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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - No one is wholly saint or sinner

No one is wholly saint or sinner

(Re: "King Sihanouk and the US invovlement in Vietnam", by the King's official

biographer, Julio Jeldres, King's Birthday Commemorative Edition, Phnom Penh Post,

Oct 20-Nov 2).

The Editor,

When all else fails, lash out at a "super-power", preferably one in the

West, typically the U.S. This is a well-known tactic usually exercised to deflect

attention from present or pending domestic political stratification or when engaging

in allegorical "sandbagging" and historical revisionism.

To deny the funneling of supplies to the Vietcong and NVA is no more credible than

the cover that was created to shield the so-called "secret war" in Laos.

Cambodia did the former, the U.S. did the latter. In the case of Cambodia, the couriers

were the trucks of the Haklee company of the Peoples' Republic of China; in Laos,

it was the not-so-clandestine Air America.

And while the arms were flowing in from the south, rice was in transit across the

north of the country, from Battambang to the border areas with South Vietnam where

the Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army were said to be paying a higher price for

the rice than the government. Rather than negotiation, what followed was the 1967

incident in the Samlaut area.

As for the Americans being "out of place" in regards to U.S. involvement

in the "civil wars" in the region, that opinion was by no means the blanket

consensus in Southeast Asia. For one, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew, in

an interview with Sir Robert Thompson, stated that "American involvement had

given Southeast Asia ten years breathing space to put its act together."

Corrupt? The South Vietnamese government? Yes, and there is reason to believe that

corruption also found a home in Phnom Penh, Vientiane, and Hanoi. So too, corruption

existed in one form or another in the halls of government in Washington, Moscow,

and Beijing. It is obvious that corruption was not bred by the war, nor was it a

casualty.

To foist the suggestion that the U.S. was responsible for "opening the doors"

to communism is to verge on historical hallucination. Some have suggested that one

source of foment for that Communist push in Cambodia goes as far back as the incidents

surrounding the auto-coup of June 1952 and the subsequent five years of chaos. The

constitutional ground-work done by Prince Sisowath Youthevong was sullied. Political

reform in the wake of World War II and independence from France was to become a victim

of "infanticide" of internal origins. The writings of Say Bory stand as

sobering testimony and prophecy.

It is apparent that it was proper to accept Communist aid in the late 50's through

the mid 60's, as Soviet and Communist Chinese expertise was sought and received without

concern for the possibility of attendant influence.

Historical essayists from all perspectives of the years of conflict in Southeast

Asia sometimes border on crossing the line into the realm of speculation, perhaps

not on purpose, but rather because the times were so complex and complicated, just

like the personalities involved.

It is written that the Lord Buddha himself stated something to the effect that: "Never

is a man or deed wholly Samsara or wholly Nirvana: never is a man wholly a Saint

or Sinner."

To cast the United States in the role as "midwife" to all of Cambodia's

problems in the past 40 years is a charade. However, if doing so serves as an avenue

of catharsis for some, so be it. Sociologists will suggest that some of the most

resilient relationships pass through occasional periods of turbulence, no doubt Cambodia

and the U.S. have travelled that route. Hopefully, the future will see less castigation,

and more conciliation, as this has been frequently espoused as a necessary basis

for the recovery of Cambodia.

And for the record, I am no one's "official" anything.
- Jim Yost, Texas, USA

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