The Cambodian Memory Hole
by Paul David Collins ©, April 27th, 2007
Cambodia has a serious problem. Many of the nation's young people are having a hard time wrapping their heads around the fact that the Khmer Rouge conducted a campaign of genocide in their country. Some even deny that the genocide ever happened. This fact is revealed in a recent movie entitled Wanting To See The Truth, which "shows footage of young Cambodians who do not believe stories of the atrocities of the late 1970s" ("Khmer Rouge film reveals horror," no pagination). Evidently, this epidemic of historical denial is promulgated on an institutional level because the "period is not taught in schools" (no pagination).The danger of national amnesia that Cambodia is now facing is a result of the globalization of the postmodern paradigm. We all want to instantly grasp the "Big Picture" without taking the necessary trip down Memory Lane. A thorough study of history is the only way one can gain a firm understanding of modern realities. However, like children, we resist this fact with all our strength so that we might be able to live in a perpetual "now." Even I find myself having to fight the urge and temptation to approach the topics I study as if they are videotapes that I can fast forward directly to the end.
The power elite have helped promote this sorry state of affairs. It helps conceal their involvement in history's crimes and atrocities. The Cambodian "killing fields" are certainly no exception. The postmodern mind has difficulty seeing the bloody fingerprints of the power elite upon Cambodia during the period of 1975 to 1979. Nonetheless, those who bother to revisit the crime scene can discover these fingerprints.
NSSM 200: The Politics of GenocideThe motivation for the Cambodian genocide can be found in a document entitled National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM) 200. The National Security Council (NSC) under Henry Kissinger's guidance put this document together in 1974. The thesis was quite simple: population growth in lesser-developed countries constitutes a threat to national security. NSSM 200 named target countries:
In order to assist the development of major countries and to maximize progress toward population stability, primary emphasis would be placed on the largest and fastest growing developing countries where the imbalance between growing numbers and development potential most seriously risks instability, unrest, and international tensions. These countries are: India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil, The Philippines, Thailand, Egypt, Turkey, Ethiopia, and Colombia. Out of a total 73.3 million worldwide average increase in population from 1970-75 these countries contributed 34.3 million or 47%. (No pagination)NSSM 200 captured the power elite's preoccupation with carrying capacity and population control. These concepts originated with the ideas of Thomas Malthus, an Anglican clergyman who had received the blessings of French deist Jean-Jacques Rousseau and radical empiricist David Hume (Keynes 99). Malthus authored Essay on the Principle of Population, a treatise premised upon the thesis: "Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence increases only in an arithmetic ratio" (qutd. in Taylor 61). Malthus' thesis was vintage scientism. Malthus' demographic theory attempted to reduce the labyrinthine and complex machinations comprising the natural order to overly simplistic mathematic equations. Moreover, Malthus' Essay overlooked the role of human innovation in the enhancement of subsistence production methods. Nonetheless, Malthus concluded that society should adopt certain social policies to prevent the human population from growing disproportionately larger than the food supply. Of course, these social policies were anything but humane. They stipulated the stultification of industrial and technological development in poor communities. With the inevitable depreciation of vital infrastructure, society's "dysgenics" would eventually be purged by the elements. According to Malthus, such sacrifice guaranteed a healthy society.
Historically, Malthus' demographic theory has continually proved advantageous to oligarchs and elitists. Given his role as a retainer for the British East India Company, it is quite possible that Malthus formulated his postulates to serve oligarchical interests. The British Opium Wars against China stands as one case in point. NSSM 200 provides another. However, what distinguished NSSM 200 from previous oligarchical campaigns premised upon Malthusianism is the document's governmental ramifications. NSSM 200 represented an attempt to enshrine demographic warfare under the rubric of national security. Suddenly, the fallacious contentions of a long refuted demographic theory were given currency within the halls of officialdom. William Engdahl eloquently reiterates: "The document [NSSM 200] made Malthusianism, for the first time in American history, an explicit item of security policy of the government of the United States" (148).
NSSM 200 was reaffirmed as the cornerstone of the United States' population policy on November 26, 1975 when Brent Scowcroft signed National Security Decision Memorandum 314 (NSDM 314) (Jones 527). This document endorsed the policy recommendations presented in NSSM 200 (527). NSSM 200's reaffirmation was clearly at odds with world opinion. Just a year later, opposition towards population proposals like NSSM 200 arose at a United Nations-sponsored population conference in Bucharest. According to author E. Michael Jones:
There the Holy See along with Communist and Third World countries, led by Algeria, denounced the United States for practicing what they called "contraceptive imperialism." (526)While most of the world opposed the "contraceptive imperialism" recommended by NSSM 200, many Western elites felt that it should be official policy for the United States. Even more sinister, it was a policy they felt had to be put into practice.
