I cannot see the war as historians see it. Those clever fellows study all the facts and they see the war as a large thing, one of the biggest events in the legend of the man, something general, involving multitudes. I see it as a large thing too, only I break it into small units of one man at a time, and see it as a large and monstrous thing for each man involved. I see the war as death in one form or another for men dressed as soldiers, and all the men who survived the war, including myself, I see as men who died with their brothers, dressed as soldiers. There is no such thing as a soldier. I see death as a private event, the destruction of the universe in the brain and in the senses of one man, and I cannot see any man’s death as a contributing factor in the success or failure of a military campaign.
–William Saroyan, The Resurrection of a Life; courtesy of Wikiquote.
We thought we were done with these things but we were wrong.
We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom.
We thought the long train would run to the end of Time.
We thought the light would increase.
Now the long train stands derailed and the bandits loot it.
Now the boar and the asp have power in our time.
Now the night rolls back on the West and the night is solid.
Our fathers and ourselves sowed dragon’s teeth.
Our children know and suffer the armed men.
–Stephen Vincent Benét, “Litany for Dictatorships”; courtesy of Wikiquote
Weapons are instruments of evil omen;
Creation abhors them.
One who aspires to the Way
does not abide in them.
The superior man
at home honors the left,
on the battlefield honors the right.
Weapons are not instruments of the superior man;
Weapons are instruments of evil omen,
to be used only when there is no other choice.
He places placidity above all
and refuses to prettify weapons.
If one prettifies weapons,
this is to delight in the killing of others.
One who delights in the killing of others
Cannot exercise his will over all under heaven.
For this reason,
On occasions for celebration,
the left is given priority,
On occasions for mourning,
the right is given priority.
A deputy general stands on the left,
The general-in-chief stands at the right.
In other words,
They stand in accordance with mourning ritual.
The killing of masses of human beings,
We bewail with sorrow and grief.
Victory in battle,
we commemorate with mourning ritual.
—Tao Te Ching, translated by Victor H. Mair