It Takes a Conscience

In February of 2008, Michelle Obama delivered a speech in which she said about her husband: “He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism.”

I know what cynicism is. I felt it during the eight, long years of the homicidal Bush-Cheney tyranny. And I recognized it, piercingly, when Barack Obama referred to Afghanistan as the “right” war. I experienced it, again and again, before the election, especially, when Obama chose as his running mate the ardent Zionist Joe Biden along with consultants from the corporate sector.

When my youngest son called and told me he wanted to go to DC for the historic inauguration—just to be there—to tell the children he may have someday that he was on the scene, I was aware of my cynicism. I wanted to say to him, “This man is going to disappoint you beyond belief. He’s going to turn off a generation of young people who are inspired by his message of change.”

I hated this cynicism. Because I’ve always been proactive in the face of despair. I would tell you some of the things I’ve done in moments of suffocating negativity, but most examples are too personal for public consumption. Suffice it to say that I’m resourceful and have, almost always, been able to lift myself from the depths to a ledge of optimism.

I’m trying to hang onto this now.

But we are sending at least 30,000 additional troops to a country mangled by corruption whose puppet leader says he’ll need our support for years and years and years, while the people of Afghanistan perceive us as blood-sucking occupiers and want to blow our troops to smithereens. And are.

Plus, Wars R Us, Inc. plans to send between 26,000 and 56,000 additional mercenaries to Afghanistan, swelling the ranks to a possible 160,000.

We have not left Iraq.

We are droning Afghanistan and remote areas of Pakistan. And, now, Barack Obama is considering Predator and Reaper attacks in the Pakistan city of Quetta whose population is 850,000. In defiance of international law, we are launching strikes (operated primarily by the CIA), which have killed more civilians, including children, than al-Qaeda and Taliban targets. Expanding them to cities will yield even more civilian casualties.

According to a report by Human Rights Watch, Israel, with unwavering support from our government, rocketed drone attacks in Gaza during January of 2008 and February of 2009 in which civilians were killed, among them children.

President Obama, whose early statements decried American exceptionalism, has recently announced to the world a message that screams otherwise. And he’s plagiarized the speeches of George Bush in his effort to induce our mighty, rightful position as a beacon of decency in an evil world. Invoking 9/11 as much as his predecessor, he is constructing a case for endless war, against an ideology.

For this, I say to Michelle, “I cannot shed my cynicism simply because your husband demands it. Instead, its viral load has intensified.”

Because we are destroying so much. Our military families are suffering. The children of deployed troops are suffering. The spouses of deployed troops are suffering. The suicide rate among our military is climbing. Those who return home without physical wounds bring back with them the psychological scars of war, and many project this on their loved ones and communities.

And the people, the men, women, and children, who live in the lands where we wreak death, maiming, and the degradation of the environment, are suffering.

Our justification for invasion and occupation are reprehensible lies. Our actions are sagas of immorality. These calamities didn’t choose us; we chose them. And the consequence is a lifetime of shame for the anguish we inflict.

We, who have never experienced years of daily Shock and Awe, the 500-pound bombs exploding our lives away, have no capacity to comprehend. Thus, the men and women who vote to fund combat have no attachment to war’s craven disregard for humanity.

The ideology we must confront and asphyxiate is our own: that of nationalism, Zionism, and imperialism. Our savage disregard for human rights, even here at home, should be glaring evidence that we are not an ethical model. We are uncivilized.

It takes more than a village to act in the best interests of mankind. Also required is conscience, something abysmally lacking among our leadership. So, it’s up to us. Our survival depends on what we do to shed our cynicism. Each of us has an obligation to become involved—to prevent the Military Industrial Complex from engulfing us in more barbarism.

Peace of the Action kicks off in DC in March. Visit the site at and make a commitment to sabotage war. Remember, it’s the people’s demands that must be met.

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: