Most helpful positive review
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2010
Ignore the absurdities and sophistries spouted by the Chomsky cultists who have come here to flood this book with one-star reviews. They are brilliant (pseudo-) "intellectuals" who know much more than common sense. Read their writings, and you will see that their talking points directly echo Chomsky's own words.
There are no straw men here. Chomsky DID support Pol Pot. He made no bones about it--during the genocide. Let's allow the man to speak for himself, shall we?
"...the evacuation of Phnom Penh, widely denounced at the time and since for its undoubted brutality, may actually have saved many lives. It is striking that the crucial facts rarely appear in the chorus of condemnations."
After the Cataclysm [South End Press, 1979]
"The victors in Cambodia undertook drastic and often brutal measures to accomplish this task, simply forcing the urban population into the countryside where they were compelled to live the lives of poor peasants, now organized in a decentralized system of communes. At heavy cost, these measures appear to have overcome the dire and destructive consequences of the U.S. war by 1978."
"...executions have numbered at most in the thousands; these were localized in areas of limited Khmer Rouge influence and unusual peasant discontent, where brutal revenge killings were aggravated by the threat of starvation resulting from the American destruction and killing."
"While all of the countries of Indochina have been subjected to endless denunciations in the West for their 'loathsome' qualities and unaccountable failure to find humane solutions to their problems, Cambodia was a particular target of abuse. In fact, it became virtually a matter of dogma in the West that the regime was the very incarnation of evil with no redeeming qualities, and that the handful of demonic creatures who had somehow taken over the country were systematically massacring and starving the population."
"There was a significant degree of peasant support for the Khmer Rouge and the measures that they had instituted in the countryside."
"A more appropriate comparison [for Pol Pot's Cambodia] would be France after liberation from the Nazis."
The Nation, June 25, 1977, "Distortions at Fourth Hand."
"The 'slaughter' by the Khmer Rouge is a Moss-New York Times invention."
"I think the use of terror would be justified."
Alexander Klein, ed., Dissent, Power and Confrontation [McGraw-Hill, 1971], p. 119
"[My aim is to] stem the flood of lies about Cambodia."
From a personal 1977 communication with Francois Ponchaud
Explaining how the Khmer Rouge had actually saved up to one million lives: "U.S. officials predicted at the war's end that a million people would starve in a year. It appears that the new regime was at least partially able to avoid this consequence of the war."
Christian Science Monitor, June 1, 1977. Chomsky's letter to the editor can be seen online on Paul Bogdanor's site.
The breathtaking dishonesty of these assertions expose Chomsky as a fraud and his "revelations" as hoaxes. Take the last claim, his most egregious and contemptible by far. The prediction to which he alludes referred not to the effects of war, but to the likely death toll from the Communist take-over, especially the death march from Phnom Penh. Imagine what he must think of his credulous audience! This prediction is easily accessible as a matter of public record (see, for example, The Washington Post, June 4 & 23, 1975), and he was writing in 1977 (when it would have been fresh in everyone's mind). As we now know, the Khmer Rouge went on to murder twice that sum in a far shorter period of time than anyone would have believed and with much greater brutality than anyone could have imagined. Genocide investigators have determined that the Khmer Rouge perpetrated 1,386,734 violent killings and murdered about 2.2 million victims overall (see Etcheson's After the Killing Fields and Bruce Sharp's "Counting Hell"). (The number could be even higher if we counted all those killed by the Khmer Rouge in both civil wars and in the famine from 1979-81.)
Chomsky, claiming that the holocaust had been "inflated by a factor of a thousand," stated not only that the Khmer Rouge had refrained from murdering a million people, but that those they had allegedly refrained from murdering had actually been SAVED by the Khmer Rouge--even though the Khmer Rouge had, in fact, slaughtered well over a million individuals at the time he made this assertion.
(The great irony of all this is that, as Amartya Sen has written, "famines are, in fact, so easy to prevent it is amazing that they are allowed to occur at all"--if such a prediction HAD been made, the Khmer Rouge could have averted it just by allowing foreign aid!)
