A few days ago Chris Alcantara, one of my colleagues in the Department of Political Science at Wilfrid Laurier University, forwarded me an article by one Israel Shamir in a newsletter called CounterPunch, entitled “Pol Pot Revisited.” You can find it at
http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/09/18/pol-pot-revisited/. Chris suggested I might want to reply to Shamir’s genocide denial. Shamir seems to think that all the evidence of genocide and mass atrocities that has accumulated since Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 is false.
|Stupa filled with skulls of Khmer Rouge victims at Choeung Ek,|
retrieved from Wikimedia Commons
|Mass graves at Choeung Ek, retrieved from Wikimedia Commons|
I have a question for the editors of Counterpunch. There’s plenty to criticize about capitalism and globalization. I am sure Shamir is correct in saying that Cambodian women manufacturing T-shirts for the world market earn very little and are not permitted to unionize. I’m also prepared to accept his assertion that Cambodian forests are being denuded of valuable trees. Shamir is also correct that the Americans bombed Cambodia ferociously (and illegally) during their war against the Viet Cong in the early 1970s, that many peasants fled to the capital to avoid the bombing, and that to understand what happened in Cambodia in the late 1970s we have to take the American bombing into account. But why also publish genocide denial? Even if every person who was murdered, tortured to death, or died of starvation or dehydration in Cambodia from 1975 to79 had been a blood-sucking capitalist, it would still be genocide. You’re not allowed to engage in the mass murder of any social group.
|Bones of Khmer Rouge victims, retrieved from|
There’s one interesting little factoid in this piece though. Shamir tell us that Cambodian factory workers earn about $80.00 per month, which may well be accurate. Then he tells us that “NGO reps earn in one minute the equivalent of a wormer’s monthly salary.” I did the math: at $80.00 per minute times 60 minutes per hour times 40 hours per week, that works out to $192,000 per week for “NGO reps.” A great opportunity for young activists starting out in life with massive student debt!
Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, New York: Basic Books, 2010.
Stéphane Courtois et al., The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.