posts 16 - 25 of 25
Fig Leaf Tree
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 10

The Khmer Rouge’s ideology caused so much damage because of the excessive paranoia and vilification of large swaths of people. While communism demands the dismantling of capitalist institutions, the KR demanded the death of anyone remotely involved in the institutions. For example, in the section “This is Not 1942” from A Problem from Hell, Samantha Powers writes that “the Khmer Rouge were wiping out ‘class enemies,’ which meant all ‘intellectuals,’ or those who had completed seventh grade.” This is evidence that the KR were targeting people who were associated with the educational system at an age where they barely had any choice. To the KR, eliminating the system also meant punishing people for things that they could not personally control at the time. Under this reasoning, almost anyone who had lived in the pre-existing society was considered guilty of complacency and corruption. This generated the levels of paranoia in which the people in the KR turned against their families, neighbors, and coworkers. The Khmer Rouge’s ideology also included eliminating cultural diversity. Rather than only reshaping the structure of the country, they decided to reshape the population. In A Problem from Hell, Powers writes “The Vietnamese minority was completely wiped out. Of the 500,000 Muslim Cham who lived in Cambodia before Pol Pot’s victory, some 200,000 survived. Of 60,000 Buddhist monks, all but a thousand survived.” Communism does not require ethnic cleansing of any sort, only equality in resources and shared industrial power, so those casualties were completely caused by the KR’s distinctive exclusionary nationalism. The KR’s unbelievable cruelty likely arose from a fundamental disregard for human life and distrust of the government during/following the civil war. The KR capitalized on the chaos by telling citizens that in the worst of times they were the best option, and under no conditions could a dangerous enemy be let free.

The use of psychological torture, physical torture, sexual violence, fear tactics, and dismantling of families is never justifiable in the pursuit of cultural change. Ethical cultural change requires transparency and sympathy, not coercion and chap teuv (being disappeared). The Khmer Rouge did not commit to honest social change, to the point where they demanded confessions from innocent people. They did not actually care who was in the CIA, or in the Lon Nol regime, only that enough power and fear was generated to maintain control. Ethical change involves persuasion and reasoning, communicating with people in existing social/governmental/industrial systems to convey how the proposed changes will be beneficial and efficient. When it is clear that the struggle for change is making society worse, the leaders of that movement need to assess how their tactics can change and act accordingly. If they do not do that, other levels of leadership/membership are responsible for rising against their leaders. When they do not do that, the national/international community needs to step in and involve the law. Holding all levels of leadership accountable is essential to communicating that violations of international law and human rights are not tolerable, even if the force driving change had some good intentions at the start (which the KR did not).

crazyarmadillo
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 13

No one knew who the Khmer Rouge were and what they did, in fact many countries thought they understood their place in history, but eventually were wrong. The Khmer Rouge was rooted in making the Cambodian government better through the ideology of communism, however their interpretation of what communism was resulted in the destruction of many lives in Cambodia. The first problem was that no one knew what the Khmer Rouge was doing. Pol Pot’s full identity remained anonymous and no one knew the Khmer Rouge’s plan, and had assumed what was happening in Cambodia was fine. People thought that when “ the Khmer Rouge marches into Phnom Penh, they’d have no need to be brutal”(Power 2002). Torture Interrogation camps, called Tuol Seng took place in Phnom Penh highschools with 15,000 survivors, only 12 surviving. Pol Pot had planned to exterminate many ethnic groups such as “ ethnic Vietnamese, ethnic Chinese, Muslim Chams, and Buddhist monks, grouping them all traitors.” (Power 119). Everyone was practically the enemy to the Khmer Rouge. Their ethnic backgrounds were used as a basis to kill them. Cambodians were placed in the Killing Fields, forcibly pushed away from their homes, and placed into bare land with the task of building their home and harvesting crops not for them, but for Angkar. When the KR soldiers felt that the prisoners were of no need, they would kill the whole village. The KR justified their actions toward their killings because they believed it contributed to the strength of the country.

