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Society and Politics

The Dalai Lama’s Views on War and the Iraq Conflict

The Dalai LamaHis Holiness the Dalai Lama’s views on war and the Iraq conflict shared with Buddhist devotees and others on the first day of the Great Prayer Festival, 11 March 2003, in Dharamsala.

The Iraq issue is becoming very critical now. War, or the kind of organized fighting, is something that came with the development of human civilization. It seems to have become part and parcel of human history or human temperament. At the same time, the world is changing dramatically. We have seen that we cannot solve human problems by fighting. Problems resulting from differences in opinion must be resolved through the gradual process of dialogue. Undoubtedly, wars produce victors and losers; but only temporarily. Victory or defeat resulting from wars cannot be long-lasting. Secondly, our world has become so interdependent that the defeat of one country must impact the rest of the word, or cause all of us to suffer losses either directly or indirectly.

Today, the world is so small and so interdependent that the concept of war has become anachronistic, an outmoded approach. As a rule, we always talk about reform and changes. Among the old traditions, there are many aspects that are either ill-suited to our present reality or are counterproductive due to their shortsightedness. These, we have consigned to the dustbin of history. War too should be relegated to the dustbin of history.

Unfortunately, although we are in the 21st century, we still have not been able to get rid of the habit of our older generations. I am talking about the belief or confidence that we can solve our problems with arms. It is because of this notion that the world continues to be dogged by all kinds of problems.

But what can we do? What can we do when big powers have already made up their minds? All we can do is to pray for a gradual end to the tradition of wars. Of course, the militaristic tradition may not end easily. But, let us think of this. If there were bloodshed, people in positions of power, or those who are responsible, will find safe places; they will escape the consequent hardship. They will find safety for themselves, one way or the other. But what about the poor people, the defenseless people, the children, the old and infirm. They are the ones who will have to bear the brunt of devastation. When weapons are fired, the result will be death and destruction. Weapons will not discriminate between the innocent and guilty. A missile, once fired, will show no respect to the innocent, poor, defenseless, or those worthy of compassion. Therefore, the real losers will be the poor and defenseless, ones who are completely innocent, and those who lead a hand-to-mouth existence.

On the positive side, we now have people volunteer medical care, aid, and other humanitarian assistance in war-torn regions. This is a heart-winning development of the modern age.

Okay, now, let us pray that there be no war at all, if possible. However, if a war does break out, let us pray that there be a minimum bloodshed and hardship. I don’t know whether our prayers will be of any practical help. But this is all we can do for the moment.


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