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March 09, 2003

Kissinger: War Criminal

A blast from the past, or the promise of the future? The Sundance Channel is showing The Trials of Henry Kissinger, a documentary on Kissinger's illegal wars in southeast asia.

Most striking to me (reinforced by my own extensive reading) is this commentary on the mass bombings of Cambodia in 1973 (supposedly after peace had been negotiated):

Reporter from era: The number of bombs dropped on Cambodia equalled the number dropped on Japan in World War II...We could not understand why there were so many civilian casualties.

Narrator: From 1969 to 1973, more than 500,000 Cambodians died. By 1974, the bombing had disrupted the nation's agricultural system and the famine ensued. Over two million refugees poured into overcrowded cities.

Diplomat: American policy in those years helped create the conditions, possibly the only conditions, in which the Khmer Rouge could come to power.

Many conservatives in talking about the evils of the Khmer Rouge (and evil they were) ignore the role of US bombs and the 500,000 people murdered by US policy in Cambodia as a precursor to that hellish tragedy.

Similarly, as we go to war with Iraq, we ignore the US role -- our funding of Iraq to fight Iran in the 1980s, our funding of Israel's Occupation for decades, our funding of Bin Laden et al in the 80s against Russia in Afghanistan-- in creating the chaos in which global terrorism now thrives.

The US created the Khmer Rouge. And we created Al Qaeda. And it is a sad delusion to think that terrorism bred of violence will be destroyed by more violence.

Posted by Nathan at March 9, 2003 11:22 PM

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Comments

Thanks, I never made the connection between US destruction of Cambodia and the rise of the apparently idealistic Khmer Rouge.

Of course, I've only had one history class that got past the First World War, so I never knew exactly what the US did to Cambodia anyway, except that my dad graduated college as a direct result of Nixon's decision to start carpet-bombing it, which happened about a week before my dad's Russian final which the professor cancelled in favor of civil disobedience.

Posted by: Michael Davies at March 10, 2003 12:38 AM

Excellent points. Of course, we can also add such items as:

-the 1953 CIA-engineered coup in Iran which led directly to the virulent anti-American revolution of 1979

-the many invasions of Cuba and the support for the dictator Batista and his coup against the democratic government of Cuba in 1952; this led of course to the Castro government and the decades of frosty relations since

There are other cases (Nicaragua, Guatemala, Grenada) that we seem to have more or less gotten away with, but they were still morally repugnant. Yet Bush talks in ridiculously simplistic terms of terrorists opposing us because we are good and since they are evil they hate goodness. Give me a fucking break!

Clinton, for all his flaws, did take a step in the other direction by using the threat of military force to reinstall the democratically elected president Aristide in Haiti.

And despite my leftist positions (or in fact because of them), I do support removing Saddam Hussein from power by force. See my blog, and click the link "Leftist Argument for Invading Iraq" for details on that if you are interested.

Posted by: Alan at March 10, 2003 03:21 AM

Sorry, it's way, way too simplistic to say that the US 'created' the Khmer Rouge. They predated the '73 campaign, its leaders were educated in France and armed by China. It's another example of how far cold war realism went - proxy armies fighting only to destabilize enemy-supported armies. By the end of the Khmer Rouge's reign, the supporting powers were China (pro-KR) and the USSR (the Vietnamese-based opposition). The point is, the idea that the US created the Khmer Rouge depends on a lot of ahistorical assumptions, one being that the people who lived in the border-provinces bombed by the US switched sides (to support the KR) and that this tipped the balance.
One of the most interesting turns in foreign policy recently has been the repudiation of realism. Kissinger is a dinosaur; the left now worries much more about neo-con 'idealists' who want to make the middle-east safe for democracy. Fine, but it's a clear outgrowth out of the many on-point criticisms of Kissinger and the movement he stood for.

Posted by: marc w at March 10, 2003 12:27 PM

And of course the CIA put Saddam in power. Or did you say that already?
I do think any post titled "Kissinger: War Criminal" should contain these words: "Chile, Allende, Pinochet." Chile and Cambodia are the two countries that publicly want to prosecute him.
Re: the neocons running the White House. Is that why rather than cut a deal with the warlords in Afghanistan as Kissinger might have, we invested so much money into establishing true democracy there as a beacon for the region? (Hint: Bush proposed $0 for Afghan aid in his last budget. That's $0.00.)

Posted by: John Isbell at March 10, 2003 03:47 PM

Mark, of course the Khmer Rouges, the Hitlers, the Al Qaedas-- they all exist in multitudes around the owrld. Usually they are just crazies who nobody listens to because, well, they are nasty crazies.

The question is what social conditions create the support for them, that make sane people invest power in evil, crazed murderers. Whether it's the trauma of WWI and a punitive peace at Versailles (the Nazis), the terror-bombing murder of 500,000 Cambodians by Kissinger/Nixon (Khmer Rouge), the mass slaughter that was Afghanistan for twenty years combined with a host of other Middle Eastern grievances (Al Qaeda), it is the social basis for support that is at issue.

Why do they hate us? It was always a good question, not of the 911 hijackers, but of the global groups that applauded.

And the unilateral violations of international law and murder we are about to commit in Iraq will just add one more chapter to that sad line.

Posted by: Nathan Newman at March 10, 2003 05:54 PM

It's ironic that JI brought up Chile-- since they are one of the UNSC members that are currently expected to vote "No."

Socially, economically, it doesn't seem like they really have a dog in this fight, so the easy thing to do is would just be to go along with the US. But IMHO their very real experience of US foreign policy is coming back to bite the Bushies.

Actions have consequences.

Posted by: doesn't matter at March 10, 2003 07:38 PM

Actions have consequences. Those words should be tattooed on Bush's forehead.

Posted by: John Isbell at March 10, 2003 10:08 PM

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