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Anti-War Quotations

anti-war graphic by Ned Kelly. used by permission If you need anti-war quotations for your web site, flyer, poster, pamphlet, brochure, etc., here they are. They're in order alphabetically by author. Please put them to good use.

Most of these quotes are from The Heretic's Handbook of Quotations, but we want to increase the range and number of quotations, so we very much welcome your suggestions for additional quotes—and, of course, the more detailed the attribution, the better.

(And for a good collection of anarchist writings opposed to war, check out the Stan Iverson Memorial Archives.)

Finally, if you notice any typos, please let us know. We entered almost all of these quotations manually, and there are undoubtedly a few typos lurking in them.

"After a war, a hero is just a man with one leg."

"Fight the rich, not their wars!"
—Anonymous (headline in Freedom, January 2003)

"If it's natural to kill, why do men have to go into training to learn to do it?"
—Joan Baez (attributed)

"Bourgeois patriotism, as I view it, is only a very shabby, very narrow, very mercenary, and deeply antihuman passion, having for its object the preservation and maintenance of the power of the national state—that is, the mainstay of all the priveleges of the exploiters throughout the nation."
—Mikhail Bakunin, Letters to a Frenchman

"The man who can face vilification and disgrace, who can stand up against the popular current, even against his friends and his country when he know he is right, who can defy those in authority over him, who can take punishment and prison and remain steadfast—that is a man of courage. The fellow whom you taunt as a 'slacker' because he refuses to turn murderer—he needs courage. But do you need much courage just to obey orders, to do as you are told and to fall in line with thousands of others to the tune of general approval and the Star Spangled Banner?"
—Alexander Berkman, What Is Communist Anarchism?

"War paralyzes your courage and deadens the spirit of true manhood. It degrades and stupefies with the sense that you are not responsible, that 'tis not yours to think and reason why, but to do and die,' like the hundred thousand others doomed like yourself. War means blind obedience, unthinking stupidity, brutish callousness, wanton destruction, and irresponsible murder."
—Alexander Berkman, What Is Communist Anarchism?

"It seems that 'we have never gone to war for conquest, for exploitation, nor for territory'; we have the word of a president [McKinley] for that. Observe, now, how Providence overrules the intentions of the truly good for their advantage. We went to war with Mexico for peace, humanity and honor, yet emerged from the contest with an extension of territory beyond the dreams of political avarice. We went to war with Spain for relief of an oppressed people [the Cubans], and at the close found ourselves in possession of vast and rich insular dependencies [primarily the Philippines] and with a pretty tight grasp upon the country for relief of whose oppressed people we took up arms. We could hardly have profited more had 'territorial aggrandizement' been the spirit of our purpose and heart of our hope. The slightest acquaintance with history shows that powerful republics are the most warlike and unscrupulous of nations."
—Ambrose Bierce, Warlike America

"PATRIOT, n. One to whom the interests of a part seem superior to those of the whole. The dupe of statesmen and the tool of conquerors."
— Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

"PATRIOTISM, n. Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name. In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer, I beg to submit that it is the first."
— Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

"Every patriot believes his country better than any other country . . . In its active manifestation—it is fond of killing—patriotism would be well enough if it were simply defensive, but it is also aggressive . . . Patriotism deliberately and with folly aforethought subordinates the interests of a whole to the interests of a part . . . Patriotism is fierce as a fever, pitiless as the grave and blind as a stone."
—Ambrose Bierce, Collected Works

"War is the health of the state."
—Randolph Bourne, The State

"In your reaction to an imagined attack on your country or an insult to its government, you draw closer to the herd for protection, you conform in word and deed, and you insist vehemently that everybody else shall think, speak, and act together. And you fix your adoring gaze upon the State, with a truly filial look, as upon the Father of the flock."
—Randolph Bourne, The State