From Theory to Practice: The Pol Pot Demonstration ModelAccording to Webster Tarpley and Anton Chaitkin, the Pol Pot Regime was "a demonstration model of the NSSM 200 policy" (276). The Khmer Rouge could not have made the gains it did in Cambodia without the aid of Kissinger and Nixon. It was the Nixon Administration's bombing of Cambodia that aided the Khmer Rouge in their takeover of Cambodia. Tarpley and Chaitkin elaborate:
The most important single ingredient in the rise of the Khmer Rouge was provided by Kissinger and Nixon, through their systematic campaign of terror-bombing against Cambodian territory during 1973. This was called Arclight, and began shortly after the January 1973 Paris Accords on Vietnam. With the pretext of halting a Khmer Rouge attack on Phnom Penh, U.S. forces carried out 79,959 officially confirmed sorties with B-52 and F-111 bombers against targets inside Cambodia, dropping 539,129 tons of explosives. Many of these bombs fell upon the most densely populated sections of Cambodia, including the countryside around Phnom Penh. The number of deaths caused by this genocidal campaign has been estimated at between 30,000 and 500,000. Accounts of the devastating impact of this mass terror-bombing leave no doubt that it shattered most of what remained of Cambodian society and provided ideal preconditions for the further expansion of the Khmer Rouge insurgency, in much the same way that the catastrophe of World War I weakened European society so as to open the door for the mass irrationalist movements of fascism and Bolshevism. (279)The ruin visited upon Cambodia by the Nixon Administration paved the way for Pol Pot and his murderous insurgents. The Khmer Rouge forced the Cambodian people out of the cities and into brutal agrarian slave labor. The end result was the death of some two million Cambodians.
The Case of Anthony LakeThe power elite also hope that amnesia concerning the Cambodian "killing fields" also extends to the American. This contention is reinforced by attempts within the Establishment to help Anthony Lake climb the political ladder. In 1997, Clinton attempted to place Lake in the position of Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) (Heilbrunn, no pagination). Lake was a stalwart supporter of the Khmer Rouge, and made this position known in a Washington Post op-ed piece. Jacob Heilbrunn elaborates:
He [Lake] provided a revealing glimpse of his views in a lengthy March 19, 1975, Washington Post op-ed titled "AT STAKE IN CAMBODIA: EXTENDING AID WILL ONLY PROLONG THE KILLING." The article, which was entered several times into the Congressional Record, was directed at Lake's old boss, Kissinger. It began by reciting the standard liberal line that Vietnam was not a war of aggression by the North against the South. It was, Lake wrote, a civil war. The distinction was fundamental. Since Vietnam was a civil war, and both sides were nationalists, the U.S. should view the struggle with equanimity. The North might even be morally superior to the South.The elite-controlled Clintonista regime would have not felt comfortable with such an appointment if they did not believe that the people of the United States had forgotten the genocide in Cambodia. However, more than just political appointments are at stake for the elite if public awareness over the Cambodian genocide is ever heightened. An awareness campaign might cause many to dig deeper into the topic. That digging would reveal the fact that the Khmer Rouge had accomplices: the power elite.
Developing the idea, Lake applied this logic to Cambodia. "Cambodia," he explained, "must be recognized as a civil war, not an international war, as Vietnam should have been so long ago." Lake went on to hail the Khmer Rouge, despite the common knowledge that they were slaughtering innocents: "A further measure of damage-limitation would involve adopting a diplomatic and rhetorical position which eschewed bitter attacks on Lon Nol's enemies. They are indeed supported by Hanoi, Peking, and Moscow. But, to the extent we know much about them, they include many Khmer nationalists, Communist and non-Communist. Once they gain power, we must hope for as much nationalism on their part as possible." Indeed, Lake called for "an immediate, peaceful turning over of power" to the Khmer Rouge. "This," he concluded, "would stop the final, useless killing." (No pagination)
- Engdahl, F. William. A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order. London: Pluto Press, 2004.
- Heilbrunn, Jacob. "The Great Equivocator." The New Republic 24 March 1997
- Jones, E. Michael. Libido Dominandi: Sexual Liberation and Political Control. South Bend, Indiana: St. Augustine's Press, 2000.
- Keynes, John Maynard. Essays in Biography. Toronto, Canada: Macmillan, 1933.
- "Khmer Rouge film reveals horrors." BBC 16 December 2006
- National Security Study Memorandum 200. April 1974.
- Tarpley, Webster Griffin and Anton Chaitkin. George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography. Washington, D.C.: Executive Intelligence Review, 1992.
- Taylor, Ian T. In the Minds of Men: Darwin and the New World Order. Toronto: TFE Publishing, 1999.