Tour thru Mass Graves. Cambodia.

12 Dec

November 27, 2010

As we dance our way into the sexy topics of mass graves and genocide – something I’m sure you’ve been breathlessly anticipating – we need to take a step back and do a quick 411 on  Mr. Pol Pot, the man responsible for exterminating 1.7 to 2 million – or  1/4th of the Cambodian population in the 70’s and 80’s.

Quick Soundbite: Mr. P. Pot and his four BFFers led Cambodia’s ruling communist party from 1975 to 1979, under the name of the Khmer Rouge (KR).   The dates answer the question of why there was not a global outcry for his “social engineering” policies.  You see,  it was prime time BOLTING from Vietnam time.    We were leaving as Mr. P. Pot was confiscating Cambodians and Mr. Ho Chi Chi was victimizing South Vietnamese.

More specifically, Mr. P Pot’s mission was to exterminate Cambodia’s intellectual class — capitalists, civil servants, city dwellers, educated…. Buddhist monks, former government officials, soldiers…ethnic minorities like Vietnamese, Chinese, Chams (Muslims), Thais…  Only the farmers and poor peasants were permitted to live.

Pol Pot’s “social engineering eradication”  is up there with the other “great” genocides. We have Stalin who starved over seven million Ukrainians  from 1932 to 1933 by confiscating their entire harvest.  And, then polished off around 30 to 40 million Russians who thought he was ugly.

Then there is Turkey who purged over 1.5 million Armenian Christians – more than half their population – and seized 90% of their land.  In the US, we hear a lot about the 6 million Jews who perished at the the hands of the Nazis from 1938 to 1945. But eliminating the Jews, gypsies, gays and any other misfits were just one part of Hitler’s plan to create a more secure, ethnically homogeneous state.

Hitler removed and transplanted about 12 million Germans. Those that survived, resettled in Eastern Europe, Russia…. After WWII, Poland, Czech, Hungry, Romania and Yugoslavia booted all Germans.  Estimates say over 2.1 million Germans died from hunger, cold, disease…after WWII…in route back to Germany.

We can go on and on for we’ve haven’t even touched Mao’s golden touch in China or the continent of Africa.  I say this because while Cambodia is gruesome and tragic, this people purging is not new or novel. Fascist, nationalist megalomaniacs or religious zealots have ethnically cleansed, removed or transferred groups of people since the Middle Ages, if not before. We did it to the Native Americans.

What I struggle with is why don’t we learn. Why do we commit the same atrocities. Using the same tactics. Same justifications. Same rationale. Why?

While in Israel, I toured the Holocaust museum with my East German friend. We were in the room detailing how Nazi’s confined, starved and killed Polish Jews.  She said, “Just change the word Warsaw Ghetto to Palestinian Ghetto and that’s the West Bank today…Don’t you see that?  I mean, come on….”

At Auschwitz in Poland, I toured the concentration camp with over 100  Israeli soldiers.  God placed them there. I felt it. I was so angry at Israel that I could not even write about her – publicly – after my visit in August. And, I had to giggle, for only weeks later, I’m touring a concentration camp with her military protectors.  I knew what it meant.

I followed the soldiers. Observed. And, wondered what they were thinking when touring the chambers where Nazis forced the Jews, gypsies, gays – for being born into the “wrong” group – to stand for days at at time. Or, were shoved in small cells in solitary confinement. Or, given only one small meal a day….

From what I have read, Israeli prisons employ the same type of tactics today.  So, what were they thinking? I mean, were they justifying treatment of the Palestinians with the same nationalistic zeal as the Nazis? I  don’t know. I just don’t know… Again, history continues to repeat herself…

I write this and ask.  Ok.  So, what can we do?  What we CAN do is one thing.  What we DO, do is another.  If history is any predictor of the future, then here’s the deal.

We stand back.  Let others deal.  We watch.  And, we wait.  We wait twenty or thirty years for the Palestinian, Iraqi or Guantanamo Bay prison museum to open.  We wait for the historians to tell us what “really happened.”  We pay our $5 to walk thru mass graves.  To tour killing chambers.   And, to be shocked by the torture.  Appalled by the death.  And, vow never to let something like “this” happen again.

But, for now we just wait.

I’ve got my $5 ready, do you?

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