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Intriguing rhetoric

Intriguing rhetoric

I was intrigued by some points made or implied in the piece by Mr Tonkin,

in the PPPost (Vol 9, No 2).

As I have not read the Observer article incriminated, I will only respond, briefly

to some of the 'internal' evidence in the PPPost article itself. My critiques follow

the order of the points referred to. Double quote marks obviously indicate quotations

from the Tonkin piece.

First: if concerns about "breach of humanity" are "deeper" than

"Realpolitik concerns" about "breach of sovereignty" (and this

has apparently become the official view in Britain among others), then a choice between

the two isn't (or shouldn't be) such a difficult "dilemma", and the contrast

between the two types of concern hardly seems to lead to the conclusion that accepting

the Vietnamese-backed administration was "even less acceptable" than recognising

a "cobbled-together" coalition "dominated by the Khmer Rouge"

- thereby putting sovereignty above humanity. (By the way, what a clever ploy to

say that the pressure to establish this coalition was exerted "not least by

China and Asean": this avoids saying who else might have been heavily involved

... or have encouraged Asean to pursue that course).

Second: if the "peoples of the world" found Western policy puzzling or

worse, whereas "the international community" considered it "the lesser

of two evils", we might wonder what exactly the fabled "international community"

could represent, and whether that shibboleth actually refers to anything more than

a "cobbled-together" assortment of leaders from select (not 'rogue') countries,

their cronies and spin doctors, and allied (or clientelised) media. But this international

community is certainly not the expression of the feelings of the "peoples of

the world," if we are to believe the author!

Third: does the phrase "first ever," in a newspaper article, published

in a frontline state moreover, prove that the KPNLF had never before cooperated with

the Khmer Rouge, ... however many times the phrase "first ever" was repeated?

(Indeed, a point too often repeated smacks of the urge to persuade, or the need to

persuade oneself).

Fourth: the "canard" according to which the S.A.S. created a sabotage battalion.

How can this be true when these elite soldiers merely trained the Cambodians who

then set up that battalion? Obviously these S.A.S (or were they recently retired

S.A.S?) could not have been further removed from any responsibility in whatever the

battalion later accomplished. Therefore the British government, the employer of those

innocent babes, was not involved in any later damage, 'collateral' or otherwise,

wrought by the battalion : how very convincing! As for the punch line "Not exactly

a massive military intervention", it seems to refute an extravagant point, but

this is a point which, judging from evidence in Tonkin's article, has not been made

... a typical, age-old rhetorical trick.

Equally hallowed (or is it hollowed?) is the string of "is it remotely possible"

(not unrelated to another classic: "Every schoolboy knows") which is supposed

to prove how "illogical" the claim is that Britain acted as a subcontractor

of the U.S. Of course, such theories are only likely and logical when the alleged

perpetrator is "our" enemy. "We" never do such things: how could

anyone be so paranoiac as to imagine it ... and why therefore would we have to use

logic rather than rhetoric, rather than sophisms, to prove such a self-evident point?

One last point: British policy is apparently vindicated (this is actually a slightly

earlier point in the article) by its supposed result: "the principles of democracy,

the rule of law and progress towards a market economy" have become the "ideals

and objectives" of those in (and out of) power in Cambodia. This seems a rather

wild claim ... and besides, do the purported aims (or the supposed results) of a

policy justify that policy, given that the policy involved (at very least) giving

"support and comfort to the K R"... with the ensuing ascertainable results.
Philippe Hunt, Brussels, Belgium

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