This post began life as part of the portmanteau piece below. I have decided that this news deserves more prominence.
The news comes to us by way of Matt Taibbi, who, in his latest
, relates a fact which startled the hell out of me: In making the case for Obama's drone programs, the administration's legal beagles cited the precedent of Richard Nixon's decision to bomb Cambodia in 1969-70
Youngsters may not know that the Trickster's monstrous war crime infuriated millions of Americans. I was quite young then, but I can still recall the headlines. I can still recall the "Are you shitting me?"
reactions, even from people who had voted
for Nixon. The bombing raids were "secret" at first, although you can't reasonably expect to keep a thing like that under wraps for long. When the truth leaked out, there were massive protests involving four million students. One such protest resulted in the Kent State massacre.
Of course, what we went through was nothing
compared to what the Cambodians went through.
Before 1969, Cambodia had been a neutral country living a happy existence under a fellow named Sihanouk, whose great sin (from our perspective) was not taking sides in the Cold War. He occasionally made anti-American statements, but he wasn't a communist -- he just wanted us to leave his country alone.
During the war in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese established a supply line (called "The Ho Chi Min Trail") which ran through part of Cambodia's dense jungle near the border. Sihanouk didn't like that situation, but there was only so much he was willing to do to stop it. The jungle was, and is, wild and uncontrollable.
And so the friendly Americans showed up, eager to help as always. We bombed huge sections of the land, killing 150,000 peasants. We also covertly assisted a coup which replaced Sihanouk with a U.S.-friendly military dictator.
You can imagine how well all of that
went over with average folk.
Before the bombing began, Cambodia had to deal with another problem, aside from (but related to) the North Vietnam supply lines: There was an indigenous communist group called the Khmer Rouge, led by a pretentious nutcase named Pol Pot. If you're a younger reader learning about this stuff for the first time, you must understand one key point: Before Nixon butted into Cambodia's affairs, the Khmer Rouge had around 400 members.
(That's the number William Shawcross gives in his book Sideshow
. I've put it in boldface because most current sources, including Wikipedia, go to great lengths to avoid giving you that important piece of information.)
Cambodia's home-grown "revolutionaries" had been little more than a group of starving wackos scuttling about in the forests -- pests, nothing worse. They struggled for survival while Pol Pot talk-talk-talked about his grand plans for the future. Sihanouk thought they were amusing
Then came the Americans. Our attack on Cambodia -- and yes, "attack" is
the right term -- inflamed the citizenry, swelling the ranks of the Khmer Rouge. Most of the peasants who joined the movement thought they were fighting to bring back Sihanouk; they didn't care about Marxist ideology. Later, when we lost the Vietnam war and the Americans pulled out of the region, Pol Pot came to power and instituted a truly insane and barbaric regime.
You may have heard about the "killing fields."
You want to know how the "killing fields" happened? Dick Nixon is how. He radicalized the region. He transformed 400 inconsequential extremists into a potent revolutionary force. Pol Pot would have remained a footnote figure if not for Dick Nixon.
Arguably, the bombing of Cambodia was an even worse decision than was the invasion of Iraq.
And that, my friends, is a bit of history that our textbooks neglect to tell you.
(They also don't tell you that Ronald Reagan's administration, for reasons of realpolitik, supported Pol Pot even after he had been toppled from power.)
It does not take much imagination to see how our past can become our future. If the bombing of Cambodia empowered a previously-tiny sect of anti-American radicals, then why should we expect a different result from Obama's drone program?
I read Shawcross' Sideshow
many years ago, and may be recalling the chronology incorrectly. This Wikipedia article
on the Cambodian civil war gives the number of pre-bombing Khmer Rouge combatants as 4,000, not 400. A factor of ten is no small error, I must admit. Still, even the larger number shows that the Khmer Rouge was hardly a formidable force before the bombing and the coup.