We Who Dared to Say No to War uncovers some of the forgotten but compelling body of work from the American antiwar tradition—speeches, articles, poetry, book excerpts, political cartoons, and more—from people throughout our history who have opposed war. Beginning with the War of 1812, these selections cover every major American war up to the present and come from both the left and the right, from religious and secular viewpoints. There are many surprises, including a forgotten letter from a Christian theologian urging Confederate President Jefferson Davis to exempt Christians from the draft and a speech by Abraham Lincoln opposing the 1848 Mexican War. Among others, Daniel Webster, Mark Twain, Andrew Carnegie, Grover Cleveland, Eugene Debs, Robert Taft, Paul Craig Roberts, Patrick Buchanan, and Country Joe and the Fish make an appearance. This first-ever anthology of American antiwar writing offers the full range of the subject's richness and variety.
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.