One hundred years ago this year, the United States entered the First World War to tip the balance against the German army. It was the first major war in the mechanized age with rapid-firing machine guns, long-range artillery, planes, tanks, and weaponized gas. It was in Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History Podcast series Blueprint for Armageddon where he likened the experience of being in an artillery barrage to being tied to a metal pole while someone struck it with a sledgehammer inches above your head for hours, even days. This entry of Pages & Quotes features words from anti-war individuals from the World War I chapter of We Who Dared to Say No to War by Thomas Woods Jr. Interestingly, Tom Woods, a conservative/libertarian chose quotes from socialist leader Eugene Debs, who went to jail for speaking out against the First World War and Helen Keller who was also a socialist. It shows that the war issue does not remain in the realm of any political spectrum, but lives rather, as a cancer in the moral heart of the political landscape as a whole.
It was a war of stalemate, attrition, and futility as lives and resources went to waste to fuel the war machine. The direct American involvement amounted to a little more than a year, but the scars left an impression on the generation that saw the fighting in the trenches of France. Now, one hundred years later, the United States finds itself in the 16th year in Afghanistan with no end in sight, no clear goals set in the mission, and a crippling bill counted in lives and dollars.
Yesterday, the US Senate rejected a measure to debate and reconsider the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) which has been the basis of the American troop deployment in Afghanistan as well as President Barack Obama’s use of military force in Syria, Iraq, and Somalia. On the same news train came the sickening milestone in the US national debt: $20 trillion. Meanwhile the public could care less.
I hope that considering the words of those who opposed war one hundred years ago will remind us that the fundamental nature of war never changes and that the wars that the United States wages today could bring its own downfall tomorrow.
Senator George W. Norris
To whom does war bring prosperity? Not to the soldier who for the munificent compensation of $16 per month shoulders his musket and goes into the trench, there to shed his blood and to die if necessary; not to the brokenhearted widow who waits for the return of the mangled body of her husband; not to the mother who weeps at the death of her brave boy; not to the little children who shiver with cold; not to the babe who suffers from hunger; nor to the millions of mothers and daughters who carry broken hearts to their graves. War brings no prosperity to the great mass of common and patriotic citizens. It increases the cost of living of those who toil and those who already must strain every effort to keep soul and body together. War brings prosperity to the stock gambler on Wall Street–to those who are already in possession of more wealth than can be realized or enjoyed… (122)
We are taking a step today that is fraught with untold danger. We are going into war upon the command of gold. We are going to run the risk of sacrificing millions of our countrymen’s lives in order that other countrymen may coin their lifeblood into money. And even if we do not cross the Atlantic and go into the trenches, we are going to pile up a debt that the toiling masses that shall come many generations after us will have to pay. Unborn millions will bend their backs in toil in order to pay for the terrible step we are about to take. (122)
The Government, with no mandate from the people, without consultation of the people, conducts all the negotiations, the backing and filling, the menaces and explanations, which slowly bring it into collision with some other Government, and gently and irresistibly slides the country into war. (132)
The patriot loses all sense of the distinction between State, nation, and government…Country is a concept of peace, of tolerance, of living and letting live. But State is essentially a concept of power, of competition: it signifies a group in its aggressive aspects. And we have the misfortune of being born not only into a country but into a State, and as we grow up we learn to mingle the two feelings into a hopeless confusion. (132)
If the State’s chief function is war, then it is chiefly concerned with coordinating and developing the powers and techniques which make for destruction. (138)
With the silence and the dignity of creators you can end wars and the system selfishness and exploitation that causes wars. All you need to do to bring about this stupendous revolution is to straighten up and fold your arms. (140)
Strike against all ordinances and laws and institutions that continue the slaughter of peace and the butcheries of war. Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought. Strike against manufacturing shrapnel and gas bombs and all other tools of murder. Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to millions of human beings. Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction. Be heroes in an army of construction. (145)
The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose–especially their lives. (153)
[T]he working class who fight all the battles, the working class who make the supreme sacrifices, the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish the corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both. They alone declare war and they alone make peace…(154)
Check out the Pages & Quotes from We Who Dared to Say No to War from the chapter about the Spanish-American War and Philippine Occupation.
Author of We Who Dared to Say No to War, Tom Woods Jr. has his own website with resources and a podcast, the Tom Woods Show. Check it out here.