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: Missybeat@aol.com


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