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Quotes from the past that seem especially relevant
to the course modern events are taking.

Reagan's View of Yalta (posted 5-17-05)

From the Houston Chronicle, May 15, 2005, quoting Ronald Reagan's speech in 1984 on the 40th anniversary of the Warsaw uprising:

Let me state emphatically that we reject any interpretation of the Yalta agreement that suggests American consent for the division of Europe into spheres of influence. On the contrary, we see that agreement as a pledge by the three great powers to restore full independence and to allow free and democratic election in all countries liberated from the Nazis after World War II...

U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote (posted 2-1-05)

From the New York Times, September 4, 1967:

United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.

According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.

The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.

Pending more detailed reports, neither the State Department nor the White House would comment on the balloting or the victory of the military candidates, Lieut. Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu, who was running for president, and Premier Nguyen Cao Ky, the candidate for vice president.

A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam. The election was the culmination of a constitutional development that began in January, 1966, to which President Johnson gave his personal commitment when he met Premier Ky and General Thieu, the chief of state, in Honolulu in February.

The purpose of the voting was to give legitimacy to the Saigon Government, which has been founded only on coups and power plays since November, 1963, when President Ngo Dinh Deim was overthrown by a military junta.

Was 9-11 an Exceptional Act? (posted 8-18-04)

Three quotes:

From the New York Times:

If the attack against the World Trade Center proves anything it is that our offices, factories, transportation and communication networks and infrastructures are relatively vulnerable to skilled terrorists.... Among the rewards of our attempts to provide leadership in a fragmented, crisis-prone world will be as yet unimagined terrorists and other socio-paths determined to settle scores with us.

From a cover story in Newsweek:

The explosion shook more than the building: it rattled the smug illusion that Americans were immune, somehow, to the plague of terrorism that torments so many countries.

From the London Sunday Times:

He began the day as a clerk working for the Dean Witter brokerage on the 74th floor of the World Trade Center in New York and ended it as an extra in a real-life sequel to Towering Inferno....

All three of these quotations are from 1993. The NYT quote appeared March 2, 1993. The Newsweek quote appeared March 8, 1993. The London Times quote appeared Feb. 28, 1993.

Source: James Der Derian,"9/11: Before, After, and In Between," in Understanding September 11, ed. Craig Calhoun et al. (New Press, 2002).

Life in Iraq Under British Rule (posted 5-18-04)

Excerpts from the letters of Gertrude Bell, a British national, fluent in Persian and Arabic, who lived in Iraq at the time it was colonized by the British; from NPR (May 15, 2004):

March 14, 1920: It's a problem here how to get into touch with the Shiahs, not the tribal people in the country; we're on intimate terms with all of them, but the grimly devout citizens of the holy towns and more especially the leaders of religious opinion, the Mujtahids, who can loose and bind with a word by authority which rests on an intimate acquaintance with accumulated knowledge entirely irrelevant to human affairs and worthless in any branch of human activity. There they sit in an atmosphere which reeks of antiquity and is so thick with the dust of ages that you can't see through it -- nor can they. And for the most part they are very hostile to us, a feeling we can't alter…There's a group of these worthies in Kadhimain, the holy city, 8 miles from Baghdad, bitterly pan-Islamic, anti-British…Chief among them are a family called Sadr, possibly more distinguished for religious learning than any other family in the whole Shiah world….I went yesterday [to visit them] accompanied by an advanced Shiah of Baghdad whom I knew well.

June 14, 1920: We have had a stormy week. The Nationalist propaganda increases. There are constant meetings in mosques where the mental temp. rises a great deal about 110. I enclose an exposition of the moderate party. The extremists are out for independence, without a mandate. At least they say they are, knowing full well in their hearts that they couldn't work it. They play for all they are worth on the passions of the mob and what with the Unity of Islam and the Rights of the Arab Race they make a fine figure. They have created a reign of terror; if anyone says boo in the bazaar it shuts like an oyster. There has been practically no business done for the last fortnight. They send bagsful of letters daily to all the tribes urging them to throw off the infidel yoke. The tribes haven't responded except with windy talk. I personally don't think there will be an outbreak either here or in the provinces, but it's touch and go, and it's the thing above all others that I'm anxious to avoid.

June 21, 1920: The second tale was … propos of the vaunted and wholly illusory union between Sunnis and Shi'ahs which was the feature of Ramadhan."I got up at a gathering" said Mustafa Pasha"if the Prophet, God give him salvation, and the Khalifs Umar and Abu Bakr and the rest were here now, they'ld [sic] be on the side of the English.""How is that?" asked the company."Because the English have united Islam.""You have no religion" they cried. But though meant as a compliment to us, or a gibe to them I don't know that we can get much satisfaction out of it.

