Monday, April 17, 2006

April 17

Twenty years ago today, arguably the strangest war ever came to a successful conclusion, without a single shot having ever been fired.

As fate would have it, April 17 also marks the 31-year anniversary of the end of the Cambodian Civil War. On this date in 1975, the "neutralist" government of Lon Nol was overthrown by the murderous and xenophobic Khmer Rouge, led by the maniacal Pol Pot. From 1970 to 1973, the US had sought furiously to sustain the Lon Nol regime against the predations of regional communists, unleashing 80,000 air missions and discharging nearly 550,000 tons of ordnance on the Cambodian landscape -- a figure that represents over three times the tonnage dropped on Japan during World War II. While figures vary wildly, the CIA estimated that 600,000 Cambodians died as a direct result of the bombing campaign. Following the ascent of the Khmer Rouge, as many as two million more Cambodians -- including ethnic Thai and Vietnamese -- died as Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge liquidated the nation's cities and set the population to work creating an agrarian utopia. In 1978, a unified Vietnam invaded Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge were displaced from power by a government distinguished only by its fealty to the Vietnamese. For reasons familiar to anyone who understands the perversity of the cold war in Asia, the United States elected throughout the 1980s to support an insurgent coalition led by the ousted Khmer Rouge; in addition to providing financial assistance to the "Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea," the United States endorsed the seating of the CGDK at the United Nations, arguing that the Vietnamese puppet government was somewhat less legitimate than a menagerie of genocidal lunatics.

In addition to these and other trivial matters, the historical record will also quite likely show that my first child -- a daughter whose arrival my wife and I eagerly expect sometime in the next week -- was not born on this date.