Jun 24, 2011

Cambodia's Curse

From this coming Sunday's NYT Book Review: Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land

A study by the Cambodian psychiatrist Muny Sothara found PTSD "in 47 percent of the population"; another study, of Cambodian refugees in Massachusetts, found that 60 percent of PTSD victims there suffered from sleep paralysis, a half-conscious state of catatonia.


Social scientists are finding that PTSD is being passed from one generation to the next. Has this become Cambodia's curse?

Or is impunity the curse? In the aftermath of Pol Pot's death in 1998, the United Nations partnered with Cambodia's judges to try the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge. Brinkley explains the logic of the costly proceedings. "If nothing else, Ieng Sary fed the state's omnipresent culture of impunity," he writes of one Khmer Rouge leader. "If he, with the blood of two million people on his hands, faced no penalty, no censure, no retribution, how hard was it to accept the killing of a journalist here, a trade-union official there?"


The United States did not directly foist the Khmer Rouge on Cambodia. But Brink­ley describes how Lon Nol, who was friendly to Washington, overthrew Prince Sihanouk in a 1970 coup, and how the prince, in frustration, implored Cambodians to join the Khmer Rouge.

Brinkley disputes any further American complicity, even though the United States continued a secret carpet bombing campaign until 1973. But two scholars, Taylor Owen and Ben Kiernan, have seized on data on the bombing released by President Bill Clinton; beginning under Lyndon Johnson, the United States dropped more bombs on Cambodia than the Allies dropped in all of World War II. Brinkley seems to dismiss the argument that the extensive bombing, with its tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, might have added urgency to Sihanouk's plea to join the Khmer Rouge. Yet Owen and Kiernan report that former C.I.A. and Khmer Rouge officers affirmed the American bombing helped the Khmer Rouge win support.


zenpundit said...

"Yet Owen and Kiernan report that former C.I.A. and Khmer Rouge officers affirmed the American bombing helped the Khmer Rouge win support."

I guess since the activities and political ideas of Pol Pot and Khieu Samphan in Paris are too well known now to trot out the old "American bombing radicalized the Khmer Rouge" lie, anti-American academics are now arguing bombing brought them to power.

Who we were bombing and why is somehow left out of their Cambodian causation equation (only American invasions are bad, prior North Vietnamese invasions do not destabilize anything)

M1 said...

This post was updated today to include a picture, the link to the NYT Book Review, and an easter egg. The original post was crafted and posted using a cellphone. This precluded including the items mentioned above.