June 12, 1921: We can't continue direct British control though the country would be better governed by it, but it's rather a comic position to be telling people over and over again that whether they like it or not they must have Arab not British Government….

Lincoln on Soldiers Who Went AWOL (posted 2-13-04)

From Secrecy, the newsletter of the Federation of American Scientists (Feb. 13, 2004):

President of the United States. Absent without leave.

These terms, much in the news lately, may have first appeared together in close proximity in an 1863 proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln, who ordered all soldiers who were absent without leave to promptly return to duty and promised amnesty if they did.

"All soldiers now absent from their respective regiments without leave, who shall, on or before the first day of April, report themselves... may be restored to their respective regiments without punishment, except the forfeiture of pay and allowances during their absence; and all who do not return within the time above specified shall be arrested as deserters, and punished as the law provides," President Lincoln declared.

See A Proclamation by the President of the United States Respecting Soldiers absent without leave, March 10, 1863:


FDR: Nations Need Friends (posted 12-11-03)

FDR, in the course of his five-minute inaugural address, January 20, 1945:

And so today, in this year of war, 1945, we have learned lessons, at a fearful cost, and we shall profit by them.

We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well being is dependent on the well being of other nations far away. We have learned that we must live as men, not as ostriches, nor as dogs in the manger.

We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community.

We have learned the simple truth, as Emerson said, that the only way to have a friend is to be one. We can gain no lasting peace if we approach it with suspicion and mistrust or with fear.

FDR: "When You See a Rattlesnake Poised to Strike You Do Not Wait Until He Has Struck Before You Crush Him" (posted 12-4-03)

FDR, Fireside Chat, Sept. 11, 1941:

My fellow Americans:

The Navy Department of the United States has reported to me that on the morning of September 4 the U. S. Destroyer GREER, proceeding in full daylight toward Iceland, had reached a point southeast of Greenland. She was carrying American mail to Iceland. She was flying the American flag. Her identity as an American ship was unmistakable.

She was then and there attacked by a submarine. Germany admits that it was a German submarine. The submarine deliberately fired a torpedo at the GREER, followed later by another torpedo attack. In spite of what Hitler's propaganda bureau has invented, and in spite of what any American obstructionist organization may prefer to believe, I tell you the blunt fact that the German submarine fired first upon this American destroyer without warning, and with deliberate design to sink her. ...

I assume that the German leaders are not deeply concerned by what we Americans say or publish about them. We cannot bring about the downfall of nazi-ism by the use of long-range invectives.

But when you see a rattlesnake poised to strike you do not wait until he has struck before you crush him....

It is clear to all Americans that the time has come when the Americas themselves must now be defended. A continuation of attacks in our own waters, or in waters which could be used for further and greater attacks on us, will inevitably weaken American ability to repel Hitlerism.

Do not let us split hairs. Let us not ask ourselves whether the Americas should begin to defend themselves after the fifth attack, or the tenth attack, or the twentieth attack.

The time for active defense is now.

Do not let us split hairs. Let us not say, "We will only defend ourselves if the torpedo succeeds in getting home, or if the crew and the passengers are drowned."

This is the time for prevention of attack.

If submarines or raiders attack in distant waters. They can attack equally well within sight of our own shores. Their very presence in any waters which America deems vital to its defense constitutes an attack.

William Fulbright: On the Arrogance of Power (posted 11-27-03)

Excerpts from Senator William Fulbright's The Arrogance of Power (New York: Random House, 1966), as collected by journalist Jim Lobe:

On U.S. Foreign Policy: "Throughout our history two strands have coexisted uneasily - a dominant strand of democratic humanism and a lesser but durable strand of intolerant Puritanism. There has been a tendency through the years for reason and moderation to prevail as long as things are going tolerably well or as long as our problems seem clear and finite and manageable. But ...when some event or leader of opinion has aroused the people to a state of high emotion, our puritan spirit has tended to break through, leading us to look at the world through the distorting prism of a harsh and angry moralism."

On War Fever: "Past experience provides little basis for confidence that reason can prevail in an atmosphere of mounting war fever. In a contest between a hawk and dove the hawk has a great advantage, not because it is a better bird but because it is a bigger bird with lethal talons and a highly developed will to use them."

