‘Tragedy of Cambodian History’

[Sent to the Cambodian Daily in November 2005 in response to a published letter from the then US ambassador. Probably not published.]

“The tragedy of Cambodian history,” writes US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli (letter, November 3), “is ultimately a tragedy of human rights.”

What a delicately diplomatic way to put it! Not being a diplomat, I would say it a bit differently:

The Cambodian tragedy began with the US military intervention in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, which included backing for the coup that overthrew Prince Sihanouk, the genocidal saturation bombing of the Cambodian countryside, frequent incursions of US ground troops, and the spraying of Agent Orange and other deadly chemicals along the Cambodian-Vietnamese border and over large areas of Kompong Cham. The results of the latter are still visible in the large number of Cambodian children born with deformed or missing limbs.

The arrogance of US politicians who decided that Cambodian lives were expendable in US geopolitical interests is matched only by the seeming indestructible US arrogance in presuming to teach the rest of the world about human rights.

And how ironic that Mr. Mussomeli’s letter appeared on the same day as your reprint of the Washington Post article (“CIA Running Overseas Prison Network”) revealing that the CIA is operating an international network of torture centers.

Mr. Mussomeli should try reading his lectures to his bosses in Washington, who are currently scrambling, as the Post article reported, to try to preserve a “legal” basis for CIA torture.

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