Pictured: Mao, Stalin, Lenin, Engels and Marx. Mao, Stalin, and Lenin rank among the top 10 murderers of their own people for all times.
The author’s point—typical of liberal journalists during the Vietnam conflict and since—was that because of the possibility of civilian casualties from American bombing, most Cambodians would be better off under Communism.
But although there were occasionally some collateral casualties connected to American bombing in Cambodia, American bombers were bombing Khmer Rouge forces trying to overthrow the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, not Cambodian villages. In fact, U.S. policy emphatically stressed that the risk of collateral civilian casualties should be minimized. My own combat experiences in Southeast Asia confirmed that this policy was often stated and strictly enforced.
Yet despite enormous evidence to the contrary, most liberal journalists convinced themselves and many of their readers that the Americans were the villains and that the North Vietnamese and Cambodian Khmer Rouge Communists were nationalist reformers who would stabilize Cambodia after a few scores were settled. Governed by these distorted presuppositions, Schanberg and the New York Times found it difficult to imagine how the lives of ordinary people in Indochina “could be anything but better with the Americans gone.”
Schanberg even asserted that it would be absurdly biased to believe that “brutality and sadism” would be “a national policy under a Communist government once the war is over.” Events proved Schanberg, The New York Times, and their anti-war allies in Congress disastrously wrong. Following the fall of Cambodia on April 17 and of South Vietnam on April 30 of 1975, there occurred a bloodbath of astonishing numbers and brutality.
In Cambodia, more than 100,000 people suspected of being enemies of the new Communist order were rounded up and summarily executed by bludgeoning, stabbing, or shooting. Most were buried in mass graves. These included especially soldiers, teachers, intellectuals, government officials, religious leaders, prominent business people, and those who had some contact with the West.
Pol Pot and the leaders of the Khmer Rouge, wasted no time in implementing a plan to reconstruct Cambodian society into a doctrinal Maoist paradise. At gunpoint, three million people were abruptly herded from their city homes into the countryside and jungles. Soldiers opened fire on anyone who resisted or lingered. The sick and dying in hospitals were exterminated with ruthless indifference. In Siem Riep, more than 100 seriously ill patients were murdered in their beds with knives and clubs. Another 20,000 sick and wounded patients were carried into the jungle to almost certain death. At Mongkol Borei, 200 army officers were executed by being forced to walk through a carefully planted mine field. The Khmer Rouge cruelly beat a colonel, cut off his ears and nose, and then crucified him. The wives and children of these officers were then marched off to be killed.
In all, more than four million city dwellers were dumped into desolate jungle tracts to carve out a new Communist society untainted by their former exposure to bourgeois living. Cambodia had been the rice bowl of Indochina, but the new residents of the jungle camps were given only 90 grams of rice per day, less than 15 percent of the minimum requirement for a normal worker.
Malnutrition became rampant, and the usual ravages of disease followed. People resorted to eating leaves, snakes, worms, and termites to sustain themselves, but the areas around their campsites were quickly depleted of even these supplements. Complaining about the food was a capital offense. Married couples were forbidden to carry on prolonged conversations. The punishment on the second offense was death. People were executed for any suspected dissent or lingering, often after being forced to dig their own graves. Children were forced to watch as their parents were tortured, bludgeoned, decapitated or stabbed to death. In the first wave of terror during 1975 and 1976, more than 1.2 million Cambodians were executed or died of disease and starvation in the New Villages. By the end of 1978, approximately 2.4 million Cambodians had died at the hands of their Communist liberators—25 percent of the total population.
