Nothing Provides More Clarity Than the Passing of Time

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These are some selected quotes from intelligent people, leaders of our country.

On Cambodia:

Some will find the whole bloodbath debate unreal. What future possibility could be more terrible than the reality of what is happening to Cambodia now? Anthony Lewis “Avoiding A Bloodbath” New York Times March 17, 1975

If we really want to help the people of Cambodia and the people of South Vietnam, is it not wiser to end the killing? Since most credited analysts of foreign policy admit that the Lon Nol regime cannot survive, won’t the granting of further aid only prolong the fighting and, with it, the killing? Representative Bob Carr Congressional Record March 13, 1975

It is hard to predict in an exact sense what would happen if the United States reduced its commitment to Lon Nol. . . . There is a possibility that more moderate politicians would take over in Phnom Penh, and that the insurgents would be content to negotiate with these peo-ple. An actual insurgent attack and takeover of Phnom Penh is far from a certainty, as an assault on a city requires large expenditures of resources which the Khmer Rouge would not be likely to want to make. Michael Harrington “Limiting Aid to Cambodia” Congressional Record August 12, 1974

I say that calling the Lon Nol regime an ally is to debase the meaning of the word as it applies to our true allies. . . . The greatest gift our country can give to the Cambo-dian people is not guns but peace. And the best way to accomplish that goal is by ending military aid now. Representative Chris Dodd Congressional Record March 12, 1975

It is time that we allow the peaceful people of Cam-bodia to rebuild their nation . . . (T)he Administration has warned that if we leave there will be a “bloodbath.” But to warn of a new bloodbath is no justification for extending the current bloodbath. Representative Tom Downey Congressional Record March 13, 1975

When the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia, they slaughtered 21% of the entire population.1 To save bullets, they grabbed children by the legs and bashed them against trees. None of the perpetrators have ever been brought to justice.

On Vietnam:

The CBU-55 [cluster bomb] joins herbicides, defoliation, and napalm as part of the American Indochinese legacy. . . . Recognition of their massive deployment betrays the ugly hypocrisy behind the Kissinger-Ford pose of righteousness over real or fabricated reports of post-war Indochinese killings, so casually labeled “blood bath” and so directly a consequence of American policy and tactics. “Blood Bath from the Skies” The Nation, editorial May 24, 1975

. . . the evidence is that in Cambodia the much-heralded bloodbath that was supposed to follow the fall of Phnom Penh has not taken place. As for Vietnam, reports from Saigon indicate exemplary behavior, considering the situation. . . . The most authoritative information thus far received leads to the conclusion that the American people were propagandized about the menace of unrestrained slaughter in Indochina. . . . The revolutionaries in both countries seem to have acted responsibly, perhaps more so in Vietnam because their revolution is a mature one, its leaders seasoned by experience and historical perspective. “Blood-Bath Talk” The Nation, editorial June 14, 1975

In sum, all of the evidence indicates that the decision to disperse the population of Phnom Penh and other cities to the countryside was grounded in urgent and practical considerations—and more than anything it was a question of feeding the population. . . . For a study of the available evidence shows that the evacuation was ordered in response to certain urgent and fundamental needs of the Cambodian population, and that it was carried out only after careful planning for provision of food, water, rest, and medical care. . . . The evacuation of Phnom Penh, so condemned by the U.S. government and media, undoubtedly saved the lives of tens of thousands of people. . . . . . . the food problem in Cambodia has in fact been solved. . . . . . . Despite U.S. predictions, Cambodia has not suffered mass starvation during the summer of 1975 and will not do so in 1976 either. . . . Cambodia, then, has completed one of the most thor-oughgoing agrarian revolutions in history, rebuilt much of the basic infrastructure necessary to a developing economy, and rather quickly resumed industrial production in the short period since the war’s end. Gareth Porter and G.C. Hildebrand The Politics of Food: Starvation and Agricultural Revolution in Cambodia Indochina Resource Center, Washington, D.C. September 1975

