Genocide and its apologists

At Quilette (a great website), Matthew Blackwell recounts the three-year long genocide in Cambodia perpetrated by Pol Pot and his communist Khmer Rouge.  The Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh in 1975, hailed as heroes. However, the cheering lasted but a few hours, cut short by the Khmer Rouge’s order for the city to be evacuated.  The genocide – the infamous killing fields — had commenced immediately.  “The new regime tried to eliminate every vestige of the old government — and every vestige of society they considered a threat, including people who had committed no crime besides wearing reading glasses.”

Blackwell also writes:

Amazingly, even as Cambodia disintegrated, the Khmer Rouge benefitted from unsolicited apologetics from intellectuals at the West’s august universities. Just as Mao, Stalin, and Hitler enjoyed disproportionate popularity among academics and university students, Pol Pot and his promise of a communist utopia in South East Asia elicited sharp defences from many radical Western academics… [T]hese professors downplayed reports of atrocities perpetrated in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, and printed vicious attacks against anyone who disagreed.

Is that really so amazing, though?  One person’s genocide is merely another’s “rationally conceived strategy for dealing with the urgent problems that faced postwar Cambodia.” After all, we had

…a group of bright, erudite people “ready to toler­ate the worst crimes as long as they are committed in the name of the proper doctrines.” According to [Raymond] Aron, those proper doctrines—equality, classlessness, unselfish dedication—were something like pictures in a children’s book; enticing images that seduced the most imaginative among us—our intellectuals.

And, by all means, dismiss any available contrary evidence, such as that offered by the lucky few that managed to escape the genocide.  After all, refugees “naturally tend to report what they believe their interlocutors wish to hear,” according to Noam Chomsky.

Dr. Malcolm Caldwell was a colleague of Chomsky’s who viewed Pol Pot’s experiment so positively (praising its “promise of a better future for all”), he was invited for a carefully stage-managed visit. But that was the last thing the Marxist scholar ever did:

A few hours later [Caldwell] was killed in his hotel room by Pol Pot’s soldiers. Some have speculated that he was murdered because he had confronted Pol Pot with what he had seen in the country. Others suggest that he was killed by rogue soldiers who didn’t want him to return to the West and write supportive things in the media about the brutal regime, as he had done in the past. Elizabeth Becker, one of the other journalists on the trip, hid in her hotel bathroom as she heard the gunshots. Later she stated that, “Caldwell’s death was caused by the madness of the regime he openly admired.”

How can our so-called intellectuals be so incredibly stupid and naive? George Orwell said it best: “There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.”

My favorite passage from this essay is this:

[T]he scars of the Pol Pot regime lie open; the country wears its past on its sleeve, as if to say to visitors, “After everything we’ve been through, if you can’t look at this, then why are you here?”

Bottom line: real socialism has been tried.

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8 thoughts on “Genocide and its apologists”

  1. People should read that article.  It is good to know this history.

    Last year I had the 7th and 8th grade Sunday School class (this year I have 4th and 5th).   During question time (I always make time for kids’ questions) they asked about the Vietnam War.   It turned out they had learned something about it in a social studies class at school, and they were really curious and had lots of questions.   I ended up devoting the following three Sundays to the Vietnam War.   The kids were flabbergasted to learn about the five million murders by Communists after the fall of South Vietnam (3 million in Cambodia).   That part had not been included in their lessons.

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  2. Do not forget that the Communist takeover in Cambodia was a domino falling subsequent to the Communist victory in South Vietnam.

    In April 1975, President Ford – with South Vietnam about to fall – asked the United States Congress for $722 million in military aid to essentially continue that war, to prop up South Vietnam as the North Vietnamese communists threatened to overrun Saigon. When President Ford asked for that funding in April 1975, the U.S. combat mission in Vietnam had already been over for about two years. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, facing the prospect of re-opening that war, demanded a face-to-face discussion with President Ford at the White House. That hastily arranged meeting took place on April 14, 1975. It was the first time that a U.S. President had met with the full Senate Foreign Relations Committee since Woodrow Wilson did it in 1919. Part of what we know about what happened there that day comes from minutes of the meetingpublished by the Gerald Ford Presidential Library and Museum. Those minutes include the dramatic moment when New York Senator Jacob Javits tells President Ford, “I will give you large sums for evacuation, but not one nickel for military aid.

    http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/pics-the-day-the-senate-told-ford-no-more-war-vietnam

     

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  3. The Leftist intellectuals in the west who papered over the murders of millions of people, and rationalized them and justified them are the thought leaders of today’s journalists and professors of humanities.

