Mayaguez and Kissinger

[Published by the Cambodia Daily on July 5, 2016. The Daily article referred to was “US Spending Bill Ties Aid to End of Gov’t ‘Violence’”, published on July 4.]

Zsombor Peter’s front-page story on Monday is seriously misleading when it says that the Khmer Rouge’s 1975 capture of the Mayaguez “led to the deaths of 41 U.S. servicemen”.

The Mayaguez, a US merchant vessel, had sailed certainly within six nautical miles of Cambodian territory and possibly within two nautical miles (as some of its crew later charged), and it was flying no flag.

None of the Mayaguez crew were killed. All 41 US deaths were associated with the US assault on Koh Tang or preparations for it.

That assault began 24 hours after KR information and propaganda minister Hu Nim had made a public radio broadcast announcing that the crew would be released, and around 20 hours after they had in fact been freed. But Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had persuaded President Gerald Ford that the US should give the world “the impression that we are potentially trigger-happy” after its defeat in Vietnam (Greg Grandin, Kissinger’s Shadow, p. 142).

Grandin also notes: “Nobody knows how many Cambodians were killed in the [US] attack, but B-52s hit the mainland, destroying a railroad yard, port, oil refinery, and over three hundred buildings. Nine Cambodian ships were sunk.”

If the US Senate really wants the Khmer Rouge tribunal to look into the Mayaguez events as part of Case 003, perhaps the tribunal can charge Henry Kissinger.