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Mencken on War

Here’s the greatest American who ever lived, H.L. Mencken, on politicians and war:

But wars are not made by common folk, scratching for livings in the heat of the day; they are made by demagogues infesting palaces.  It is not necessary for these demagogues to complete the sale of a war before they send the goods home, as a storekeeper must complete the sale of, say, a suit of clothes.  They send the goods home first, then convince the customer that he wants them….  But the main reason why it is easy to sell war to peaceful people is that the demagogues who act as salesmen quickly acquire a monopoly of both public information and public instruction….  The dead are still dead, the fellows who lost legs still lack them, war widows go on suffering the orneriness of their second husbands, and taxpayers continue to pay, pay, pay.  In the schools children are taught that the war was fought for freedom, the home and God.

A Second Mencken Chrestomathy, pp. 57-59.


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