"There is, of course, in the feeling toward the State a large element of pure filial mysticism. The sense of insecurity, the desire for protection, sends one's desire back to the father and mother, with whom is associated the earliest feeling of protection. It is not for nothing that one's State is still thought of as Fatherland or Motherland, that one's relations towards it is conceived in terms of family affection. The war [World War I] has shown that nowhere under the shock of danger have these primitive childlike attitudes failed to assert themselves again, as much in this country as anywhere. If we have not the intense father-sense of the German who worships his Vaterland, at least in Uncle Sam we have a symbol of protecting, kindly authority . . . A people at war have become in the most literal sense obedient, respectful, trustful children again, full of that naive faith in the all-wisdom and all-power of the adult who takes care of them, imposes his mild but necessary rule upon them and to whom they lose their responsibility and anxieties. In this recrudescence of the child, there is great comfort, and a certain influx of power. On most people the strain of being an independent adult weighs heavily . . ."
—Randolph Bourne, The State

from The Devil's Dictionaries, definition by Chaz Bufe, illustration by J.R. Swanson "BOOTLICKING, n. A popular American mass participation sport which is rapidly displacing baseball as 'the national pastime.'"
—Chaz Bufe, The Devil's Dictionaries ("American Heretic's Dictionary" section)

"COLLATERAL DAMAGE, n. Dead and maimed civilians. See also 'Regrettable Necessity.'"
—Chaz Bufe, The Devil's Dictionaries ("American Heretic's Dictionary" section)

"COWARDICE, n. A charge often levelled by all-American types against those who stand up for their beliefs by refusing to fight in wars they find unconscionable, and who willingly go to prison or into exile in order to avoid violating their own consciences. These 'cowards' are to be contrasted with red-blooded, 'patriotic' youths who literally bend over, grab their ankles, submit to the government, fight in wars they do not understand (or disapprove of), and blindly obey orders to maim and to kill simply because they are ordered to do so—all to the howling approval of the all-American mob. This type of behavior is commonly termed 'courageous.'"
—Chaz Bufe, The Devil's Dictionaries ("American Heretic's Dictionary" section)

DUTY, n. A concept of slaves, a tool of tyrants. Doing what other people want you to do because they want you to do it. (to paraphrase Oscar Wilde)
—Chaz Bufe, The Devil's Dictionaries ("American Heretic's Dictionary" section)

"FREEDOM FIGHTER, n. A State Department term referring to: 1) A mercenary attempting to install an authoritarian regime friendly to U.S. business interests; 2) A heavily armed islamic fanatic who wishes to impose his religious views upon others through the use of violence."
(For our younger readers, this refers to the rhetoric of the Reagan/Bush administration during the 1980s, when it was—to the tune of $3 billion—bankrolling Osama Bin Laden and the Afghan "freedom fighters" who were to become the Taliban; we'd also note that Reagan and Bush showed pronounced favoritism toward these extremist elements, in contrast to the more moderate Afghans.)
—Chaz Bufe, The Devil's Dictionaries ("American Heretic's Dictionary" section)

"GLORY, n. An exalted state achieved through participation in military operations, often by having one's guts blown out and dying in agony amidst the stench of one's own entrails.
—Chaz Bufe, The Devil's Dictionaries ("American Heretic's Dictionary" section)

"NATIONAL DEFENSE, n. In U.S. political discourse: 1) The pauperization of the nation through expenditures for deadly weapons systems; 2) The bombardment and invasion of small countries. The United States is, of course, the only nation entitled to such 'defense.' If the inhabitants of other countries resist the U.S. government's 'defensive' measures, they become guilty of 'internal aggression'; and if governments of other countries practice U.S.-style national defense, they become guilty of 'naked aggression.'"
(U.S. government spokesmen repeatedly used the Orwellian term 'internal aggression' during the 1960s when referring to the resistance of the Vietnamese to the U.S. occupation of their country.)
—Chaz Bufe, The Devil's Dictionaries ("American Heretic's Dictionary" section)

from The Devil's Dictionaries, definition by Chaz Bufe, illustration by J.R. Swanson "PATRIOT, n. A dangerous tool of the powers that be. A herd member who compensates for lack of self-respect by identifying with an abstraction. An enemy of individual freedom. A fancier of the rich, arousing odor of boot leather."
—Chaz Bufe, The Devil's Dictionaries ("American Heretic's Dictionary" section)

"PATRIOTISM, n. 1) The inability to distinguish between the government and one's 'country'; 2) A highly praiseworthy virtue characterized by the desire to dominate and kill; 3) A feeling of exultation experienced when contemplating heaps of charred 'enemy' corpses; 4) The first, last, and perennial refuge of scoundrels."
—Chaz Bufe, The Devil's Dictionaries ("American Heretic's Dictionary" section)