On False Historical Analogies: "The second great advantage of free discussion to democratic policy-makers is its bringing to light of new ideas and the supplanting of old myths with new realities. We Americans are much in need of this benefit because we are severely, if not uniquely afflicted with a habit of policy-making by analogy: North Vietnam's involvement in South Vietnam, for example, is equated with Hitler's invasion of Poland and a parley with the Viet Cong would represent 'another Munich.' The treatment of slight and superficial resemblances as if they were full-blooded analogies -- as instances, as it were, of history 'repeating itself' -- is a substitute for thinking and a misuse of history."

On the Responsibility of Congress: "Many Senators who accepted the Gulf of Tonkin resolution without question might well not have done so had they foreseen that it would subsequently be interpreted as a sweeping Congressional endorsement for the conduct of a large-scale war in Asia."

"I, as one Senator, am unwilling to acquiesce, actively or tacitly, to a policy that I judge to be unwise as the price of putting the best possible face on that policy. To do so would be to surrender the limited ability I have to bring influence to bear for what I would judge to be a wiser policy and would constitute a default on my constitutional responsibilities and on my responsibilities to the people of my state."

On the Arrogance of Power: "[P]ower tends to confuse itself with virtue and a great nation is particularly susceptible to the idea that its power is a sign of God's favor, conferring upon it a special responsibility for other nations - to make them richer and happier and wiser, to remake them, that is, in its own shining image. Power confuses itself with virtue and tends also to take itself for omnipotence. Once imbued with the idea of a mission, a great nation easily assumes that it has the means as well as the duty to do God's work."

"The more I puzzle over the great wars of history, the more I am inclined to the view that the causes attributed to them - territory, markets, resources, the defense or perpetuation of great principles - were not the root causes at all but rather explanations or excuses for certain unfathomable drives of human nature. For lack of a clear and precise understanding of exactly what these motives are, I refer to them as the 'arrogance of power' - as a psychological need that nations seem to have in order to prove that they are bigger, better, or stronger than other nations. Implicit in this drive is the assumption, even on the part of normally peaceful nations, that force is the ultimate proof of superiority - that when a nation shows that it has the stronger army, it is also proving that it has better people, better institutions, better principles, and, in general, a better civilization."

"[The arrogance of power is defined as] the tendency of great nations to equate power with virtue and major responsibilities with a universal mission. The dilemmas involved are pre-eminently American dilemmas, not because America has weaknesses that others do not have but because America is powerful as no nation has ever been before, and the discrepancy between her power and the power of others appears to be increasing."

On Imperial Temptations: "Despite its dangerous and unproductive consequences, the idea of being responsible for the whole world seems to be flattering to Americans and I am afraid it is turning our heads, just as the sense of universal responsibility turned the heads of ancient Romans and nineteenth-century British."

"It is a curiosity of human nature that lack of self-assurance seems to breed an exaggerated sense of power and mission. When a nation is very powerful but lacking self-confidence, it is likely to behave in a manner dangerous to itself and to others. Feeling the need to prove what is obvious to everyone else, it begins to confuse great power with unlimited power and great responsibility with total responsibility: it can admit of no error; it must win every argument, no matter how trivial. For lack of an appreciation of how truly powerful it is, the nation begins to lose wisdom and perspective and, with them, the strength and understanding that it takes to be magnanimous to smaller and weaker nations.

"Gradually but unmistakably America is showing signs of that arrogance of power which has afflicted, weakened, and in some cases destroyed great nations in the past. In so doing, we are not living up to our capacity and promise as a civilized example for the world. The measure of our falling short is the measure of the patriot's duty of dissent."

"If the war goes on and expands, if that fatal process continues to accelerate until America becomes what she is not now and never has been, a seeker after unlimited power and empire, then Vietnam will have had a mighty and tragic fallout indeed."

On the Dangers of Empire: "Having done so much and succeeded so well, America is now at that historical point at which a great nation is in danger of losing its perspective on what exactly is within the realm of its power and what is beyond it. Other great nations, reaching this critical juncture, have aspired to too much, and by overextension of effort have declined and then fallen.

"Lacking an appreciation of the dimensions of our own power, we fail to understand our enormous and disruptive impact on the world; we fail to understand that no matter how good our intentions - and they are, in most cases, decent enough - other nations are alarmed by the very existence of such great power, which, whatever its benevolence, cannot help but remind them of their own helplessness before it."

On Transforming Other Nations: "We all like telling people what to do, which is perfectly all right except that most people do not like being told what to do."

"Traditional rulers, institutions, and ways of life have crumbled under the fatal impact of American wealth and power but they have not been replaced by new institutions and new ways of life, nor has their breakdown ushered in an era of democracy and development."