No one believed that it was possible for another genocide to happen. Americans thought that “the apocalyptic warnings … had any tangible evidence that the Communist were murdering their own people.” America’s hate toward communism made it seem skeptical that it was even possible for communism to target their own civilians, but that was not the case. America did not deem the Cambodian genocide as the removal of a group of people, but “ predicted a massacre” if Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge.” A massacre does not hold the actual gravities of what happened in Cambodia. It does not concern the public that 1.7 million people in Cambodia are dropping dead in Toul Seng, Killing Fields, in one’s own country. A massacre was not happening, a genocide was. The publication of who Cambodia was was misinterpreted, seen in the movie, “First They Killed My Father,” Nixon says that Cambodia has remained neutral in the Vietnam War, however that was actually not true. Many Cambodians hated the communist regime and wanted to force Vietnam out of their country. This neutrality persona that Cambodia was given lost the emphasis that it was still possible for a genocide to happen. In order to ameliorate the harm done to the people in Cambodia, countries need to understand that it is possible for a genocide to happen, and when there are signs of it, it is necessary to publicize the smallest actions taken that are related to genocide. National sovereignty should be investigated when given second hand accounts of the immense suffering, then from first hand accounts that fully confirm the extent to which the immense suffering is happening, countries need to step in quickly. The Cambodian Genocide happened through the intense tortures from the Khmer Rouge, but most importantly the denial of a genocide happening.

crazyarmadillo
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 13

Originally posted by rica.junction on April 28, 2024 12:48


"To keep you is no benefit. To destroy you is no loss." The fundamental principles of the Khmer Rouge were built on their twisted interpretation of Communism, creating an ideology whose complete disregard for human life brought about utter destruction. Communism itself is not inherently evil; it is not written into its principles to require corrupt governmentsin theory, that is. The issue that lies within the execution of Communism. We have seen it fail time and time again, falling into human rights abuses and destruction in the famines resulting from agricultural communes in the Mao era of China, the genocide and slaughter of ¼th of Cambodia’s population under the Khmer Rouge, and more. Cambodia’s communist party and its seizure of power stand out from the rest due to its perplexing secrecy. Beginning at year zero of the newly renamed Cambodia, called Kampuchea, the KR seized power from the Lon Nol government and promptly emptied cities full of people into the countryside using threats of force and death. Phnom Penh “came to be known as a ghost town,” during this time, as Cambodia’s population disappeared into agricultural communes in the jungle (Sok Udom Deh 1). This forcible removal is the first issue lying within their execution of communism: how can one have a classless society if it is an exclusive group of soldiers and revolutionaries in power controlling other people? Although the KR preached the communist beliefs in common ownership of everything, they manipulated people to give away hard-earned crops they farmed with Angkar, the “nameless and faceless organization on high which prided itself on never erring and having as many eyes as a pineapple” (Power 116). Angkar’s commands were only a disguise for the government’s wishes, where they redistributed food to soldiers and those in power, rather than the starving masses. The biggest fundamental issue with KR ideology was the “irrelevance of the individual” (Power 119). Targeting with the intent to destroy, the regime turned on Buddhist monks, ethnic Vietnamese, ethnic Chinese, Chams, Lon Nol officials, educated people, and more, executed in killing sites, leaving evidence that still remains of genocide. Not only turning on those seen as outsiders, the KR simply did not care about the people of Cambodia, as seen by the motto introducing this paragraph. It may have been called communism, but at its root, the KR regime more resembles a brutal totalitarianism, operating in secrecy and controlling its people. Overall, it is the ineffective and callous interpretation of communism made by the KR that caused the destruction of many lives in Cambodia.

As I sit here as a privileged American teenager, proclaiming idealistic expectations for how society should run and how governments must act in complex situations, it is hard to reconcile what is realistic and what is right. There is, however, much that could have been done on the part of the international community to ameliorate the harm done to the people of Cambodia EVEN IF they remained vehemently opposed to using military force to interfere with the Khmer Rouge’s sovereignty. Despite the obscurity in Cambodia of what was truly going on, the US government made no serious effort to discover it, and discounted reports (and later, refugee stories) of what was occurring. Most of the stories from 1975-79 were short and hidden in the back of news sections, typically “focused on the political ramification of Cambodia’s communist rule rather than on the suffering of Cambodia” (Power 111). Yes, a big-picture knowledge and coverage is important, but it can gloss over the fact that it is human lives being affected, and people being killed. The language used to discuss situations is crucial, and because the public, reeling from the trauma of Vietnam and kept from knowledge of Cambodia, only saw the banner of communism, and the horrors done to individuals were not acknowledged. Serious efforts to determine what the Khmer Rouge were doing could have helped expose genocide before it occurred to such great extent, and lead to a powerful response to alleviate immense suffering. The Genocide Convention states how we may “call upon competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide,” but this action was never taken (Article VIII). When “the overriding impression...was that the Cambodian people had disappeared,” this should have been a red flag, but “by waiting for the full story to emerge, however, politicians, journalists, and citizens were guaranteeing they would not get emotionally or politically involved until it was too late (Power 106-109). Even “soft” responses from the United States, ones that did not require sending troops in, were absent, the government not even denouncing the massacres. America’s “toleration of unspeakable atrocities, often committed in clear view” comes from the decision that we are somehow powerless, but never, in any situation, should it be concluded that nothing at all can be done (Power 503).

When children play hide and seek, oftentimes one will find them blatantly in the open, curled up in some corner while covering their eyes in the hopes that others will not be able to see them. The US cannot continue to cover its eyes when presented with situations that it does not wish to deal withIt does not and will never remove the reality that we are powerful, and have an obligation to the international community to act. No matter what, we cannot remain silent.

Post your response here.

I really liked the comparison you made at the end where it's almost like the US is playing hide and seek. I think that US's involvement in other countries is necessarily important because not only the actions taken in that country could benefit a group of people, but also news would spread of US's actions. Countries would start to pay attention and people will get more involved.

0_0
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 10

The Khmer Rouge: Failure of Ideology and Failure of the International Community

When it comes to ethical manners in terms of bringing about change to society it is simple, that is making sure it doesn't become an oppressive agenda leading to a genocide. Countries have the right to develop their nations to create positive changes for their people but in terms of what happened in Cambodia, it was almost pure death and torture. The moral line is to be drawn when movements become inhumane like how Cambodia had multiple deaths due to execution, starvation, and labor torture. When suffering affects the majority of people to the point it's looked back upon as unbelievable then there is a serious problem. Such as in Chapter 6 of A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide where it says, “They shipped my father and the rest of the military officers to a remote area northwest of the city… then they mass executed them, without any blindfolds, with the machine guns, rifles, and grenades… my father was buried underneath all the dead bodies”. The sheer brutality of the death manners and tolls was enough to make the stories seem unbelievable which is why the United States was able to deem themselves unable to interfere because they did not believe the severity of the crimes being committed. They denied this story in order to avoid scrutiny of not interfering and made it sound as though they were just doing a reform that was strict. The United States also claimed that due to their past with Vietnam, they were more hesitant to interfere given their past with Asia. The United States did not stop to think that the residents of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge could not fight off the people who were holding them in the “new society ''. They were mere civilians against guns and authoritative laws as well as every time people were trying to document the reality of what was happening they would never escape to tell the real story. The only real chance they could have had at escaping the cruel new society they lived in would have been through Western intervention. International committees had the resources to come in and demand a change for the health and wellbeing of the people given that the International Convention agreed on humanitarian laws that cannot be violated. It may have led to violent measures but it would have saved so many lives from being lost. International organizations could have worked very hard to make deals with the KR to save the people from mass genocide but they constantly chose not only to ignore it but also to make the genocide seem less like genocide and more like a mistake of internal affairs within them where they are just being more of a communist nation. In excerpt 2, Chapter 6 of A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide says, “They accepted U.S. nonviolent as an established background condition. Once U.S. troops had withdrawn from Vietnam in 1973, Americans deemed all of Southeast Asia unspeakable, unwatchable, and from a policy perspective, unfixable”. They all knew what was going on but they chose to ignore it and even removed troops which is what gave the KR the green light to go ahead with the remaking of the society. National sovereignty should be overridden when their acts are not only inhuman but cross into lines of torture and genocide which is what happened. Too much governmental power leads to citizens no longer having rights which defeats the purpose of a national government being there. They are there to provide for the well-being of people, not just for the ideals that they deem to be perfect. This happened because they had a twisted ideology that led to the people in power who had not only the authority but also the weapons to hurt people. When it comes to the Cambodian genocide their purpose was to reshape their society which was taken with inhumane and murderous actions and despite international resources being able to interfere they didn’t. Once again history was left to repeat itself.

