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O. Henry: The ethics of justifiable slaughter

September 30, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

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O. Henry
From The Moment of Victory (1909)

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“Our company got into a section of Cuban scenery where one of the messiest and most unsung portions of the campaign occurred. We were out every day capering around in the bushes, and having little skirmishes with the Spanish troops that looked more like kind of tired-out feuds than anything else. The war was a joke to us, and of no interest to them. We never could see it any other way than as a howling farce-comedy that the San Augustine Rifles were actually fighting to uphold the Stars and Stripes. And the blamed little señors didn’t get enough pay to make them care whether they were patriots or traitors. Now and then somebody would get killed. It seemed like a waste of life to me. I was at Coney Island when I went to New York once, and one of them down-hill skidding apparatuses they call ‘roller-coasters’ flew the track and killed a man in a brown sack-suit. Whenever the Spaniards shot one of our men, it struck me as just about as unnecessary and regrettable as that was.”

***

“‘Well, Ben,’ says the captain to me, ‘your allegations and estimations of the tactics of war, government, patriotism, guard-mounting, and democracy are all right. But I’ve looked into the system of international arbitration and the ethics of justifiable slaughter a little closer, maybe, than you have. Now, you can hand in your resignation the first of next week if you are so minded. But if you do,’ says Sam, ‘I’ll order a corporal’s guard to take you over by that limestone bluff on the creek and shoot enough lead into you to ballast a submarine air-ship. I’m captain of this company, and I’ve swore allegiance to the Amalgamated States regardless of sectional, secessional, and Congressional differences. Have you got any smoking-tobacco?’ winds up Sam. ‘Mine got wet when I swum the creek this morning.'”

***

“‘Well, Ben,’ says Sam, kind of hefting his sword out from between his knees, ‘as your superior officer I could court-martial you for attempted cowardice and desertion. But I won’t. And I’ll tell you why I’m trying for promotion and the usual honors of war and conquest. A major gets more pay than a captain, and I need the money.’

“‘Correct for you!’ says I. ‘I can understand that. Your system of fame-seeking is rooted in the deepest soil of patriotism…'”

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Lytton Strachey: After the battle, who shall say that the corpses were the most unfortunate?

September 29, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Robert Graves: Men at arms and men of letters, the birth of English pacifism in the First World War

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Lytton Strachey
From Eminent Victorians (1918)
Florence Nightingale

Miss Nightingale arrived at Scutari – a suburb of Constantinople, on the Asiatic side of the Bosphorus – on November 4th, 1854; it was ten days after the battle of Balaclava, and the day before the battle of Inkerman. The organisation of the hospitals, which had already given way under the stress of the battle of the Alma, was now to be subjected to the further pressure which these two desperate and bloody engagements implied. Great detachments of wounded were already beginning to pour in. The men, after receiving such summary treatment as could be given them at the smaller hospitals in the Crimea itself, were forthwith shipped in batches of two hundred across the Black Sea to Scutari. This voyage was in normal times one of four days and a half; but the times were no longer normal, and now the transit often lasted for a fortnight or three weeks. It received, not without reason, the name of “the middle passage.” Between, and sometimes on the decks, the wounded, the sick, and the dying were crowded – men who had just undergone the amputation of limbs, men in the clutches of fever or of frostbite, men in the last stages of dysentery and cholera – without beds, sometimes without blankets, often hardly clothed. The one or two surgeons on board did what they could; but medical stores were lacking, and the only form of nursing available was that provided by a handful of invalid soldiers, who were usually themselves prostrate by the end of the voyage. There was no other food beside the ordinary salt rations of ship diet; and even the water was sometimes so stored that it was out of reach of the weak. For many months, the average of deaths during these voyages was seventy-four in the thousand; the corpses were shot out into the waters; and who shall say that they were the most unfortunate? At Scutari, the landing-stage, constructed with all the perverseness of Oriental ingenuity, could only be approached with great difficulty, and, in rough weather, not at all. When it was reached, what remained of the men in the ships had first to be disembarked, and then conveyed up a steep slope of a quarter of a mile to the nearest of the hospitals. The most serious cases might be put upon stretchers – for there were far too few for all; the rest were carried or dragged up the hill by such convalescent soldiers as could be got together, who were not too obviously infirm for the work. At last the journey was accomplished; slowly, one by one, living or dying, the wounded were carried up into the hospital. And in the hospital what did they find?

Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate: the delusive doors bore no such inscription; and yet behind them Hell yawned. Want, neglect, confusion, misery – in every shape and in every degree of intensity – filled the endless corridors and the vast apartments of the gigantic barrack-house, which, without forethought or preparation, had been hurriedly set aside as the chief shelter for the victims of the war. The very building itself was radically defective. Huge sewers underlay it, and cess-pools loaded with filth wafted their poison into the upper rooms. The floors were in so rotten a condition that many of them could not be scrubbed; the walls were thick with dirt; incredible multitudes of vermin swarmed everywhere. And, enormous as the building was, it was yet too small. It contained four miles of beds, crushed together so close that there was but just room to pass between them. Under such conditions, the most elaborate system of ventilation might well have been at fault; but here there was no ventilation. The stench was indescribable. “I have been well acquainted,” said Miss Nightingale, “with the dwellings of the worst parts of most of the great cities in Europe, but have never been in any atmosphere which I could compare with that of the Barrack Hospital at night.” The structural defects were equalled by the deficiencies in the commonest objects of hospital use. There were not enough bedsteads; the sheets were of canvas, and so coarse that the wounded men recoiled from them, begging to be left in their blankets; there was no bedroom furniture of any kind, and empty beer-bottles were used for candlesticks. There were no basins, no towels, no soap, no brooms, no mops, no trays, no plates; there were neither slippers nor scissors, neither shoebrushes nor blacking; there were no knives or forks or spoons. The supply of fuel was constantly deficient. The cooking arrangements were preposterously inadequate, and the laundry was a farce. As for purely medical materials, the tale was no better. Stretchers, splints, bandages – all were lacking; and so were the most ordinary drugs.

To replace such wants, to struggle against such difficulties, there was a handful of men overburdened by the strain of ceaseless work, bound down by the traditions of official routine, and enfeebled either by old age or inexperience or sheer incompetence. They had proved utterly unequal to their task. The principal doctor was lost in the imbecilities of a senile optimism. The wretched official whose business it was to provide for the wants of the hospital was tied fast hand and foot by red tape. A few of the younger doctors struggled valiantly, but what could they do? Unprepared, disorganised, with such help only as they could find among the miserable band of convalescent soldiers drafted off to tend their sick comrades, they were faced with disease, mutilation, and death in all their most appalling forms, crowded multitudinously about them in an ever increasing mass. They were like men in a shipwreck, fighting, not for safety, but for the next moment’s bare existence — to gain, by yet another frenzied effort, some brief respite from the waters of destruction.

In these surroundings, those who had been long inured to scenes of human suffering – surgeons with a world-wide knowledge of agonies, soldiers familiar with fields of carnage, missionaries with remembrances of famine and of plague – yet found a depth of horror which they had never known before. There were moments, there were places, in the Barrack Hospital at Scutari, where the strongest hand was struck with trembling, and the boldest eye would turn away its gaze.

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C.P. Snow: As final product of scientific civilization, nuclear bomb is its ultimate indictment

September 28, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

C.P. Snow: Selections on war

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C.P. Snow
From The New Men (1954)

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Some of them gave an absolute no to the use of the bomb for reasons which were too instinctive to express. For any cause on earth, they could not bear to destroy hundreds of thousands of people at a go.

Many of them gave something near to an absolute no for reasons which, at root, were much the same; the fission bomb was the final product of scientific civilization; it of were used at once to destroy, neither science nor the civilization of which science was bone and fibre, would be free from guilt again.

***

The news of Hiroshima had sickened them; that afternoon had left them without consolation. Luke said: “If anyone had tried to defend the first bomb, then I might just have listened to him. But if anyone dares try to defend the second, then I’ll see him in hell before I listen to a single word.”

They all assumed, as Martin had done, that the plutonium bomb was dropped as an experiment, to measure its ‘effectiveness’ against the other.

“It had to be dropped in a hurry,” said someone, “because the war will be over and there won’t be another chance.”

***

How long can you sustain grief, guilt, remorse, for a horror far away?

If it were otherwise, if we could feel public miseries as we do private ones, our existence in those years would have been hard to endure. For anyone outside the circle of misery, it is a blessing that one’s public memory is so short; it is not such a blessing for those within.