"Bringing power without understanding, Americans as well as Europeans have had a devastating effect in less advanced areas of the world; without knowing they were doing it, they have shattered traditional societies, disrupted fragile economies and undermined peoples' self-confidence by the invidious example of their own power and efficiency. They have done this in many instances simply by being big and strong, by giving good advice, by intruding on people who have not wanted them but could not resist them."

"What I do question is the ability of the United States or any other Western nation to go into a small, alien, undeveloped Asian nation and create stability where there is chaos, the will to fight where there is defeatism, democracy where there is no tradition of it, and honest government where corruption is almost a way of life."

On Unilateralism and Support from Traditional Allies: "One detects in Europe a growing uneasiness about American policy, a feeling that the United States is becoming unreliable and that it may be better - safer, that is - to keep the Americans at a distance."

"We have become .a one-issue participant in world affairs, hungering after a kind word or some token of support, for either of which we are more than willing to pay a handsome reward.

"Nevertheless, our major allies are not supporting us in Vietnam. A few countries do have strong words of encouragement for us; they see America doing its 'duty' as leader of the free world and, while their own young men go to school, get jobs, and raise families, they are quite reconciled to having American boys fight and die in the jungles of Southeast Asia, because if Americans were not fighting and dying in Vietnam, they tell us, America's friends in other parts of the world - they themselves, for example, -- might lose 'confidence' in her. We are very grateful for this support. Other countries, dependent on the United States for their defense or for monetary support, for economic aid or for export markets, have found silence to be the better part of discretion; occasionally they have some mild praise for us, which makes us feel happy, and occasionally they have a mild reproach, which makes us feel angry and injured. Still others, who do not understand that they are supposed to feel 'secure' because Americans are fighting in Vietnam, are regarded as 'senile' or 'eccentric' by American officials, who profess 'sadness' and 'puzzlement' but never - heaven forbid - anger in the face of such ingratitude and apostasy."

"[The United States is willing to defy allied opinion because of] ...an excess of pride born of power. Power has a way of undermining judgment, of planting delusions of grandeur in the minds of otherwise sensible people and otherwise sensible nations. As I have said earlier, the idea of being responsible for the whole world seems to have dazzled us, giving rise to what I call the arrogance of power, or what the French, perhaps more aptly, call 'le vertige de puissance,' by which they mean a kind of dizziness or giddiness inspired by the possession of great power. If then, as I suspect, there is a relationship between the self-absorption of some of our allies and the American military involvement in Vietnam, it may have more to do with American vanity than with our friends' complacency."

On International Law: "Law is the essential foundation of stability and order both within societies and in international relations. As a conservative power the United States has a vital interest in upholding and expanding the reign of law in international relations. Insofar as international law is observed, it provides us with stability and order and with a means of predicting the behavior of those with whom we have reciprocal legal obligations. When we violate the law ourselves, whatever short-term advantage may be gained, we are obviously encouraging others to violate the law; we thus encourage disorder and instability and thereby do incalculable damage to our own long-term interests."

On National Greatness: "I do not think that America's greatness is questioned in the world, and I certainly do not think that strident behavior is the best way for a nation to prove its greatness. Indeed, in nations as in individuals bellicosity is a mark of weakness and self-doubt rather than of strength and self-assurance."

"In her relations with Asian nations, as indeed in her relations with all of the revolutionary or potentially revolutionary societies of the world, America has an opportunity to perform services of which no great nation has ever before been capable. To do so we must acquire wisdom to match our power and humility to match our pride. Perhaps the single word above all others that expresses America's need is 'empathy'."

"The inconstancy of American foreign policy is not an accident but an expression of two distinct sides of the American character. Both are characterized by a kind of moralism, but one is the morality of decent instincts tempered by the knowledge of human imperfection and the other is the morality of absolute self-assurance fired by the crusading spirit. .The [latter] is exemplified by Theodore Roosevelt, who in his December 6, 1904, Annual Message to Congress, without question or doubt as to his own and his country's capacity to judge right and wrong, proclaimed the duty of the United States to exercise an 'internal police power' in the hemisphere on the ground that 'Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation.'

"After twenty-five years of world power the United States must decide which of the two sides of its national character is to predominate - the humanism of Lincoln or the arrogance of those who would make America the world's policeman."

On Patriotism at a Time of War (posted 11-3-03)

From Herbert Spencer's Facts and Comments (1902):

Were anyone to call me dishonest or untruthful he would touch me to the quick. Were he to say that I am unpatriotic, he would leave me unmoved. “What, then, have you no love of country?” That is a question not to be answered in a breath.

