A Special Supplement: Cambodia

CIA in Cambodia
CIA in Cambodia; drawing by David Levine


In 1947, commenting on the rising tide of “anti-Communist” hysteria in the United States, John K. Fairbank made the following perceptive observations:

Our fear of Communism, partly as an expression of our general fear of the future, will continue to inspire us to aggressive anti-Communist policies in Asia and elsewhere, [and] the American people will be led to think and may honestly believe that the support of anti-Communist governments in Asia will somehow defend the American way of life. This line of American policy will lead to American aid to establish regimes which attempt to suppress the popular movements in Indonesia, Indochina, the Philippines, and China…. Thus, after setting out to fight Communism in Asia, the American people will be obliged in the end to fight the peoples of Asia.

This American aggression abroad will be associated with an increasing trend toward anti-Communist authoritarianism within the United States, which its victims will call fascism and which may eventually make it impossible to have discussions like this one today. This American fascism will come, if it comes, because American liberals have joined the American public in a fear of Communism from abroad rather than fascism at home as the chief totalitarian menace.1

These remarks have proved to be accurate. The events of the past few weeks reveal, once again, how the American policy of “anti-Communism”—to be more precise, the effort to prevent the development of indigenous movements that might extricate their societies from the integrated world system dominated by American capital—draws the American government, step by fateful step, into an endless war against the people of Asia, and, as an inevitable concomitant, toward harsh repression and defiance of law at home.

The invasion of Cambodia by the United States and its Saigon subsidiary comes as no surprise, in the light of recent events in Southeast Asia. Since 1968, the United States has steadily escalated the war in Laos, both on the ground, as the CIA-sponsored Clandestine Army swept through the Plain of Jars in late 1969, and from the air. When the report of the Symington subcommittee on Laos was finally released on April 20, the Washington Post carried the front-page headline: US ESCALATES WAR IN LAOS, HILL DISCLOSES. The headline was accurate; other evidence, to which I shall return in a later article, shows that the subcommittee hearings seriously understate the scale, and the grim effects, of the American escalation. This American escalation provoked a response by the Pathet Lao and North Vietnam, who now control more of Laos than ever before, and led to devastation and population removal on a vast scale.

the destabilizing event in Cambodia—assiduously ignored by President Nixon in his speech of April 30 announcing the American invasion2—was the right-wing coup of March 18 which overthrew Prince Sihanouk and drove him into an alliance with the Cambodian left and the…

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