Kirkpatrick on Cambodia
I was fascinated to see Jeane Kirkpatrick of all people complaining about the situation in Cambodia (“Blocking the Path to Killing Fields,” Op-Ed Page, Aug. 1). The current negotiations highlight above all the hypocrisy and cruelty of the Reagan Administration’s position on the Vietnamese occupation of that country, and the sleight of hand with which the media have obscured its consequences.
From 1975 to 1979 Cambodian dictator Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge killed over 1 million people. In 1979 the Vietnamese, responding to Cambodian border attacks, liberated Cambodia by invading and driving out the Khmer Rouge.
The Vietnamese, whatever their motives, gave the Cambodian people a future. The moderate, bureaucratized regime they installed, while hardly a socialist democracy or even a particularly well-run dictatorship, has vastly improved the lot of the Cambodian people.
As could be expected, however, the Western response was not one of offering assistance but of hostility to what it called Vietnam’s “brutal violation of Cambodian sovereignty.” (Presumably, it was not a violation of Cambodian sovereignty when the United States bombed the country in the early 1970s.)
For nine years the U.S. has led a stinging economic boycott against impoverished Vietnam (not to mention reneging on its war-reparations promise) and has indirectly supplied the Cambodian “freedom fighters” with arms via China.
However, should the Vietnamese pull out, Pol Pot (called the “Asian Hitler” by former Cambodian leader Prince Sihanouk) will be back in power with a chance to do genocide right the second time.
The Soviets, to their credit, have stuck by Vietnam up to this point. As one who has long since given up any hope of the United States doing something progressive in its foreign involvements, I can only hope that the Soviets continue to stand by the Vietnamese, and, in turn, the people of Cambodia.