Chomsky would later rewrite his record of genocide denial, arguing that the Cambodian Civil War had killed at least 600,000 people and that American bombing was ultimately responsible for all of their deaths--although this estimate is more than twice the actual number of war-related deaths and American bombing accounted for less than a fifth of them (see Marek Sliwinski's excellent work on Cambodia).* His ridiculous intent was to make it appear that "the responsibility of the United States and Pol Pot for atrocities in Cambodia seems to be roughly in the same range." He transformed himself into an eloquent voice against "both" genocides, a delusion his cult followers have been eager to embrace. Anecdotal, forensic, and demographic evidence do not support Chomsky's fantastical version of Cambodian history. The memoirs of genocide survivors Chanrithy Him, Haing Ngor, Sam and Sokhary You, Someth May and Thida Mam, Vann Nath, Loung Ung, Sophal Leng Stagg, Paul Thai and Molyda Szymusiak all fail to mention a single death of friends or family caused by American bombing (this is hardly surprising, given that most of the bombing did not extend deeper than 10 miles into Cambodia, where there was hardly any population at all).
As Sharp examines in "Averaging Wrong Answers" our "courageous" dissident wrote that 250 people were dying every day in Phnom Penh alone due to "the conditions left by the US war" (an exaggeration of a self-described guess from the infamous pro-Pol Pot polemic Cambodia: Starvation and Revolution); in fact, the Red Cross had observers on the ground who put the death toll at 15 per day from all causes, natural and unnatural. The "war-related" deaths were caused mainly by the Khmer Rouge shelling of the city, and prove nothing about normal conditions expected for the rest of the country. Although Chomsky's original claim was that "the total for March  alone comes to nearly 8000 people," his comrade Edward Herman later inflated this number to 8,000 deaths PER DAY in "Pol Pot's Death in the Propaganda System"--this statement was 30 times higher than his original exaggeration, which itself was inflated by a factor of 10 or 20. Presumably, the implication is that Pol Pot, far from killing millions, may actually have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
Chomsky's work on Cambodia has no connection to reality and frequently borders on the surreal. As Sliwinski demonstrates, at least 30,000 very young children died as a direct result of the evacuation of Phnom Penh, and at least 870,000 citizens of Phnom Penh were killed by the Pol Pot regime altogether. William Shawcross believes that Phnom Penh had at least two months worth of food, and notes that many foreign nations offered to bring food into the city. The Khmer Rouge had been systematically forcing people out of their homes since 1972, which caused large quantities of food to rot. US air support kept Phonm Penh alive by dropping humanitarian aid and breaking up previous attempts to besiege the capital--as in the Berlin Airlift, the communists were the ones isolating and starving the city. As James Donald opined, "It is somewhat odd that the "American attack" should cause a huge outbreak of disease two years after it ended, and two weeks after millions were forced to march long distances in the hot sun without food or water, with the result that they had to drink from muddy puddles polluted by trampling feet, urine, and corpses."** Chomsky was so brazen as to defend the forced evacuation of hospitals!***
Chomsky's claim that "At the end of 1978, Cambodia was the only country in Indochina that had succeeded at all in overcoming the agricultural crisis that was left by the American destruction" is exactly backwards. By late 1979, UN and Red Cross officials were warning that another 2.25 million Cambodians faced death by starvation due to "the near destruction of Cambodian society under the regime of ousted Prime Minister Pol Pot," most of whom who were saved by American and international aid after the Vietnamese invasion. The Cambodian communists' economic plans were, at times, utterly surreal. Scholar David Chandler notes that, in a Democratic Kampuchea report on General Political Tasks of 1976, there are three lines devoted to education, and six devoted to urine. The document states that, regarding human urine, "We collect thirty per cent. That leaves a surplus of 70%." These were indicative of the types of policies that Chomsky and Herman claimed had lifted Cambodia out of the ashes of war. Absurdly, Chomsky even cited the Khmer Rouge decision to export food confiscated from starving victims as evidence of the success of their economic policies!
When Vietnam launched brief, punitive border raids on Cambodia to retaliate for Khmer Rouge attacks on Vietnamese villages--while still hoping to renew friendly relations with their fellow communists--Chomsky cited the supposed Khmer Rouge "victory" as evidence of popular support for the genocidal butchers: "The Cambodian people have not exactly been awaiting liberation from their oppressors." Unfortunately for Chomsky, the Khmer Rouge government collapsed almost instantly when Vietnam launched a full-scale invasion, due to the complete lack of popular support for the regime. (Would Chomsky cite the genuine popular support for Hitler as proof that Nazi Germany was really benign?)
