How Many Brinks to Pass?


My dictionary defines ‘brink’ as ‘the point at which something, typically an unwelcome or disastrous event, is about to happen.’

Seems we’ve left the brink behind and moved into those disasters many times under the leadership of George W. Bush. The decision to go to war is one, followed by torture, rendition, spying on American citizens, and, of course, the brink in New Orleans when Bush knew the levees would be breached but was passive and, later, said, “Who’d have known?”

How many brinks are we going to allow, especially, when Bush is too stubborn and inept to pull us back, away from danger?

Now, George W. is giving his speeches to garner support for the war we’ve lost. He’s just said, “We will not lose our nerve.” Easy for him to say since his life isn’t on the line. The lives of our troops and of Iraqis are, though, and the Bush Presidency is. Bush has always indicated he doesn’t pay attention to polls, but his actions prove otherwise. He’s looking deeply at his approval ratings. That’s why he’s out there predicting victory. I guess the poll he’s ignoring is the Zogby International which did face-to-face interviews with our soldiers on the ground in Iraq and found that more than 70 percent think they should be pulled and returned home this year.

So many of us have grown weary of the patriotic pablum, emanating from the minority who support the war. I’m sick of servings of “fighting for our freedoms” or “protecting our liberties.” These should be removed from the pep-rally menu and sympathy offerings.

I say this with certainty. I say it as my family endures the August 6, 2005 death of our own soldier in Iraq. I say it because I have so recently experienced the loss of my First Amendment rights, the swiping of my freedoms-taken so brazenly that I’m still having difficulty with the reality of what it now means to be a citizen of the United States under George W. Bush. He’s the real miscreant here and he sleeps in a house for which I pay under 1000-thread-count sheets for which I pay in a bed for which I pay and jets around in an airplane for which I pay, yet, he hasn’t spent one minute paying for crimes that most of the world consider horrendous. His payment is long overdue.

On March 6 when I accompanied CODEPINK members and the Iraqi Women’s Delegation to the US Mission to the UN to deliver a petition with over 100,000 signatures of women who say no to war, my freedoms-those my nephew and more than 2,300 of his fellow soldiers supposedly died fighting to preserve (?)-were abruptly and brutally suspended. Four women for peace, Rev. Patricia Ackerman, Medea Benjamin, Cindy Sheehan, and I, were arrested and jailed for 22 hours.

I’ve written about the incarceration–the indignities that people suffer even before arraignment–all designed, of course, to teach a lesson. But after more than a week of reflection, my thoughts are focused on those freedoms the Bush Administration has convinced the electorate we’re fighting to prevent terrorists from seizing. Let me tell you that those freedoms have been confiscated by our government. When I can’t walk on a public sidewalk with women who have an appointment to enter and simply hand a petition to the US Mission, then, my freedoms and the freedoms of these other women are no longer principles on which I, we, can depend. Further, when a spokesperson can misrepresent our actions to mainstream newspapers that don’t print our position, someone might as well put a pillow over our mouths and noses and extinguish our breath.

George W. Bush has the audacity to say there is no greater sacrifice than to serve this country in war. But our troops aren’t serving our country. Instead, they’re serving a commander-in-chief who isn’t serving the electorate, but is, instead, serving his own interests. George Bush wants you, our soldiers, and me to believe that he acts on our behalf. Obscene lies twist past his lips.

Several people have asked why I chose that particular day last week to take a stand more drastic than my usual. The answer is this: March 6th marked seven months since my nephew’s death in Iraq. When I saw that the security agents had locked the doors to our mission, I was compelled to do more than march or sit in front of my computer and write. I acted not only in support of freedoms for which Chase J. Comley didn’t die but to claim what he believed he was preserving when he enlisted, even though he was betrayed by George Bush who manipulated evidence to go to war and, then, didn’t care enough to even provide adequate body armor for the troops. My claim on liberty was denied.

For all who say, “Freedom isn’t free,” I want them to understand exactly what’s occurring while they ignore our descent into a dictatorship. Our freedom was never at risk in Iraq or from Saddam Hussein. Freedom wasn’t an issue in the invasion that Bush conceived long before the events of 9/11 and even prior to the oath he took as our president. The word ‘freedom’ is currency to those in the highest offices of our government and they use it to market war. Abusing patriotism, they speak nationalistic rhetoric. They should be ashamed. They should be publicly shamed. They should be impeached and, then, prosecuted. To this administration, the lives of our troops are insignificancies. The dead are placed in transfer tubes-vacuum cleaner bags-to be emptied into a coffin and placed in the dirt. The grief of the distraught families is unfelt by the president. The wailing is unheard by the designers of war.

My nephew’s death is meaningless to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Rove, Wolfowitz, Powell, Perle, and all the advisers who were foaming at the mouth to invade Iraq. Our loss is their gain. POWER. OIL. CONTRACTS. PROFIT.

Meanwhile, as those of us who work for peace are jailed because we dare speak against this administration, Bush and pals raise their glasses or give each other the high sign, confident in their accomplishments and planning the next war.

Freedom to Bush doesn’t mean the same as it does to you and me. Bush’s definition is measured by the support he receives for his doctrine from members of Congress who are no longer statesmen and stateswomen. Rather, they bow and scrape for the glory of George. Anyone who strays is bulldozed by the power the president and Karl Rove harness so effectively.

Freedom used to mean having the right to speak against injustice, against war, and against a dangerous president who makes insane statements like: “God told me to invade Iraq.”

Tragically, the distillate of Bush’s unpunished, scandal-plagued reign may be a world that’s uninhabitable. And, sadly, for so many, the realization of this won’t occur until there’s nothing left to lose.

Missy Comley Beattie 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: