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“We Need a Ceasefire”: Author Viet Thanh Nguyen on Gaza & Israel’s Dehumanization of Palestinians

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Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen says a ceasefire is desperately needed in Gaza, where Israeli bombardment has killed more than 6,500 Palestinians since October 7. “Wars lead to an 'us vs. them' mentality: 'We are good, they are evil,'” he says. Nguyen is among more than 750 writers who signed an open letter calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, after which the 92NY, a major cultural institution in New York City, canceled his speaking engagement there.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Viet, you wrote in 2017, “People might like to think the war is done when a ceasefire is signed, but for most people who live through a war, it goes on for decades.” As we wrap up this discussion, I mean, it’s fascinating that your call, that led to your cancellation at a major event in New York, for a ceasefire, you may have heard at the top of the show the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres calling for that very thing. Your final thoughts?

VIET THANH NGUYEN: Well, of course, I absolutely agree. And what happens during times of war — we’ve seen it before, and we’re seeing it very vividly right now — is that wars lead to an “us versus them” mentality: We are good, they are evil. And it’s us or them, as George Bush said in the aftermath of 9/11. And that type of thinking is obviously very conducive to mobilizing people to fight wars, but it’s also a completely wrong kind of thinking, because when we say, “We are good, and they are evil,” we’re saying, “We are human, and they are inhuman.” And I don’t believe that to be true.

I believe that we are all human and inhuman, each of us individually, and certainly our nations, as well. And when we deny our own inhumanity, what we do is we project that inhumanity onto our opponents, onto our enemies, which makes it easier to kill them — and to kill them in the name of humanitarianism. If we’re human, we conduct human and humane warfare, and our enemies are less than human. We’ve seen it every single war before. We’re seeing it now. We need a ceasefire in, obviously, order to save lives, but also to take a step back from this very dangerous thinking of “us versus them.”

AMY GOODMAN: Viet Thanh Nguyen, we want to thank you so much for being with us, Pulitzer Prize-winning author. His new memoir is out. It’s called A Man of Two Faces: A Memoir, a History, a Memorial.

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