In June 1963 Thich Quang Duc sat in the lotus position as a brother monk poured petrol over him before Thich Quang Duc lit a match setting fire to himself. This act of self-immolation was in protest of South Vietnam's Diem regime's discriminatory laws that were not merely anti-Buddhist but persecuted all Buddhist's. The rights and wrongs to Thich Quang Duc's act to one side, I can neither condone nor condemn suicide but would rather concentrate on how a man, be he Buddhist or not, can defy pain in the way Thich Quang Duc did. Eyewitnesses who observed the protest heard the monk say these words...
"Before closing my eyes and moving towards the vision of the Buddha, I respectfully plead to President Ngó Dinh Diém to take a mind of compassion towards the people of the nation and implement religious equality to maintain the strength of the homeland eternally. I call the venerables, reverends, members of the sangha and the lay Buddhists to organize in solidarity to make sacrifices to protect Buddhism."
David Halberstam, an American Journalist who was at the scene of the immolation said this of what he saw...
"Flames were coming from a human being; his body was slowly withering and shriveling up, his head blackening and charring. In the air was the smell of burning human flesh; human beings burn surprisingly quickly. Behind me I could hear the sobbing of the Vietnamese who were now gathering. I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think ... As he burned he never moved a muscle, never uttered a sound, his outward composure in sharp contrast to the wailing people around him."
During the second world war when Zen Monk's were captured before being executed without cause, without having broken any law apart from being on the wrong side, they not so much surprised the Japanese soldiers set the task of executioners as utterly amazed them. Zen Buddhist monks do not fear death. For them, death is nothing merely a natural process. Nor do they feel pain the way others do for they have total control of themselves, their bodies and their minds. They would walk up to the captors, kneel and thrust their heads out ready for the fall of the sword.
Not everyone is Zen Buddhist but even Zen Buddhists deserve the rule of law. No one should be executed without first having been found guilty, with empirical facts proving their guilt. As far as I am concerned any nation who has the death penalty is backward and morally bankrupt.
There is no comparison between Thich Quang Duc's protest suicide and the recent outrage as performed on journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Nor are there many similarities between the execution of Zen Buddhist prisoners of war even though both Zen Monks and Jamal Khashoggi were executed without trial, without any jurisprudence. No one is above the law. Jamal Khashoggi's murder was beyond comprehension, beyond the laws of any faith. Jamal Khashoggi was a dissident. He was anti the Suadi regime. Jamal Khashoggi was dismembered whilst still alive. His limbs, feet, hands and all the rest cut away. The man that performed the dismemberment is thought to have been Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy. Despite his name, Tubaigy is not a Muslim. He may say he is but no member of Islam would enact such a brutal execution. Tubaigy was equipped with a bone saw. This vile abomination can have nothing to do with faith for there is no faith that supports such action. This was political.
Donald Trump is said to have spoken with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who "totally denied any knowledge of what took place" in Istanbul. Trump said MBS told him "that he has already started, and will rapidly expand, a full and complete investigation into this matter". I am unconvinced President Trump will pursue this atrocity for reasons unclear to me and many others. Saudi Arabia is the epicentre of radical Islam even if those extremists are not true Muslim's in the sense they break the rules as laid down in the Koran. Saudi Arabia has invaded Yemen. In March 2015, the Saudi's launched a vicious bombing campaign, killing over 6,000 Yemenis, mostly civilians, hitting markets, schools, hospitals, residences and wedding parties, and displacing over 2.5 million people.
There are similarities between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Both nations invade other nation states. Israel has been bombing and invading Gaza since 2008. In 2014 the Israeli military killed 2,104 people, mostly civilians and destroyed 17,200 homes leaving 475,000 Palestinians living in emergency conditions. Both Saudi Arabia and Israel use weapons that have been internationally banned. Israel used white phosphorus in Gaza; Saudis used cluster bombs in Yemen. Both nations have extreme right-wing governments who make Donald Trump look positively moderate by comparison.
They both spend many millions of dollars to influence US policy. The Israeli government is aligned with the U.S. lobby AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), which is the most influential foreign policy lobby group in the United States. The Saudis have just started their own version called SAPRAC (Saudi American Public Relations Affairs Committee). For years they have been buying influence by contracting influential public relations and law firms like the Podesta Group and donating to the Clinton Foundation, the Carter Foundation and dozens of think tanks and Ivy League universities. They are both long-time allies of the United States. US administrations have supported Israel since its founding in 1948; they have also supported an array of Saudi kings since the founding of that nation in 1932. The US has helped guarantee the security of both nations. US taxpayers give over $3 billion a year to support the Israeli military; the US military guards the Persian Gulf for the Saudi royalty, and Saudi Arabia is the number one purchaser of US weapons.
Hypocrisy has long been a watchword of the USA, a nation who sells more arms to other nations be they a Democracy, a Republic or under Authoritarian control. Profit is by far and away the greatest concern of America. But the hypocrisy doesn't stop there. Surely there will be an uproar regarding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi? Yet there has been little said about Barak Obama's 'Drone Tuesday,' a day when without trial or proof of guilt the moderate Republican President fired missiles at those he suspected of crimes against the USA. Jamal Khashoggi's murder is reprehensible but no less so than firing missiles which when they explode dismember all those it they kill. Apparently, the man who dismembered Jamal wore headphones as he sawed away listening to music. Perhaps the music helped him forget what it was he was doing.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.