Friday, September 20, 2013

The Atrocities of Pol Pot

At the risk of being called a lover of Pol Pot I have to admit that I just find the number of dead attributed to him to just make no sense.  Take Vietnam as a reference point.  For the US the war started about 1961 and ended in 1975.  The most intense bombardment the world had ever seen.  It included Laos and Cambodia.  More bombs dropped on Laos alone than were dropped during the entirety of WWII by both sides.  We had astonishing bombing runs.  Imagine a row of 5 B-52's.  They'd completely destroy a strip 2/3 of a mile wide and 2 miles long.  Everything would be killed, including those that were not in the actual blast zone that would die from the shock wave as blood streamed from their ears.  The world's most powerful tools of death controlled by the world's most well trained death makers all with the goal of maximizing the number of dead (hoping to achieve the "crossover point" where the dying rate exceeded the replacement rate), which meant civilians dying at an astonishing pace.  We're bombing dams to destroy their ability to make food.  In Laos they're living in caves and trying to farm at night to avoid being killed.  According to Wikipedia if you add in the further 6 years prior to the start of the US involvement the total dead on both sides is between 1.1 and 3.9 million.  The population of the three countries at the time total was about 50 million.  Between 55K and 195K dead per year for 20 years.

Contrast with Pol Pot.  He had only 8 million potential victims.  No saturation bombing, none of the advanced chemical weapons created by the Dow Chemical Company.  He had executions, malnutrition, forced labor.  Yeah, what an ass hole.  How many did he manage to kill?  In 3 years?  According to Wikipedia between 1 and 3 million.  That's between 333K and 1 million dead per year.  He's got no B-52's, no agent orange, no napalm, no white phosphorous.  Are we really expected to believe this?  He's supposed to have killed the same amount in 3 years that the US military killed in 14?  Are all of our military personnel really that incompetent?  Is Pol Pot really that much more of an efficient killer?

It just doesn't add up for me.  My suspicion is that since he was an enemy of the state inflated figures are accepted without much challenge, whereas of course killing by Americans is being done by the "good guys" so every corpse tally must be justified rigorously.  Probably Pol Pot's figures are inflated and the reverse is true for the US military.


Miles Rind said...

Wow, evidence-free history--much easier than investigating.

Jonathan said...

I started to pen a response about how the Mongols were thought to have killed 1 Million in one day at Nishapur (legend has 1.7M in one hour, but regardless, the city was completely wiped out, and the Mongols were very efficient at killing people), or many other examples of hundreds of thousands if not millions being killed in the span of less than a year due to famine or war during the pre-gunpowder era, but then I though - what's the point?

I don't get what you're driving at here. Let's say Pot killed 1/10th the amount - I'm pretty sure that would transcend the title of "ass hole".

These acts were horrible, and the relative magnitude of the autocracies of other countries, or the hypocrisy of others is completely irrelevant.

Your analysis and cold calculus is frankly rather - chilling.

Examinator said...

IMHO The big problem here is twofold
The first is the Source (s) … Wikipedia … it simply regurgitates “Official” (?) figures. Secondly the methodologies used for the counts.

The US count of dead in the Vietnam War is... well... very suspect.
There was clear evidence that the US falsified the figures for political/ PR and propaganda purposes.
It is known The US military stopped/ hampered independent counts.
After all the first casualty of war is always the truth.

The technique was that they only counted combatants...however evidence suggested double counts and some civilians misidentified as combatant to keep the enemy body count up... meanwhile they under reported US casualties and didn't count (or know) the true Vietnamese combatant or civilian count.
Don't forget too that in Vietnam many Viet Cong deaths were hidden for similar issues.
One should not underestimate the life saving underground tunnel net works of the Viet Cong.
Added to that the nature of the war was that the casualties were often in small isolated groups. The strip you mentioned may well have killed 100's. When it comes to Pol Pot...his regime cleared out and killed a large proportion of cities.(potentially 3/4 million at a time). In one campus and surrounds alone they disappeared (eliminated) 20k people.

Many sites of mass killings, graves, rooms full of skulls, even displays of skulls with 1000's were found after the collapse of his regime. There were literally miles of photos of the missing posted on walls by family survivors. The regime also kept records of sorts those they shot etc. Most of all the Kymere Rouge had no reason to hide their kill rate. They were organised and were trying to change the country into a rural communistic state. While their goals weren't that bad the methods were horrendously obscene and certainly not democratic.
Therefore all things considered the death count of +3 million is far more credible than the Vietnam wars piddling count.
Keep in mind the Nazis killed 7-8 million in their death camps in 4-5 years and they were selective and trying to disguise their obscenities.

Contrary to popular memory 6 million Jews weren't the only ones exterminated. e.g an estimated ¾ - a million gypsies (a greater proportion of their population than the Jews) were exterminated not to mention other minorities. One could ask where is their “holocaust guilt” or their homeland?

In short I'd suggest the Real Vietnam War dead, civilians is both obscenely under recognised, given the scale you mentioned, and will probably will never be known with anything approaching honesty or accuracy.
Does the average American care …. not bloody likely ! It took over 20 years of piecemeal rewriting of history through the movies before later 'successful' (?) wars distracted the public from the fact that they lost Vnetnam. Sadly they still haven't learnt US war machine can't win against an zealotic/ committed enemy in an asymmetric conflict (war).

Examinator said...

No doubt about it.

