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POW Conditions

Discuss the April Book of the Month Shot Down by Steve Snyder.

POW Conditions

Post Number:#1 by hsimone
» 01 Apr 2016, 10:25

I think it's important to recognize that unfortunately, some people during war were captured and held as POW (Prisoners of War). They were given poor food and treated inhumanely, slowly losing their morale, causing sickness and death.

Explain why you think POWs were (and probably still) treated so poorly. What do you think contributes to those imprisoning the soldiers to behave so harshly?

Or simply share some thoughts you have about these harsh conditions.
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Re: POW Conditions

Post Number:#2 by L_Therese
» 08 Apr 2016, 22:12

Prior to the Geneva Conventions, it was normal for prisoners of war to be treated inhumanely. In some cases, this would be as punishment for fighting on the opposite side or as retribution for lives taken from the capturing force. In WWII, Japan tortured prisoners of war to shame them for showing "cowardice" by surrendering (as opposed to dying). In other cases, inhumane treatment was sometimes the result of resource allocation. As war destroys a nation's economy and food, clothing, and other necessities become scarce, one of the first groups to feel that lack would have been prisoners of war, since they are not considered members of the nation. Through the Geneva Conventions, non-combatants, including prisoners of war, are supposed to be protected. However, since many modern military conflicts include non-States (a group that is not a recognized sovereign country and by extension, also not a signatory of the Geneva Conventions), there is effectively little to no protection for prisoners of war. Bearing all of this in mind, we should recognize the bravery of the personnel who volunteer to fight in these conflicts since even their meager protections are stripped away from them.
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Re: POW Conditions

Post Number:#3 by hsimone
» 09 Apr 2016, 03:51

Thank you so much L_Therese for sharing more information on this topic. It always bothers me to hear about the conditions of POWs and even though I know about some of the inhumane ways they're treated, it still comes to as a shock to me.

I have heard of the Geneva Conventions, it's a good point to bring up. Although, like you said, since many military conflicts are non-States, it's almost a moot document. It's heartbreaking to know that people are treated so poorly no matter what the reason. After all, we are all humans.

Thank you again for sharing.
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Re: POW Conditions

Post Number:#4 by Taylor Razzani
» 09 Apr 2016, 12:49

Unfortunately, I think hate makes people do such terrible things, and it is usually grossly misguided hate. This hate also changes people's views and makes them think lesser of their enemies, making it okay in their eyes to do such horrible things. It's mind boggling that humans can treat others humans this way just because of different views.
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Re: POW Conditions

Post Number:#5 by rssllue
» 09 Apr 2016, 12:56

I agree with hate causing such actions, but I think that fear is also a big motivator for them as well. During WWII, the Japanese people were told by their leaders that American soldiers were evil and did horrible things like eating babies and the like. I believe that the fear that was ingrained into the populace made it easy to treat POWs with very little if any respect at all. This just shows that the truth will always be a great sanitizer to any situation and help to rid such feelings of hate and fear in instances such as this.
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Re: POW Conditions

Post Number:#6 by katiesquilts
» 09 Apr 2016, 17:52

This topic reminded me of a psychology experiment I learned about in college. Basically, even someone is normally kind and doesn't want to hurt people, if you put them in a position of power (such as the role of prisoner guard) they will naturally become more sadistic over time. Experiments were performed at Stanford where volunteers were split into groups of guards and prisoners, and they had to end the experiment in just a few short days because the morale of the prisoner volunteers was so low, almost all of them wanted out.
More info here: http://www.prisonexp.org/

There was also a different experiment where people were asked to deliver shocks to strangers whom they could see in another room. An experimenter was in the room with the person delivering the shocks, giving them orders. At first people willingly and quickly turned up the dial, but once the shocks started getting more intense (and the actor in the other room starting crying out in pain) they became less willing to administer more shocks. However, if the experimenter became angry with them and ordered them to keep administering the shocks, only half of the subjects firmly stopped the experiment. The others administered the shocks despite saying they didn't want to because of their fear of the experimenter and need to follow orders.
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Re: POW Conditions

Post Number:#7 by Vermont Reviews
» 15 Apr 2016, 14:48

It always seems to be that prisoners are treated badly. Whether during war or peace. We have not learned much. Go figure.
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Re: POW Conditions

Post Number:#8 by rssllue
» 15 Apr 2016, 15:40

I also think that in war, the prisoners are most always people who were just trying to kill their captors before they were captured. This can obviously cause a great deal of anger and mistrust amongst those who are set over them as guards.
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Re: POW Conditions

Post Number:#9 by stoppoppingtheP
» 18 Apr 2016, 15:21

I generally hate all wars. It changes humans into beings able to inflict harm on others, and do things they wouldn't normally do in other situations.

