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Archive for the ‘Cambodia’ Category

An article by Richard Cohen published October 14, 1979 in The Washington Post … found again in the Krause family archive 37 years later

IMG_4303Soon I shall come to Henry Kissinger and David Frost and William Shawcross and all the rest who are arguing about what America did or did not do in Cambodia. First, though, I want to say something about a girl named Allison Krause. She deserves to be mentioned.

I had forgotten about her. She was only 19 when she died and the truth of the matter is that I never knew her. She went to a school outside Washington, and the day after she died I went up there and talked to her teachers and the students and then wrote a story about a girl – one of the four students – who died at Kent State University.

The teachers talked about her looks. She was extraordinarily pretty – sweet and pretty. She was a good student and well-mannered, but always the teachers came back to how pretty she was. Even the women said that. Allison Krause must have been one stunning girl. She died protesting the American Invasion of Cambodia.

AllisonFlowersAreBetterMemeNow, once again, I’m looking for her picture. It’s on my desk along with newspaper clippings about Cambodia and the book, “Sideshow” by William Shawcross and all the stuff about Henry Kissinger and David Frost. They have been arguing, the three of them, about who was responsible for what – everything from the secret bombings of Cambodia back to 1969 to the sad state of the country today. Once again, Kissinger is winning the debate.

What he has managed to do is turn this all into an argument over tactics or strategy — military and diplomatic – and not about law and morality. As a result, the debate is conducted in the language of overseas cables. We are supposed to care when and where Prince Norodom Sihanouk may or may not have indicated that he not only knew of the secret bombings (how could he have not?) and acquiesced (how could he have not?).

“We kept the raid secret,” Kissinger wrote in a letter of the British magazine, The Economist, “because we wanted to gear our response to Sihanouk’s and to protect his position. We were prepared to acknowledge if Sihanouk protested – which he did not.” In the same letter Kissinger writes, “Throughout, Sihanouk only did not protest: he publicly disclaimed any objection to American bombing in areas annexed to the North Vietnamese and asserted that Cambodians had been killed.”

So what it came down to for Kissinger was an attempt to protect Sihanouk from suffering excruciating political embarrassment had the secret American bombings of his country become known. In other words, the question remains whether the bombing and the subsequent American invasion of Cambodia were militarily justified.

What you get from Shawcross, however, is another point of view entirely. He’s willing to argue the military stuff with Kissinger and to tangle with him diplomatically. But he also points out the bombings were secret, probably illegal. This attempt to keep the American people in the dark led to wiretapping of 17 persons, including newsmen, in order to find out who had leaked the story to The New York Times. This was the process – a lie followed by an abuse of power – that led inexorably to Watergate.

What matters more than whether Sihanouk knew he was pounding his country literally back into the Stone Age is the fact that the American people did not. They were being told of Vietnamization and troop reduction – of peace efforts and secret plans to end the war. They were not told of the bombings. They were not only not told of the bombings, they were lied to.

The Air Force kept a double set of books, to disguise the raids. If you asked for the books, you got the phony ones. The Air Force, to its credit, made no exceptions. It lied to Congress, too.

Even as late of 1970, the administration clung to the lie. Richard Nixon, in announcing the invasion of Cambodia, said the United States “scrupulously respected” the neutrality of Cambodia. As for Kissinger, he turned away from the protest of his aides by calling them, more or less, yellow: “Your view represents the cowardice of the Eastern establishment.”

Through it all, Kissinger argues tactics and strategy and the mumbo jumbo of diplomacy. It is important for him to prove that Sihanouk approved of the secret bombings and that they were militarily justified. The fact remains, though, the American people did not know; that Kissinger, in his contempt for us and his conviction that he knew best, never let us in on the secret. And he never concedes to this day that it would have been best had he and his boss, Richard Nixon, consulted with the American people before taking us into Cambodia. Cambodia might have suffered any way.

But Allison Krause might still be alive.