Jon said...

Jonathan, I guess what I'm driving at is I think we're dealing with a case here where our propaganda system has distorted the facts. Just a suspicion, but it's worth keeping in mind.

And let me also say though that the attitude you have is one I've seen before. When we discover that the atrocities attributed to enemies of the state are exposed as being fraudulent the answer is "What's the difference, 100 dead, 10,000 dead, he's still a murderer, who cares?" But that's not the attitude when it comes to atrocities on our side. When death tolls in Iraq have been done that show 1,000,000 or more dead you don't hear this reaction of "If it's inflated, so what? Dead is dead." No, these numbers are vigorously contested. Suddenly being accurate is important. When it's an enemy of the state and hostility to him serves the propaganda system, well now we just go ahead and say 3 million dead and nobody pays attention.

I once saw a story in a blog that talked about how the Nazi's took a bunch of children and babies, smashed them all into a tiny building, and then lit the building up. I'm no lover of Nazi's, but I couldn't help but notice how vague the story was, lacking in confirmatory details, and how easy it is to pass such stories of enemies of the state off unchallenged. I expressed that I found it to be unbelievable. It seemed contrived. Nobody else at the time felt the need to even bother. When it's "bad guys" doing it, any old atrocity attribution is good enough, regardless of the credibility. I think we should try to be more vigilant about truth, even for official enemies.

Miles Rind said...

I follow your blog because in general you don't come forward with a claim unless you have some specific evidence for it. But in this post, you seem to think that the mere fact that you don't know enough about what happened in Cambodia to understand how the Khmer Rouge could have killed one or two million people is a reason why readers should share your doubts. If you are serious about doubting the commonly accepted body count, the responsible thing to do is to investigate the matter. But if you don't care to undertake an investigation, then it is just sophomoric to go publicly declaring, "I have no new evidence to offer, but this figure seems unlikely to me."

Jon said...

I view my blog here as a place to collect my own thoughts. Yeah, if I make a factual claim I provide supporting evidence. But I also want to sometimes just express an opinion, like we're just having a casual conversation over lunch. I'm just curious. Why is it that we're to believe Pol Pot can kill in 3 years the same number the US military does in 15 (plus another 6 years prior to heavy US involvement)?

I'm just asking. Am I crazy? I'm not making the kind of claim that really requires a lot of justification. I'm expressing a suspicion, and if someone can come in and tell me that my suspicion is unwarranted and offer some reasons I'd be grateful.

I did Google something about comparisons of the numbers killed by Pol Pot and the numbers killed by the US in Vietnam. I found an interesting response. Guess who it's from (I wasn't looking specifically for his material). I'm sure you can guess. There is some info here about the sources that form the basis for the numbers. Sounds like they are rather flimsy.

We may never know anything close to the true numbers. But we do know how our propaganda system functions. I think you can use Bayes' Theorem type reasoning to make some guesses about the direction of error for these numbers.

Examinator said...

I'm please to attest that you're not crazy...

As I indicated I was starting my life as an 'activist' during that time.

I do argue that much of your disquiet is due to the insular nature of the US culture much of which is driven by the media.

the points I made about the way the body count was made is a case in point. Under what was an asymmetric war and the scattered nature of the victims it is reasonable to assume that the Vietnam body count was wildly inaccurate.
To emphasise my point what is not readily known is that towards the end of WW2 the Allied modis operandi to bomb anything of social value not e.g the pointless bombing with incendiary bombs many medieval cathedrals.

Not also the death count in the bombing of Dresden at this time resulted in the greatest number of civilian deaths at one time save that of the nukes on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

The key points are that people together cause greater death counts (like Pol Pot) ...Also note by your logic Vietnam shouldn't exist as there were more tonnage of bombs dropped on Vietnam than on Germany during the entire second war.
The corollary of this is that BFI no longer works in a asymetric war.

To illustrate the general insular bias of US Media I remember NC demonstrating in column inches on a stage by rolling out a measured toilet roll on middle eastern space.Then holding up a piece of A5 half A4 with all the mentions of the US 'encouraged' Indonesian genocide in East Timor.nearly a 1/3 of it's Christian population were exterminated by the Indonesian Muslims.

Take for example the recent Kenyan Al Shabaab taking over of a mall.
The American media focused on the Israeli 'connection'. A shop on ground level owned by Israelis.
They also talk about Israeli advisors.

My son's in-laws work for the BBC in Nairobi. The reality is far more complex.
- the rural poor are upset with a dubious Government they claim the recent election was stolen.
-the disparity between the rich and the greater poor is horrendous.
- nepotism and corruption is a factor.
- Al Shabaab are using this and the problems of Somali pirates hide in Kenya and launder their money through Kenya.
- Al Shabaab have been terrorising the coastal cities and towns for quite some time.
- in the mall they were executing anyone who wasn't Muslim especially Christians. ..It has little to do with America or it's support for Israel.

Finally there was the unique story of a border district policeman on his OWN authority ( he was never officially or unofficially given the job) setting him self up as a local Commissioner complete with office and pay(says a lot about the bureaucracy)and saw his job to stir up the local tribes people and Christians against Somali Muslims.

I WELL remember the time when Aussie/ British Activists used to send me info unknown to the US citizen to me when we moved to SC.

I've said it before but the US media has always been too deferential to the 'national ethos' and insular. A classic example of that is the Binary views on universal health and Firearm control.