In South Vietnam, the new Communist regime promptly executed over 100,000 potential political enemies. Another one million people, including virtually the entire South Vietnamese intelligentsia, were sent to prisons or concentration camps. Between 200,000 and 340,000 of these political prisoners were still being held in 1985. Yet another million South Vietnamese, considered disloyal to the new Communist regime, were sent to “New Economic Zones” to clear land and dig irrigation ditches. Malnutrition and disease took a high toll of these unfortunate South Vietnamese patriots. Somewhere between 200,000 and 500,000 died in these prisons and work camps. In 1978, Hanoi decided to rid Vietnam of several hundred thousand ethnic Chinese. They were driven into the South China Sea, where they attempted to escape on small boats. Hundreds of thousands more Vietnamese, fleeing Communist repression, also tried to leave by boat. A conservative estimate is that 600,000 drowned at sea. In addition, tens of thousands of South Vietnamese prisoners of war never returned. Total South Vietnamese deaths under Communist rule probably exceeded 1.1 million. In addition, freedom of speech and the press ceased; religion was systematically suppressed; and government corruption became far more widespread than in the days of Diem. Before 1975, South Vietnam had had three TV stations, twenty radio stations, and twenty-seven daily newspapers. Following the fall of Saigon, the new Communist government allowed one TV station, two radio stations, and only two daily newspapers—all pumping out the same Communist propaganda
The terrible consequence of Communist victory was that more than 3.5 million Cambodian and South Vietnamese civilians were murdered, starved to death, or drowned in the South China Sea. Was this the “better life for most” that the New York Times predicted? Most anti-war liberals in the press and Congress pleaded ignorance. They claimed they did not know such a tragedy would result. This ignorance, however, is hardly excusable. The ruthless and bloody history of Communism was clear to anyone who was not predisposed to deny it.
Shortly after Ho Chi Minh’s victory over a French expeditionary force in 1954, he had General Vo Giap execute 50,000 nationalist political opponents. The Viet Cong assassinated over 35,000 government officials, school teachers, and village leaders during the early stages of their terrorism in South Vietnam. Communist cadres brutally executed between 3,000 and 8,000 civilians in Hue during the 1968 Tet offensive. North Vietnamese artillery barrages killed 25,000 civilian refugees fleeing Quang Tri Province in 1972. Had no one noticed these Communist atrocities?
The North Korean government murdered 50,000 political dissenters when it came into power after World War II and has since murdered close to 1.3 million of its own people to maintain its stranglehold on political power.
R. J. Rummel’s Death by Government, published in 1994, estimated that the Soviet Union murdered nearly 55 million of its own people and another ten million people of other nationalities in consolidating its evil empire. Stalin starved to death nearly 25 percent of the population of Ukraine in 1932 and 1933—a total of seven million people, including three million children.
Rummel originally estimated that the People’s Republic of China murdered 38 million of its own people in gaining and maintaining Communist power, but later raised his estimate to nearly 77 million to account for Mao’s forced collectivization of small farms and the resulting severe famine during the 1958-1962 “Great Leap Forward.” In more recent history, 800,000 Tibetans have died in China’s genocidal suppression of non-Communist culture, religion, and philosophy.
Of the top ten murderers of all time, five were Communists. Both Stalin and Mao Zedong more than doubled Adolf Hitler’s 20 million, and Lenin made the list with over four million from 1917 to 1924.
The bloody consequences of Communist rule in Cambodia and South Vietnam were easily predictable to those whose thinking was not shackled to left-liberal ideology, and millions of innocent people who desired to be free were abandoned to oppression or death by a U.S. Congress whose majority preferred willful ignorance and political expediency to responsibility and honor.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Mike Scruggs, Author and Columnist
a.k.a. Leonard M. Scruggs
Mike Scruggs is the author of two books: The Un-Civil War: Shattering the Historical Myths; and Lessons from the Vietnam War: Truths the Media Never Told You, and over 600 articles on military history, national security, intelligent design, genealogical genetics, immigration, current political affairs, Islam, and the Middle East.
He holds a BS degree from the University of Georgia and an MBA from Stanford University. A former USAF intelligence officer and Air Commando, he is a decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and holds the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, and Air Medal. He is a retired First Vice President for a major national financial services firm and former Chairman of the Board of a classical Christian school.
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