"it's unlikely the tribunal will provide much of an answer, so narrow is its scope... the trial focuses only on the years 1975-79 themselves; the American bombings of Cambodia, beginning in 1969, which devastated the countryside and created the instability that helped the Khmer Rouge seize power, is not mentioned."Now, it is true the bombings helped create the conditions for genocide. And it is also true that the bombings were evil, and that there is a case to be made that they were war crimes, for which the US ought to be prosecuted, and indeed that the US involvement in Vietnam of which these bombings form a part was marked by a series of other air-borne atrocities of which the US ought to be deeply ashamed. However, America in carrying out those bombings is not responsible for the genocide which Pol Pot and his regime carried out, namely the slaughter by hand (mainly by bashing in the skulls of the victims, as Kurlantzick notes), of over a fifth of Cambodia's population.
To widen the tribunal to include the American bombings would deflect moral and political attention away from the actual crime at hand. To insist on contextualising genocide in this way, on explaining it away, is ethically and intellectually reprehensible, akin to the conservative revisionists of German history attempt to explain away the Holocaust by reference to the shameful terms of Versailles.
(On the other hand, America, with its ally China, did aid and abet these crimes by supporting the Khmer Rouge regime during the 1975-1979 period. This disgraceful fact is compounded by its spiteful refusal to recognise the People's Republic of Kampuchea, and insistence instead on recognising the Khmer Rouge and its allies as the legitimate government.)
Other things you should read in the LRB: ‘I am not a speck of dirt, I am a retired teacher’ - Ervand Abrahamian writes about the protests in Iran; Rape-rape - Jenny Diski; On Being a Social Worker - Hilary Mantel; Back to school - Jenny Diski.
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