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The Sutras of Abu Ghraib is the story of a soldier who refused to succumb to violence. In chronicling the struggles of military life and the dehumanizing effects of war, Aidan Delgado examines the attitudes that make prisoner abuse possible and explores his own developing Buddhist beliefs against a brutal backdrop. It is a tale of physical bravery, moral courage, and the cost of holding on to your identity while everyone around you is losing theirs.
The son of a diplomat, Delgado grew up in various countries, including Thailand, where he was introduced to Buddhism, and Egypt, where he learned Arabic. In 2001, after his first year of college, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve, and in 2003 he was deployed as a specialist in Nasiriyah and at Abu Ghraib. When his colleagues learned that he spoke some Arabic and enjoyed meeting Iraqis, they made use of him but also began to mistrust him. As Delgado witnessed more and more American racism, arrogance, and abuse of unarmed Iraqis, his opposition mounted. Concluding that war ran counter to his Buddhist principles, he sought conscientious objector status and, after finishing his tour of duty, was honorably discharged. The following year, Bob Herbert wrote in the New York Times, "The public at large and especially the many soldiers who have behaved honorably in Iraq deserve an honest answer . . . Mr. Delgado's complaints and the entire conduct of this wretched war should be thoroughly investigated."
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Aidan Delgado served with the U.S. Army Reserve in Iraq and is now an active member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. A 2006 graduate of the New College of Florida, he lives in Sarasota, Florida.From Publishers Weekly:
Delgado, one of the few soldiers to gain conscientious objector status during the Iraq War, paints a grim picture of an army suffused with casual racism and capricious violence. After signing up to become an army reserve mechanic—he completed the paperwork on September 11, 2001, minutes before the first tower was hit—Delgado found himself drawn to Buddhism, and his faith ultimately clashed with the military service he faced in Iraq. Having lived in Egypt as a teenager, Delgado was alarmed by the ignorance of Islam and xenophobia among his fellow soldiers. He attributes those attitudes to the abuses at Abu Ghraib, where he was stationed for much of his tour of duty. Delgado's commander, who did not look favorably upon applications for CO status, took his body armor away and didn't return it, even when the unit was under continual mortar bombardment. This slim and readable volume is best when recounting the author's conversations, altercations and adventures in Iraq; his meditations on pacifism are sometimes repetitive and tendentious. In the end, he offers a welcome corrective to much of the aggressive rhetoric that has pervaded the debate over the war in Iraq. (Aug.)
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