The early abolition of serfdom in England, the early growth of relatively-free institutions, and the greater recognition of popular claims after the decay of feudalism had divorced the masses from the soil, were traits of English life which may be looked back upon with pride. When it was decided that any slave who set foot in England became free; when the importation of slaves into the Colonies was stopped; when twenty millions were paid for the emancipation of slaves in the West Indies; and when, however unadvisedly, a fleet was maintained to stop the slave trade; our countrymen did things worthy to be admired. And when England gave a home to political refugees and took up the causes of small states struggling for freedom, it again exhibited noble traits which excite affection. But there are traits, unhappily of late more frequently displayed, which do the reverse. Contemplation of the acts by which England has acquired over eighty possessions – settlements, colonies, protectorates, &c. – does not arouse feelings of satisfaction. The transitions from missionaries to resident agents, then to officials having armed forces, then to punishments of those who resist their rule, ending in so-called “pacification” – these processes of annexation, now gradual and now sudden, as that of the new Indian province and that of Barotziland, which was declared a British colony with no more regard for the wills of the inhabiting people than for those of the inhabiting beasts – do not excite sympathy with their perpetrators. Love of country is not fostered in me on remembering that when, after our Prime Minister had declared that we were bound in honour to the Khedive to reconquer the Soudan, we, after the re-conquest, forthwith began to administer it in the name of the Queen and the Khedive – practically annexing it; nor when, after promising through the mouths of two Colonial Ministers not to interfere in the internal affairs of the Transvaal, we proceeded to insist on certain electoral arrangements, and made resistance the excuse for a desolating war.* Nor does the national character shown by a popular ovation to a leader of filibusters, or by the according of a University honour to an arch-conspirator, or by the uproarious applause with which undergraduates greeted one who sneered at the “unctuous rectitude” of those who opposed his plans of aggression, appear to me lovable. If because my love of country does not survive these and many other adverse experiences I am called unpatriotic – well, I am content to be so called.

To me the cry – “Our country, right or wrong!” seems detestable. By association with love of country the sentiment it expresses gains a certain justification. Do but pull off the cloak, however, and the contained sentiment is seen to be of the lowest. Let us observe the alternative cases.

Suppose our country is in the right – suppose it is resisting invasion. Then the idea and feeling embodied in the cry are righteous. It may be effectively contended that self-defence is not only justified but is a duty. Now suppose, contrariwise, that our country is the aggressor – has taken possession of others’ territory, or is forcing by arms certain commodities on a nation which does not want them, or is backing up some of its agents in “punishing” those who have retaliated. Suppose it is doing something which, by the hypothesis, is admitted to be wrong. What is then the implication of the cry? The right is on the side of those who oppose us; the wrong is on our side. How in that case is to be expressed the so-called patriotic wish? Evidently the words must stand – “Down with the right, up with the wrong!” Now in other relations this combination of aims implies the acme of wickedness. In the minds of past men there existed, and there still exists in many minds, a belief in a personalized principle of evil – a Being going up and down in the world everywhere fighting against the good and helping the bad to triumph. Can there be more briefly expressed the aim of that Being than in the words “Up with the wrong and down with the right” ? Do the so-called patriots like the endorsement?

Some years ago I gave my expression to my own feeling – anti-patriotic feeling, it will doubtless be called – in a somewhat startling way. It was at the time of the second Afghan war, when, in pursuance of what were thought to be “our interests,” we were invading Afghanistan. News had come that some of our troops were in danger. At the Athenæum Club a well-known military man – then a captain but now a general – drew my attention to a telegram containing this news, and read it to me in a manner implying the belief that I should share his anxiety. I astounded him by replying – “When men hire themselves out to shoot other men to order, asking nothing about the justice of their cause, I don’t care if they are shot themselves.”

I foresee the exclamation which will be called forth. Such a principle, it will be said, would make an army impossible and a government powerless. It would never do to have each soldier use his judgment about the purpose for which a battle is waged. Military organization would be paralyzed and our country would be a prey to the first invader.

Not so fast, is the reply. For one war an army would remain just as available as now – a war of national defence. In such a war every soldier would be conscious of the justice of his cause. He would not be engaged in dealing death among men about whose doings, good or ill, he knew nothing, but among men who were manifest transgressors against himself and his compatriots. Only aggressive war would be negatived, not defensive war.

Of course it may be said, and said truly, that if there is no aggressive war there can be no defensive war. It is clear, however, that one nation may limit itself to defensive war when other nations do not. So that the principle remains operative.

