Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

In Harm’s Way


In harm’s way. This phrase originated with John Paul Jones in 1778 when, during the Revolutionary War, he wrote, ‘I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail FAST; for I intend to go in harm’s way.’

In harm’s way.

Today, we hear this said over and over, so much so that it almost has become a lulling.

George Bush speaks the phrase often. Here are a few examples:

During a 2003 visit to wounded troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Bush said, “We put a lot of fine troops into harm’s way to make this country more secure and the world more free and the world more peaceful.”

In 2004 when Bush was campaigning in Colorado with Gen. Tommy Franks at his side, he vilified John Kerry and John Edwards: “There were only four members of the United States Senate who voted to authorize the use of force and then voted against funding for our troops in harm’s way-two of whom are my opponent and his running mate.”

And this past week in a taped Christmas message to the armed forces, Bush thanked the families of our soldiers and said that he prays for the safe return of their loved ones in harm’s way.

In harm’s way.

Army Reservist James E. Dean had already been in harm’s way in Afghanistan, having served 18 months. When he learned that he would be deployed to Iraq, Dean became depressed. He barricaded himself in his father’s house on Christmas Day and threatened suicide. He was killed by a police officer after aiming a gun at another officer.

Neighbors said Dean was “a good boy.”

In harm’s way.

War is so much more than this phrase. It is straddling the edge of physical mutilation, psychological lesions, and death, always. From bullets to improvised explosive devices to not knowing who is friend or foe to being taken captive and tortured, our troops have the constant fear of never seeing their loved ones again or never seeing the baby born during their deployment. War is seeing your buddy’s face blown off. It is nightmares and flashbacks. It is forever. War is not being able to relate to those who haven’t lived through the soul-searing experience. How could any encounter, from the mundane to the extraordinary, have the same meaning it did before?

Over a million Americans have served in Iraq since Bush/Cheney’s illegal invasion and occupation of the country. Some have served three tours of grave danger in Iraq.

And if they return and sever their ties with the military, they cannot separate from the memories. In more than harm’s way, they will have as their companions the scars of war for the rest of their lives.

And so will the people of Iraq who survive the hell committed in my name and yours.

Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She’s written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she’s a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,’05, she has been writing political articles. She can be reached at:



Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail:

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Tom Clifford
Duterte’s Gambit: the Philippines’s Pivot to China
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Reyes Mata III
Scaling Camelot’s Walls: an Essay Regarding Donald Trump
Raouf Halaby
Away from the Fray: From Election Frenzy to an Interlude in Paradise
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
David Yearsley
Trump and Hitchcock in the Age of Conspiracies
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”