"REGRETTABLE NECESSITY, n. An avoidable atrocity. The term is often employed by presidents and prime ministers when announcing bombings of civilian targets and invasions of small countries."
—Chaz Bufe, The Devil's Dictionaries ("American Heretic's Dictionary" section)

"TOUGH, adj. A term used by admiring journalists to describe politicians, especially the U.S. president and other heads of state. It normally means: 1) Callous; 2) Having little regard for human life; 3) Ready and willing to shed the blood of others while running no risk of personal injury."
(During the Vietnam War, both Bush and Cheney were "chickenhawks" who favored the war but ducked serving in it.)
—Chaz Bufe, The Devil's Dictionaries ("American Heretic's Dictionary" section)

"WAR, n. A time-tested political tactic guaranteed to raise a president's popularity rating by at least 30 points. It is especially useful during election years and economic downturns."
—Chaz Bufe, The Devil's Dictionaries ("American Heretic's Dictionary" section)

from The Heretic's Handbook of Quotations, artist unknown "I spent thirty-three years and four months in active service in the country's most agile military force, the Marines. I served in all ranks from second lieutenant to major general. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

"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.

"Thus I helped make Mexico, and especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. "I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenue in. I helped in the raping of half-a-dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers and Co. in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras 'right' for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

"During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. I was rewarded with honors, medals, and promotion. Looking back on it, I feel that I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate a racket in three city districts. The Marines operated on three continents."
—Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler (former Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps), Common Sense, November 1935

"To plunder, to slaughter, to steal, these things they misname empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace."

"War is a quarrel between two thieves too cowardly to fight their own battle; therefore they take boys from one village and another village, stick them into uniforms, equip them with guns, and let them loose like wild beasts against each other."
—Thomas Carlyle

"These stupid peasants, who, throughout the world, hold potentates on their thrones, make statesmen illustrious, provide generals with lasting victories, all with ignorance, indifference, or half-witted hatred, moving the world with the strength of their arms, and getting their heads knocked together in the name of God, the king, or the stock exchange—immortal, dreaming, hopeless asses, who surrender their reason to the care of a shining puppet, and persuade some toy to carry their lives in his purse."
—Stephen Crane, quoted by Jack London in People of the Abyss

"Not only do . . . rulers keep many millions of men whose only trade is war, but these must be supported in worse than useless idleness by the labor of the poor. Still other millions are trained to war and are ever ready to answer to their master's call, to desert their homes and trades and offer up their lives to satisfy the vain ambitions of the ruler of the state. Millions more must give their strength and lives to build forts and ships, make guns and cannon and all the modern implements of war. Apart from any moral question of the right of man to slay his fellow man, all this great burden rests upon the poor. The vast expense of war comes from the production of the land and must serve to weaken and impair its industrial strength."
—Clarence Darrow, Resist Not Evil

"The lowest standards of ethics of which a right-thinking man can possibly conceive is taught to the common soldier whose trade is to shoot his fellow men. In youth he may have learned the command, 'Thou shalt not kill,' but the ruler takes the boy just as he enters manhood and teaches him that his highest duty is to shoot a bullet through his neighbor's heart — and this, unmoved by passion or feeling or hatred, and without the least regard to right or wrong, but simply because his ruler gives the word."
—Clarence Darrow, Resist Not Evil

"Common experience shows how much rarer is moral courage than physical bravery. A thousand men will march to the mouth of the cannon where one man will dare espouse an unpopular cause . . . True courage and manhood come from the consciousness of the right attitude toward the world, the faith in one's purpose, and the sufficiency of one's own approval as a justification for one's own acts."
—Clarence Darrow, Resist Not Evil

" Do not worry over the charge of treason to your masters, but be concerned about the treason that involves yourselves. Be true to yourself and you cannot be a traitor to any good cause on Earth."
—Eugene V. Debs, Speech, June 16, 1918

"Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind."
—Albert Einstein (attributed)

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in a final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed—those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending its money alone—it is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
—Dwight Eisenhower, Speech (1953)

"The ideal weapons system is built in 435 congressional districts and it doesn't matter whether it works or not."
—Alain C. Enthoven (economist and former Pentagon official)

"War is delightful to those who have not experienced it."

