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We Who Dared to Say No to War: American Antiwar Writing from 1812 to Now Paperback – September 9, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This history of America in anti-war writing, "coedited by a man of the left (Polner) and a man of the right (Woods)," is an insightful, relevant and varied collection that mines a strong tradition of American protest and principle. Covering the War of 1812 through "Iraq and the War on Terror," the editors provide a brief background essay for each before ceding the page to essays, interviews, letters, poems and photos from the past 200 years. Contributors include Daniel Webster, Stephen Crane, Eugene V. Debs, Helen Keller and Howard Zinn, as well as presidents and other government officials, mothers, social justice activists, poets and songwriters. Parallels among wars and the present moment are easy to find, and the many warnings hang heavy, given the ambiguous aftermath of America's conflicts. Eisenhower's 1961 warning against the abuses of "the military-industrial complex" is a standby centerpiece worthy of another look, but much of the material is just as interesting, informative and impassioned. Foregoing any dry lessons, this history-in-protest is a valuable read for study and conversation in advance of the 2008 presidential election, and should be of interest to a wide audience not limited to history buffs, antiwar activists, and those seeking perspective on today's war.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

History repeats itself, and Polner and Woods (The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History) remind us that both Leftist dissent against jingoism and Rightist opposition to governments swollen by war run throughout American history. The authors present writings by thinkers and activists, from the War of 1812 to the Iraq War. Daniel Webster thunders against the draft of 1814; Abraham Lincoln denounces President Polk's lies about the war in Mexico as "the half-insane mumbling of a fever dream." Even less controversial wars had opponents; included pieces range from the religious and pacifist writings against the Civil War to a statement from World War II draft—resister David Dellinger. The pieces are arranged chronologically and include moral and legal statements, accounts by activists and veterans, and the traditional letters written by mothers. The book would have been even more powerful had it featured writings by minorities and about the wars on American Indians. A five-page list of antiwar films is also included. Recommended for larger public libraries and all college libraries.—Duncan Stewart, Univ. of Iowa Lib., Iowa City
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1st edition (September 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568583850
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568583853
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #246,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I hold my master's, M.Phil., and Ph.D. in history from Columbia University and my bachelor's from Harvard. I've written numerous books, including The Church Confronts Modernity (Columbia University Press) and two New York Times bestsellers -- Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse, and The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. My two latest books are Rollback: Repealing Big Government Before the Coming Fiscal Collapse and Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century.

My wife and I have four young daughters and live in Topeka, Kansas.

My full biography can be found at My upcoming appearances, in addition to plenty of free audio, video, and articles, are also available at my website.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A. Nicholson on October 1, 2008
Format: Paperback
I heard this book discussed on Lew Rockwell's podcast, and purchased it. As I began to read through it, I was amazed that no matter the date or the particular circumstance that instigated the individual treatise, each was relevant to contemporary events. The same lies today's war party uses to pervert and exploit citizens' inherent patriotism have been used by the purveyors of endless conflicts throughout United States history.

I will leave an in-depth review to those more qualified, but I was pleasantly surprised by Alexander Campbell's "Address on War", William Jennings Bryan's assailing of imperialism, everything about Randolph Bourne's famous dissecting of the State's need for perpetual war, and Helen Keller's wisdom. The entire book is filled with extraordinary quotes from these and many other clear-headed individuals from our storied past.

Regardless of the various authors' backgrounds, political ideologies, etc., there is a unbreakable thread of moral/intellectual valor that permeates this compilation. These men and women, "in heart and conscience free," with integrity, fought against daunting odds. They often suffered for speaking the truth. We who oppose war today for religious/moral reasons or political pragmatism (or both) have been given their writings as an invaluable heritage. Many thanks to Murray Polner and Thomas Woods, Jr. for editing this book, for making these articles accessible to the greater public, and for preserving these priceless gems of wisdom for other generations. We look forward to a sequel!
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By James E. Egolf VINE VOICE on November 6, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
THOSE WHO DARED TO SAY NO TO WAR is a collection of essays edited by Thomas Woods (a conservative whatever that term means) and Murry Polner who is supposed to be a "leftist." These essays were written by thoughtful men and women who spanned the political spectrum. Some of these essays were written by devout religious men and women. Some were written by pacificists while others were written by career military men who were officers. Readers should note that each section of the essays has an introduction written by the editors helping to explain the historical background the these essays.

The first essays dealt with the War of 1812. Danial Webster's speech opposing military conscription to fight the British is an eloquent defense of individual liberty and a serious attack on military conscription which Webster argued was slavery and outright murder. Webster carefully diagnosed military conscription as a means of separating husband and wife, father from children, etc. Webster was not shy in explaining that to conscript men to invade Canada, or anywhere else for that matter, was a clear violation of freedom and an advance toward slavery. Webster proved prophetic in this speech.

The second section of this book dealt with essays that expressed opposition to the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). An interesting item in these essays was the later Pres. Abraham Lincoln's speech opposing the U.S. unprovoked invasion of Mexico in 1846. William Goodell's essay that the Mexican-American War was a war for the expansion of slavery is true. Contrary to standard shallow textbook accounts, Goodell is bluntly clear that the Mexican authorities made no move whatsoever to start hostilities with the U.S. Goodell cited others whose investigations came to the same conclusion.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Randall K. Edwards on July 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
Agree with the pacifist position or not, this book has compiled a number of brilliant and convincing essays and speeches against the wars in which the United States has been involved from 1812 to today. Although the editors are libertarians, the focus on the book is more on the antiwar writings of the contributors than on any conservative/libertarian agenda. For example, one of the most compelling speeches included was by Eugene Debs, the Socialist candidate for president (and vehement opponent of World War I) at the beginning of the last century. The thing that I found to be of most value was the fact that the underlying arguments against war -- whether the American Civil War, either of the World Wars, or today's current conflicts -- are the same: war is immoral, war is expensive, war doesn't permanently solve any problems (let alone bring peace), and, at base, war is simply wrong.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By William H. DuBay on March 23, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have just finished reading, "We who dared to say no to war: American antiwar writing from 1812 to the present," edited by Murray Polner and Thomas Woods.

It was a breath of fresh air in our present climate of fetid war fever. Let me say that it is not the American history you find in taught in school.

The anti-war writings are not just from the usual run-of-the-mill pacifists like Howard Zinn and the Berrigan brothers, but include some of the most prominent figures in our history, including John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Robert Follette, William Jennings Bryan, Robert Taft, Henry Wallace, Jane Addams, Helen Keller, Pat Buchanan, and Julia Ward Howe, who gave us both Mother's Day and the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," and Katherine Lee Bates who wrote "America the Beautiful."

The writings are surprisingly relevant to modern politics. Most interesting are the primary-source materials dealing with the War of 1812, which was an invasion of Canada. Webster and Adams both railed against this war as a violation of everything the Declaration of Independence stood for.

Many of the writers refer to the Americans' penchant for war and how easily politicians can stir them up. They not only make a strong moral case against war but refer to the commercial pressures behind the war. I did not know, for example, that northern manufacturers were eager for Lincoln to secure southern markets.

I noted that several presidents, like Lincoln, who stood out against the Mexican-American War, and Woodrow Wilson dropped their anti-war stance once elected to office. Sound familiar?

Especially relevant were the wars against Mexico and the Philippines. Modern anti-war activist often refer to those crimes.
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