quotations about war

Now that I've seen what war is ... I know that everybody, if one day it should end, ought to ask himself: "And what shall we make of the fallen? Why are they dead?" I wouldn't know what to say. Not now, at any rate. Nor does it seem to me that the others know. Perhaps only dead know, and only for them is the war really over.

CESARE PAVESE, The House on the Hill


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I find war detestable but those who praise it without participating in it even more so.

ROMAIN ROLLAND, "Journal de Genève", Inter arma Caritas


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War is thus divine in itself, since it is a law of the world.... War is divine in the mysterious glory that surrounds it and in the no less inexplicable attraction that draws us to it.

JOSEPH DE MAISTRE, "Seventh Dialogue"


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War-making is one of the few activities that people are not supposed to view "realistically"; that is, with an eye to expense and practical outcome. In all-out war, expenditure is all-out, unprudent--war being defined as an emergency in which no sacrifice is excessive.

SUSAN SONTAG, AIDS and Its Metaphors


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War is a contagion.

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, speech, October 5, 1937


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War is a beastly business, it is true, but one proof we are human is our ability to learn, even from it, how better to exist.

M. F. K. FISHER, introduction to revised edition, How to Cook a Wolf


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The line, broken into moving fragments by the ground, went calmly on through fields and woods. The youth looked at the men nearest him, and saw, for the most part, expressions of deep interest, as if they were investigating something that had fascinated them. One or two stepped with overvaliant airs as if they were already plunged into war. Others walked as upon thin ice. The greater part of the untested men appeared quiet and absorbed. They were going to look at war, the red animal--war, the blood-swollen god. And they were deeply engrossed in this march.

STEPHEN CRANE, The Red Badge of Courage


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One certain effect of war is to diminish freedom of expression. Patriotism becomes the order of the day, and those who question the war are seen as traitors, to be silenced and imprisoned.

HOWARD ZINN, Howard Zinn on War


Weary war with the bated breath,
Skeleton boy against skeleton Death.

FRANCIS O. TICKNOR, "Little Giffen of Tennessee"


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When a war is waged by two opposing groups of robbers for the sake of deciding who shall have a freer hand to oppress more people, then the question of the origin of the war is of no real economic or political significance.

VLADIMIR LENIN, Pravda, April 26, 1917


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What lackeys men are, who might be such fine fellows!
To be killing each other, unmercifully,
At an order, as though one said, "Bring up the tea."

AMY LOWELL, "A Ballad of Footmen"


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The abolition of war is no longer to be set down as a creation of fancy, a dream of enthusiastic philanthropy. War rests on opinion; and opinion is more and more withdrawing its support. War rests on contempt of human nature; on the long mournful habit of regarding the mass of human beings as machines, or as animals; having no higher use than to be shot at and murdered for the glory of a chief, for the seating of this or that family on a throne, for the petty interests and selfish rivalries which have inflamed states to conflict. Let the worth of a human being be felt, and a main pillar of war will fall.



Why is it that all wars are won by bankers?

CARLOS RUIZ ZAFON, The Prisoner of Heaven


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The term "just war" contains an internal contradiction. War is inherently unjust, and the great challenge of our time is how to deal with evil, tyranny, and oppression without killing huge numbers of people.

HOWARD ZINN, Terrorism and War


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History teaches that wars begin when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap.

RONALD REAGAN, Address to the Nation, January 16, 1984


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War is a brutal and fierce means of pacification; it means the suppression of resistance by the destruction or enslavement of the conquered.



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History shows that wars are divided into two kinds, just and unjust. All wars that are progressive are just, and all wars that impede progress are unjust. We Communists oppose all unjust wars that impede progress, but we do not oppose progressive, just wars. Not only do we Communists not oppose just wars; we actively participate in them.

MAO ZEDONG, "On Protracted War", May 1938


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I have not spoken in three years: not since I left boot camp. It has been three years of a senseless war, and though the reasons for it are clear, and though we will continue to fight until we are ordered to stop--and probably for a while after that--none of us can remember the hate that led us here. We are simply fighting to survive the war. It is a strange place to be at fifteen, bereft of hope and very nearly of your humanity. But that is where I am nonetheless.

CHRIS ABANI, Song for Night


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Does it make a difference if warriors go to battle changing their appearance or not? Does it make a difference if they're anonymous, in how they treat their victims? We know in some cultures, they go to war, they don't change their appearance. In other cultures, they paint themselves like "Lord of the Flies." In some, they wear masks. In many, soldiers are anonymous in uniform. So this anthropologist, John Watson, found 23 cultures that had two bits of data. Do they change their appearance? Do they kill, torture, mutilate? If they don't change their appearance, only one of eight kills, tortures or mutilates. The key is in the red zone. If they change their appearance, 12 of 13 -- that's 90 percent -- kill, torture, mutilate. And that's the power of anonymity.

PHILIP ZIMBARDO, TED talk, September 2008


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On the whole, more men had perhaps escaped into the war than from it.

STEFAN ZWEIG, Beware of Pity


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