The Al Qaeda attacks on 9/11 transformed a floundering Bush presidency into a “War Presidency” that claimed “everything was now forever changed,” a mantra used to justify imperious presidential powers: a revenge war against Afghanistan, suspension of adherence to international treaties and numerous sections of the Constitution, pre-emptive war against Iraq, occupation and windfall profiteering by pet corporate sponsors. A neo-conservative plan to attack Iraq for purposes of regional hegemony and oil had been on the table since 1997. 9/11 brought it into action.
In contrast, the founders, who knew war first hand---all of them facing the end of a rope had the Revolution failed---saw war as a last resort. Fifteen hundred years of European mayhem was to them a stark warning of the corrupt values, social inequities and loss of freedoms that attended wars. They warned against foreign adventurism and took the power to take the nation into war away from the executive and put it instead in legislative hands, so that the war option would always be seriously debated and difficult to effect.
GEORGE W. BUSH: “There’s a certain level of blood lust, but we won’t let it drive our reaction. We’re steady, clear-eyed and patient, but pretty soon we’ll have to start displaying scalps.”
---September 28, 2001 meeting in Oval Office with King Abdullah II of Jordan, quoted by Bob Woodward, Bush At War, p. 168
GEORGE W. BUSH: “In this war we defend not just America or Europe; we are defending civilization itself.”
---Speech in Berlin, May 2002
GEORGE W. BUSH: “I believe the role of the military is to fight and win war and, therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place.”
---Presidential Debate in Boston, October 3, 2000
GEORGE W. BUSH: “I know it’s hard for you to believe, but I have not doubted what we’re doing. I have not doubted. . . . There is no doubt in my mind we’re doing the right thing. Not one doubt.”
---Interview to Bob Woodward, August 2002, Bush At War, p.256
GEORGE W. BUSH: "Bring ‘em on!"
---July 2, 2003
GEORGE W. BUSH: "I'm a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign-policy matters with war on my mind."
---"Meet the Press," February 7, 2004
GEORGE W. BUSH: “It is a ridiculous notion to assert that because the United States is on the offense, more people want to hurt us. We are on the offense because people do want to hurt us.”
---Remarks it the Rose Garden, August 2, 2004
GEORGE W. BUSH: "I can look you in the eye and tell you I feel I've tried to solve the problem diplomatically to the max, and would have committed troops both in Afghanistan and Iraq knowing what I know today."
---Speech, Irvine, CA., April 24, 2006
GEORGE W. BUSH: "You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror."
---Interview with CBS News' Katie Couric, September 6, 2006
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: “Force shites upon Reason’s back.”
---Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1736
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: “A man in a passion rides a mad horse.”
---Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1749
GEORGE WASHINGTON: “My first wish is to see this plague to mankind [war] banished from off the earth, and the sons and daughters of this world employed in more pleasing and innocent amusements than in preparing implements and exercising them for the destruction of mankind.”
---Letter to David Humphreys, July 25, 1785
GEORGE WASHINGTON: “Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage and to be haughty and intractable when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed and bloody contests.”
---Farewell Address, 1796
THOMAS JEFFERSON: "We did not raise armies for glory or for conquest."
---Declaration on Taking Up Arms, 1775
THOMAS JEFFERSON: "The most successful war seldom pays for its losses."
---Letter to Edmund Randolph, September 20, 1785
THOMAS JEFFERSON: "Conquest is not in our principles. It is inconsistent with our government."
---Instructions to William Carmichael, August 22, 1790
THOMAS JEFFERSON: "If there be one principle more deeply rooted than any other in the mind of every American it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest."
---Letter to William Short, July 28, 1791
THOMAS JEFFERSON: "We abhor the follies of war, and are not untried in its distresses and calamities. Unmeddling with the affairs of other nations, we had hoped that our distance and our dispositions would have left us free, in the example and indulgence of peace with all the world."
---Letter to Carmichael and Short, June 30, 1793
THOMAS JEFFERSON: “As to myself, I love peace, and I am anxious that we should give the world still another useful lesson, by showing to them other modes of punishing injuries than by war, which is as much a punishment to the punisher as to the sufferer.”
---To Tench Coxe, Monticello, May 1, 1794
THOMAS JEFFERSON: "I abhor war and view it as the greatest scourge of mankind."
---Letter to Elbridge Gerry, April 2, 1797
THOMAS JEFFERSON: "Wars and contentions indeed fill the pages of history with more matter. But more blest is that nation whose silent course of happiness furnishes nothing for history to say."
---Letter to Comte Diodati, March 29, 1807
THOMAS JEFFERSON: "The evils of war are great in their endurance, and have a long reckoning for ages to come.”
---Reply to Pittsburgh Republicans, 1808
THOMAS JEFFERSON: "[Montesquieu wrote in his Spirit of Laws, IX,c.2:] 'The spirit of monarchy is war and enlargement of domain: peace and moderation are the spirit of a republic."
---Copied into his Commonplace Book
JAMES MADISON: "Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other."
---”Political Observations,” 1795
JAMES MADISON: “A republic cannot stand upon bayonets, and when the day comes, when the wealth of the nation will be in the hands of a few, then we must rely upon the wisdom of the best elements in the country to readjust the laws of the nation to the changed conditions.”
---New York Post, quoted by George Seldes, The Great Quotations
ALEXANDER HAMILTON: “The violent destruction of life and property incident to war---the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger--- will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.”
---Federalist No. 8, 1787
ALEXANDER HAMILTON: “Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.”
---Federalist No. 8, 1787
ALEXANDER HAMILTON: “Men are rather reasoning than reasonable animals, for the most part governed by the impulse of passion.”
---Letter to James A. Bayard, April 1802
THOMAS PAINE: “He that is the author of a war lets loose the whole contagion of hell and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death.”
---The American Crisis, 1776