Heidi's Reviews > The Sutras of Abu Ghraib: Notes from a Conscientious Objector in Iraq

The Sutras of Abu Ghraib by Aidan Delgado
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's review
Oct 29, 2007

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction, read2007
Recommended for: anti-war folks
Read in November, 2007

I met Aidan in 2005 when he was giving a lot of talks on why he was a Conscientious Objector. He must have been working on this book at the time. He was struggling with a new-Buddhist dilemna that he wasn't doing as much meditation. After reading this book, I could see how that could be a struggle. His Buddhist practice, which included study and meditation, were what kept him sane in the insane world of occupied Iraq.

It was clear then when he said the lack of armor was not as scary as the pain in his heart over carrying a gun. He felt such relief when he put that gun down, the tough time he got from the other soldiers were as nothing compared to it.

It was clear now when I read the book and got more details of how he expressed his misgivings.

Aidan's book is not so much a war memoir as it is an introspection. It is exactly the sort of instrospection that underlines the fact that a spiritually-minded person must separate himself and his spirituality from the deeds he is required to do in war. If you truly deeply in your heart believe it is wrong to kill, then if you are a soldier you must do something to reconcile yourself. The war machine encourages this. You must make the enemy less than human. You must absolve yourself from responsibility by telling yourself you are following orders. You cannot look deeply at how it makes you feel to hurt another, in fact you must learn to like hurting another.

This causes post traumatic stress disorder in soldiers, but is hardly acknowledged to do so.

Aidan could no longer separate himself, with his earnest beginner's mind caught up in the Buddhist way.

Oh, and there are people who are soldiers because they want to hurt people. Aidan witnessed plenty of those.

And then they come home. (That is not part of the book, but is something to think about.)

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