pedromartinez45
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 10
The fundamental problem with the Khmer Rouge’s ideology was their plan to get rid of everyone in positions of power in the previous government as well as people who potentially were disloyal to the regime since it led to an eventual genocide when communism was indeed the goal. This case and the many other cases in which there were attempts to create a communist regime serve as examples of how the idealistic expectations of communism can never come to fruition in the real world because of the level of complexity when it comes to the ideology of the foundational regimes. Although the idea behind communism is to resolve inherent problems within society when it comes to inequality, the approach to creating communist states has been everything but equal causing massive failure of the ideology. This is an ideal system, not a realistic one. People will never come to a complete consensus on every single decision a society has to take, exposing widespread armed struggle and war around the world. Although militant conflict is a reality, violence should not be the answer for everyone. Ethically the only way to justify war would be if a threat were to impede the everyday lives of innocent civilians. Wars sparked over greed in whichever form whether it be for economic resources or political power is a completely unethical cause as to why two parties were to fight. However there are of course exceptions to this because if a political regime is suppressing the rights of citizens, a retaliation is in the best interest of the civilians, causing defining ethics in war to be such a difficult task. The best interest of the civilians is also hard to define especially because of the unpredictable nature of politics and the secret plans of regimes. For example in an excerpt from “A Problem From Hell” Chapter 6 : Cambodia “Helpless Giant”, news reporter Elizabeth Becker “did not suggest that life under the KR rule would be fun. But she did not imply that life would be permitted.” A crime like genocide that is so heavy and unimaginable is never something that people think is a possibility even if a regime may seem authoritarian. The true intentions of a regime is hard to decipher initially however over time it becomes more and more evident what their principles are but is a population going to wait to see if a government is good? When it becomes evident that the regime is very harmful to the state it should be common international law that there should be intervention in this place. In the second excerpt from “A Problem From Hell”, there was testimony “on Capitol Hill that the KR would ‘try to eliminate all potential opponents.’ In early May 1975, President Ford said he had ‘hard intelligence,’ including Cambodian radio transmissions, that eighty to ninety Cambodian officials and their spouses had been executed.” This shows that the atrocities taking place in Cambodia were well known within politics but almost nothing was done to stop this from happening. If there is clear evidence of harm within a country it should be the responsibility of many other countries to intervene in the name of humanity. America has played the role of the international police for a while but there should be more aid from different countries that will help aid their efforts.
boston123
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 10

Khmer Rouge response

1. What fundamental problems existed in the Khmer Rouge's ideology and plan and that caused the destruction of so many lives in Cambodia? Does this demonstrate something inherently wrong with communism or does it demonstrate the ineffective and callous interpretation and execution of the ideology by the Khmer Rouge leaders?


The Khmer Rouge’s ideology and beliefs were those of a radical form of communism. Pol Pot hoped to turn Cambodia into a state with no social classes and no range of thought. In the film, First They Killed my Father, Cambodian civilians are forced to leave their homes and relocate to work camps where the KR attempted to implement their vision of a communist society. The victims had to address everyone as “comrade,” and everyone wore the same color, demonstrating a couple of the ways in which the KR tried to make a classless society. The Khmer Rouge’s beliefs were so extreme that they had very little tolerance. The consequences for those who did not follow the rules were violent, and oftentimes deadly.


Ultimately, this seems to demonstrate the ineffective and callous interpretation and execution of the ideology by the Khmer Rouge leaders. In A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide, an eyewitness recalls, “The Khmer Krahom’s programs have much in common with those of totalitarian regimes in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, particularly regarding efforts to psychologically reconstruct individual members of society” (Power 96). One of the fundamental goals of communism is the prioritization of equality among the citizens, ensuring that everyone has access to the same resources and has their needs met. However, the Khmer Rouge’s methods completely violated human rights as they treated Cambodians as non-humans.


2. With armed struggle and war a reality of life for people all over the world both past and present, how does one draw the line as to which means are ethical and unethical for bringing about change? How much suffering is tolerable to bring about a “better society”? What should happen when it is clear that a struggle for change is making society worse, as it was in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge?


The rules of war which we covered earlier in the year seem to give some guidance for when armed conflict is ethical and unethical. Clearly weapons should not be used on innocent civilians as a means to bring about change. Despite this, in each of the genocides we have learned about this year, the problematic regimes do not care at all about maintaining ethicality. In the case of the Cambodian genocide, the KR’s use of violence only managed to bring immense despair and fear. In total, about two million Cambodians died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, some of the most targeted groups being Vietnamese, Muslim Cham, and Buddhist Monks. In the Tuol Sleng Examination Center (Office S-21), “of the 16,000 Cambodians who had arrived there, only five had departed alive” (Power 143). In Office S-21, torture implements, documents, photographs, and notebooks were found and used as evidence in prosecuting KR leaders for crimes against humanity.


