Thich Nhat Hanh Comments on Iraq Prison Abuse

May 21, 2004


On May 21, 2004 posted an interview with Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, on the prisoner abuses in Iraq. Hanh writes, "Recent news about the abuse of prisoners of war provides us with the opportunity to look deeply into the nature of war. This is an opportunity for us to be more aware. This is not new; everywhere there is war, these kinds of things happen...Soldiers are trained to believe they must kill the other group because they are not human beings. If soldiers see their 'enemies' as fellow human beings just like them, they would have no courage to kill them. It is important not to blame and single out the U.S. in this kind of situation because any country would do the same thing under the same conditions. During the Vietnam War atrocities were committed by both sides. The statement President Bush made that the U.S. just sent dedicated, devoted young men, not abusers to Iraq shocked me. Because committing acts of torture is just the result of the training that the soldiers have already undergone. The training already makes them lose all their humanity. The young men going to Iraq were already full of fear, wanting to protect themselves at all cost, being ready to kill at any moment. In this state you can become extremely cruel. You may pour all of your hate and anger on prisoners of war by torturing and abusing them. The purpose of your violence is not only to extract information from them, but also to express your hate and fear. The prisoners of war are the victims, but the abusers, the torturers are also the victims. Their actions will continue to disturb them long after the abuse has ended."