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  4. The “utopians” have killed millions to create a “heaven” on earth.  They feel so confident in their vision and right in their cause that disagreement needs to be extinguished.

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  5. We traveled to Cambodia in 2014.  It seems that the country is still in recovery and we couldn’t shake off the deep sadness we felt nearly everywhere we went (which, while this included the tourist magnet of Siem Reap, went well into the countryside).  Despite the sadness, we had good conversations with a number of people who were kind and generous and seemed to want to talk with ‘outsiders.’   Each of them spoke of the corruption in their government – without any kind of solicitation on our part about their government.  When our plane left Phnom Penh and Cambodian airspace,  we heaved a sigh of relief.  We think often of the harsh life that many people there live without the amenities we are so used to.

    Becker’s book, When the War Was Over was chilling – and an excellent read.  Another one, smaller and a first-hand account of living through these atrocities, is Seng Kok Ung’s I Survived the Killing Fields.   The ‘all of it’ is simply gobsmacking.  It is my belief that any avowed socialist should live in such a country for a minimum of a year and see if his/her ideology is intact afterwards.

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  6. Susan in Seattle:
    We traveled to Cambodia in 2014.  It seems that the country is still in recovery and we couldn’t shake off the deep sadness we felt nearly everywhere we went (which, while this included the tourist magnet of Siem Reap, went well into the countryside).  Despite the sadness, we had good conversations with a number of people who were kind and generous and seemed to want to talk with ‘outsiders.’   Each of them spoke of the corruption in their government – without any kind of solicitation on our part about their government.  When our plane left Phnom Penh and Cambodian airspace,  we heaved a sigh of relief.  We think often of the harsh life that many people there live without the amenities we are so used to.

    Becker’s book, When the War Was Over was chilling – and an excellent read.  Another one, smaller and a first-hand account of living through these atrocities, is Seng Kok Ung’s I Survived the Killing Fields.   The ‘all of it’ is simply gobsmacking.  It is my belief that any avowed socialist should live in such a country for a minimum of a year and see if his/her ideology is intact afterwards.

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    In the early 1990’s, I lived in a low rent area of San Rafael California. My neighbors in the quad plex of town homes where I lived were a Chilean woman in her late 50’s, an exuberant Guatemalan family, my family and a Cambodian family.

    All of us were in and out of each other’s homes continually. The Cambodian mom and dad were wonderful people. On the surface they seemed happy, especially since it had been their dream to come to the USA. Now they were here in sunny California, with the young children in school and both of them holding down jobs. But they had lost so many family members to the Pol Pot movement.

    Also they had once been a family of five – the two parents and three small children. But one of the two little boys had died while they were in a refuge camp. I forget which  mundane illness had killed him off, but if there had been any type of antibiotics at the refugee camp the child would have survived the illness.

    Right now, for me so much of what the far Left are up to is reminiscent of the Pol Pot movement. I sometimes think that our CIA must have orchestrated that whole event, just to test how it is to create such a society. Where people can be herded out of their homes in the cities and towns and into the woods. Where the “leadership” committee can ask the assembled group if anyone comes from a household where there was a typewriter, and should you answer “Yes” by standing up, you will be taken away and no one who knows you will ever see you again.

    I didn’t watch much of the mainstream media today. But when I got on twitter,  James Woods tweeted that there will be a protest group that will live in Lafayette Park across from the WH until Trump resigns or is impeached. Which I guess the Left and the Elite in the Republican Party will try to have happen – as after all, he wouldn’t have been talking to Putin if he wasn’t one of Putin’s puppets, right?

    We must be ever vigilant. Already I have been scared silly by a fellow progressive who got enraged at me for mispronouncing a hispanic surname. Then a  former close friend called to give me “one last shot at our friendship.” The conversation turned to the many books I need to read about how women have been smacked down by the patriarchy over the last three hundred years.

    These were all books I had read the first time around, in 1975. So I stated I had little interest in giving them a re-read. Then my former friend launched into a rant about how all men want to do is penetrate women. This was someone I used to think was a reasonable human being.

    The progressives have become haters, and they expect everyone to join them. I don’t get it, I really don’t.

    As far as the future, if it goes badly I will be  trying to keep my stories straight:  I have never owned a typewriter. Nor have I ever used silverware when eating. No one I have known had a college education, and above all, I hate men.

    Of course, in a month there will be a new list of things the American Pol Pot movement will require me to denounce. I doubt I would be able to rise to the challenge.

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  7. Nonsense, how can you make a revolution without firing squads? Do you expect to dispose of your enemies by disarming yourself? What other means of repression are there? Prisons? Who attaches significance to that during a civil war?

    Lenin, October 1917

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