In addition, these tragedies did not solely occur in Phnom Penh, as “the Vietnamese found evidence of mass murder everywhere” (Power 142). For example, in First They Killed my Father, the director includes a scene with a mass grave at the work camp depicting piles of lifeless bodies. The camps were occupied by innocent civilians, who were starved, tortured, and executed for holding “foreign” beliefs that went against the KR’s communist ideology. Ultimately, When an attempt to bring about change through the use of armed struggle manages to result in suffering of civilians, that is when we draw the line between ethical and unethical means of war.
Critical Thinker
Posts: 10

KR post

The Khmer Rouge (KR)’s main fundamental problem was their all or nothing approach. Regardless of their goals, their ideology, or whether the theoretical society they were trying to create was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, their methods and black/white perspective resulted in the death of over 2 million people. While there are fundamental flaws in communism that have time and again prevented ideal ‘equal’ societies from becoming reality, I do not believe that is what caused the KR’s evolution to genocide. If anything, the fragile nation paired with the vast rural space gave Cambodia the most promising recipe for communism that has come about in a long time. The people of Cambodia were reluctant to believe that their situation could get worse from the corrupt government they were already living under. Many were even willing to give the KR way of life a chance under the promise of a better life that communist regimes spread. A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide says “Cambodians were consoled by the presumption of reasonableness” (Power 101). The problem was, this revolution did not take place under any semblance of reasonableness. Right from the beginning, it is clear that the demands of the KR were unrealistic when entire cities were forced to abandon their homes and forget all their allegiances except those to Angkar. The KR worked to systematically remove Chinese, Vietnamese and Cham people, along with Buddhist Monks and anyone affiliated with Western culture or values. The KR pushed so hard for perfection it destroyed any semblance of a chance for creating a working society. Even after eliminating all perceived threats, their paranoia turned them to destroy even those who were loyal to the Regime. The evidence and testimonies from S-21 make this incredibly clear. If each so-called traitor must reveal around 60 names of ‘co-conspirators’, and each of them must give 60 names and so on, the KR was quite literally on a path of bringing themselves to extinction. In my opinion, the KR leaders were paranoid, and sooner or later were going to bring their own downfall even if there had not been Vietnamese intervention. The execution of the KR ideology, regardless of how wrong it was ethically, was simply unsustainable.

There are many instances where it is hard to say where one draws the line between ethical and unethical means of bringing about change, and how much suffering is tolerable. This was not one of them. When a regime turns to massacring its own people in an attempt of growth, they can no longer be trusted to create their own society in this day and age. It is not enough to call it an ‘internal struggle’ and turn our backs as one group controls and eliminates another. When a movement’s motto is “It is better to arrest ten people by mistake than to let one guilty person go free”, I think it’s safe to say that they do not care about the safety of their people (Power 120). I’m not really sure what should happen when it is clear that a struggle for change is making things worse, but I know that when it is to this degree the answer is not to say ‘not our problem’. In an ideal world, the leaders of the KR would have been collected and handed to the Cambodian people as they are allowed to rebuild their nation, free from interference from the Vietnamese, Chinese, or even the West. But that’s not realistic either. So I don’t know what would have happened, but I’m pretty sure the 2,000,000+ who died would have agreed it shouldn’t have been nothing.

bobboston28
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 14

The Khmer Rouge’s ideology was influenced by Communist beliefs that entailed the absence of private property and money, with the government instead having control of these assets. However, Communism is unrealistic to obtain as it has led to political repression, totalitarianism, and restrictions of human rights as shown by failed attempts throughout history. The Khmer Rouge aimed to follow this ideology, but showed beginning signs of collapse with the placement of Cambodians in the collectives as many individuals did not have prior experience with manual labor. The numerous deaths in the camps from famine and diseases were inevitable, resembling similarities to the Nazi concentration camps where most of their day was spent working and only fed enough food to keep them alive, and not enough that would give them the strength to rebel. As expected, the officials were not required to do manual labor and were able to enjoy plentiful food and decent living conditions, inherently showing a flaw in a Communist society where people are not able to truly be equal. The KR leaders also failed with their execution of Communism because they deemed many ethnic groups as targets: “ethnic Vietnamese, ethnic Chinese, Muslim Chams, and Buddhist monks, grouping them all as traitors” (Cambodia: This Is Not 1942 and Options Ignored; Futility, Perversity, Jeopardy). This was the KR’s “selection process” for the group that was considered equal and were willing to execute those they viewed as a threat or simply did not like, inherently showing how the KR did not truly believe in equality.

