The Cambodia Card
July 30, 2007 - 6:16pm ET
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A commenter to my "'Genocide' Card" post asks:
I basically agree with your piece, but what about the genocide that occurred in Cambodia after we pulled out of Vietnam? I don't think that can just be ignored in this discussion...
A reasonable question—and another piece of conservative Southeast Asia propaganda that unfortunately has sprung sturdy legs. I'll never forget the time I arranged to spend all day debating Freepers. I introduced myself as a proud leftist. Someone posted the famous picture of the pile of skulls from the Khmer Rouge massacre and asked if I was proud of that.
It's nuts. America leaving Vietnam had nothing to do with that—unless you agree with the historians who argue that it did, for opposite reasons: that the conditions for the rise of the lunatic Khmer Rouge was the massive American bombing that left Cambodian society a bloody, nihilistic wasteland. Indeed American ground troops hadn't been in Cambodia in 1971, by statute—so how could our leaving Cambodia have caused it? Indeed, leaving Southeast Asia itself, with the subsequent unification of North and South Vietnam under a Communist government, ended up producing the conditions that stopped the genocide—because Communist Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1978. That was what ended the genocide.
In an additional irony, when the world first became aware of the massacres, one U.S. senator proposed a humanitarian intervention to stop it. He had no success. Gerald Ford's State Department insisted the regime was "not as bad as portrayed," and that besides, military intervention would be too hard. That senator was George McGovern.
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