Uncle Sam and Pol Pot

The US not only helped create conditions that brought Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge to power in 1975, but actively supported the genocidal force, politically and financially. By January 1980, the US was secretly funding Pol Pot’s exiled forces on the Thai border. The extent of this support-$85 million from 1980 to 1986-was revealed six years later in correspondence between congressional lawyer Jonathan Winer, then counsel to Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation. Winer said the information had come from the Congressional Research Service (CRS). When copies of his letter were circulated, the Reagan administration was furious. Then, without adequately explaining why, Winer repudiated the statistics, while not disputing that they had come from the CRS. In a second letter to Noam Chomsky, however, Winer repeated the original charge, which, he confirmed to me, was “absolutely correct.” Washington also backed the Khmer Rouge through the United Nations, which provided Pol Pot’s vehicle of return. Although the Khmer Rouge government ceased to exist in January 1979, when the Vietnamese army drove it out, its representatives continued to occupy Cambodia’s UN seat. Their right to do so was defended and promoted by Washington as an extension of the Cold War, as a mechanism for US revenge on Vietnam, and as part of its new alliance with China (Pol Pot’s principal underwriter and Vietnam’s ancient foe). In 1981, President Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, said, “I encouraged the Chinese to support Pol Pot.” The US, he added, “winked publicly” as China sent arms to the Khmer Rouge through Thailand. …

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