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A 2016 Memorial Day read by Tim Martin, Eureka Times Standard

Vietnamese women and children crouch taking cover from Viet Cong fire at Bao Trai near Saigon 1/1/66 > AP Photo/Horst Faas

There will never be a day when the Vietnam War is not on my mind. It was one of the worst mistakes America has ever made. Vietnam was fought for big money interests and promoted under the guise of nationalism. The war should have taught us a humbling lesson, but we let it slip away. Peace has become the enemy of corporate-run America. Our nation is accustomed to viewing life through the crosshairs of a rifle scope. We are a society in search of constant battle.

Over the past 50 years Americans have been spoon-fed whatever revisionist propaganda about Vietnam our leaders want us to hear. Their lies have kept us from understanding the truth: the war in Southeast Asia was immoral and unjust, a brutality akin to slavery and the genocide of the American Indian. Vietnam produced a realization in me that, much like the British redcoats who once tried to destroy our freedom, I had fought on the wrong side.

I am a veteran who would like to apologize to the people of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia for my part in the war. I joined the U.S. Navy in 1966 to battle a nation that had been in a prolonged struggle to free itself from foreign domination. The Vietnamese defeated the Japanese occupation during the Second World War. In 1945 they declared themselves independent from France. They wanted only what America’s Founding Fathers wanted: liberty and independence.

In 1965 the U.S. sent an army to Vietnam to battle a new revolutionary nationalist movement called the National Liberation Front (the Viet Cong). Our soldiers were told that all struggles for national liberation were USSR- or China-led “Communist conspiracies.” That was a lie. The Vietnam War was a pointless exercise in destruction. Americans were ordered to burn Vietnamese villages, destroy large areas of the countryside, and kill as many enemy fighters as possible. Our military dropped napalm and cluster bombs and sprayed people with herbicides. The results were death and injury, lifelong illness and genetic mutation.

The suffering did not end with the liberation of Saigon in 1975.

Author Edward Tick, known for his groundbreaking work with Vietnam veterans, wrote a book called “Fallen Leaves, Broken Lives.” He collected statistics by searching history books, newspapers, and archives, and interviewing survivors and scholars throughout the United States and Southeast Asia. Here is what he discovered:

During the course of the war 2.5 million Vietnamese were killed, 4 million were wounded and 250,000 went missing in action. There have been 67,000 people maimed and 50,000 post-war deaths because of unexploded bombs and mines in Vietnam. Post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide numbers are unknown, but there are an estimated 3 million disabled street people in Vietnam.

The environmental damage was enormous, ranging from devastated forests to gasoline-poisoned rice fields. The U.S. bombing in Vietnam (approximately 8 billion pounds worth) was four times more than during World War II. Over 5,778 Vietnamese villages, 15,100 bridges, 2,923 high schools and universities, 1,500 maternity hospitals and 484 churches were destroyed or damaged. Agent Orange-related deformities still occur at the rate of 35,000 a year. (11.7 million gallons of the deadly chemical were sprayed over the countryside.)

I wish the Vietnam War could have ended with some form of introspection and reconciliation on our part, but America’s leaders were (and still are) out to lunch. We have become an enormous military camp intent on creating new enemies and wreaking havoc around the world. The U.S. has reached the point where warfare no longer requires victory. Our failures are self-inflicted. The military industrial complex is a parasite on this country, and our politicians treat young soldiers like expendable assets.

There is some good news: Americans are growing immune to our government’s attempts to propagandize faux patriotism into a good and necessary thing. We are learning that war is rarely about a “moral higher ground.” U.S. citizens are finally beginning to understand that our addiction to battle is a symptom of the sickness that pervades us.

Time does not heal all wounds, but owning the truth is a small step forward.

As a nation we are seriously flawed. Our military is deep in the blood of millions of innocents. My participation in the Vietnam War was a terrible mistake. I hope the people of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia will forgive me. As for the untruthful leaders of this country, no apology will be forthcoming. Their eyes are already locked on the next atrocity ahead.

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