyn Davies, "The Great War," 1917

I am fixed in awe at the mighty conflict to which two great nations are advancing, and recoil with horror at the ferociousness of man. Will nations never devise a more rational umpire of differences than force? Are there no means of coercing injustice more gratifying to our nature than a waste of the blood of thousands, & of the labor of millions of our fellow-creatures? ~Thomas Jefferson, 1798

A fond prophetic sight that sees
      The bonds of slave and villeinage,
      Rent in the stress of manhood's rage:
      The doom of old feudalities?
Will Freedom once more count her gains?
      Will outraged masses heed her calls,
      And, firm of purpose, rend the thralls
      And fetters of a race in chains?
~Henry Bedlow (1821–1914), War and Worship; A Poem, Convictions Based on Recollections of the Revolts of 1848, 1902

I believe that all the people who stand to profit by a war and who help provoke it should be shot on the first day it starts by accredited representatives of the loyal citizens of their country who will fight it. ~Ernest Hemingway, as quoted in A. E. Hotchner, The Good Life According To Hemingway, 2008

Borders are scratched across the hearts of men
By strangers with a calm, judicial pen,
And when the borders bleed we watch with dread
The lines of ink across the map turn red.
~Marya Mannes, "Gaza Strip," 1955

...our blood-made boundaries... ~Olive Tilford Dargan (1869–1968), "En Route"

War is not an adventure. It is a disease. It is like typhus. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Flight to Arras, 1942, translated from the French by Lewis Galantière

This world cannot endure a new war fought on the atomic plane — such a war would be the end of the world as we know it. ~Andrew Southorn, "The Spirit of Progress: Science Has Outpaced Man," 1945

Anyway, I'm sort of glad they've got the atomic bomb invented. If there's ever another war, I'm going to sit right the hell on top of it. I'll volunteer for it, I swear to God I will. ~J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, 1951

Without discipline the Army would just be a bunch of guys wearing the same color clothing. ~M*A*S*H, "The Novocaine Mutiny," 1976, written by Burt Prelutsky  [S4, E20, Frank Burns —tg]

They should pick a dry year to fight the war. Better yet, civilize the moronic races and have no wars at all. ~Lt. Clair J. Clark, letter to wife, March 1944

O! how many ghosts in a wound of war. ~Terri Guillemets

There's a graveyard in northern France where all the dead boys from D-Day are buried. The white crosses reach from one horizon to the other. I remember looking it over and thinking it was a forest of graves. But the rows were like this, dizzying, diagonal, perfectly straight, so after all it wasn't a forest but an orchard of graves. Nothing to do with nature, unless you count human nature. ~Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams, 1990

Seventh-day Adventists can afford to wait a little for the final and complete substantiation of their view concerning the future. But we feel sorry for our opponents who must feverishly seek to exorcise the evil spirits out of the great mass of humanity before a third world war, with its chaotic potentialities, engulfs our planet. By the admissions of the wisest statesmen, such a war would bring the end of the world as we know it, and usher in a new age — but not the kind of age that our opponents have so long and so optimistically predicted. ~The Christian Century, 1945

But at the last there is no such thing as neutrality... ~Elbert Hubbard, "John Quincy Adams," Little Journeys to the Homes of American Statesmen, 1911

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