"The enemy aggressor is always pursuing a course of larceny, murder, rapine, and barbarism. We are always moving forward with high mission, a destiny imposed by the deity to regenerate our victims while incidentally capturing their markets, to civilize savage and senile and paranoidal peoples while blundering accidentally into their oil wells or metal mines."
—John T. Flynn, As We Go Marching

"No matter what the cause, even though it be to conquer with tanks and planes and modern artillery some defenseless black population, there will be no lack of poets and preachers and essayists and philosophers to invent the necessary reasons and gild the infamy with righteousness. To this righteousness there is, of course, never an adequate reply. Thus a war to end poverty becomes an unanswerable enterprise. For who can decently be for poverty? To even debate whether the war will end poverty becomes an exhibition of ugly pragmatism and the sign of an ignoble mind."
—John T. Flynn, As We Go Marching

"The so-called Christian virtues of humility, love, charity, personal freedom, the strong prohibitions against violence, murder, stealing, lying, cruelty—all these are washed away by war. The greatest hero is the one who kills the most people. Glamorous exploits in successful lying and mass stealing and heroic vengeance are rewarded with decorations and public acclaim. You cannot, when the war is proclaimed, pull a switch and turn the community from the moral code of peace to that of war and then, when the armistice is signed, pull a nother switch and reconnect the whole society with its old moral regulations again. Thousands of people of all ranks who have found a relish in the morals of war come back to you with these rudimentary instincts controlling their behavior while thousands of others, trapped in a sort of no man's land between these two moralities, come back to you poisoned by cynicism."
—John T. Flynn, As We Go Marching

"Never has there been a good war or a bad peace."
—Benjamin Franklin

"In all wars the object is to protect or to seize money, property and power, and there will always be wars so long as Capital rules and oppresses people."
—Ernst Friedrich, War Against War (1924)

"Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
—Hermann Goering (attributed)

"Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all others. The inhabitants of the other spots reason like manner, of course . . ."
—Emma Goldman, Patriotism

"How is a military drilled and trained to defend freedom, peace and ahppiness? 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

"[Y]ou will always find that those are most apt to boast of national merit, who have little or not merit of their own to depend on . . ."
—Oliver Goldsmith

"Sure, there were lots of bodies we never identified. You know what a direct hit by a shell does to a guy. Or a mine, or a solid hit with a grenade, even. Sometimes all we have is a leg or a hunk of arm. The ones that stink the worst are the guys who got internal wounds and are dead about three weeks with the blood staying inside and rotting, and when you move the body the blood comes out of the nose and mouth. Then some of them bloat up in the sun, they bloat up so big that they bust the buttons and then they get blue and the skin peels. They don't all get blue, some of them get black. But they all stunk. There's only one stink and that's it. You never get used to it, either. As long as you live, you never get used to it. And after a while, the stink gets in your clothes and you can taste it in your mouth. You know what I think? I think maybe if every civilian in the world could smell this stink, then maybe we wouldn't have any more wars."
—Technical Sergeant Donald Haguall, 48th Quartermaster Graves Registration (quoted in Purnell's History of the Second World War)

"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 Hemingway (attributed)

"I believe in compulsory cannibalism. If people were forced to eat what they killed there would be no more war."
—Abbie Hoffman

"War is as much a punishment to the punisher as it is to the sufferer."
—Thomas Jefferson

"The first casualty when war comes is the truth."
—Sen. Hiram Johnson

"The guns and the bombs, the rockets and the warships, are all symbols of human failure."
—Lyndon B Johnson

"YOUNG MEN: The lowest aim in your life is to become a soldier. The good soldier never tries to distinguish right from wrong. He never thinks; never reasons; he only obeys. If he is ordered to fire on his fellow citizens, on his friends, on his neighbors, on his relatives, he obeys without hesitation. If he is ordered to fire down a crowded street when the poor are clamoring for bread, he obeys and see the grey hairs of age stained with red and the life tide gushing from the breasts of women, feeling neither remorse nor sympathy. If he is ordered off as a firing squad to execute a hero or benefactor, he fires without hesitation, though he knows the bullet will pierce the noblest heart that ever beat in human breast.

