The Lessons of Abu Gharaib

Kenneth Kraft, a scholar of engaged Buddhism, discusses the Iraqi prison abuse scandal from a Buddhist perspective.

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Many people have been struck by the story of the young woman from West Virginia, Lynndie England, who appears in several of the Abu Ghraib pictures. She's twenty-one. Why is her apparent normalcy so disturbing? The Abu Ghraib photos point to something larger than the specific scenes caught on camera. One of the lessons of this tragedy, from a Buddhist standpoint, is that she is us. She could be our daughter or our niece or someone we might know. It's not as if there were just a few bad apples in a big barrel of good apples. In the frenzy of war, cruelty becomes acceptable behavior. As a nation, we are putting all these good apples—our soldiers—into a very rotten barrel.

Buddhism emphasizes the interconnectedness of the world, and this "interbeing" has no limit. Since I am part of the system that produced this war and these atrocities, then I, too, share the blame.

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