But those whose cry is – “Our country, right or wrong!” and who would add to our eighty-odd possessions others to be similarly obtained, will contemplate with disgust such a restriction upon military action. To them no folly seems greater than that of practising on Monday the principles they profess on Sunday.

Source: Molinari Institute.

Mark Twain, Seer (posted 10-30-03)

Mark Twain, speaking of the American occupation of the Philippines:

"Why, we have gotten into a mess, a quagmire from which each fresh step renders the difficulty of extrication immensely greater. I'm sure I wish I could see what we were getting out of it, and all it means to us as a nation."

"There must be two Americas: one that sets the captive free, and one that takes a once-captive's new freedom away from him, and picks a quarrel with him with nothing to found it on; then kills him to get his land."

Source: Amy Kaplan, in an article in the LA Times (Oct. 24, 2003).

What We Want from Iraq (posted 9-30-03)

British General F. S. Maude to the people of Mesopotamia, March 19, 1917, as quoted by Niall Ferguson in"Hegemony or Empire," Foreign Affairs (September 2003):

Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators. ... It is [not] the wish of [our] government to impose upon you alien institutions. ... [It is our wish] that you should prosper even as in the past, when your lands were fertile, when your ancestors gave to the world literature, science, and art, and when Baghdad city was one of the wonders of the world. ... It is [our] hope that the aspirations of your philosophers and writers shall be realized and that once again the people of Baghdad shall flourish, enjoying their wealth and substance under institutions which are in consonance with their sacred laws and their racial ideals.
George Bush, April 4, 2003:

The government of Iraq, and the future of your country, will soon belong to you. ... We will end a brutal regime ... so that Iraqis can live in security. We will respect your great religious traditions, whose principles of equality and compassion are essential to Iraq's future. We will help you build a peaceful and representative government that protects the rights of all citizens. And then our military forces will leave. Iraq will go forward as a unified, independent, and sovereign nation that has regained a respected place in the world. You are a good and gifted people -- the heirs of a great civilization that contributes to all humanity.

Blackout Metaphors (posted 8-15-03)

Justice Robert H. Jackson, August 24, 1953:

"There is no such thing as an achieved liberty; like electricity, there can be no substantial storage and it must be generated as it is enjoyed, or the lights go out."

Americans On A Mission (posted 8-5-03)

Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America (1955), p. 286:"Americans seem to oscillate between fleeing from the rest of the world and embracing it with too ardent a passion. An absolute national morality is inspired either to withdraw from 'alien' things or to transform them: it cannot live in comfort constantly by their side."

Rudyard Kipling, Encore (posted 4-10-03)

Rudyard Kipling, as quoted in the Washington Post (Apri1, 2003):

Take up the White Man's burden
And reap his old reward
The blame of those ye better
The hate of those ye guard


Napoleon: On War Plans (posted 4-10-03)

Napoleon, as quoted in the NYT (March 30, 2003):

"HE that makes war without many mistakes has not made war very long."

Churchill: The Warning (posted 3-19-03)

Winston Churchill, as quoted in the Hartford Courant (March 20, 2003):

Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.

Why Bush I Never Went After Saddam (posted 3-19-03)

Editor's Note: What follows is a remarkably prescient statement by President George H.W. Bush concerning the risks of invading Iraq and taking out Saddam. We first published the excerpt last March, just as the war with Iraq was getting underway. Given the course events have taken over the last few months, it seemed worthwhile to bring Bush I's statement again to public attention.

From George H.W. Bush and Brent Scowcroft, A World Transformed (1998), pp. 489-90:

Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in"mission creep," and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, there was no viable"exit strategy" we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different--and perhaps barren--outcome.

We discussed at length the idea of forcing Saddam personally to accept the terms of Iraqi defeat at Safwan just north of the Kuwait-Iraq border--and thus the responsibility and political consequences for the humiliation of such a devastating defeat. In the end, we asked ourselves what we would do if he refused. We concluded that we would be left with two options: continue the conflict until he backed down, or retreat from our demands. The latter would have sent a disastrous signal. The former would have split our Arab colleagues from the coalition and, de facto, forced us to change our objectives.

On Liberating Iraq (posted 3-18-03)

Lieutenant General Sir Stanley Maude, as he marched into Baghdad in 1917, as quoted by the Financial Times (March 14, 2003):

Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators. ... O people of Baghdad, remember that for 26 generations you have suffered under strange tyrants who have endeavoured to set one Arab house against another in order that they might profit by your dissensions. This policy is abhorrent to Great Britain and her allies, for there can be neither peace nor prosperity where there is enmity and misgovernment.

IKE Opposed Preventive War (posted 2-18-03)

Dwight Eisenhower, in 1953 after being shown plans to launch a preventive war against the Soviet Union; as quoted by Jonathan Schell, in the Nation (March 3, 2003):

"All of us have heard this term 'preventive war' since the earliest days of Hitler. I recall that is about the first time I heard it. In this day and time....I don't believe there is such a thing; and, frankly, I wouldn't even listen to anyone seriously that came in and talked about such a thing."

Cicero on Omens (posted 2-11-03)

Cicero, as quoted in the Los Angeles Times on February 7, 2003, in a story about the Columbia space-shuttle disaster:

"I know of no people, however civilized, however undeveloped, which does not recognize the existence of omens and also of some individuals capable of understanding these signs and making predictions based on them."

LBJ On Presidential Greatness (posted 2-5-03)

Lyndon Johnson, as quoted in USA Today on January 28, 2003:

"The presidency has made every man who occupied it, no matter how small, bigger than he was; and no matter how big, not big enough for its demands."

President George Herbert Walker Bush On The Need To Get Rid Of Saddam (posted 2-5-03)

President G.H.W. Bush (#41), in his State of the Union address 1991, as quoted in the NYT on January 29, 2003:

"Most Americans know instinctively why we are in the gulf. They know we had to stop Saddam now, not later. They know this brutal dictator will do anything, will use any weapon, will commit any outrage, no matter how many innocents must suffer."

Churchill On the Use Of Gas In Warfare (posted 11-16-02)

Winston Churchill, secretary of state for air and war in 1919, as quoted in the Guardian on November 16, 2002:

"I do not understand the squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favor of using poisonous gas against uncivilised tribes."

Why Dick Cheney Opposed Going to Bagdad in 1991 at the Time of the Gulf War (posted 10-16-02)

Dick Cheney in April 1991, then Defense Secretary, as quoted in the Slate on October 16, 2002:

If you're going to go in and try to topple Saddam Hussein,you have to go to Baghdad. Once you've got Baghdad, it's not clear what you do with it. It's not clear what kind of government you would put in place of the one that's currently there now. Is it going to be a Shia regime, a Sunni regime or a Kurdish regime? Or one that tilts toward the Baathists, or one that tilts toward the Islamic fundamentalists? How much credibility is that government going to have if it's set up by the United States military when it's there? How long does the United States military have to stay to protect the people that sign on for that government, and what happens to it once we leave?

Lincoln: On the President's War-Making Powers (posted 10-11-02)

In 1845 President Polk dispatched a small army under Zachary Taylor to cross into territory claimed by Mexico south of the Nueces River. Subsequently, in March 1846 he ordered Taylor to move further south to the Rio Grande, to a position opposite a Mexican military post located at Metamoras. Polk later told Congress that he wanted to repel"any invasion of the Texas territory which might be attempted by the Mexican forces."

In 1848 Abraham Lincoln, then a Whig member of the House of Representatives, condemned Polk's action. Challenged by his former law partner William Herndon to defend his dissent, Lincoln explained his reasoning in a famous letter quoted by Sen. Robert Byrd during the debate over the Iraq resolution:

Let me first state what I understand to be your position. It is that if it shall become necessary to repel invasion, the President may, without violation of the Constitution, cross the line and invade the territory of another country, and that whether such necessity exists in any given case the President is the sole judge. ...
Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose, and you allow him to make war at his pleasure.

The provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons: Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pre- tending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our convention understood to be the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions, and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood.

Source: Lincoln to Herndon, February 15, 1848, Roy Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), p. 451.

Suicide Attack in 1951 (9-20-02)

Front page, New York Times, August 1, 1951:

Saigon, Indo-China, July 31--A"human bomb" killed a French general, an Annamite provincial governor and himself with a grenade attack today in a crowded main street of Sedec, a village sixty miles south of Saigon.

The assassin was identified as a 25-year-old member of a suicide battalion of the Communist-led Vietminh rebel forces.

He sprang at the officials and carried out his attack with paralyzing surprise at a public reception on their inspection trip in the delta country.

The killer acted so quickly that the general's aides were unable to intervene. Two French officers were wounded....

After the blast, the terrorist died without a word.

Vietnam police said the man was a member of the Vietminh suicide forces pledged to die if necessary in carrying out terrorist exploits.

Click here to view NYT article.

