It’s probably better for American political leadersthat we forgetthe U.S. bombing of Cambodia. “A massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. Anything that flies on anything that moves,” was how Secretary of State Henry Kissinger put it in 1970 (NY Times, 5/27/04), reflecting Richard Nixon’s concern that the large-scale aerial bombing wasn’t doing enough damage.
In 2000, President Bill Clinton released Air Force records on the U.S. bombing of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. As Taylor Owen and Ben Kiernan wrote (Walrus, 10/06):
The still-incomplete database (it has several “dark” periods) reveals that from October 4, 1965, to August 15, 1973, the United States dropped far more ordnance on Cambodia than was previously believed: 2,756,941 tons’ worth, dropped in 230,516 sorties on 113,716 sites. Just over 10 percent of this bombing was indiscriminate, with 3,580 of the sites listed as having “unknown” targets and another 8,238 sites having no target listed at all.
Estimates of Cambodian casualties as a result of the U.S. bombing vary; in 1975, the Washington Post (4/24/75) estimated 450,000 dead and wounded.
So now the currentsecretary of state visited the country that the United States so ruthlessly bombed in the not-so-distant past. According to the report of the visit in the New York Times (11/2/10), Hillary Clinton expressed support for justice for the victims–that is, the victims of thehorrific violence perpetrated by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, which rose to power in the wake of the U.S. assault on the country. As the Times put it:
Mrs. Clinton repeated an argument that has been used by proponents of the trials, saying that “a country that is able to confront its past is a country that can overcome it.”
Clinton’s attitude stands in contrast to CambodianPrime Minister Hun Sen, who readers are toldbelieves the country should”dig a hole and bury the past.” Clinton also said: “Countries that are held prisoner to their past can never break those chains and build the kind of future that their children deserve…. Although I am well aware the work of the tribunal is painful, it is necessary to ensure a lasting peace.”
It is a remarkable testimony to the strength of our propaganda system that the Newspaper of Record can run a story like this with a straight face, with a topU.S. official urging accountability for atrocities in a country where the U.S. government committed so many. Those atrocities, apparently, have long ago been given the Hun Sen treatment.
And bonus irony: A few weeks ago Clintonintroduced Kissingerbefore his address at a State Department conference on the U.S. war on Indochina (AlterNet, 9/28/10). Presumably she was equally concerned with the need to hold Kissinger accountable for his crimes, and is seeking a tribunal that will do the “painful” work necessary to build a future our children deserve.