Anti-War Quotes

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While the US has a long tradition of participating in war, it has an equally long, if not longer, anti-war tradition. Here are some of interesting passages from American anti-war writings:

“What is war? I believe that half the people that talk about war have not the slightest idea of what it is. In a short sentence it may be summed up to be the combination and concentration of all the horrors, atrocities, crimes, and sufferings of which human nature on this globe is capable.” (John Bright)

“Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. . . No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” (James Madison)

“Wars are seldom caused by spontaneous hatreds between people, for peoples in general are too ignorant of one another to have grievances and too indifferent to what goes on beyond their borders to plan conquests. They must be urged to slaughter by politicians who know how to alarm them.” (H.L. Mencken)

“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 as strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation in any age has ever been declared by the people.” (Eugene Debs)

“Every people in the world is taught that their country and their government is the best on earth, and that they should be ever ready to desert their homes, abandon their hopes, aspirations, and ambitions when their ruler calls, and this regardless of the right or wrong for which they fight. The teaching of patriotism and war permeates all society, it reaches to the youngest child and even shapes the character of the unborn babe. It fills the soul with false ambitions, with ignoble desires, and with sordid hopes.” (Clarence Darrow)

“History shows that when the people have the opportunity to speak, as a rule the people decide for peace. It shows that arbitrary rulers are more inclined to favor war than are the people, at any time.” (Robert Taft)

“I believe that if we had and would keep our dirty, bloody, dollar-crooked fingers out of the business of these nations so full of depressed, exploited people, they will arrive at a solution of their own. That they design and want. That they fight and work for. And if unfortunately the revolution must be a violent type because the “haves” refuse to share with the “have-nots” by any peaceful method, at least what they get will be their own, and not the American style, which they don’t want and above all don’t want crammed down their throats by Americans.” (George McGovern)

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