A main reason why the international community, especially the US, was not inclined to take action in Cambodia was due to past history in Southeast Asia with Vietnam that they had not recovered from; this excuse seemed to be a pattern in the response of many genocides. Cambodia was also of no geopolitical benefit to other countries, causing them to believe there was no point in risking the lives of their soldiers for Cambodians. This raises the question of whether human lives are more important or worthy of saving only if they are of political or economic interest to the international community. Countries like the US should recognize the power and resources they hold that can be used to aid many foreign affairs. If their influece isn’t being exerted on others for the sake of civilians, it questions what the purpose is for having people if they refuse to acknowledge genocides beyond their nation’s borders. If Western countries had taken initiative with either sending aid to Cambodia, it is likely that other nations would have followed as well, instead of on the account of citizens’ pressure. Another reason why the US delayed their interference on the Cambodia genocide is because they were skeptical of the Cambodian refugees/victim’s accounts and believed them (along with other evidence) to not be substantial enough to take action. In Excerpt 1, Quinn (a former US foreign service officer) recalls how at the time, US gov. officials rarely interviewed refugees and instead relied on official government-to-government sources. The clear problem here, in the case of the Cambodian genocide, is that the new government was the orchestrator of the genocide, therefore their reports would be fabricated. It is always important to listen to the voices of the citizens as well, especially if their accounts of horror start to share similarities. Their experiences quickly became labeled as “made-up”, which is not only dismissive, but deeply insensitive as it undermines the immense suffering and trauma they endured. National sovereignty should be overriden to stop these sufferings as long as the interfering countries aren’t truly endangering their citizens. If countries remained uninvolved with genocides, more lives would continue to be lost than saved, setting a bad example for future governments who would take it as the norm to let other countries handle their own affairs under any circumstances.


bobboston28
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 14

Originally posted by rica.junction on April 28, 2024 12:48

Communism itself is not inherently evil; it is not written into its principles to require corrupt governmentsin theory, that is. The issue that lies within the execution of Communism. We have seen it fail time and time again, falling into human rights abuses and destruction in the famines resulting from agricultural communes in the Mao era of China, the genocide and slaughter of ¼th of Cambodia’s population under the Khmer Rouge, and more. Cambodia’s communist party and its seizure of power stand out from the rest due to its perplexing secrecy. Beginning at year zero of the newly renamed Cambodia, called Kampuchea, the KR seized power from the Lon Nol government and promptly emptied cities full of people into the countryside using threats of force and death. Phnom Penh “came to be known as a ghost town,” during this time, as Cambodia’s population disappeared into agricultural communes in the jungle (Sok Udom Deh 1). This forcible removal is the first issue lying within their execution of communism: how can one have a classless society if it is an exclusive group of soldiers and revolutionaries in power controlling other people? Although the KR preached the communist beliefs in common ownership of everything, they manipulated people to give away hard-earned crops they farmed with Angkar, the “nameless and faceless organization on high which prided itself on never erring and having as many eyes as a pineapple” (Power 116). Angkar’s commands were only a disguise for the government’s wishes, where they redistributed food to soldiers and those in power, rather than the starving masses. The biggest fundamental issue with KR ideology was the “irrelevance of the individual” (Power 119). Targeting with the intent to destroy, the regime turned on Buddhist monks, ethnic Vietnamese, ethnic Chinese, Chams, Lon Nol officials, educated people, and more, executed in killing sites, leaving evidence that still remains of genocide. Not only turning on those seen as outsiders, the KR simply did not care about the people of Cambodia, as seen by the motto introducing this paragraph. It may have been called communism, but at its root, the KR regime more resembles a brutal totalitarianism, operating in secrecy and controlling its people. Overall, it is the ineffective and callous interpretation of communism made by the KR that caused the destruction of many lives in Cambodia.