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F. Scott Fitzgerald: War comes to Princeton

September 27, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

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F. Scott Fitzgerald
From This Side of Paradise (1920)

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In Princeton every one bantered in public and told themselves privately that their deaths at least would be heroic. The literary students read Rupert Brooke passionately; the lounge-lizards worried over whether the government would permit the English-cut uniform for officers; a few of the hopelessly lazy wrote to the obscure branches of the War Department, seeking an easy commission and a soft berth.

***

…The war seemed scarcely to touch them and it might have been one of the senior springs of the past, except for the drilling every other afternoon, yet Amory realized poignantly that this was the last spring under the old regime.

“This is the great protest against the superman,” said Amory.

“I suppose so,” Alec agreed.

“He’s absolutely irreconcilable with any Utopia. As long as he occurs, there’s trouble and all the latent evil that makes a crowd list and sway when he talks.”

“And of course all that he is is a gifted man without a moral sense.”

“That’s all. I think the worst thing to contemplate is this – it’s all happened before, how soon will it happen again? Fifty years after Waterloo Napoleon was as much a hero to English school children as Wellington. How do we know our grandchildren won’t idolize Von Hindenburg the same way?”

“What brings it about?”

“Time, damn it, and the historian. If we could only learn to look on evil as evil, whether it’s clothed in filth or monotony or magnificence.”

***

Long after midnight the towers and spires of Princeton were visible, with here and there a late-burning light – and suddenly out of the clear darkness the sound of bells. As an endless dream it went on; the spirit of the past brooding over a new generation, the chosen youth from the muddled, unchastened world, still fed romantically on the mistakes and half-forgotten dreams of dead statesmen and poets. Here was a new generation, shouting the old cries, learning the old creeds, through a revery of long days and nights; destined finally to go out into that dirty gray turmoil to follow love and pride; a new generation dedicated more than the last to the fear of poverty and the worship of success; grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken….

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Ellen Glasgow: The Altar of the War God

September 26, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Ellen Glasgow: Selections on war

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Ellen Glasgow
From The Battle-Ground (1902)

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VIII. The Altar of the War God

Through the warm spring weather she sat beside the long window that gave on the street, or walked slowly up and down among the vegetable rows in the garden. The growing of the crops became an unending interest to her and she watched them, day by day, until she learned to know each separate plant and to look for its unfolding. When the drought came she carried water from the hydrant, and assisted by Mammy Riah sprinkled the young tomatoes until they shot up like weeds. “It is so much better than war,” she would say to Jack when he rode through the city. “Why will men kill one another when they might make things live instead?”

Beside the piazza, there was a high magnolia tree, and under this she made a little rustic bench and a bed of flowers. When the hollyhocks and the sunflowers bloomed it would look like Uplands, she said, laughing.

Under the magnolia there was quiet, but from her front window, while she sat at work, she could see the whole overcrowded city passing through sun and shadow. Sometimes distinguished strangers would go by, men from the far South in black broadcloth and slouch hats; then the President, slim and erect and very grave, riding his favourite horse to one of the encampments near the city; and then a noted beauty from another state, her chin lifted above the ribbons of her bonnet, a smile tucked in the red corners of her lips. Following there would surge by the same eager, staring throng — men too old to fight who had lost their work; women whose husbands fought in the trenches for the money that would hardly buy a sack of flour; soldiers from one of the many camps; noisy little boys with tin whistles; silent little girls waving Confederate flags. Back and forth they passed on the bright May afternoons, filling the street with a ceaseless murmur and the blur of many colours.

And again the crowd would part suddenly to make way for a battalion marching to the front, or for a single soldier riding, with muffled drums, to his grave in Hollywood. The quick step or the slow gait of the riderless horse; the wild cheers or the silence on the pavement; the “Bonnie Blue Flag” or the funeral dirge before the coffin; the eager faces of men walking to where death was or the fallen ones of those who came back with the dead; the bold flags taking the wind like sails or the banners furled with crepe as they drooped forward — there was not a day when these things did not go by near together. To Virginia, sitting at her window, it was as if life and death walked on within each other’s shadow.

***

That afternoon the sound of the guns rolled up the Williamsburg road, and in the streets men shouted hoarsely of an engagement with the enemy at Seven Pines. With the noise Virginia thrilled to her first feeling of danger, starting from a repose which, in its unconsciousness, had been as profound as sleep. The horror of war rushed in upon her at the moment, and with a cry she leaned out into the street, and listened for the next roll of the cannon.

A woman, with a scared face, looked up, saw her, and spoke hysterically.

“There’s not a man left in the city,” she cried. “They’ve taken my father to defend the breastworks and he’s near seventy. If you can sew or wash or cook, there’ll be work enough for you, God knows, to-morrow!”

She hurried on and Virginia, turning from the window, buried herself in the pillows upon the bed, trying in vain to shut out the noise of the cannonading and the perfume of the magnolia blossoms which came in on the southern breeze. With night the guns grew silent and the streets empty, but still the girl lay sleepless, watching with frightened eyes the shadow of Mammy Riah’s palm-leaf fan.

At dawn the restless murmur began again, and Virginia, looking out in the hot sunrise, saw the crowd hastening back to the hospitals lower down. They were all there, all as they had been the day before – old men limping out for news or returning beside the wounded; women with trembling lips and arms filled with linen; ambulances passing the corner at a walk, surrounded by men who had staggered after them because there was no room left inside; and following always the same curious, pallid throng, fresh upon the scent of some new tragedy. Presently the ambulances gave out, and yet the wounded came – some walking, and moaning as they walked, some borne on litters by devoted servants, some drawn in market wagons pressed into use. The great warehouses and the churches were thrown open to give them shelter, but still they came and still the cry went up, “Room, more room!”

Virginia watched it all, leaning out to follow the wagons as they passed the corner. The sight sickened her, but something that was half a ghastly fascination, and half the terror of missing a face she knew, kept her hour after hour motionless upon her knees. At each roll of the guns she gave a nervous shiver and grew still as stone.

***

The sun was already high above, and the breeze, which had blown for three days from the river, had dropped suddenly since dawn. Down the brick pavement the relentless glare flashed back into the sky which hung hot blue overhead. To Virginia, coming from the shade of her rooms, the city seemed a furnace and the steady murmur a great discord in which every note was one of pain.

Into the rude hospitals, one after one, she went without shuddering, passing up and down between the ghastly rows lying half clothed upon the bare plank floors. Her eyes were strained and eager, and more than one dying man turned to look after her as she went by, and carried the memory of her face with him to death. Once she stopped and folded a blanket under the head of a boy who moaned aloud, and then gave him water from a pitcher close at hand. “You’re so cool – so cool,” he sobbed, clutching at her dress, but she smiled like one asleep and passed on rapidly.

When the long day had worn out at last, she came from an open store filled with stretchers, and started homeward over the burning pavement. Her search was useless, and the reaction from her terrible fear left her with a sudden tremor in her heart. As she walked she leaned heavily upon Mammy Riah, and her colour came and went in quick flashes. The heat had entered into her brain and with it the memory of open wounds and the red hands of surgeons. Reaching the house at last, she flung herself all dressed upon the bed and fell into a sleep that was filled with changing dreams.

At midnight she cried out in agony, believing herself to be still in the street. When Mammy Riah bent over her she did not know her, but held out shaking hands and asked for her mother, calling the name aloud in the silent house, deserted for the sake of the hospitals lower down. She was walking again on and on over the hot bricks, and the deep wounds were opening before her eyes while the surgeons went by with dripping hands. Once she started up and cried out that the terrible blue sky was crushing her down to the pavement which burned her feet. Then the odour of the magnolia filled her nostrils, and she talked of the scorching dust, of the noise that would not stop, and of the feeble breeze that blew toward her from the river. All night she wandered back and forth in the broad glare of the noon, and all night Mammy Riah passed from the clinging hands to the window where she looked for help in the empty street. And then, as the gray dawn broke, Virginia put her simple services by, and spoke in a clear voice.

“Oh, how lovely,” she said, as if well pleased. A moment more and she lay smiling like a child, her chin pressed deep in her open palm.

In the full sunrise a physician, who had run in at the old woman’s cry, came from the house and stopped bareheaded in the breathless heat. For a moment he stared over the moving city and then up into the cloudless blue of the sky.

“God damn war!” he said suddenly, and went back to his knife.

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George Ade: The dubious rights granted a people “liberated” through war

September 25, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

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George Ade
Two Rebellions (1899)

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“I just wanted to ask you about a certain passage in the school history,” said Mr. Kakyak, the Tagalo, addressing the American missionary.

Washington Conner – “Yes?”

Kakyak – “Here it is. (Reads) ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it – ‘”

Conner – “I remember the passage perfectly. You are reading from the second paragraph of the declaration of independence. What of it?”

Kakyak – “Well, do the people of your country still indorse the sentiments contained in that declaration?”

Conner – “I don’t suppose we are legally bound by anything contained in the declaration of independence. In a general way, however, we still agree with what it says there.”

Kakyak – “Do you still maintain that ‘governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed’?”

Conner – “Nothing in that declaration of independence applies to the Malay division of the human race. That declaration was prepared by white men.”

Kakyak – “Then it should read: ‘All men (except Malay) are created equal’ or perhaps ‘all white men are created equal’?”

Conner – “For a great many years that passage was supposed to mean ‘all white men,’ just as you suggest. Stephen A. Douglas, an eminent statesman, maintained that the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and the privileges of self-government belonged to the white race alone. Abraham Lincoln claimed that the word ‘men’ had a more general application and included negroes as well. We had a very bitter and destructive civil war in America, and after it was all over we reached the conclusion that the negro has the same unalienable rights as the white man. But we would never admit that the Tagalo has these rights, if that’s what you’re driving at.”

Kakyak – “I am simply seeking information – trying to find the exact status of my countrymen. You see the Filipino insur – rebels, I mean – have set up the claim that they have the same rights as the Americans claimed in 1776. They have organized a provisional government, just as the colonies did. They are fighting for – well, what they conceive to be their rights. In what respect are they different from the thirteen colonies that rebelled against Great Britain?”

Conner – “The situation is entirely different. Our forefathers in America threw off the British yoke because they had been made the victims of a long train of abuses which you will find set forth in the declaration of independence in front of you – two whole pages. The Tagalos, on the other hand, are resisting a government which is wise, humane and just, with charity for all.”

Kakyak – “How do we know this?”

Conner – “Because we tell you so.”

Kakyak – “You say the thirteen colonies resisted British authority because they had been persecuted and unjustly taxed. Suppose that after they had issued this declaration of independence and founded a provisional government of their own, Great Britain had relented and promised to correct all the abuses of which there had been complaint. Do you think the colonists would have been willing to go back and accept British rule?”

Conner – “Perhaps not, but -”

Kakyak – “Another question. I read in here that France helped the colonies in their war against Great Britain, just as the Americans last year helped us in our revolt against the Spanish, here in this island. Now, suppose that before the British had been driven from the colonies, Great Britain and France had made a treaty in which Great Britain, in consideration of a large sum of money, had transferred the colonies to France. Do you think the colonists would have accepted French rule simply because the French had been their friends during the war?”

Conner – “Your questions are preposterous, Mr. Kakyak. It is evident that you are trying to demonstrate that the present rebellion in this island bears some resemblance to the revolutionary uprising in America in 1776. You seem to forget that the colonial fathers were an intelligent, high-minded body of patriots while the Tagalos are simple islanders who have a vague longing to govern themselves and mistake this longing for genuine patriotism.”

Kakyak – “Whether it is patriotism or not, a great many of them have been willing to die for it. Your colonial fathers could not do more than that.”

Conner – “Look here, Mr. Kakyak, do you realize that your conversation to-day borders very closely on treason?”

Kakyak – “Perhaps so. I have become rather inflamed from reading the declaration of independence.”

Conner – “I can see that you still cling to the idea that the Tagalos ought to have a government of their own.”

Kakyak – “I think they ought to be given a chance to govern themselves.”

Conner – “But the Tagalos are only one tribe.”

Kakyak – “We number one and a half millions. There were only three million colonists.”

Conner – “But they were a different kind of people.”

Kakyak – “They held slaves. We are too civilized to do that.”

Conner – “Don’t you see that it would be impossible, under prevailing conditions, to give you Tagalos a separate and independent government? You are only one of many tribes. Why, there are tribes right on this island who are ready and willing to accept American rule.”

Kakyak – “Those are the bow men who live in the remote jungles. They do not have schools and churches and printing presses as we do, and so they have not been educated to a desire for liberty. I read in this history that when the colonists rebelled against the British the Indians who lived on the British possessions that surrounded the colonies did not join in the rebellion or the revolution, but continued to be friendly with the British. If I am not mistaken, they helped the British on more than one occasion, and massacred whole villages of the rebels – I mean the colonists. So, you see, the colonists did not have the sympathy of the savage tribes any more than we have. I’ll admit that the Tagalos do not hold all the territory in Luzon, but they occupy all that part of the island which is civilized and under cultivation. As far as that’s concerned, the thirteen colonies were only a little patch of North America. They occupied less than one-forth of the British holdings in North America, yet they presumed to found a government of their own without the consent or co-operation of the inhabitants of the Indian country and the province acquired from the French.”

Conner – “I don’t know what you hope to accomplish by all these parallels. Suppose you do satisfy yourself that your countrymen are real liberty-loving patriots, the same as our forefathers in America were. What are you going to do about it?”

Kakyak – “I don’t know, I’m sure.”

Conner – “Did you expect us to come over here and destroy the Spanish fleet and afterwards pay out $20,000,000 for the mere satisfaction of permitting you people to govern yourselves?”

Kakyak – “That’s what we thought.”

Conner – “Then you have very elementary notions of business.”

Kakyak – “Let me begin at the beginning and tell how and why we have been deceived.”

Conner – “Mistaken, you mean.”

Kakyak – “Perhaps that would be a better word. When your fleet under Admiral Dewey came to Manila we were under the impression that the Americans had come to help us drive out the Spanish and set up a government of our own. That’s what my people have been fighting for and praying for ever since I can remember. Some of my neighbors said: ‘If the Americans come in here and defeat the Spanish they will take the island for themselves instead of letting us have a republic of our own.’ Then Aguinaldo and other leaders who had talked with the Americans assured us that the war against Spain was a war of humanity, that the Americans had gone into it because they believed in the rights of men and could no longer endure the spectacle of Spanish cruelties in Cuba. We were told that the Americans were willing to spend any amount of money to enforce justice and confer the blessings of liberty on a struggling people. We know that your countrymen were pledged to drive the Spanish out of Cuba and help the Cubans to establish a stable government of their own. We thought you would treat us the same as you treated the Cubans.”

Conner – “We didn’t promise you a stable government of your own. We have never conceded that you had a right to govern yourselves. Evidently you have jumped at conclusions.”

Kakyak – “But we hear such favorable reports of you that we believed you would give us a chance at self-government, even though you had made no specific promises. We thought that your conscience might help you to a conclusion.”

Conner – “Do you realize that we have paid $20,000,000 for these islands? Do you expect a business nation to go to work and throw away any such sum of money? You may rest assured that we will keep these islands. especially since President Schuman has reported so favorably on the good qualities of the Tagalos. I notice that he says in an interview that in two generations you Tagalos will be as far advanced, in all respects, as the Japanese.”

Kakyak – “When we are as far advanced as the Japanese do you still think we will consent to be governed by a foreign power?”

Conner – “I don’t like the terms you use. You talk of ‘government’ and ‘foreign power’ as if the United States intended to oppress you, instead of making you highly civilized through the workings of benevolent assimilation.”

Kakyak – “Well, I wish I knew just what going to become of us. After this war is over, Mr. Conner, after all the fighting rebels have been killed and peace has been restored, don’t you think your countrymen will relent somewhat and decide to give us a chance to govern ourselves?”

Conner – “I shouldn’t like to hold out false hopes, Mr. Kakyak. I think I can best answer your question by reading a newspaper clipping which I just received from the United States. It is an extract from a speech delivered by President McKinley at the Ocean Grove camp meeting. Here it is:”

(Reads)

“‘The flag does not mean one thing in the United States and another in Puerto Rico and the Philippines. There has been some doubt expressed in some quarters as to the purpose of the government in respect to the Philippines. I can see no harm in stating this in this presence. Peace first, then, with charity for all, an established government of law and order, protecting life, property and occupation, for the well being of the people in which they will participate under the stars and stripes.'”

Kakyak – “What does it mean?”

Conner – “Well, a true statesman is always indefinite, but as nearly as I can figure it out means, ‘You don’t get it.’ Note the word ‘occupation.’ That means that we are going to remain.”

Kakyak – “How about the word ‘participation’?”

Conner – “Participation is a beautifully copious word. That’s why McKinley used it. But it satisfied the people at the camp meeting, so you ought not to kick.”

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Vittorio Alfieri: Thousands immolated on the altar of despotism, slaves born but to fertilize the soil

September 24, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Italian writers on war and militarism

Vittorio Alfieri: The infamous trade of soldier, the sole basis of all arbitrary authority

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Vittorio Alfieri
From Memoirs
Anonymous translation of 1810

VITTORIOALFIERI

I visited Zorndorff, a spot rendered famous by the sanguinary battle fought between the Russians and the Prussians, where thousands of men on both sides were immolated on the altar of despotism and thus escaped the galling yoke which oppressed them. The place of their interment was easily recognised by its greater verdure and by yielding more abundant corn than the barren and unproductive soil in its immediate vicinity. On this occasion I reflected with sorrow that slaves seemed everywhere only born to fertilize the soil on which they vegetate.

***

The trade of arms and the life of a soldier were never conformable to me character; but I relished them still less in a country where liberty and freedom are altogether unknown.

***

I would rather, I affirm, be unknown to my contemporaries than write in the deaf-mute French and English languages though their cannons and their armies have rendered these languages fashionable. I would rather write good Italian verses, even with the certainty of seeing them despised and neglected for the moment, than write in either English, French, or any other tyrant jargon, though assured that my productions would be immediately read, admired, and applauded. There is a great difference to our own ears in sounding a fine tuned harp even when no one is present to listen, and blowing a detestable bagpipe, however much an ignorant audience might applaud the performance.

***

Very few of our friends dared to visit us and that extremely seldom, lest it might awaken the suspicions of our legalistic military despotism, which of all monsters is the truly most ridiculous, cruel, and insupportable. It is a tiger led by a hare.

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Hamlin Garland: Cog in a vast machine for killing men

September 23, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

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Hamlin Garland
From The Return of a Private (1891)

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The nearer the train drew toward La Crosse, the soberer the little group of “vets” became. On the long way from New Orleans they had beguiled tedium with jokes and friendly chaff; or with planning with elaborate detail what they were going to do now, after the war. A long journey, slowly, irregularly, yet persistently pushing northward. When they entered on Wisconsin Territory they gave a cheer, and another when they reached Madison, but after that they sank into a dumb expectancy. Comrades dropped off at one or two points beyond, until there were only four or five left who were bound for La Crosse County.

Three of them were gaunt and brown, the fourth was gaunt and pale, with signs of fever and ague upon him. One had a great scar down his temple; one limped; and they all had unnaturally large bright eyes, showing emaciation. There were no bands greeting them at the stations, no banks of gaily dressed ladies waving hand-kerchiefs and shouting “Bravo!” as they came in on the caboose of a freight tram into the towns that had cheered and blared at them on their way to war…

The station was deserted, chill, and dark, as they came into it at exactly a quarter to two in the morning. Lit by the oil lamps that flared a dull red light over the dingy benches, the waiting room was not an inviting place. The younger man went off to look up a hotel, while the rest remained and prepared to camp down on the floor and benches. Smith was attended to tenderly by the other men, who spread their blankets on the bench for him, and by robbing themselves made quite a comfortable bed, though the narrowness of the bench made his sleeping precarious. It was chill, though August, and the two men sitting with bowed heads grew stiff with cold and weariness, and were forced to rise now and again, and walk about to warm their stiffened limbs It didn’t occur to them, probably, to contrast their coming home with their going forth, or with the coming home of the generals, colonels, or even captains – but to Private Smith, at any rate, there came a sickness at heart almost deadly, as he lay there on his hard bed and went over his situation.

***

He thought of his chum, Billy Tripp. Poor Billy! A “mime” ball fell into his breast one day, fell wailing like a cat, and tore a great ragged hole in his heart. He looked forward to a sad scene with Billy’s mother and sweet-heart. They would want to know all about it. He tried to recall all that Billy had said, and the particulars of it, but there was little to remember, just that wild wailing sound high in the air, a dull slap, a short, quick, expulsive groan, and the boy lay with his face in the dirt in the plowed field they were marching across. That was all. But all the scenes he had since been through had not dimmed the horror, the terror of that moment, when his boy comrade fell, with only a breath between a laugh and a death groan. Poor handsome Billy!…

A few years ago they had bought this farm, paying part, mortgaging the rest in the usual way. Edward Smith was a man of terrible energy. He worked “nights and Sundays,” as the saying goes, to clear the farm of its brush and of its insatiate mortgage. In the midst of his Herculean struggle came the call for volunteers, and with the grim and unselfish devotion to his country which made the Eagle Brigade able to “whip its weight in wildcats,” he threw down his scythe and his grub ax, turned his cattle loose, and became a blue-coated cog in a vast machine for killing men, and not thistles. While the millionaire sent his money to England for safekeeping, this man, with his girl-wife and three babies, left them on a mortgaged farm and went away to fight for an idea…

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Langston Hughes: A mighty army serving human kind, not an army geared to kill

September 22, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

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Langston Hughes

langston

Peace

We passed their graves:
The dead men there,
Winners or losers,
Did not care.
In the dark
They could not see
Who had gained
The victory.

Give Us Our Peace (1945)

Give us a peace equal to the war
Or else our souls will be unsatisfied,
And we will wonder what we have fought for
And why the many died.

Give us a peace of accepting every challenge –
The challenge of the poor, the black, of all denied,
The challenge of the vast colonial world
That long has had so little justice by its side.

Give us a peace that dares us to be wise.
Give us a peace that dares us to be strong.
Give us a peace that dares us still uphold
Throughout the peace our battle against wrong.

Give us a peace that is not cheaply used,
A peace that is no clever scheme,
A people’s peace for which men can enthuse,
A peace that brings reality to our dream.

Give us a peace that will produce great schools –
As the war produced great armament,
A peace that will wipe out our slums –
As war wiped out our foes on evil bent.

Give us a peace that will enlist
A mighty army serving human kind,
Not just an army geared to kill,
But trained to help the living mind.

An army trained to shape our common good
And bring about a world of brotherhood

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Humphrey Cobb: Generals are reassured by the smell of the dead

September 21, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Humphrey Cobb: Selections on war

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Humphrey Cobb
From Paths of Glory (1935)

A fire began to burn, over in the German lines. The fire grew brighter and revealed its shape: the sun. Slowly it raised itself out of the earth, red and hostile-looking, but welcomed to the men who watched it. It swelled to enormous size, then paused in delicate contact with the rim of the world like a dancer waiting for the first notes of the ballet. For a moment the two edges were tangent and seemed to cling. Then the sun stepped off the edge of the earth and was instantly floating in its own space.

The bombardment began to die down slowly and the holocaust was gradually extinguishing itself. The earth seemed to relax from its fearful punishment of steel. Men, too, relaxed a little and began to talk in monosyllables, elliptically. Later, it seemed very quiet after the paroxysmal gunfire…

The sun, to whose coming all this inferno had been but a prelude, moved higher in the cloudless sky, unmindful, so it seemed, of the havoc caused in honor of the event. Day was full now, and Langlois saw that it was really spring. He saw the delicate blades of grass which the bodies of his comrades had fertilized; he saw the little shoots of the shell-shocked trees. He saw the smoke-puffs of shrapnel being blown about by the light breezes. He saw birds making love in the wire that a short while before had been ringing with flying metal. He heard the pleasant sound of larks up there, near the zenith of the trajectories. He smiled a little. There was something profoundly saddening about it. It all seemed so fragile and so absurd.

***

The morning was cloudless and fresh with spring. The dawn bombardment had died down and there was nothing to show for it but some new shell-holes, in some places linking, in others superimposed upon the old ones. The general walked along the road enjoying the cool and fragrant morning. Now and then a whiff of a less fragrant smell would filter through the bristles of his nostrils, and he enjoyed that too, in a way. Casualties were a part of war. Where there were no casualties, there was no fighting. It would be unthinkable not to have fighting under a fighting commander. The smell of the dead reassured him on this point.

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F. Marion Crawford: The world dreads the very name of war, lest it should become universal once it breaks out

September 20, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

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F. Marion Crawford
From Marzio’s Crucifix (1887)

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“Your brother represents an idea,” answered the Cardinal. “That idea is the subversion of all social principle. It is an idea which must spread, because there is an enormous number of depraved men in the world who have a very great interest in the destruction of law…They will, it is true, always be a minority, because the greater part of mankind are determined that order shall not be destroyed. But those fellows will fight to the death, because they know that in that battle there will be no quarter for the vanquished. It will be a mighty struggle and will last long, but it will be decisive, and will perhaps never be revived when it is once over…”

“May we not be alive to see anything so dreadful!” exclaimed Don Paolo devoutly.

