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The massacres of the Khmer Rouge are remembered now by the words "killing fields."But the murders actually began in a city, the capital Phnom Penh. The "liberating"forces of the communists entered the city with a plan -- they were going to accomplisheverything Mao had done in 25 years of brutal rule in China in one fell swoop. Ashistorian Paul Johnson recorded, "Everything from the past was 'anathema and mustbe destroyed.' It was necessary to 'psychologically reconstruct individual members ofsociety' by stripping away 'through terror and other means, the traditional bases andforces that have shaped an individual's life.'"

Part A of the great scheme to "reconstruct individuals based on party doctrines" was toempty the capital city. Three million people -- babies, the elderly, hospital patients,amputees, everyone -- were forced to flee the city and move into the surroundingjungle. A number of patients from a military hospital were shot early in the day tocreate panic and push the other residents out.

Next came the attack on anything and anyone who represented the past. Anyone whospoke a foreign language was shot. All of the books the Khmer Rouge could find werethrown in the Mekong River or burned. Cars, motorcycles and bikes were impounded.

Similar scenes were later repeated in the nation's smaller cities and towns. Peoplewere sent into the countryside to chant slogans and build new villages, often withoutany tools. They starved and dropped like flies from tropical diseases. Before it was allover, 1.7 million Cambodians, a quarter of the population, were dead, most bludgeonedto death because bullets were too precious to waste.

This was the face of communism. This was what the Cold War was about. Not everycommunist revolution was quite this grotesque, but many were. In Russia, it isestimated that 25 million people were executed by the Soviet regime (and that does notinclude the 12 million Ukrainians who were starved to death in the terror famine). InMao's China, an estimated 30 million peasants starved to death during the Great LeapForward.

These were not discrete episodes of mad leaders turning on their own people. Thiswas an evil ideology that led ordinary men to become monsters. There is no mysteryabout what made Pol Pot a mass murderer; it was Communism.


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Left, Right & Center

Jewish World Review / April 24, 1998 / 28 Nisan, 5758

Mona Charen

Mona Charen

The key to Pol Pot

POL POT HAS A rough final two weeks. The Washington Post reports that the fugitive,hiding with what remained of his troops in the Cambodian jungle, was ailing (diarrhea),hungry, lonely and fearful of dying.

Fearful of dying. ... This mass murderer, who managed to torture and kill a largerpercentage of his own people than any of his sanguinary competitors in our blooddrenched century, was afraid to die. It seems odd, rather like imagining Dr. Kevorkiansomeday pleading for palliative care when he reaches the end-stages of a fatal illness.

If Pol Pot had not died, there is some chance he would have been turned over to theRed Cross or the United Nations to face trial for crimes against humanity. But by dyingas he did (ironically, after hearing on the Voice of America that his own troops plannedto turn him over to an international tribunal), he robbed the world and, more pointedly,the Cambodian people of the satisfying sight of his execution.

One would have thought, after seeing The Killing Fields movie and the voluminousevidence of the crimes of the Khmer Rouge, that the nature of this evil would be clearin people's minds. But that is not so.

Numerous head-scratching stories have appeared over the years, wondering how acollege-educated, seemingly normal fellow like Pol Pot could have become one of themost brutal monsters of our age.

It isn't that complicated. Pol Pot, at some point during his youth, became a dedicatedcommunist. Communists-- some intellectually gifted, others, like Stalin, merely ruthlessbeyond belief -- have been responsible for the murders of between 75 million and 100million people. Murder on mass scale is not some aberration on the part of thisparticular communist that scholars must puzzle over for years to come. Genocted Nations?
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©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.
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