In "All smiles for American delegations" [PPPost, Jan.19 - Feb. 1, 2001]
you note that United States Congressman Dick Gephardt expressed satisfaction with
the Cambodian government's moves to form a Khmer Rouge tribunal and offered the possibility
of increased United States assistance to Cambodia.
Surreal is an overused word, but in this American's view, it certainly fits this
scenario. A representative of the United States Government, a government that killed
hundreds of thousands of civilians in South-east Asia men, women, and children working
in their fields, celebrating in wedding parties, sleeping in their beds; a government
that would never dream of permitting one of its own aging political or military leaders
to be tried for those crimes (or the crime of having wasted thousands of their countrymen's
lives through deceit and political cowardice), a government whose president pardoned
a convicted war criminal on grounds of national reconciliation; this government's
representative praising Cambodia for bringing its mass murderers to justice and offering
money as an incentive is not just surreal - it is obscene.
Rather than praising Cambodia, American political leaders and government representatives
should be approaching a Khmer Rouge tribunal with some sense of humility. But then
the United States government's purpose in pushing for this trial has little to do
with justice. Rather, it is an attempt to justify after the fact the unconscionable
slaughter that government inflicted on the defenseless civilian populations of Cambodia,
Vietnam and Laos.
There are many in the United States who are fond of arguing that there is no need
for an international criminal court because nations should be encouraged to prosecute
their own war criminals. The trouble is, one country's war criminal is another country's
- Raymund Johansen, Phnom Penh