Tag Archives: Ellen N. La Motte

The Last Death in a War Is 90% Backwash, by David Swanson

Even during World War I, someone questioned the “Glorious War” bullshit. From David Swanson at antiwar.com:

They say the last sip of a drink is mostly backwash. The last understanding of a war should be that every speck of it is backwash in the sense used by Ellen N. La Motte in her 1916 book The Backwash of War. La Motte was a U.S. nurse who worked at a French hospital in Belgium not far from a semi-permanent front line at which men slaughtered each other for no discernible purpose for months on end, and the mangled bodies from one side, plus the occasional civilian, were brought into the hospital to die or to be kept alive and – if possible – patched up and sent back into it, or, in some cases, patched back together well enough to be shot for desertion.

La Motte, whose book (newly republished and introduced by Cynthia Wachtell) was immediately banned in England and France, but sold well in the United States until the US had officially joined in the war, saw nothing good or glorious, but speculated that it must be out there. “Undoubtedly,” she wrote, the front has, “produced glorious deeds of valor, courage, devotion, and nobility. . . . We are witnessing a phase in the evolution of humanity, a phase called War – and the slow, onward progress stirs up the slime in the shallows, and this is the Backwash of War. It is very ugly. There are many little lives foaming up in the backwash. They are loosened by the sweeping current, and float to the surface, detached from their environment, and one glimpses them, weak, hideous, repellent.”

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