Bush I: Good and Evil (9-5-02)

George Herbert Walker Bush, upon being told in September 1990 about"the brutal dismembering and dismantling of Kuwait":

It was during this time that I began to move from viewing Saddam's aggression exclusively as a dangerous strategic threat and an injustice to its reversal as a moral crusade. It was a conclusion I came to gradually through August and September. His disdain for international law, his misrepresentation of what had happened, his lies to his neighbors all contributed, but perhaps it was hearing of the destruction of life in Kuwait which sealed the matter. I became very emotional about the atrocities [reported by U.S. intelligence]. They really gave urgency to my desire to do something active in response. I knew there was a danger I might overreact to what I heard and read. I'd tell myself to calm down, not to let these human rights abuses--bitter and ugly as they were, with medieval torture--cause me to do something hasty or make a foolish decision. Yet at some point it came through to me that this was not a matter of shades of gray, or of trying to see the other side's point of view. It was good versus evil, right versus wrong. I am sure the change strengthened my determination not to let the invasion stand and encouraged me to contemplate the use of force to reverse it.

Source: George Bush, A World Transformed (1998), pp. 374-75.

TR: They're Murderers (8-20-02)

Teddy Roosevelt, commenting in his autobiography on the adoption of violent tactics by anarchists:

I treated anarchists and bomb-throwing and dynamiting gentry precisely as I treated other criminals. Murder is murder. It is not rendered one whit better by the allegation that it is committed on behalf of a cause.

Source: William Roscoe Thayer, Theodore Roosevelt: An Intimate Biography (1919), p. 252.

Wartime Patriotism (7-22-02)

John Bricker, governor of Ohio and vice presidential running mate of Thomas Dewey in 1944, at the Republican Convention, protesting FDR's use of the phrase,"Win the War," as a campaign slogan, June 24, 1944:

I resent any leader taking unto himself the motto,"Win the War." That became the slogan of every American on December 7, 1941. The President of the United States is Commander in Chief of the armed forces, but he is not the Commander in Chief of the people. Like every governor of a state, he is the steward of the people--never their master.

Source: NYT, 6-25-44.

American Nostradamus (4-23-02)

Herman Melville, in Moby-Dick (1851; rpt. Easton Press, 1977), p. 7:

But wherefore it was that after having repeatedly smelt the sea as a merchant sailor, I should now take it into my head to go on a whaling voyage; this the invisible police officer of the Fates, who has the constant surveillance of me, and secretly dogs me, and influences me in some unaccountable way -- he can better answer than any one else. And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. I take it that this part of the bill must have run something like this:
-Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States.
-Whaling Voyage by one Ishmael.
-Bloody Battle in Afghanistan.
Though I cannot tell why it was exactly that those stage managers, the Fates, put me down for this shabby part of a whaling voyage....

Thanks to HNN reader Alex Kaufman.

Earth Day (4-22-02)

From the Report of the Conservation Commission to President Theodore Roosevelt, Dec. 7, 1908:

The duty of man to man is no greater than the duty of each generation to the next, and the obligation of the nation to the actual citizen is no more sacred than its obligation to the citizens to be. In this country, blessed with natural resources in unsurpassed profusion, the sense of responsibility to the future has been slow to awaken. Forests have been cleared away as obstacles to the use of land. Neglect of the waterways and approaching exhaustion of the forests directed attention to the depletion of the coal and iron deposits and the misuse of the land.

In the present stage of national development wise and beneficial uses are essential and the checking of waste is absolutely demanded. The most reprehensible waste is that of destruction, as in forest fires, uncontrolled flow of gas and oil, soil wash, and abandonment of coal in mines. Nearly as bad is the waste arising from misuse, as the consumption of fuel in furnaces and engines of low efficiency, use of ill-adapted structural materials, growing of ill-chosen crops, and the perpetuation of inferior plants and animals, all of which may be remedied.

Source: Messages and Papers of the Presidents (1917), Vol. XIX (entry under"Conservation Commission).

Dissent During War (3-13-02)

Robert Taft, December 19, 1941, in Chicago:

As a matter of general principle, I believe there can be no doubt that criticism in time of war is essential to the maintenance of any kind of democratic government. Perhaps nothing today distinguishes democratic government in England so greatly from the totalitarianism of Germany as the freedom of criticism which has existed continuously in the House of Commons and elsewhere in England. Of course that criticism should not give any information to the enemy. But too many people desire to suppress criticism simply because they think that it will give some comfort to the enemy to know that there is such criticism. If that comfort makes the enemy feel better for a few moments, they are welcome to it as far as I am concerned, because the maintenance of the right of criticism in the long run will do the country maintaining it a great deal more good than it will do the enemy, and will prevent mistakes which might otherwise occur.

Source: The Papers of Robert Taft (Kent, 1997), p. 303.

Thanks to HNN reader Lewis Gould.