Thursday, March 08, 2007

The mistake of believing in you

In an article for the May, 1999 issue of Commentary, Gabriel Schoenfeld reappraised Kissinger through a consideration of his memoirs The White House Years and Years of Upheaval. He follows Kissinger's account of the fall of Phnom Penh, which includes a letter that should be read and re-read.

As the Khmer Rouge closed in on the capital city of Phnom Penh in early April 1975, the United States offered a number of Cambodian officials a chance to escape.

The reply addressed to the U.S. ambassador by Sirik Matak, a former Cambodian prime minister, and reprinted by Kissinger in full, is one of the more important documents of the entire Vietnam-war era.

Dear Excellency and Friend:
I thank you very sincerely for your letter and for your offer to transport me towards freedom. I cannot, alas, leave in such a cowardly fashion. As for you, and in particular for your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would have this sentiment of abandoning a people which has chosen liberty. You have refused us your protection, and we can do nothing about it.

You leave, and my wish is that you and your country will find happiness under this sky. But, mark it well, that if I shall die here on the spot and in my country that I love, it is no matter, because we are all born and must die. I have only committed this mistake of believing in you [the Americans].

Please accept, Excellency and dear friend, my faithful and friendly sentiments.
Immediately after the Khmer Rouge took Phnom Penh, writes Kissinger, Sirik Matak was shot in the stomach and left to die over the course of three days from his untreated wounds.
Following this passage, Schoenfeld rekindles Kissinger's bitterness against the media, in particular, The New York Times, whose correspondent, Sydney Schanberg painted a rosy picture of the Khmer Rouge, dismissed the prospect of further violence and whose headline at the fall of Phnom Penh went:
Indochina Without Americans: For Most, a Better Life.
He later won a Pulitzer Prize.

(via Ninme)

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