As I sit here as a privileged American teenager, proclaiming idealistic expectations for how society should run and how governments must act in complex situations, it is hard to reconcile what is realistic and what is right. There is, however, much that could have been done on the part of the international community to ameliorate the harm done to the people of Cambodia EVEN IF they remained vehemently opposed to using military force to interfere with the Khmer Rouge’s sovereignty. Despite the obscurity in Cambodia of what was truly going on, the US government made no serious effort to discover it, and discounted reports (and later, refugee stories) of what was occurring. Most of the stories from 1975-79 were short and hidden in the back of news sections, typically “focused on the political ramification of Cambodia’s communist rule rather than on the suffering of Cambodia” (Power 111). Yes, a big-picture knowledge and coverage is important, but it can gloss over the fact that it is human lives being affected, and people being killed. The language used to discuss situations is crucial, and because the public, reeling from the trauma of Vietnam and kept from knowledge of Cambodia, only saw the banner of communism, and the horrors done to individuals were not acknowledged. Serious efforts to determine what the Khmer Rouge were doing could have helped expose genocide before it occurred to such great extent, and lead to a powerful response to alleviate immense suffering. The Genocide Convention states how we may “call upon competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide,” but this action was never taken (Article VIII). When “the overriding impression...was that the Cambodian people had disappeared,” this should have been a red flag, but “by waiting for the full story to emerge, however, politicians, journalists, and citizens were guaranteeing they would not get emotionally or politically involved until it was too late (Power 106-109). Even “soft” responses from the United States, ones that did not require sending troops in, were absent, the government not even denouncing the massacres. America’s “toleration of unspeakable atrocities, often committed in clear view” comes from the decision that we are somehow powerless, but never, in any situation, should it be concluded that nothing at all can be done (Power 503).

When children play hide and seek, oftentimes one will find them blatantly in the open, curled up in some corner while covering their eyes in the hopes that others will not be able to see them. The US cannot continue to cover its eyes when presented with situations that it does not wish to deal withIt does not and will never remove the reality that we are powerful, and have an obligation to the international community to act. No matter what, we cannot remain silent.

I agree with your points on how Communism is inherently not evil, the significance powerful countries like the US play in resolving foreign genocides, and the idea there is never not an option or a solution. The baseline idea of Communism has no mention of corrupt governments or violating human rights just for the sake of equality, but it can be argued that Communism is an unrealistic ideology that often has led to more problems than solutions. I like how you acknowledge our privilege in society where we find it so easy to suggest solutions and difficult to understand the complexity behind major decisions like these. However, this does not mean that there is never an answer. The US certainly had the resources, power, and influence to ameliorate the Cambodian genocide but refused to acknowledge this atrocity.

Starboy
Boston, Massachusettes, US
Posts: 6

A fundamental problem in the Khmer Rouge’s plan was trying to take away all the progress humans have ever made. The list of things they couldn’t do, as said in “This Is Not 1942” from “A Problem From Hell” is travel without permission, feed themselves they were supplied a small amount of rice everyday, choose what they learned, they had no libraries and speaking a foreign language would result in death, reminisce on the life they had before the Khmer Rouge, flirt with one another, pray or have any religion, own private property or have money or any technology, or contact with those outside of the Khmer Rouge by telephone, telegraph, or mail and they had no embassies. They thought that some stuff was corrupt, which was fair, but not medicine. Life saving medicine could never be corrupt. In the movie “First They Killed My Father” a man gets executed because his son was dying of a flu and he got him medicine. Killing people for not letting others die is no way to preserve a society. I think this more demonstrates the problems with the Khmer Rouge than problems with all of communism as I think trying to get back to a year zero is only a Khmer Rouge thing, I don’t think other communist societies have tried that.


I believe that if a change is causing more problems than it’s fixing then that’s where the line is between it was ethical and it wasn’t. Same with trying to make a better society, if your society has gotten to the point where it’s doing more harm than good then it’s time to let it go because it’s clearly not working. If a change is just hurting a society I think what has to happen is stopping, looking at what you’ve done, looking at what the problems are, and fixing them. So in the case of the Khmer Rouge, stopping, looking at all the killing fields, looking at all the people dead/dying, and realizing communism and “Year Zero” just isn’t working.


To ameliorate the harm done a country could’ve tried harder to get past the sovereignty Cambodia had and been like “no, you can’t hide everything from us we have to check to make sure everything is good here” or even just aided Vietnam’s efforts if they didn’t want to get involved themselves. Or, in the aftermath, they could’ve tried harder with the trials to get more justice for the victims of the genocide. I don’t think national sovereignty should ever be allowed. If you have the freedom to whatever you want without anyone to stop you you can do anything, including things like this genocide and fascism. There should be no point that any country is ever allowed to close itself completely off. Cambodia’s national sovereignty could’ve been stopped if one of the powerful countries at the time, like America, had told them all this and had told them that no one can just be closed because we have to be able to know that you’re not doing anything sketchy.

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