"A good soldier is a blind, heartless, soulless, murderous machine. He is not a man. His is not a brute, for brutes kill only in self defense. All that is human in him, all that is divine in him, all that constitutes the man has been sworn away when he took the enlistment roll. His mind, his conscience, aye, his very soul, are in the keeping of his officer. No man can fall lower than a soldier—it is a depth beneath which we cannot go."
— Jack London

"They talk about conscription as a democratic institution. Yes; so is a cemetery."
—Rep. Meyer London, Speech in House of Representatives, April 25, 1917

"It is part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificually induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear."
—General Douglas MacArthur, Speech, May 15, 1951

"War! When I but think of this word, I feel bewildered, as though they were speaking to me of sorcery, of the Inquisition, of a distant, finished, abominable, monstrous, unnatural thing.

"When they speak to us of cannibals, we smile proudly, as we proclaim our superiority to these savages. Who are the real savages? Those who struggle in order to eat those whom they vanquish, or those who struggle merely to kill?"
—Guy de Maupassant, Sur l'Eau

"Is a young man bound to serve his country in war? In addition to his legal duty there is perhaps also a moral duty, but it is very obscure. What is called his country is only its government and that government consists merely of professional politicians, a parasitical and anti-social class of men. They never sacrifice themselves for their country. They make all wars, but very few of them ever die in one. If it is the duty of a young man to serve his country under all circumstances then it is equally the duty of an enemy young man to serve his. Thus we come to a moral contradiction and absurdity so obvious that even clergymen and editorial writers sometimes notice it."
—H.L. Mencken, Minority Report

"Every monarch keeps on a war footing all the troops which he might need in case his people were in danger of being exterminated, and this state of tension, of all against all, is called peace."

"Can anything be stupider than that a man has the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of a river and his ruler has a quarrel with mine, though I have not quarreled with him?"
—Blaise Pascal, quoted by Tolstoy in Bethink Yourselves

"The working masses of men and women, they and they alone, are responsible for everything that takes place, the good things and the bad things. True enough, they suffer most from a war, but it is their apathy, craving for authority, etc., that is most responsible for making wars possible. It follows of necessity from this responsibility that the working masses of men and women, they and they alone, are capable of establishing lasting peace."
—Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism

"Under the influence of politicians, masses of people tend to ascribe the responsibility for wars to those who wield power at any given time. In World War I it was the munitions industrialists; in World War II it was the psychopathic generals who were said to be guilty. This is passing the buck. The responsibility for wars falls solely upon the shoulders of these same masses of people, for they have all the necessary means to avert war in their own hands. In part by their apathy, in part by their passivity, and in part actively, these same masses of people make possible the catastrophes under which they themselves suffer more than anyone else. To stress this guilt on the part of the masses of people, to hold them solely responsible, means to take them seriously. On the other hand, to commiserate masses of people as victims, means to treat them as small, helpless children. The former is the attitude held by genuine freedom fighters; the latter that attitude held by power-thirsty politicians."
—Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism

"Every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud, adopts as a last resource pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and happy to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority."
—Arthur Schopenhauer, Aphorisms

"A modern gentleman [rich person] is necessarily the enemy of his country. Even in war he does not fight to defend it, but to prevent his power of preying on it from passing to a foreigner."
—George Bernard Shaw, Maxims for Revolutionists

"War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight,
The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade."
—Percy Bysshe Shelley, Queen Mab

Bane of all genius, virtue, freedom, truth,
Makes slaves of men, and of the human frame,
A mechanized automoton."
—Percy Bysshe Shelley, Queen Mab

"The militarists say that 'fighting is instinctive' and that 'you cannot change the real character of men by any intellectual process.' If this is true, the case is still not hopeless, as some think, for there are animals and men without this 'fighting instinct,' that do not kill each other; there is a possibility that those with the 'fighting instinct' will succeed in exterminating each other, and permit those without to breed a better race."
—Charles T. Sprading, Freedom and Its Fundamentals

"Who can sum up all the ills the women of a nation suffer from war? They have all of the misery and none of the glory; nothing to mitigate their weary waiting and watching for the loved ones who return no more."
—Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eighty Years and More

"The very existence of armaments and great armies psychologically accustoms us to accept the philosophy of militarism. They inevitably increase fear and hate in the world."
—Norman Thomas, Address to the League for Industrial Democracy