“No, you and I shall not see it. But those little children who are playing with chestnuts down there in the court – they will see it. The world is uneasy and dreads the very name of war, lest war should become universal if it once breaks out. Tell your brother that.”

“It is what he longs for. He is always speaking of it.”

“Then it is inevitable. When many millions like him have determined that there shall be evil done, it cannot long be warded off. Their blood be on their own heads.”

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Upton Sinclair: Selections on war

September 19, 2014 Leave a comment
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Alfred Neumann: European hegemony emerges from piled-up corpses, out of recent graves

September 18, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Alfred Neumann: Selections on war

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Alfred Neumann
From Empire (1936)
Translated by Eden and Cedar Paul

184712

Life is splendid. God, what is there so splendid about it? The dolorous town must first be beautiful. War rages: the Crimean War, a barbarous war in a barbarous land, war against the Russians, war of pestilence against the soldiers, whether these be Russians, Frenchmen, Englishmen, or Turks. There are three hundred thousand dead, it is rumoured, and only a fifth of that number from wounds, for the remaining four-fifths have succumbed to epidemic diseases. What sort of a war is that, and why is France taking part in it? Who asks such questions except with bated breath? Not a soul. Sebastopol has fallen. A glorious victory. The crown of good fortune. At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Peace Congress is sitting, while strings are pulled from the Tuileries, and the world hangs upon the sparse and kindly utterances of the Emperor. Vive l’Empereur! No need to whisper that, so one shouts.

***

The hope of absolute power danced upon the graves of those shot in the street-fighting of December 4th. Upon the piled-up corpses of the Crimean War was founded the hope of European hegemony. Good God, how hope returned to him again and again, clinging, authoritarian, and usually emerging out of recent graves. The righteous Le Bas had assured him that the luck of the New Caesar was not a sun but a sepulchral lamp.

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Mark Twain: Epitome of war, the killing of strangers against whom you feel no personal animosity

September 17, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Mark Twain: Selections on war

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Mark Twain
From The Private History of a Campaign That Failed (1885)

Mark_Twain_by_Abdullah_Frères,_1867

There was a veiled moonlight which was only just strong enough to enable us to mark the general shapes of objects. Presently a muffled sound caught our ears and we recognized the hoof-beats of a horse or horses. And right away, a figure appeared in the forest path; it could have been made of smoke, its mass had such little sharpness of outline. It was a man on horseback, and it seemed to me that there were others behind him. I got a hold of a gun in the dark, and pushed it through a crack between the logs, hardly knowing what I was doing, I was so dazed with fright. Somebody said “Fire!” I pulled the trigger, I seemed to see a hundred flashes and a hundred reports, then I saw the man fall down out of the saddle. My first feeling was of surprised gratification; my first impulse was an apprentice-sportsman’s impulse to run and pick up his game. Somebody said, hardly audibly, “Good, we’ve got him. Wait for the rest!” But the rest did not come. There was not a sound, not the whisper of a leaf; just the perfect stillness, an uncanny kind of stillness which was all the more uncanny on account of the damp, earthy, late night smells now rising and pervading it. Then, wondering, we crept out stealthily and approached the man. When we got to him, the moon revealed him distinctly. He was laying on his back with his arms abroad, his mouth was open and his chest was heaving with long gasps, and his white shirt front was splashed with blood. The thought shot through me that I was a murderer, that I had killed a man, a man who had never done me any harm. That was the coldest sensation that ever went through my marrow. I was down by him in a moment, helplessly stroking his forehead, and I would have given anything then, my own life freely, to make him again what he had been five minutes before. And all the boys seemed to be feeling the same way; they hung over him, full of pitying interest, and tried all they could to help him, and said all sorts of regretful things. They had forgotten all about the enemy, they thought only of this one forlorn unit of the foe. Once my imagination persuaded me that the dying man gave me a reproachful look out of the shadow of his eyes, and it seemed to me that I could rather that he had stabbed me than he had done that. He muttered and mumbled like a dreamer in his sleep about his wife and his child, and, I thought with a new despair, “This thing that I have done does not end with him; it falls upon them too, and they never did me any harm, any more than he.”

In a little while the man was dead. He was killed in war, killed in fair and legitimate war, killed in battles as you may say, and yet he was as sincerely mourned by the opposing force as if he had been their brother. The boys stood there a half-hour sorrowing over him and recalling the details of the tragedy, and wondering who he might be and if he was a spy, and saying if they had it to do over again, they would not hurt him unless he attacked them first. It soon turned out that mine was not the only shot fired; there were five others, a division of the guilt which was a great relief to me since it in some degree lightened and diminished the burden I was carrying. There were six shots fired at once but I was not in my right mind at the time, and my heated imagination had magnified my one shot into a volley.

The mans was not in uniform and was not armed. He was a stranger in the country, that was all we ever found out about him. The thought of him got to preying on me every night, I could not get rid of it. I could not drive it away, the taking of that unoffending life seemed such a wanton thing. And it seemed an epitome of war, that all war must just be the killing of strangers against whom you feel no personal animosity, strangers who in other circumstances you would help if you found them in trouble, and who would help you if you needed it…

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Sinclair Lewis: Get us into war just to grease their insane vanity and show the world that we’re the huskiest nation going

September 16, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Sinclair Lewis: Selections on war

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Sinclair Lewis
From It Can’t Happen Here (1935)

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“Well, all the birdies in their nest agree. My friend, Mrs. Pike, ought to know that freedom of speech becomes mere license when it goes so far as to criticize the Army, differ with the D.A.R., and advocate the rights of the Mob. So, Lorinda, I think you ought to apologize to the General, to whom we should be grateful for explaining to us what the ruling classes of the country really want. Come on now, my friend – jump up and make your excuses.”

He was looking down on Lorinda with sternness, yet Medary Cole, president of Rotary, wondered if Doremus wasn’t “kidding” them. He had been known to. Yes – no – he must be wrong, for Mrs. Lorinda Pike was (without rising) caroling, “Oh yes! I do apologize, General! Thank you for your revelatory speech!”

The General raised his plump hand (with a Masonic ring as well as a West Point ring on the sausage-shaped fingers); he bowed like Galahad or a head-waiter; he shouted with parade-ground maleness: “Not at all, not at all, madame! We old campaigners never mind a healthy scrap. Glad when anybody’s enough interested in our fool ideas to go and get sore at us, huh, huh, huh!”

And everybody laughed and sweetness reigned. The program wound up with Louis Rotenstern’s singing of a group of patriotic ditties: “Marching through Georgia” and “Tenting on the Old Campground” and “Dixie” and “Old Black Joe” and “I’m Only a Poor Cowboy and I Know I Done Wrong.”

***

Said Doremus, “Hm. Yes, I agree it’s a serious time. With all the discontent there is in the country to wash him into office, Senator Windrip has got an excellent chance to be elected President, next November, and if he is, probably his gang of buzzards will get us into some war, just to grease their insane vanity and show the world that we’re the huskiest nation going. And then I, the Liberal, and you, the Plutocrat, the bogus Tory, will be led out and shot at 3 A.M. Serious? Huh!”

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Nathanael West: Not their fault, they thought they had bombed a hospital

September 15, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Nathanael West: Selections on war

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Nathanael West
From Good Hunting (1938)

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GERALD
(To JARVIS)

This is exciting – my first experience under fire!

JARVIS

We’re going splendidly!

FIZTSIMMONS
(Snapping)

We always get this far!

GERALD

It gives you a queer sensation not to hear the firing…

FITZSIMMONS

Cup your hand over your ear…

(GERALD does so)

That humming noise…like a swarm of bees.

GERALD
(Excited)

Yes…I hear it!

FITZSIMMONS

That’s the war.

***

FITZSIMMONS

Sounds like a German…a Taub bomber…

GRACE
(Not frightened)

Oh, will he drop something on us?

HARGREAVES

No – certainly not – we have an unwritten agreement with the enemy – we don’t bomb each other’s staffs.

(Suddenly there is a tremendous explosion – a part of the ceiling falls with a crash)

HARGREAVES
(Great indignation)

The barbarians!

AD LIB FROM THE OFFICERS

The dirty Boches!
Scoundrels!
Bombing staff headquarters!
Unheard of!
What treachery!
The blackguards!

(FITZSIMMONS rushes to door and shouts outside as others mill around)

AD LIB

The dirty dogs!
Ill-mannered louts!
What’s the war coming to!

HRAGREAVES

Are they mad – bombing the staff!

(FITZSIMMONS appears at the door again)

FITZSIMMONS

It’s not their fault!

HARGREAVES

What!

FITZSIMMONS

We forgot to take the red cross off the roof! They thought the place was still a hospital.

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Humphrey Cobb: War never settled anything except who was the strongest

September 14, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Humphrey Cobb: Selections on war

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Humphrey Cobb
From Paths of Glory (1935)

Assolant looked into the binoculars and failed to control the start which Dax had hoped to surprise from him by the sight he had prepared. The telescopic lenses seemed to spring the mass of bodies right into his face. The bodies were so tangled that most of them could not be distinguished one from the other. Hideous, distorted and putrescent, they lay tumbled upon each other or hung in the wire in obscene attitudes, a shocking mound of human flesh, swollen and discolored…

***

“What about the unborn children?”

“What about them? I wish I was an unborn child this minute…”

“That’s because we’re going to attack tomorrow.”

“D’you think you’re doing anyone a favor by creating them out of nothing for the very doubtful joy of living a life of misery and pain in the world of men, the most savage of the predatory animals?”

“It’s nature’s law. I’ve got nothing to do with it.”

“Take this war,” Langlois continued. “Do you think our parents would have had us if they had foreseen the things they were sentencing us to?”

“Probably. There have always been wars and there always will be. They’re part of life, like disease, storms, death…”

“It takes a fool to make war, if you judge by those who are making this one. The attack they’re pushing us into now, it’s just plain murder. Look at what the Boches did to the Tirailleurs. Anyway, war never settled anything except who was the strongest.”

“Well, that’s something.”

“It’s not enough.”

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The Devil Quotes Scripture To Drag Ukraine Into NATO, Europe Into War

September 13, 2014 6 comments

Ukrinform
September 13, 2014

Yatseniuk says about NATO membership, remembering Bible

The Prime Minister of Ukraine visits NATO
Yats and Ras (the Iscariot boys)

KYIV: Only the NATO membership can protect Ukraine from Russian aggression.

Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseniy Yatseniuk said within the frames of the 11th Annual Meeting of Yalta European Strategy YES, held in Kyiv, a Ukrinform correspondent reports.

“We must clearly recognize that, in these particular circumstances, NATO is the only way to protect Ukraine,” Yatseniuk said.

According to him, not all NATO members are satisfied with this position of Ukraine.

“In the short term, NATO is not ready to accept Ukraine, but the Bible says: if knocking on the door – the door will open. So we decided to knock,” the head of the government said.

Yatseniuk is sure that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to take over the entire territory of Ukraine: “I clearly understand what the ultimate goal is. He seeks to take not just Donetsk and Luhansk, he wants to take the whole of Ukraine. ”

However Yatseniuk noted that “this will never happen, we will fight for our Ukraine.”

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Margaret Fuller: America, with no prouder emblem than the Dove

September 13, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

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Margaret Fuller
From Fourth of July (1845)

Margaret_Fuller_by_Chappel

The bells ring; the cannon rouse the echoes along the river shore; the boys sally forth with shouts and little flags, and crackers enough to frighten all the people they meet from sunrise to sunset. The orator is conning for the last time the speech in which he has vainly attempted to season with some new spice the yearly panegyric upon our country; its happiness and glory; the audience is putting on its best bib and tucker, and its blandest expression to listen.

And yet, no heart, we think, can beat to-day with one pulse of genuine, noble joy. Those who have obtained their selfish objects will not take especial pleasure in thinking of them to-day, while to unbiassed minds must come sad thoughts of national honor soiled in the eyes of other nations, of a great inheritance risked, if not forfeited.

Much has been achieved in this country since the Declaration of Independence. America is rich and strong; she has shown great talent and energy; vast prospects of aggrandizement open before her. But the noble sentiment which she expressed in her early youth is tarnished; she has shown that righteousness is not her chief desire, and her name is no longer a watchword for the highest hopes to the rest of the world. She knows this, but takes it very easily; she feels that she is growing richer and more powerful, and that seems to suffice her.

These facts are deeply saddening to those who can pronounce the words “my country” with pride and peace only so far as steadfast virtues, generous impulses, find their home in that country. They cannot be satisfied with superficial benefits, with luxuries and the means of obtaining knowledge which are multiplied for them. They could rejoice in full hands and a busy brain, if the soul were expanding and the heart pure; but, the higher conditions being violated, what is done cannot be done for good.

Such thoughts fill patriot minds as the cannon-peal bursts upon the ear. This year, which declares that the people at large consent to cherish and extend slavery as one of our “domestic institutions,” takes from the patriot his home. This year, which attests their insatiate love of wealth and power, quenches the flame upon the altar.

***

We know not where to look for an example of all or many of the virtues we would seek from the man who is to begin the new dynasty that is needed of fathers of the country. The country needs to be born again; she is polluted with the lust of power, the lust of gain. She needs fathers good enough to be godfathers — men who will stand sponsors at the baptism with all they possess, with all the goodness they can cherish, and all the wisdom they can win, to lead this child the way she should go, and never one step in another. Are there not in schools and colleges the boys who will become such men? Are there not those on the threshold of manhood who have not yet chosen the broad way into which the multitude rushes, led by the banner on which, strange to say, the royal Eagle is blazoned, together with the word Expediency? Let them decline that road, and take the narrow, thorny path where Integrity leads, though with no prouder emblem than the Dove. They may there find the needed remedy, which, like the white root, detected by the patient and resolved Odysseus, shall have power to restore the herd of men, disguised by the enchantress to whom they had willingly yielded in the forms of brutes, to the stature and beauty of men.

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Upton Sinclair: What it costs a woman to keep the world at war

September 12, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Upton Sinclair: How wars start, how they can be prevented

Upton Sinclair: The lost people are those who go to be shot, killed in big war (Dante through Vanzetti)

Upton Sinclair: War’s one-sided boost to the economy

Upton Sinclair: World war as a business enterprise

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Upton Sinclair
From Boston (1928)

1_2-Sinclair-young-man

There came days when the trip to her work and back again were infernal experiences, recalling those regions of Dante where the lost souls are frozen solid in ice. But in the great poet’s story it is possible to see the damned, while here they stumbled through pitch darkness, at half past six in the morning and the same hour in the evening. Cornelia would get her coat buttoned tight over a sweater and the family would pin her shawl over her head and ears, leaving just a peep-hole for the eyes and nose. Then with her hands in her mittens, and these tucked under her shawl, she would start the long journey, with Brini’s big hand grasping her under the arm. They would go staggering through snow-drifts, sliding on the ice and packed sleet; her hands would be half frozen, yet she would have to jerk them out to catch Brini and keep from breaking her bones. The pitiless winds would howl and buffer her and stab through her clumsy garments: the whirling snow would blind her – yet there was not much danger of getting lost, there being a stream of bundled figures plodding to the same goal. In was January of 1916, and out across the storm-lashed ocean the ships were being sunk, so there must be more cordage to keep the world at war. Any woman who failed to complete the journey twelve times per week would not have her pay-envelope with the six dollars on Thursday night…

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William Dean Howells to Henry James: The most stupid and causeless war

September 11, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

William Dean Howells: Selections on war

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From letters of William Dean Howells to Henry James
Members of the Anti-Imperialist League

WilliamDeanHowells

April 17, 1898

Of course I am distracted by the noises of the most stupid and causeless war that was ever imagined by a kindly and sensible nation. If there could be anything worse than the Zola trial it would be our behavior to Spain…The strange thing is that nobody, except the newspapers and the politicians, want war. It will set every good cause back and heaven knows when people will want to read novels again; one jingo journal has amusingly promised the public relief from mine if the war comes.

July 31, 1898

We are in sight of peace. Our war for humanity has unmasked itself as a war for coaling stations, and we are going to keep our booty to punish Spain for putting us to the trouble of using violence in robbing her.

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James Fenimore Cooper: Oppression and injustice the natural consequences of military power uncurbed by restraints of civil authority

September 10, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

James Fenimore Cooper: Is there a star where war and bloodshed aren’t known?

James Fenimore Cooper: War’s victory not worth the sacrifice of human life

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James Fenimore Cooper
From The Spy (1821)

Cooper

The convenience, and perhaps the necessities, of American arms, in the neighborhood of New York, had induced them to employ certain subordinate agents, of extremely irregular habits, in executing their lesser plans of annoying their enemy. It was not a moment for fastidious inquiries into abuses of any description, and oppression and injustice were the natural consequences of a military power that was uncurbed by the restraints of civil authority. In times, a distinct order of the community was formed, whose sole occupation appears to have been that of relieving their fellow-citizens from any little excess of temporal prosperity they might be thought to enjoy, under the pretence of patriotism, and the love of liberty.

***

The intruder was a man still young in years, but his lineaments bespoke a mind long agitated by evil passions. His dress was of the meanest materials, and so ragged and unseemly, as to give him the appearance of studied poverty. His hair was prematurely whitened, and his sunken, lowering eye avoided the bold, forward look of innocence. There was a restlessness in his movements, and an agitation in his manner, that proceeded from the workings of the foul spirit within him, and which was not less offensive to others than distressing to himself. This man was a well-known leader of one of those gangs of marauders who infested the county with a semblance of patriotism, and who were guilty of every grade of offense, from simple theft up to murder. Behind him stood several other figures clad in a similar manner, but whose countenances expressed nothing more than the indifference of brutal insensibility. They were well armed with muskets and bayonets, and provided with the usual implements of foot soldiers…

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Sinclair Lewis: General: State of peace far worse than war

September 9, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Sinclair Lewis: Selections on war

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Sinclair Lewis
From It Can’t Happen Here (1935)

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The General was short and globular, and his red face was smooth as a baby’s bottom and adorned with white-gold-framed spectacles. But he had the military snort and a virile chuckle.

“Well, sir!” he guffawed, on his feet, shaking a chummy forefinger at Mrs. Gimmitch, “since you folks are bound and determined to drag the secrets out of a poor soldier, I better confess that while I do abhor war, yet there are worse things. Ah, my friends, far worse! A state of so-called peace, in which labor organizations are riddled, as by plague germs, with insane notions out of anarchistic Red Russia! A state in which college professors, newspapermen, and notorious authors are secretly promulgating these same seditious attacks on the grand old Constitution! A state in which, as a result of being fed with these mental drugs, the People are flabby, cowardly, grasping, and lacking in the fierce pride of the warrior! No, such a state is far worse than war at its most monstrous!

“I guess maybe some of the things I said in my former speech were kind of a little bit obvious and what we used to call ‘old hat’ when my brigade was quartered in England. About the United States only wanting peace, and freedom from all foreign entanglements. No! What I’d really like us to do would be to come out and tell the whole world: ‘Now you boys never mind about the moral side of this. We have power, and power is its own excuse!’

“I don’t altogether admire everything Germany and Italy have done, but you’ve got to hand it to ’em, they’ve been honest enough and realistic enough to say to the other nations, ‘Just tend to your own business, will you? We’ve got strength and will, and for whomever has those divine qualities it’s not only a right, it’s a duty, to use ’em!’ Nobody in God’s world ever loved a weakling – including that weakling himself!

“And I’ve got good news for you! This gospel of clean and aggressive strength is spreading everywhere in this country among the finest type of youth. Why today, in 1936, there’s less than 7 per cent of collegiate institutions that do not have military-training units under discipline as rigorous as the Nazis, and where once it was forced upon them by the authorities, now it is the strong young men and women who themselves demand the right to be trained in warlike virtues and skill – for, mark you, the girls, with their instruction in nursing and the manufacture of gas masks and the like, are becoming every whit as zealous as their brothers. And all the really thinking type of professors are right with ’em!

“Why, here, as recently as three years ago, a sickeningly big percentage of students were blatant pacifists, wanting to knife their own native land in the dark. But now, when the shameless fools and the advocates of Communism try to hold pacifist meetings – why, my friends, in the past five months, since January first, no less than seventy-six such exhibitionistic orgies have been raided by their fellow students, and no less than fifty-nine disloyal Red students have received their just deserts by being beaten up so severely that never again will they raise in this free country the bloodstained banner of anarchism! That, my friends, is NEWS!”

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James Whitcomb Riley: Sang! sang on! sang hate – sang war –

September 8, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

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James Whitcomb Riley
Song of the Bullet

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It whizzed and whistled along the blurred
And red-blent ranks; and it nicked the star
Of an epaulette, as it snarled the word –
War!

On it sped – and the lifted wrist
Of the ensign-bearer stung, and straight
Dropped at his side as the word was hissed –
Hate!

On went the missile – smoothed the blue
Of a jaunty cap and the curls thereof,
Cooing, as a dove might do –
Love!

Sang! sang on! sang hate – sang war –
Sang love, in sooth, till it needs must cease,
Hushed in the heart it was questing for –
Peace!

***

From Who Bides His Time (1883)

Who bides his time, and fevers not
In the hot race that none achieves,
Shall wear cool-wreathen laurel, wrought
With crimson berries in the leaves;
And he shall reign a goodly king,
And sway his hand o’er every clime
With peace writ on his signet-ring,
Who bides his time.

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Upton Sinclair: New Lysistratas: Women must refuse to have babies until men stop killing

September 7, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Upton Sinclair: Selections on war

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Upton Sinclair
From Boston (1928)

Upton Sinclair

“Maybe the ‘antis’ were right, Grannie – women are not meant to meddle in politics! Maybe we ought to stay home and look after the babies, like Aunt Clara. And when we get the babies raised, the old men step in and send them off to the battle-field, so what’s the use? I go over and over it in my mind, and the only conclusion is that this generation of girls must go on strike, and refuse to have babies until the men stop killing…”

***

Lies! Lies! It was the autumn of the year 1920, and a great political campaign was at its climax; America had ceased to be a republic, it was an absolute monarchy, its ruler the Prince of Lies!

***

Captain John Quincy Thornwell, Jr., Cornelia’s grand-nephew, oldest son of the president of the First National Bank of Boston, had been an officer in Battery A, the fashionable militia organization, in which the young blue-bloods dashed about expensively. Tall, golden-haired, haughty, he had looked so “fetching” in his fancy uniform that he had fetched a wife who would some day own ten per cent of the electric light industry of New England. “Captain John” was a director in his father’s bank, a builder of airplanes, and of anything else which had to do with killing – so sure of his own superiority he was.

Never would Cornelia forget the day when he and his unit had departed for France. She had gone with the heart-broken young wife to see them off; a dreadful experience – all the Boston blue-bloods there in their expensive limousines, many of them stuck in a swampy field alongside the Ipswich River, caught by a sudden deluge of rain, and an ear-splitting thunderstorm; all social influence, all family connections set at nought by the irreverent elements – it was quite like being at war – blue-bloods actually struck by lightning and killed! And these refined and delicately nurtured young Harvard men, dressed in water-soaked khaki plastered with mud, standing at attention for the “Star-Spangled Banner”; then struggling with exasperated horses, to get very real and bloodthirsty cannon dragged out of mudholes.

“Captain John” had ridden off, like many others, forever; in the desperate fighting in the Argonne Forest he had disappeared from human ken…

When Cornelia argued that “John did give his life for his country,” the new generation answered, “Don’t talk like a legionnaire! He gave his life for Father’s bonds. I didn’t want them and I’m not going to get them, so I can’t see that I owe any reverence to my military cousin.”

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Alfred Neumann: Empire destroys peace, converts liberalism into harvest of blood

September 6, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Alfred Neumann: Selections on war

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Alfred Neumann
From Another Caesar (1934)
Translated by Eden and Cedar Paul

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“Louis, genuine Bonapartism was the destiny of the first half of the century, and not for France alone. Spurious Bonapartism, taking its rise at the middle of this nineteenth century, will be the destiny of the second half of that century; and the Third Republic, which in due time will be its unhappy heir, will suffer from it – as, unquestionably, will Europe at large…You are liberal-minded, and will destroy liberalism; for, as a professedly liberal emperor, smiling and amiable, you will establish yourself as a tyrant, in order to keep yourself firmly seated in the saddle – as an avowed or masked tyrant. And your corrupted liberalism will have further evil effects, for it has shown itself to be manageable and practical, and will perhaps make even the twentieth century unhappy; you desire peace, you even love peace; your nature is unwarlike, and your heart, your good heart, is something your promptings may perhaps resist, yet it will never grow hard. You have coined the lying, the blasphemous formula that the empire is peace; but therewith you corrupt and destroy peace, for therewith you breed a pretentious nationalism, which soon, Louis, very soon, will be swept away by your traditional uniform and the longing for glory which should have been kept in the Napoleonic museum. The compromise which you have undertaken will be wrecked upon the dreadful desire for glory, for the glory which, sooner or later, the populace will demand from you as your dowry to France. With your relics of the War God, you will be forced to adopt a warlike policy, in order to divert the storm of disappointment from home affairs to foreign affairs…You, a man who hates bloodshed, will sow the seeds of bloodshed and will reap the harvest of blood; you will open the dreadful, the hateful drama of victor and vanquished, the interminable interchange of triumph and revenge, which will endure for generation after generation, and will annihilate them, or save remnants for the ensuing annihilation…”

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Erckmann-Chatrian: In a century the war gods will be recognized as barbarians

September 5, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Erckmann-Chatrian: In war belligerents conspire against their own citizens

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Erckmann-Chatrian
The Story of the Plebiscite
Told By One of the Seven Million Who Voted “Yes”
(1872)
Translator unknown

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And the Germans ran, some laughing, others astonished, gazing at the walls which they had won without a fight; for they have taken almost every place without fighting; they have shelled the poor inhabitants instead of storming the walls; they have starved the people. They may boast of having burnt more towns and villages, and killed more women and children in this one campaign, than all the other nations in all the wars of Europe since the Revolution.

