there’s a solemnity to cambodia that you can feel the moment you get off the plane, a sense of gravity that won’t shake. there are subtle reminders of life interrupted – paused, thrown into complete disarray, and slowly getting underway again as people try to find their footing in a shattered peace. a world turned upside-down and trying to right itself.

i grew up in what would be considered a good school system, graduated class of 1990. i was 6 years old when pol pot was deposed and the massacres ended, 18 when the peace accords were signed. and yet i cannot bring to mind a single instance or mention in any textbook, or by any teacher, of the murder of more than 2 million cambodians in my lifetime, by one of the most sadistic regimes ever known. the world recently watched on in stunned silence at the unbelievable events in rwanda, and swore to never let it happen again – yet no one discusses what happened in cambodia only a few years prior.

perhaps that’s because to do so would require acknowledging the blood on our own hands. the u.s. and u.k. armed, fed and sheltered the khmer rouge (hell, we even offered them a seat at the united nations). we are complicit in the slaughter they carried out. while americans were gripped by disco fever, cambodians were being put to death for wearing eyeglasses.

there have been no war crimes tribunals. no “truth and reconciliation” boards. pol pot was never hunted, captured, brought to justice at the hague for crimes against humanity. he died of natural causes in 1998 at a ripe old age in the jungles of cambodia.

nobody talks about that.

and so i feel compelled to bear witness. to try to examine in my own way, the cruel cancerous biology of genocide that invades, multiplies quietly, ravages and destroys a people, and is always identified far too late. to pay my respects to those who died unnoticed by the rest of the world.

i feel compelled to see for myself the worst of humanity on display – the stark indisputable evidence of our mosyt craven and cowardly need to deny the existence of evil and suffering in front of our faces. i feel compelled to look it in the eye, because so many do not.

for how else are we to recognise it? millions died because we failed them. we can’t keep looking away.

One Response to “before”

  1. daddio
    June 30th, 2006 06:28

    it is astounding to me that we as a people (u.s. citizens) had felt so threatened that our leaders felt it was best to kill, destroy and to sacrifice 58,000 of our children and leave bereft hundreds of thousands of their families in the name of stopping communism in asia. in our wake hundreds of thousands have been killed directly by us and the s. vietnam government. we brought the war, the killing, the fear, the unrest to laos and cambodia. millions more were to die by the revolutions our presence sparked. it is convenient to see the kamer rouge as mad. it is inconvenient for most of us to reflect on our own national psychosis.

    el salvador, guatemala, panama, kuwait, afghanistan, iraq, and lets not forgot the island in the caribbean whose name is, in fact, forgotten. the u.s. is only too willing to kill to try to achieve what it wants. we delude ourselves with freedom and democracy, but it is, in reality, it is always about dollars and dominance. rawanda, cambodia? no need, nothing to gain, just people being massacred.

    as you get a rare opportunity to see the results of our folly, i get to remember that i could have been one of those who died, or who, perhaps, could have done the killing. these asian countries were left impovished and scarred for the present and future generations. we went on to our next war and lamented our loss of national dignity in our defeat.

    today, like always, we are led by lies and liars who promise us security and exagerate the threat. our presence creats new jahadist and a world who righly call us immoral and imperialistic. like cambodia, surrounding countries are less secure and ripe for revolutionary insurgencies and new blood baths. it will be very intersting in 30 years to visit these new war zones as you visit those of the past. will they still be living with the scars and recalling the tragedy? will they, like they do in hue, mark time by what happened before and what happened after? will we be marching on to our next war?

    the only winner in was is death.

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