Ernest Hemingway on The Next War
War is no longer made by simply analysed economic forces if it ever was. War is made or planned now by individual men, demagogues and dictators who play on the patriotism of their people to mislead them into a belief in the great fallacy of war when all their vaunted reforms have failed to satisfy the people they misrule. And we in America should see that no man is ever given, no matter how gradually or how noble and excellent the man, the power to put this country into a war which is now being prepared and brought closer each day with all the pre-meditation of a long planned murder. For when you give power to an executive you do not know who will be filling that position when the time of crisis comes.
They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for ones country. But in modern war there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason. Hit in the head you will die quickly and cleanly even sweetly and fittingly except for the white blinding flash that never stops, unless perhaps it is only the frontal bone or your optic nerve that is smashed, or your jaw carried away, or your nose and cheek bones gone so you can still think but you have no face to talk with. But if you are not hit in the head you will be hit in the chest, and choke in it, or in the lower belly, and feel it all slip and slide loosely as you open, to spill out when you try to get up, it’s not supposed to be so painful but they always scream with it, it’s the idea I suppose, or have the flash, the slamming clang of high explosive on a hard road and find your legs are gone above the knee, or maybe just a foot gone and watch the white bone sticking through your puttee, or watch them take a boot off with your foot a mush inside it, or feel an arm flop and learn how a bone feels grating, or you wil burn, choke and vomit, or be blown to hell a dozen ways, without sweetness or fittingness: but none of this means anything. No catalogue of horrors ever kept men from war. Before the war you always think that it’s not you that dies. But you will die, brother, if you go to it long enough.
Ernest Hemingway, “Notes on the Next War,” Esquire, September, 1935