"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." -- Edmund Burke, Thoughts on the Cause of Present Discontents (1770)
As near as anyone can determine, Edmund Burke never said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." The closest Burke sentiment that can be identified is the one above. However, Wikipedia notes:
This purported quote bears a resemblance to the narrated theme of Sergei Bondarchuk's Soviet film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's book "War and Peace", in which the narrator declares "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."
Both quotes are true on the face of it, although I can see how more folks are comfortable assigning to Burke the more succinct version of a Soviet film maker.
However that may be, Kurt Hofmann has come up with an even more pithy and appropriate reconsideration of Burke as illuminated by the ghastly lights of 20th Century funeral pyres: "Remember: Evil exists because good men don't kill the government officials committing it."
For the temerity of tweeting this sentiment, Kurt has once again been denounced by the government-monopoly-of-force advocates of CSGV. I'm jealous. He's now ahead of me on the collectivist "enemy of the people" minute-of-hate denunciations.
I liked the quote so much that I have assigned it a place of honor at the top of my masthead quotes to the right of Sipsey Street.
Coincidentally, I was just forwarded this link from the London Daily Mail which further reinforces Kurt's point:
'I liked to shoot everything - women, kids... it was kind of sport': Secret Nazi tapes reveal how ordinary German soldiers were responsible for war crimes and not just SS
Secret recordings made by British intelligence during the Second World War have revealed for the first time the horrific atrocities carried out by everyday German soldiers.For years the blame for horrific war crimes, rape and genocide were laid at the hands of the SS and Hitler's right hand men but a new book details how widespread the barbarity went.Transcripts taken from hidden microphones on prisoners of war have been collated for the disturbing book Soldaten: On Fighting, Killing and Dying: The Secret Second World War Tapes of German POWs.Between 1940 and 1945 the British and Americans bugged about 13,000 German and several hundred Italian soldiers of all ranks and services - many of which in the Trent Park detention centre for POWs in north London.It was hoped the recordings would reveal military secrets of potentially strategic importance, instead they catalogued open and uncensored conversations about war experiences - often as to boast.They detail not only the extreme level of violence but a disturbing sense of enjoyment from the soldiers.One example of many recounts: 'There was an event in the market square, crowds of people, speeches given. We really sprayed them! That was fun!'
The story goes on to quote one German: 'I liked to shoot everything - women, kids... it was kind of sport.' So always keep in mind, folks, Kurt's rework of Burke's dictum: "Remember: Evil exists because good men don't kill the government officials committing it."
Burke in 1770 would certainly have been shocked by the directness of it, but then, who knows? He never experienced the ghastly Twentieth Century massacres by governments of their own, and other, peoples.