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Main Index


Quotations on the topics of war, peace, violence, the survival of mankind, etc

Links to quotations:
Human nature
Democracy and Freedom
Against excessive arms spending
"War on Terror"
Nuclear war
Violence and war
America’s Foreign Policy
The guiding principles of the United Nations
International law and war
Fighting talk
Comments of poets
Turkish war Memorial

On civilisation and the survival of mankind

Woody Allen
More than any other time in history mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose correctly.

Abba Eban
History teaches us that nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.

Words on a Turkish War Memorial to ANZAC troops at Gallipoli

“Those heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.

Therefore rest in peace.

There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side in this country of ours.

You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.

After having lost their lives on this land they become our sons as well.”  - Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, 1934.

Popular sayings

If you seek vengeance, prepare two graves. - Chinese Proverb.

War is terrorism – with a bigger budget.

Comments of poets

Michael Longley, Irish poet
War is the opposite of civilisation.

Wilfred Owen
All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true poet must be truthful. - Statement prepared for a book of his poems he hoped might be published.

One of Christ’s essential commands was: Passivity at any price! Suffer dishonour and disgrace; but never resort to arms. Be bullied, be outraged, be killed; but do not kill. . . Am I not myself a conscientious objector with a very seared conscience? – Letter to his mother, c16 May 1917.

We wise . . . besmirch blood over all our soul. – Owen’s poem, Insensibility.

I am the enemy you killed, my friend. – Owen’s poem, Strange Meeting.

Siegfried Sassoon
There’s things in war one dare not tell poor father sitting safe at home.

Robert Graves on the personality of a soldier
He’s shed all fear, all faith, all hate, all hope.

W B Yeats, Editor of the Oxford Book of Modern Verse 1936
Wilfred Owen I consider unworthy of the poet’s corner of a country newspaper . . . He is all blood, dirt and sucked sugar stick.

I have a distaste for certain poems written in the midst of the Great War: they are in all the anthologies. . . I have rejected these poems. . . Passive suffering is not a theme for poetry.

I think it better that at times like these we poets keep our mouths shut, for in truth we have no gift to set a statesman right;

Jean Giradoux - French dramatist
As soon as war is declared it will be impossible to hold the poets back. Rhyme is still the most effective drum.

Fighting talk

Winston Churchill on war

We shall never surrender
We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. – speech in the House of Commons, 4 June 1940.

So much owed
Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. - speaking about the role of the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain, in the House of Commons, 20 August 1940.

Behaviour in war
In war: resolution. In defeat: defiance. In victory: magnanimity. In peace: goodwill. – The Second World War, Volume 1. (1948)

Christopher Columbus, after "Discovering America"
They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane... They would make fine servants... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.

International law and war

Everyone can understand the law against murder. It is very simple. “Thou shalt not kill.” Equally, everyone can understand the international law against war. “Thou shalt not start a war.” But international law goes further than this and says, “starting a war is the greatest of all crimes,” and “The leaders of nations that start wars are personally responsible for committing such crimes.” These laws were set out by the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal in 1945. - DR

Statements of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal
To initiate a war of aggression ..... is the supreme international crime, only different from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of all the others.
To initiate a war of aggression is a crime that no political or economic situation can justify. - Declaration of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, 1945.

If certain actions in violation of treaties are criminal actions, these are criminal actions whether committed by the USA or by Germany. . . We are not willing to endorse a law that may condemn the criminal behaviour of others unless we are prepared to have those laws invoked against ourselves as well. - US Supreme Court, Justice Robert Jackson - Principal Attorney for the USA at the Nuremberg Tribunal, 1945.

..... the second aim of the trial was to establish the rules of international law for the future, so that not only the launching of wars of aggression would be illegal, but also, for the first time, to make the rulers who lead their countries into wars of aggression personally responsible for their actions. - Lord Shawcross - Principal British Prosecutor at Nuremberg, 1945.

Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore [individual citizens] have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring. - Declaration of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, 1945.

George W. Bush
"International law? I better call my lawyer. . . . I don't know what you're talking about by international law" - 11 December 2003

"I don't care what the international lawyer says. We are going to kick some ass." - quoted in Richard Clarke, against all Enemies (free press 2004)

The guiding principles of the United Natio
We, the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. . . - Opening words of the Charter of the United Nations, 1945.

All members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means. . . All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state. - From Article 2 of the Charter of the United Nations.

An expert view on the law of war as it applied to the bombing of Kosovo
As a primary source of international law, the judgment of the Nuremberg Tribunal in the 1945-1946 case of the major Nazi war criminals is plain and clear. American and British leaders often rhetorically invoke and praise that judgment, but obviously have not read it. The International Court declared:
"To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

At Nuremberg, the United States and Britain pressed the prosecution of Nazi leaders for planning and initiating aggressive war as the ultimate crime. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, the head of the American prosecution staff, asserted "that launching a war of aggression is a crime and that no political or economic situation can justify it."

The United States has discarded pretensions to international legality and decency, and embarked on a course of raw imperialism run amok. - Walter Rockler, Former Prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, televised address to a conference organised by Justice Yugoslavia, held at Friends’ House, London, 2000.

Anacharsis, Scythian philosopher, 600 B.C.
Written laws are like spiders' webs, and will, like them, only entangle and hold the poor and weak, while the rich and powerful easily break through them.

America’s Foreign Policy

On America’s warlike tendency
Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear - kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervour - with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant funds demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real. – 1957. General Douglas MacArthur (USA)

Thomas Jefferson
I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.

To win in Vietnam we will have to exterminate a nation. - Dr Benjamin Spock on Vietnam, 1968.

Violence and war

Isaac Asimov

Violence is the first refuge of the incompetent.

