17 July 2016

On the Death of Sydney Schanberg

Known for his reporting on the Bangladesh Genocide and War of Independence, but most famous for his reporting on Cambodia's Killing Fields, Schanberg was haunted by firsthand experience of the evils of human nature and the fallout of imperialist policy and wars.

I refer to US support and diplomatic cover for Pakistan's actions toward Bangladesh (East Pakistan) as well as the US bombing campaign which helped set the stage for the rise of the Khmer Rouge. Indochina is still dealing with the fallout from the US instigated war which (in reality) began not in 1964 with the Gulf of Tonkin but at the end of World War II with US support of the French attempt to re-subjugate Indochina. American support for the 1954 partition of Vietnam moved the conflict into a new phase, a specifically American phase that resulted in all of Indochina at war, millions dead and a burgeoning drug trade.

Schanberg was part of an older generation of journalists that will be missed. Even as a Christian I can be thankful for his work to expose the crimes and evils of power.


I noticed a comment at the bottom of this NPR piece and it echoes the sentiment that many express when it comes to Schanberg. He was not always liked and the popularity of 'The Killing Fields' irked many. If you haven't seen it, I daresay you should, if anything to interact with it.

This comment provoked me to respond. My Disqus account was all but dormant. I haven't been commenting online for a long time but I thought maybe, just maybe someone will be challenged to think outside the conformist box. Plus, I'll admit I am always irritated by such sentiments. The man who left this comment is quite hostile to all religion, a Materialist and Atheist and yet interestingly his statement could have been written by a member of the Christian-Right.

He wrote:

This journalist's greatest "contribution" to journalistic lore was that American bombing in Cambodia was somehow responsible for the killing fields in that country. His was just another journalistic career greased by easy anti-Americanism. Criticizing your country when it does something controversial is one thing, but to blame it for the atrocities of those it is fighting really took it to the next level of America-hatred. We now routinely get this type of mendacity: Russia invades Ukraine? It's America's fault; China massacres thousands of students? It's America's fault. The Sunnis kill 100s of thousands in terror attacks in Iraq? It's America's fault... Forgive me if I don't shed any tears over Mr. Schanberg's passing.

I responded:

The US cannot annihilate entire societies through bombs etc... and then when the monsters arise, claim ignorance and impunity. The US destabilised Cambodia long before 1975 and helped create the conditions that led to Pol Pot's rise. And then, when Vietnam forced him out the US continued (under Carter and Reagan) to support him. I guess if you want to live in a world of fantasy and lies... my country right or wrong... then you are welcome to do so. But some are committed to discerning the truth of the matter. The Indochina Project was a massive crime, not a folly, a wicked crime of genocidal murder. If that means you can't be proud as an American well then I'm sorry the truth has offended you. I'm not interested in venerating lies. Millions have died as a result of US policy since 1945. The Totalitarian dictatorships are simplistic and foolish. They brutalise their own people. The US model is far more efficient and effective. Keep your people fat, happy, distracted, blindly patriotic and stupid and then you can rape, kill and destroy the rest of the globe to feed your avarice. And if it's inconvenient for you to do it, then there are always hirelings you can depend on. Pol Pot was but one of many monsters the American Empire has utilised.

For more information regarding US support for the Pakistanis look into 'The Blood Telegram' and the response of the Kissinger and the Nixon administration.

US silence was not just 'ignoring' the issue. US silence provided international and diplomatic cover for what Pakistan was doing. It's not the first or last time the US has acted this way. In fact just a couple of years later in 1975 Kissinger and Ford would provide the same cover for Indonesia's Suharto and his invasion of East Timor. This is after the US supported and backed him a decade earlier as he massacred around a million people in the process of gaining power.

I was further reminded of US support for dictators as just this evening I was watching a short piece on Chad's former ruler Hissène Habré, yet another US backed dictator whose crimes were ignored and in some cases supported because he stood with the United States in Africa and in particular against Gaddafi. He's but one of many.


1 comment:

  1. While I realize this comes off as a sweeping generalization, those who identify as non-religious tend to be on what's considered the "left" of the political spectrum. While I disagree with them on theological matters, my observation has been that they nevertheless come across as thoughtful and compassionate, since their political convictions ally them with marginalized and vulnerable social strata.

    By contrast, those who are right-wing, such as the individual to whom you responded, tend to be overbearing, rude and condescending. They also generally lack empathy and pharisaically ascribe all social ills to "lack of personal responsibility", considering themselves above and beyond making any mistakes. While most of them are religious, there are a small minority, like this gentleman, who aren't. While I don't know this person individually, I do know that many of them grew up Christians and have since jettisoned the faith. However, since most of them come from evangelical or fundamentalist churches (the vast majority of which are sacralist), they retain certain modes of thinking in vestigial form, the "America good, everyone else bad" being one such glaring example.

    Whatever the case, it looks like an anti-war veteran responded positively to your comment. In fact, most responses accorded with yours in some way shape or form.

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