. . . for 25 . . . years our might has been deployed to frustrate an indigenous political and social revolution in Vietnam. . . . But the excruciating agony suffered by Vietnam and Cambodia is largely of our making. “On the Disaster” The New Republic, editorial May 3, 1975

Now, in contrast, the Communists are focusing primarily on the restoration of law and order and on providing such essentials as food, water, lodgings, and electricity, and, both their own propaganda and refugee accounts agree, they are relying on persuasive rather than coercive methods to attract popular sympathies. . . . A few South Vietnamese police and army officers are said to have been publicly executed in Tuy Hoa, but the Communists generally appear at this stage to be working to win “hearts and minds.” . . . Although the Communists are closer to Saigon than they have ever been and can probably strangle the capital in the weeks ahead, my own guess is that they would opt for a negotiated end to the war if they could get it. . . . Even so my own view is that they may be less drastic than their rhetoric indicates . . . Moreover they cannot massacre every Vietnamese with past American or Saigon regime connections unless they are prepared to liquidate a million people . . . But the Vietnamese face extraordinarily hard times ahead, and their only consolation may be that the rigor of life under Communism is preferable to a war that has meant death and destruction for so many years. Stanley Karnow “Avoiding Bloodshed in Saigon—Hanoi’s Design” The New Republic April 26, 1975

We are the last who should speak of a bloodbath. Rarely has there been such an example of a moral disaster resulting from radically flawed political premises. . . . In this respect Vietnam should teach us an important lesson. On the one hand Hanoi is one of several among the poorest nations in the world that have tried or will try to create a collectivist society, based on principles that are repugnant to us, yet likely to produce greater welfare and security for its people than any local alternative ever offered, at a cost in freedom that affects a small elite. Stanley Hoffman “The Sulking Giant” The New Republic May 3, 1975

But if a South Vietnamese surrender seems shocking, particularly to those who cannot accept the notion of Communists taking over a country, the alternatives could even be worse. One can contemplate, in a struggle to the finish, the sacrifice of thousands of innocent Vietnamese in a bloodbath far more devastating than the systematic crackdown against alleged “enemies of the people” that the Communists can be expected to carry on after they seize power. . . . Perhaps one day in the future hawkish Republicans will return from visits to a Communist Vietnam to announce that, after all, the Vietnamese are better off than they were during the war that might have dragged on endlessly had the U.S. continued to assist the Saigon regime. “Without Thieu” The New Republic, editorial April 19, 1975

A few “bloodbaths” would help their [right-wing politicians] public relations efforts, and they need not wait for verifiable instances: Ambassador Martin’s comments and dispatches will suffice. A suggestion of what may be anticipated can be found in Ronald Reagan’s demagogic statements of recent weeks. “Vietnam in 1976” The Nation, editorial May 3, 1975

When the guns of the Vietnam War have at last fallen silent, the peace that follows will be a new and in many respects strange experience for a whole generation of Vietnamese. Gerald Hickey “Peace: A New Experience” The New Republic May 3, 1975

INDOCHINA WITHOUT AMERICANS FOR MOST, A BETTER LIFE New York Times headline April 13, 1975 Adam Wolfson Richard Fisher

After the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, more Vietnamese died than during the entire thirty years of war from 1945 to 1975. Perhaps as many as one million were sent to reeducation camps and at least 165,000 of those died. Two or three million tried to escape by sea, and as many as 500,000 of those died in the attempt. Today, Vietnam is listed as one of the worst nations in the world in terms of human rights abuses.

This is the legacy of fools who fancy themselves to be wise yet ignore the evidence that stares them in the face. Today, these same fools insist they were right, despite the proof that they were not. They cannot face the fact that they doomed so many people to poverty, slavery and death.

  1. https://gsp.yale.edu/case-studies/cambodian-genocide-program