"Do we owe our freedom to our fighting men? To be drafted is to be enslaved. How can we owe our freedom to slaves? They may have fought bravely and died with courage, but they haven't given us any freedom. We would have been in their debt if they had refused to fight foreigners and instead freed themselves from the American politicians who continue to enslave us."
—Allen Thornton, Laws of the Jungle

"Patriotism in its simplest, clearest, and most indubitable meaning is nothing but an instrument for the attainment of the government's ambitious and mercenary aims, and a renunciation of human dignity, common sense, and conscience by the governed, and a slavish submission to those who hold power. That is what is really preached wherever patriotism is championed. Patriotism is slavery."
—Leo Tolstoy, Christianity and Patriotism

"Men who can undertake to fulfill with unquestioning submission all that is decreed by men they do not know . . . cannot be rational; and the governments—that is, the men wielding such power—can still less be reasonable. They cannot but misuse such insensate and terrible power and cannot but be crazed by wielding it. For this reason peace between nations cannot be attained by this reasonable method of conventions and arbitrations so long as that submission of the peoples to governments, which is always irrational and pernicious, still continues.
But the subjection of men to government will always continue as long as patriotism exists, for every ruling power rests on patriotism—on the readiness of men to submit to power . . ."
—Leo Tolstoy, Christianity and Patriotism

"To destroy governmental violence only one thing is needed: it is that people should understand that the feeling of patriotism which alone supports that instrument of violence is a rude, harmful, disgraceful, and bad feeling, and above all is immoral. It is a rude feeling because it is natural only to people standing on the lowest level of morality and expecting from other nations such outrages as they themselves are ready to inflict. It is a harmful feeling because it disturbs advantageous and joyous peaceful relations with other peoples, and above all produces that governmental organization under which power may fall and does fall into the hands of the worst men. It is a disgraceful feeling because it turns man not merely into a slave but into a fighting cock, a bull, or a gladiator, who wastes his strength and his life for objects which are not his own, but his government's. It is an immoral feeling because, instead of confessing himself a son of God . . . or even a free man guided by his own reason, each man under the influence of patriotism confesses himself the son of his fatherland and the slave of his government, and commits actions contrary to his reason and conscience."
—Leo Tolstoy, Patriotism and Government

"[D]iscipline consists in this, that the men who undergo the instruction and have followed it for a certain time are completely deprived of everything which is precious to a man—of the chief human property, rational freedom—and become submissive, machine-like implements of murder in the hands of their organized hierarchic authorities."
—Leo Tolstoy, Patriotism and Government

"It is because peaceful agitation and passive resistance are effective that I uphold them, and it is because force strengthens tyranny that I condemn it. War and Authority are companions; Peace and Liberty are companions. It is foolish in the extreme not only to resort to force before necessity compels, but especially to madly create the conditions that will lead to this necessity."
—Benjamin Tucker, Liberty, May 22, 1886

"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, Speech in the House of Representatives, January 14, 1814

"Whether the mask is labelled Fascism, Democracy, or Dictatorship of the Proletariat, our great adversary remains the Apparatus—the bureaucracy, the police, the military. Not the one facing us across the frontier or the battlelines, which is not so much our enemy as our brother's enemy, but the one that calls itself our protector and makes us its slaves. No matter what the circumstances, the worst betrayal will always be to subordinate ourselves to this Apparatus, and to trample underfoot, in its service, all human values in ourselves and in others."
— Simone Weil, Politics, Spring 1945

"The great error of nearly all studies of war, an error into which all socialists have fallen, has been to consider war as an episode in foreign politics when it is especially an act of internal politics and the most atrocious act of all . . . Since the directing apparatus has no other way of fighting the enemy than by sending its own soldiers, under compulsion, to their death—the war of one state against another state resolves itself into a war of the state and the military apparatus against its own people."
—Simone Weil, Politics, 1945

"Once lead this people into war and they'll forget there ever was such a thing as tolerance. To fight you must be brutal and ruthless and the spirit of ruthlessness will enter into the very fiber of our national life, infecting Congress, the courts, the policeman on the beat, the man in the street."
—Woodrow Wilson (five days prior to asking Congress to declare war on Germany in 1917)

"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that numbers of people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience. . . Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem."
—Howard Zinn

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