A Report On The Cambodian Genocide

The Cambodian Genocide was a tragic event that absolutely could have been, in my opinion, prevented. The genocide started on April 17, 1975 and lasted through January 7, 1979. A rebel communistic group that called themselves Khmer Rouge took control of the Cambodia government altering its history forever. Khmer Rouge made it a goal to exile everyone from the capital city and left it a disaster zone. Over two million deaths were recorded as a result of this genocide. In the document written by Madeleine K. Albright and William S. Cohen, they discussed early warning signs and how to interpret them in order to prevent a potential genocide from happening. The first step mentioned is to be able to have a reliable system in place that recognizes certain signs of a potential genocide. Now, this can be challenging especially with the Cambodian genocide where the Khmer Rouge closed the borders, which made is extremely hard to gauge what was actually happening.

In order for any type of action to be taken against genocide or potential genocide, it has to go through the legal systems of the countries that are trying to help. This is where the United States failed when it came to the Cambodian genocide. The United States, along with the United Nations, also similarly sat back without action during the Rwanda genocide in 1994. With the Cambodian genocide however, the United States had just recently fought in Vietnam, and was receiving a lot of negative attention from the American people back home. Politicians in the United States basically kept their head in the sand when it came to new details about this genocide, and when people begged for some kind of action to be taken, the government basically said that the United States should stay out of other foreign affairs. In the book “A Problem from Hell,” by Samantha Powers, she describes the Cambodian genocide as being similar to the Turkish deportation of the Armenians in 1915. Powers also mentions Raphael Lemkin who stated that war and genocide are basically always connected. Seeing how Cambodia was just in a five-year civil war, it is easy to connect the unrest in the country to a sheet being pulled over the eyes of the nation and the world hiding the true atrocities that were happening. What the world did with the Cambodian genocide, as well as most other genocides in history, was pretend the severity of it wasn’t as severe as it truly was. There were countless times when media or diplomats would try to get the U.S. government to change the policies surrounding involvement, and each time they were turned away.

Gregory H. Stanton, who wrote ‘The 8 Stages of Genocide,” explained that there are places in the world where societies constantly have a never-ending cycle of violence and no one is ever truly held accountable. Stanton also said that other countries should bring in a way to keep the peace and to hold people accountable. With the Rwanda, Yugoslavia, and eventually Cambodia, trails were held to find that justice. I completely agree with Stanton’s point, and when he said at the end of his article, “The strongest antidote to genocide is justice,” (Stanton, 1996) the message was loud and clear. We cannot change what has happened in the past, we can’t even change what is currently in motion, but we can take action. Instead of sitting back on our hand while innocent people suffer at the hands of extremists, we can take action and bring them to justice. Now, it’s not always that cut and dry. However, history has proven time and time again that sitting back and doing nothing is almost, if not just as bad as the genocide itself. Many people will argue that, the Unites States specifically, should stay out of the affairs of other countries. If that’s the argument, here’s my question. How can you sit back and let innocent men, women, and children die at the hands of terror, when you could have stopped it? Some, according to an article by Theo Sitther, would say that the U.S. involvement in the surrounding wars prevented action being taken against the Khmer Rouge.

14 May 2021
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