I think one of the reasons why they are able to do these actions to their POWs is because they disregard the other sides humanity, thus allowing themselves to treat them in such ways.
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Re: POW Conditions

Post Number:#10 by bookfix_blog
» 18 Apr 2016, 19:40

I think captors are taking advantage of the having someone to let their anger out on. They redirect all the negative feelings that war has conjured up and pass them on to the poor victims of war if they deserve it or not.
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Re: POW Conditions

Post Number:#11 by Mune
» 18 Apr 2016, 23:40

Someone has already mentioned the Geneva code so I will let that be. As someone who has studied psychology for over 8 years, I do have some thoughts on this subject.

I believe there are several things that occur to cause soldiers to be so terrible to POWs. The first issue is the stress of war. They idea that you may die at any time, that the war against these people is why you may die, and the belief that your side is the "right" side of the war and these people are the "wrong" side can cause a soldier to see a POW as a very negative personification of the hatred, anger, and death that war is. Another issue deals with the idea that one side believes they are better or doing good and the other side is doing the opposite. There is a lot of brainwashing and conditioning in soldiers to make them become patriotic and loyal to their country. Someone trying to kill you and fighting against what your country stands for, these people are not seen as people but as only an embodiment of the evil that the other side is. A third reason delves into the mob mentality. If you are with a group of men whose lives count on you and who you count on for your life, you feel like a part of that group. There is a strong structural bond created in groups of soldiers. There is also a need to look good, fit in, and be a part of what the group is and does. If a few guys have their testosterone pumping, are angry and take out their aggression on the people they see is at fault for their situation, it is natural for the rest of the group to fall in line. To stop one of your brethren and group from doing something to the "bad guys" is to go against the group and show support for the bad guy. It is survival, instinct, hormones, emotions, and the effects of PTSD that causes people to behave this way.
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Re: POW Conditions

Post Number:#12 by Rachaelamb1
» 19 Apr 2016, 22:50

It seems to me that many people have the "all's fair in love and war" mentality which enables them to treat others unjustly and inhumanely. Of course there are many other reasons as well. I am enjoying reading all the responses to this question!
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Re: POW Conditions

Post Number:#13 by rssllue
» 19 Apr 2016, 22:56

In addition to that, I have to say that when we think about everything that is encapsulated in the"all" part of that quote, it is an extremely scary thought and one that I believe very few of us would truly agree with. We mostly like the idea of "fair play" instead of a "free-for-all" attitude. I truly think that sayings like these are easily glossed over too much because we are so used to hearing them and that they really don't hold water when they are actually scrutinized.
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Re: POW Conditions

Post Number:#14 by PashaRu
» 21 Apr 2016, 17:27

Nationalism, patriotism, and pride of country - "My country is the best one" - are often the enemies of compassion and understanding. It's a very narrow-minded point of view, and when the propaganda machines churn out hate, prejudice, and lies, especially during wartime, this makes those on opposite sides look at one another one-dimensionally - simply as "the enemy" - and then it becomes easy to treat such ones as less than human. In the years leading up to WWII, Hitler methodically carried out propaganda campaigns to sub-humanize the Jews, and by the time the Final Solution was instituted, there were many who had already been so thoroughly brainwashed, participating in the genocide didn't present much of an ethical or moral dilemma for them.

Those who abuse prisoners in a POW camp are conditioned to look at those prisoners as inferior beings. Once that has been accomplished, the rest is easy.
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Re: POW Conditions

Post Number:#15 by Vermont Reviews
» 26 Apr 2016, 05:20

PashaRu wrote:Nationalism, patriotism, and pride of country - "My country is the best one" - are often the enemies of compassion and understanding. It's a very narrow-minded point of view, and when the propaganda machines churn out hate, prejudice, and lies, especially during wartime, this makes those on opposite sides look at one another one-dimensionally - simply as "the enemy" - and then it becomes easy to treat such ones as less than human. In the years leading up to WWII, Hitler methodically carried out propaganda campaigns to sub-humanize the Jews, and by the time the Final Solution was instituted, there were many who had already been so thoroughly brainwashed, participating in the genocide didn't present much of an ethical or moral dilemma for them.

Those who abuse prisoners in a POW camp are conditioned to look at those prisoners as inferior beings. Once that has been accomplished, the rest is easy.



Very well said.
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