Albert Einstein
I am an absolute pacifist... It is an instinctive feeling. It is a feeling that possesses me, because the murder of men is disgusting. - interview with Paul Hutchinson, in Christian Century 28 August 1929.

I am not only a pacifist but a militant pacifist. I am willing to fight for peace. Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war. - Interview with G. S. Viereck, January 1931.

Any society which does not insist upon respect for all life must necessarily decay.

Thomas A. Edison
Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.

Martin Luther King, Jr
We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

John F. Kennedy
Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

Nuclear war

Albert Einstein
The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe. - Telegram to prominent Americans, 24 May 1946.

McGeorge Bundy, assistant to President Kennedy
In the real world even one hydrogen bomb on one city would be a catastrophe; ten bombs on ten cities would be a disaster beyond history. A hundred, or even less, would be the end of civilization. 

Lord Mountbatten

As a military man who has given half a century of active Service, I say in all sincerity that the nuclear arms race has no military purpose. Wars cannot be fought with nuclear weapons. Their existence only adds to our perils because of the illusions which they have generated. There are powerful voices around the world who still give credence to the old Roman precept …if you desire peace, prepare for war. This is absolute nuclear nonsense, and I repeat - it is a disastrous misconception to believe that by increasing the total uncertainty, one increases one’s own certainty.

Andrie Sakharov - Russian nuclear physicist
Every day I saw the huge material, intellectual and nervous resources of thousands of people being poured into the creation of a means of total destruction, something capable of annihilating all human civilization. I noticed that the control levers were in the hands of people who, though talented in their own ways, were cynical. -  Sakharov Speaks (1974)

"War on Terror"
In January 2007, British director of public prosecutions, Ken McDonald, broke ranks with the political establishment and delivered a general warning against  the dangers of a 'fear driven and inappropriate' response to terrorism. In a striking expression of traditional legal liberalism, Sir Ken said that 'there is no such thing as a war on terror'. Arguing against extraordinary laws, and the suspension of normal rules, he argued that those murdered by the London Underground bombers in July 2005 'were not victims of war, and the men who killed them were not, as in there vanity they claimed on their ludicrous videos, "soldiers". They were deluded, narcissistic, inadequate. They were criminals. They were fantasists . . . The fight against terrorism on the streets of Britain is not a war. It is the prevention of crime, the enforcement of our laws and the winning of justice for those damaged by their infringement. - Solomon Hughes, War On Terror, INC.

Harry S Truman
Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.

Noam Chomsky
Everybody's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a really
easy way: stop participating in it.

E F Schumacher
It is of little use trying to suppress terrorism if the production of deadly devices continues to be deeemed a legitimate employment of man’s creative powers. - Small is Beautiful, 1973.

Martin Niemoller - German pastor
When Hitler attacked the Jews, I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. When he attacked the Catholics, I was not a catholic. Then they came for the communists, I did not speak out as I was not a communist. When they came for me, there was nobody left to speak for me.

Vaclav Havel - Czech President
To respond to evil by committing another evil does not eliminate evil but allows it to go on forever - letter 1989

Against excessive arms spending

Martin Luther King
A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
It is estimated that we spend $322,000 for each enemy we kill, while we spend in the so-called war on poverty in America only about 53 dollars for each person classified as 'poor'. And much of that 53 dollars goes for salaries of people who are not poor. We have escalated the war in Viet Nam and de-escalated the skirmish against poverty. It challenges the imagination to contemplate what lives we could transform if we were to cease killing. - The Casualties of the War in Vietnam, 25 February 1967.

General Dwight Eisenhower
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the 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 money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron. - April 16, 1953.

Democracy and Freedom

James Bovard
Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
There is no subjugation so perfect as that which keeps the appearance of freedom, for in that way one captures volition itself. - Emile.

Martin Luther King
Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

Karl Popper
We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. – The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945.

Joseph Stalin
The state is an instrument in the hands of the ruling class, used to break the resistance of the adversaries of that class.


Franklin Roosevelt
The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That in its essence is fascism: ownership of government by an individual, by a group or any controlling private power.

Benito Mussolini
Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power.

Teddy Roosevelt,
"Behind the visible government there is an invisible government upon the throne that owes the people no loyalty and recognizes no responsibility. To destroy this invisible government, to undo the ungodly union between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the task of a statesman." -Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, during his 1912 election campaign (104).

Thomas Jefferson, 1816
I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.

Abraham Lincoln
I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country.... corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. - 21 Nov 1864.


The essence of propaganda consists in winning people over to an idea so sincerely, so vitally, that in the end they succumb to it utterly and can never again escape from it.

Adolf Hitler
The broad mass of a nation. . .will more easily fall victim to a big lie than a small one. . . All this was inspired by the principle - which is quite true in itself - that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.
Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation
- Mein Kampf (1925)

Anatole France 1844 - 1924

You think you are dying for your country; you die for the industrialists.

Human nature
The reduction of politics to a spectator sport. . .has been one of the more malign accomplishments of television. Television newsmen are breathless on how the game is being played, largely silent, on what the game is all about. - J.K. Galbraith, American economist.

Martin Luther King
A riot is at bottom the language of the unheard.

Mahatma Mohandas K. Gandhi
The things that will destroy us are: politics without principle; pleasure without conscience; wealth without work; knowledge without character; business without morality; science without humanity; and worship without sacrifice.

R H Tawney
It is possible, we now know, for a society to be heir to the knowledge of all the ages, and to use it with the recklessness of a madman and the ferocity of a savage. . .  It may master the means to harness nature to its chariot and then employ them to drive with greater speed to the precipice. Mr Wells's vision of a world controlled by Samurai and airman is the only Utopia which has approached realisation. It is still uncertain whether mankind can survive it. 
From his book, Equality, 1931.