This Is What War Looks Like

The abuse at Abu Ghraib prison is what happens when we abandon compassion and allow our animal nature to take over.

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Preparing for war and fighting a war means allowing our human nature to die and the animal nature in us to take over. We should never be tempted to resort to violence and war to solve conflict. Violence always leads to more violence.

There have been examples of individuals who were kind to prisoners. Assuming they have the same training and are operating in the same difficult conditions, what makes some people compassionate and others abusive?

Some people are able to remain compassionate because they are lucky to have received a spiritual heritage, kindness and goodness, that stayed at least partially intact despite their training. This heritage is transmitted by parents, teachers, and community. Their humanity is preserved to some extent even if they have been damaged during their training. So they are still able to be shocked by their fellow soldiers' acts of torture. But those with a poorer spiritual heritage, who come from a family or community without much understanding and compassion, lose all their humanity in the process of military training.

Is it ever possible to torture someone for a good cause? If a prisoner in custody did have information that could potentially prevent a terrorist attack, would coercion be appropriate? If no, what interrogation tactics would be appropriate and effective?

There is no `good cause' for torture. As a torturer, you are the first to be a victim because you lose all your humanity. You do harm to yourself in the act of harming another. If you had a good cause to begin with, it is lost when you torture another human being. When we imagine situations when torture could be justified, we jump to conclusions too quickly and too easily. Torturing someone will not always give us the result we wish for. If the prisoner in custody does not tell us the information we want it is because they don't want their people, their fellow soldiers to be killed. They withhold information out of compassion, out of faithfulness to their cause. Sometimes they give out wrong information. And there are those who prefer to die rather than give in to the torture.

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I am absolutely against torture. It is very easy to create a pretext for why it is necessary to torture a prisoner when we have fear and anger in us. When we have compassion, we can always find another way. When you torture a living being, you die as a human being because the other person's suffering is your own suffering. When you perform surgery on someone, you know the surgery will help him and that is why you can cut into his body. But when you cut into someone's body and mind to get information from them, you cut into your own life, you kill yourself as a person.

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