Military Quotes

“The aim of military training is not just to prepare men for battle, but to make them long for it.” Louis Simpson

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“For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as they are today, I must face it and speak out.” Excerpt from a speech delivered in 1933, by Major General Smedley Butler, USMC, War Is A Racket
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“If it's natural to kill, how come men have to go into training to learn how?” Joan Baez
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“Men love their ideas more than their lives. And the more preposterous the idea, the more eager they are to die for it. And to kill for it.” Edward Abbey
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“Military justice is to justice what military music is to music.” Groucho Marx: American comedian, actor and singer, 1890-1977
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“If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one would remain in the ranks.” Frederick The Great

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“In the eyes of empire builders men are not men but instruments.” Napoleon Bonaparte, French Emperor (1769-1821)
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“They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country. But in modern war, there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason.” Ernest Hemmingway
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“The pioneers of a warless world are the youth that refuse military service.” Albert Einstein

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“Over grown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.” George Washington
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“It has been for some time a generally received opinion, that a military man is not to inquire whether a war be just or unjust; he is to execute his orders. All princes who are disposed to become tyrants must probably approve of this opinion, and be willing to establish it; but is it not a dangerous one, since, on that principle, if the tyrant commands his army to attack and destroy, not only an unoffending neighbor nation, but even his own subjects, the army is bound to obey? A negro slave, in our colonies, being commanded by his master to rob or murder a neighbor, or do any other immoral act, may refuse, and the magistrate will protect him in his refusal. The slavery then of a soldier is worse than that of a negro!” Benjamin Franklin to Benjamin Vaughan, 14 March 1785 (B 11:18 -9)

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“...And while everybody was tremendously impressed with the low cost of the conflict, for the 146 Americans who were killed in action and for their families, it wasn't a cheap war. And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth? And the answer is not very damned many.” Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, remarks to the Discovery Institute, 8/14/1992
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“Where is it written in the Constitution, in what article or section is it contained, that you may take children from their parents and parents from their children, and compel them to fight the battles of any war in which the folly and wickedness of the government may engage itself? Under what concealment has this power lain hidden, which now for the first time comes forth, with a tremendous and baleful aspect, to trample down and destroy the dearest right of personal liberty? Who will show me any Constitutional injunction which makes it the duty of the American people to surrender everything valuable in life, and even life, itself, whenever the purposes of an ambitious and mischievous government may require it? ... A free government with an uncontrolled power of military conscription is the most ridiculous and abominable contradiction and nonsense that ever entered into the heads of men.” Daniel Webster (1782-1852), US Senator, speech in the House of Representatives, January 14, 1814

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“Someday, the news media may get around to re-examining the assumption that killing foreigners in their own country is the best patriotic credential imaginable. A front-page New York Times story the other day referred to Sen. John McCain as “the most popular national political figure in the country.” McCain built his career in politics while news accounts routinely described him as a “war hero,” with frequent references to the captivity and torture that he withstood for years after a North Vietnamese missile brought him down from a plane he was piloting over Hanoi . Media outlets rarely put a fine point on the fact that McCain had been dropping bombs on civilians.” Norman Solomon, Beyond Hero-Worship, CommonDreams.org, August 27, 2004
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“How is a military drilled and trained to defend freedom, peace and happiness? This is what Major General O'Ryan has to say of an efficiently trained generation: ‘The soldier must be so trained that he becomes a mere automoton; he must be so trained that it will destroy his initiative; he must be so trained that he is turned into a machine. The soldier must be forced into the military noose; he must be jacked up; he must be ruled by his superiors with pistol in hand.' This was not said by a Prussian Junker; not by a German barbarian… but by an American major general. And he is right. You cannot conduct war with equals; you cannot have militarism with free born men; you must have slaves, automotons, machines, obedient disciplined creatures, who will move, act, shoot and kill at the command of their superiors. That is preparedness, and nothing else.” Emma Goldman, Preparedness: The Road to Universal Slaughter

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“I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all members of the military profession I never had an original thought until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of the higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.” Major General Smedley Butler, USMC

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“I hate it when they say, ‘He gave his life for his country.' Nobody gives their life for anything. We steal the lives of these kids. We take it away from them. They don't die for the honor and glory of their country. We kill them.” Admiral Gene LaRocque.

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“I hated my part in the charade of murder and horror. My efforts were contributing to the deaths, to the burning alive of children — especially the children. The photographs of young Vietnamese children burned by napalm destroyed me.” Ralph McGehee, former CIA intelligence analyst
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“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, science for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despicable an ignorable war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.” Albert Einstein
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“This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.” President Eisenhower, from a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. April 16, 1953
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In 1961, at the end of his second term, in his farewell speech to his countrymen, President Eisenhower gave this advice:

“…we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought of unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
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“Where is the indignation about the fact that the United States and Soviet Union have accumulated thirty thousand pounds of destructive force for every human being in the world?” Norman Cousins
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“The era of true peace on earth will not come as long as a tremendous percentage of your taxes goes to educate men in the trades of slaughter.” Reginald Wright Kauffman
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“They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at their command. But in all the history of the world you, the people, have never had a voice in declaring war, and strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation in any age has ever been declared by the people.” Eugene Debs
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“A standing army is one of the greatest mischief that can possibly happen.” James Madison (1751-1836), US fourth president
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“Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators. Your wealth has been stripped of you by unjust men… The people of Baghdad shall flourish under institutions which are in consonance with their sacred laws.” General F.S. Maude, commander of British forces in Iraq, 1917
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“Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step over the ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a Thousand years. At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.” Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th US President, 1838
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“…The greatest bulwark of capitalism is militarism.” Emma Goldman Biography, anarchist, feminist, labor advocate, 1869-1940
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“I sat there in agony thinking about all that had led me to this private hell. My idealism, my patriotism, my ambition, my plans to be a good intelligence officer to help my country fight the communist scourge — what in the hell had happened? Why did we have to bomb the people we were trying to save? Why were we napalming young children? Why did the CIA, my employer for 16 years, report lies instead of the truth? I hated my part in the charade of murder and horror. My efforts were contributing to the deaths, to the burning alive of children — especially the children. The photographs of young Vietnamese children burned by napalm destroyed me.” Ralph McGehee, former CIA intelligence analyst
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“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense: than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.” Martin Luther King Jr., “The Trumpet of Conscience”, 1967
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“If it’s natural to kill, how come men have to go into training to learn how?” Joan Baez
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"The role of the U.S. in the new world corporate order is going to be to export security. That means endless wars and weapons in space. The Pentagon will send our kids off to foreign lands to suppress opposition to corporate globalization. How will we ever end America's addiction to war and violence as long as our communities are dependent on military spending for jobs?" - Bruce Gagnon

See also: War Quotes

Index to Quotes


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