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Pol Pot and Kissinger

Pol Pot and Kissinger

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Published by lawrence
Edward S. Herman
Edward S. Herman

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Published by: lawrence on Nov 04, 2008
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08/18/2013

 
22/03/08 6:40 PMPol Pot And KissingerPage 1 of 6http://www.zmag.org/ZMag/articles/hermansept97.htm
Pol Pot And Kissinger
On war criminality and impunity
 By Edward S. Herman
The hunt is on once again for war criminals, with ongoing trials of accused Serbs in TheHague, NATO raids seizing and killing other accused Serbs, and much discussion andenthusiasm in the media for bringing Pol Pot to trial, which the editors of the
New York Times
assure us would be "an extraordinary triumph for law and civilization" (June 24).
The Politics of War Criminality
There are, however, large numbers of mass murderers floating around the world. Howare the choices made on who will be pursued and who will be granted impunity? Theanswer can be found by following the lines of dominant interest and power and watchinghow the mainstream politicians, media, and intellectuals reflect these demands. Mediaattention and indignation "follows the flag," and the flag follows the money (i.e., thedemands of the corporate community), with some eccentricity based on domesticpolitical calculations. This sometimes yields droll twists and turns, as in the case of Saddam Hussein, consistently supported through the 1980s in his war with Iran andchemical warfare attacks on Iraqi Kurds, until his invasion of Kuwait in 1990,transformed him overnight into "another Hitler." Similarly, Pol Pot, "worse than Hitler"until his ouster by Vietnam in 1979, then quietly supported for over a decade by theUnited States and its western allies (along with China) as an aid in "bleeding Vietnam,"but now no longer serviceable to western policy and once again a suitable target for awar crimes trial.Another way of looking at our targeting of war criminals is by analogy to domestic policychoices on budget cuts and incarceration, where the pattern is to attack the relativelyweak and ignore and protect those with political and economic muscle. Pol Pot is nowisolated and politically expendable, so an obvious choice for villainization. By contrast,Indonesian leader Suharto, the butcher of perhaps a million people (mainly landlesspeasants) in 1965-66, and the invader, occupier, and mass murderer of East Timor from1975 to today, is courted and protected by the Great Powers, and was referred to by anofficial of the Clinton administration in 1996 as "our kind of guy." Pinochet, the torturer and killer of many thousands, is treated kindly in the United States as the Godfather of the wonderful new neoliberal Chile. President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger,who gave the go ahead to Suharto’s invasion of East Timor and subsequent massivewar crimes there, and the same Kissinger, who helped President Nixon engineer andthen protect the Pinochet coup and regime of torture and murder and directed the firstphase of the holocaust in Cambodia (1969-75), remain honored citizens. The mediahave never suggested that these men should be brought to trial in the interest of justice,law, and "civilization."
U.S./Western Embrace of Pol Pot
 
22/03/08 6:40 PMPol Pot And KissingerPage 2 of 6http://www.zmag.org/ZMag/articles/hermansept97.htm
The
Times
editorial of June 24 recognizes a small problem in pursuing Pol Pot, arisingfrom the fact that after he was forced out of Cambodia by Vietnam, "From 1979 to 1991,Washington indirectly backed the Khmer Rouge, then a component of the guerrillacoalition fighting the Vietnamese installed Government [in Phnom Penh]." This doesseem awkward: the United States and its allies giving economic, military, and politicalsupport to Pol Pot, and voting for over a decade to have his government retainCambodia’s UN seat, but now urging his trial for war crimes. The
Times
misstates andunderstates the case: the United States gave direct as well as indirect aid to Pol Pot—in one estimate, $85 million in direct support—and it "pressured UN agencies to supplythe Khmer Rouge," which "rapidly improved" the health and capability of Pol Pot’sforces after 1979 (Ben Kiernan, "Cambodia’s Missed Chance,"
Indochina Newsletter 
,Nov.-Dec. 1991). U.S. ally China was a very large arms supplier to Pol Pot, with nopenalty from the U.S. and in fact U.S. connivance—Carter’s National Security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski stated that in 1979 "I encouraged the Chinese to support PolPot...Pol Pot was an abomination. We could never support him but China could."In 1988-89 Vietnam withdrew its army from Cambodia, hoping that this would produce anormalization of relationships. Thailand and other nations in the region were interestedin a settlement, but none took place for several more years "because of Chinese andU.S. rejection of any...move to exclude the Khmer Rouge. The great powers...continuedto offer the Khmer Rouge a veto," which the Khmer Rouge used, with Chinese aid, "toparalyze the peace process and...advance their war aims." The Bush administrationthreatened to punish Thailand for "its defection from the aggressive U.S.-Chineseposition," and George Shultz and then James Baker fought strenously to sabotage anyconcessions to Vietnam, the most important of which was exclusion of Pol Pot frompolitical negotiations and a place in any interim government of Cambodia. Thepersistent work of the Reagan-Bush team on behalf of Pol Pot has been very muchdownplayed, if not entirely suppressed, in the mainstream media.The
Times
has a solution to the awkwardness of the post-1978 Western support of PolPot: "All Security Council members...might spare themselves embarrassment byrestricting the scope of prosecution to those crimes committed inside Cambodia duringthe four horrific years of Khmer Rouge rule." We must give the
Times
credit for semi-honesty in admitting that this is to avoid embarrassing the Great Powers. It isinteresting, though, that the
Times
finds no real problem in the "dirty hands," andhypocrisy, so apparent in the lengthy support of war criminals, and that it offers noreflections on how "law and civilization" are served if the criminals were protected andsupported for more than a decade by the forces of law and order.
Two Phases of Cambodian "Genocide"
The
Times
, along with everybody else in the mainstream media, also fails to mentionthat before Pol Pot came to power in 1975, the United States had devastatedCambodia for the first half of what a Finnish government’s study referred to as a"decade" of genocide (not just the four years of Pol Pot’s rule, 1975-78). The "secretbombing" of Cambodia by the Nixon-Kissinger gang may have killed as manyCambodians as were executed by the Khmer Rouge and surely contributed to the
 