But, to be sure, they are a religious people, much attached to the doctrines of the Gospel, and who sing hymns with much feeling. Their Emperor especially, after every successive bombardment, and every massacre – whilst women, children and old men are weeping around their houses destroyed by the enemy’s shells, and from the battle-fields strewn with heaps of dead are rising the groans and cries of thousands and thousands of sufferers whose lives are crushed, whose flesh is torn, whose bodies are rent and bleeding! – their Emperor, the venerable man, lifts his bloodstained hands to heaven and thanks God for having permitted him to commit these abominable deeds! Does he look upon God as his accomplice in crime?

***

They have won! That is to say, the survivors; for those who are buried, or who have lost their limbs, have no great gain to boast of, and can hardly rejoice over the success of the enterprise. They have gained – what ? The hatred of people who had loved them; they have gained that they will be obliged to fight every time their lords and masters give the order…they have gained the envy of a vast number of people, and the distrust of a vast many more, who will end by agreeing together to fall upon them in a body, and treat them to fire and slaughter and bombardment, of which they have set us the example.

This is what the peasants, the artisans and the bourgeois have gained; as for the chiefs they have won some a title, some a pension or an epaulette; others have the satisfaction of saying, “I am the great So-and-So! I am William, Emperor of Germany; a crown was set on my head at Versailles, whilst thousands of my subjects were biting the dust!”

Alas! notwithstanding all this, these people will die, and in a hundred years will be recognized as barbarians; their names will be inscribed on the roll of the plagues of the human race, and there they will remain to the end of time.

***

Humane Germans, fathers of families, pious men, seated quietly by their counters at Hamburg, Cologne, or Berlin, in every town and village of Germany, eating and drinking heartily, warming their fat legs before the fire during this winter of unexampled severity, cried to their king at Christmas time to bombard Paris, and set fire to the houses – to kill and burn fathers and mothers of families like themselves, but reduced to famine in their own dwellings!

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George Gissing: The imposition of military servitude

September 4, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

George Gissing: Selections on war

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George Gissing
From The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft (1903)

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A lettered German, speaking to me once of his year of military service, told me that, had it lasted but a month or two longer, he must have sought release in suicide. I know very well that my own courage would not have borne me to the end of the twelvemonth; humiliation, resentment, loathing, would have goaded me to madness. At school we used to be “drilled” in the playground once a week; I have but to think of it, even after forty years, and there comes back upon me that tremor of passionate misery which, at the time, often made me ill. The senseless routine of mechanic exercise was in itself all but unendurable to me; I hated the standing in line, the thrusting-out of arms and legs at a signal, the thud of feet stamping in constrained unison. The loss of individuality seemed to me sheer disgrace. And when, as often happened, the drill-sergeant rebuked me for some inefficiency as I stood in line, when he addressed me as “Number Seven!” I burned with shame and rage. I was no longer a human being; I had become part of a machine, and my name was “Number Seven.” It used to astonish me when I had a neighbour who went through the drill with amusement, with zealous energy; I would gaze at the boy, and ask myself how it was possible that he and I should feel so differently. To be sure, nearly all my schoolfellows either enjoyed the thing, or at all events went through it with indifference; they made friends with the sergeant, and some were proud of walking with him “out of bounds.” Left, right! Left, right! For my own part, I think I have never hated man as I hated that broad-shouldered, hard-visaged, brassy-voiced fellow. Every word he spoke to me, I felt as an insult. Seeing him in the distance, I have turned and fled, to escape the necessity of saluting, and, still more, a quiver of the nerves which affected me so painfully. If ever a man did me harm, it was he; harm physical and moral. In all seriousness I believe that something of the nervous instability from which I have suffered since boyhood is traceable to those accursed hours of drill, and I am very sure that I can date from the same wretched moments a fierceness of personal pride which has been one of my most troublesome characteristics. The disposition, of course, was there; it should have been modified, not exacerbated.

In younger manhood it would have flattered me to think that I alone on the school drill-ground had sensibility enough to suffer acutely. Now I had much rather feel assured that many of my schoolfellows were in the same mind of subdued revolt. Even of those who, boylike, enjoyed their drill, scarce one or two, I trust, would have welcomed in their prime of life the imposition of military servitude upon them and their countrymen. From a certain point of view, it would be better far that England should bleed under conquest than that she should be saved by eager, or careless, acceptance of Conscription. That view will not be held by the English people; but it would be a sorry thing for England if the day came when no one of those who love her harboured such a thought.

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Roger Vercel: Boats built for men to live in, ships built to kill

September 3, 2014 Leave a comment

Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Roger Vercel
From Aurora Borealis (1947)
Translated by Katherine Woods

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When he caught sight of the boat from a distance, he paused. The ice-breaker had the placid appearance of a houseboat, with its sides broadened out so as to provide comfortable lodging for the men who were committing themselves to its care. One understood from looking at it that it would make no attempt at speed, that it offered nothing of the luxury of ocean liners, but that it promised a sure asylum where where men might warm themselves again after cold, where they might live. In the vicinity of the warships, this domestic aspect asserted itself all the more. The swelling curves that enveloped the boat for the ice-fields expanded still further by contrast with the sharp and arid lines of the ships that were built to kill.

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Upton Sinclair: War’s one-sided boost to the economy

September 2, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Upton Sinclair: Selections on war

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Upton Sinclair
From Boston (1928)

Upton Sinclair

Now something more than ordinarily maleficent was befalling these humble wage-workers. It was happening all over the world, but they did not know that – they only knew Plymouth. The cost of everything they bought was going up day by day. Because of the war in Europe, the allied nations were borrowing money in America, and spending it for American goods. Exactly as Josiah Quincy Thornwell had foretold on the night of his death, it was making enormous and incredible prosperity for American manufacturers and stock-speculators; but also it was making higher and higher prices for the poor. And there was no corresponding increase in the wage, so close to the border-line of want; there was no authority charged with the task of calculating living costs, and adjusting earnings to them. The great industries which owned and rented tenements to their workers would raise the rent a dollar or two a month and tell the tenants that this was necessary; but they would overlook what might be necessary for the tenants.

***

The great rich company, the biggest cordage company in the world, which now in the second year of the great war was doing more business and making more money than ever in its history before, sent its officials before the state board to argue that wages of six dollars a week for unskilled women and nine dollars for unskilled men were abundant and generous…

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Humphrey Cobb: Hallucination of fantastic butchery; too much for one man to bear

September 1, 2014 Leave a comment

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Humphrey Cobb: Selections on war

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Humphrey Cobb
From Paths of Glory (1935)

This fear of his was, so far as he knew, an idiosyncrasy, one which grew with each step forward he was now taking, one which became more acute every time he had to perform the duty of leading his regiment into the trenches…All he could think of was the compact mass of living, human, vulnerable flesh, strung out for two kilometers or so behind him. All that he could think of was that in another half hour the whole two kilometers of compact, human, vulnerable flesh would be well within range of the German guns. The thought appalled him; it also prevented the saliva from forming in his mouth..

“Flesh, bodies, nerves, testicles, brains, arms, intestines, eyes…” He could feel the mass of it, the weight of it pushing forward, piling up on his defenseless shoulders, overwhelming him with an hallucination of fantastic butchery. A point of something formed in his stomach, then began to spread and rise slowly. It reached level near his diaphragm where it became stationary and seemed to embed itself. He could not dislodge it or budge it up or down, but he recognized it for what it was: the nausea induced by intense fear.

“Three thousand men. My men. To run the gauntlet of open, registered roads with three thousand men. All neatly packeted for the slaughter. It’s too much for one man to bear…Three thousand men, two kilometers of massed flesh. What a target!…”

***

“Flesh, bodies, nerves, legs…” Things were getting all mixed up in his mind. It seemed to be filled with flesh, cloyed with the sweetish smell of flesh that is torn open and over which blood is pouring. It was his flesh, their flesh, lying about still alive, but dying, dying so slowly, dying so fast…

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