Even left-wing revisionist historian Ben Kiernan has no stomach for Chomskyite delusions: "Along with [Khmer Rouge apologist Michael] Vickery's theory of a 'peasant revolution', we can now dismiss [Nazi Holocaust denier and Cambodian Holocaust denier Serge] Thion's assertion that in Democratic Kampuchea, 'The state never stood on its feet.' Despite its underdeveloped economy, the regime probably exerted more power over its citizens than any state in world history. It controlled and directed their public lives more closely than any government had ever done." (The Pol Pot Regime, 1996).
Chomsky continues to totally deny the brutal purges in communist Vietnam and Laos, which left up to one million people dead; his main method of denial is simply to ignore all reports of such atrocities, or to smear refugees as CIA agents while quoting communist press releases. His propaganda on Cambodia is considerably more sophisticated. Like all propaganda, it makes contradictory arguments (i.e., "the mass deaths under the Khmer Rouge were caused by war-induced famine that took several years to kick in," "the Khmer Rouge prevented famine through ingenious economic policies," and "there were no mass deaths under the Khmer Rouge"), because it is not concerned with the literal truth--only with affecting the reader's emotional state. In fact, by allowing readers "to come to their own conclusions" from a highly warped and delusional set of "facts," his propaganda mirrors the "system of thought control and indoctrination" that he claims is prevalent in the "Free World press." Of course, his ravings are far too convoluted for a mass audience, but the simple version ("the Khmer Rouge were not communists but CIA sponsored Nazis, and all leftists everywhere always opposed them") is the new (heavily revised) official version of events (taught to our kids by former Pol Pot admirers like Kiernan).
It's good to see Chomsky finally called to account for his lies.
*W.J. Sampson estimated all deaths caused by the entire Cambodian civil war at 100,000 or less (to be fair, Sampson was an early skeptic about the scale of Khmer Rouge atrocities). Marek Sliwinski put the number at 240,000. Paige Johnson and Judith Banister described 275,000 as "the highest mortality we can justify." Of these, about 40,000 were killed by US bombing, mainly combatants (Sliwinski). I'm no expert, but here's an easy way to check the estimates: Reports from the Red Cross and others in Phnom Penh in 1975 suggest that Chomsky's "8,000 dead per month" was inflated by at least a factor of 10. If we accept 800 dead per month--a high estimate describing the maximum death toll in the most stricken city in the country while it was under siege in 1975--and multiply it by 4 because the 2 million people in Phnom Penh represented a fourth of the Cambodian population--even though conditions were not nearly as serious elsewhere--we would arrive at a maximum country-wide death toll of about 3,000 per month. Although earlier stages of the war were far less lethal, we could use this to extrapolate for all 5 years of war (1970-5) through the following equation: (3,000 per month*12 months in a year=36,000)*5 years of war=180,000 total dead. This appears to be close to a possible maximum, so I don't doubt that 275,000 is indeed the highest demographically possible number of "excess deaths" attributable to the war (there had also been some low-level fighting in the late sixties). Chomsky's claim of 600,000 to 1,000,000 killed in "the US war", when he isn't claiming that most of the deaths under the Khmer Rouge were also caused by the war, is obviously an unsupportable propaganda fabrication.
**Donald: "The Khmer Rouge neglected to allow many of those they marched out of the city access to water during the march, resulting a very large death rate among the evacuees. They frequently neglected to feed their slaves for long periods. They deliberately destroyed food sources that could not easily subjected to centralized storage and control, such as fruit trees. They also forbade harvesting such food source from the wild, for example fish. They neglected to plant rice in their focus on cash crops, such as jute, and in their focus on irrigation works to build the future without regard for feeding people in the present. The famine that they caused was in part accidental, caused by incompetence, for example planting the wrong kind of rice, and building foolish irrigation ditches, but it was in part deliberate, as when they forbade fishing, had fruit trees cut down, and forbade the planting or harvest of mountain leap rice." The Khmer Rouge also outlawed medicine and hospitals.
***"I shall never forget one cripple who had neither hands nor feet, writhing along the ground like a severed worm, or a weeping father carrying his ten-year old daughter wrapped in a sheet tied around his neck like a sling, or the man with his foot dangling at the end of a leg to which it was attached by nothing but skin." - Description of the death march from Phnom Penh (Cambodia Year Zero, pp.6-7)