22/03/08 6:40 PMPol Pot And KissingerPage 3 of 6http://www.zmag.org/ZMag/articles/hermansept97.htm
ferocity of Khmer Rouge behavior toward the urban elite and citizenry whose leadershad allied themselves with the foreign terrorists.The U.S.-imposed holocaust was a "sideshow" to the Vietnam War, the United Statesbombing Cambodia heavily by 1969, helping organize the overthrow of Sihanouk in1970, and in collaboration with its puppet Saigon government making period incursionsinto Cambodia in the 1960s and later. "U.S. B-52s pounded Cambodia for 160consecutive days [in 1973], dropping more than 240,000 short tons of bombs on ricefields, water buffalo, villages (particularly along the Mekong River) and on such trooppositions as the guerrillas might maintain," a tonnage that "represents 50 percent morethan the conventional explosives dropped on Japan during World War II". This "constantindiscriminate bombing" was of course carried out against a peasant society with noairforce or ground defenses. The Finnish government study estimates that 600,000people died in this first phase, with 2 million refugees produced. Michael Vickereyestimated 500,000 killed in phase one.At the end of the first half of the decade of genocide, with the Khmer Rouge victoriousand occupying Phnom Penh in April 1975, Cambodia was a shattered, embitteredsociety, on the verge of mass starvation with crops unsowed and vast numbers of refugees in and around Phnom Penh suddenly cut off from the U.S. aid that had keptthem alive. High U.S. officials were estimating a million deaths from starvation beforethe Khmer Rouge takeover. The Khmer Rouge forced a mass exodus from PhnomPenh, whose population they were in no position to feed, an action interpreted in theWest as simply a completely unjustified exercise in vengeance.There is no question but that the Khmer Rouge were brutal and killed large numbers.Michael Vickerey estimated 150-300,000 executed and an excess of deaths in the four years of Pol Pot rule of 750,000. David Chandler estimates up to 100,000 executions(
Newsweek 
, June 30, 1997). The Finnish study estimated the total deaths in the PolPot years at a million, encompassing both executions and deaths from disease,starvation and overwork. Other serious studies of Cambodia yield comparable numbers.
Genocide in the Propaganda System
Throughout the "decade of genocide" the media’s performance fitted perfectly thepropaganda model Noam Chomsky and I advanced in
Manufacturing Consent 
(Pantheon, 1988). As the first phase was U.S.-sponsored, the Cambodian victims were"unworthy," and the hundreds of thousands killed and several million refugees werealmost entirely ignored—the existence of "killing fields" was only discovered in phasetwo. Of 45 columns by Sydney Schanberg, who reported for the
New York Times
fromPhnom Penh at the peak of the 1973 bombing, only three granted first phase refugeevictims a few phrases to describe what was happening, and in not a single article did heinterview at length one of their vast numbers in the nearby refugee camps.Scholars uniformly pointed to the important contribution the first phase made to Khmer Rouge behavior in phase two: by destroying the fabric of society and providing thevictors "with the psychological ingredients of a violent, vengeful, and unrelenting socialrevolution" (David Chandler). But for the mainstream media, phase one did not exist; 

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