Tyler's Note: I originally posted this two weeks ago, but I wanted to call your attention to its contents again. So here it is.
Claire Berlinski over at Ricochet.com pointed out this article by Guy Sorman at City Journal. Mr. Sorman explains that Cambodia is finally bringing to justice - in a civil, lawful manner - some of those who perpetrated the horrors of the killing fields.
But Cambodians and foreigners alike still struggle to understand why so many were put to death. Mr. Sorman explains that the answer why is chillingly simple - such carnage is an essential part of Communism, a natural reflex:
But who or what was behind what the tribunal has called the genocide of Khmers by other Khmers? Might this be the fault of the United States? Was it not the Americans who, by setting up a regime in Cambodia to their liking, brought about a nationalist reaction? Or, might this genocide not be a cultural legacy, distinctive of Khmer civilization? Archeologists are digging through the past in vain to find a historical precedent. The true explanation, the meaning of the crime, can be found in the declarations of the Khmer Rouge themselves: just as Hitler described his crimes in advance, Pol Pot (who died in 1998) had explained early on that he would destroy his people, so as to create a new one. Pol Pot called himself a Communist; he became one in the 1960s as a student in Paris, then a cradle of Marxism. Since Pol Pot and leaders of the regime that he forced on his people referred to themselves as Communists—and in no way claimed to be heirs of some Cambodian dynasty—we must acknowledge that they were, in fact, Communists.And still, far too many refuse to see. It simply hasn't been done properly yet; it just wasn't done right. Give us a chance. We'll make it work.
What the Khmer Rouge brought to Cambodia was in fact real Communism. There was no radical distinction, either conceptually or concretely, between the rule of the Khmer Rouge and that of Stalinism, Maoism, Castroism, or the North Korean regime. All Communist regimes follow strangely similar trajectories, barely colored by local traditions. In every case, these regimes seek to make a blank slate of the past and to forge a new humanity. In every case, the “rich,” intellectuals, and skeptics wind up exterminated. The Khmer Rouge rounded up urban and rural populations in agricultural communities based on precedents both Russian (the Kolkhozy) and Chinese (the popular communes), and they acted for the same ideological reasons and with the same result: famine. There is no such thing as real Communism without massacre, torture, concentration camps, gulags, or laogai. And if there has never been any such thing, then we must conclude that there could be no other outcome: Communist ideology leads necessarily to mass violence, because the masses do not want real Communism. This is as true in the rice fields of Cambodia as in the plains of Ukraine or under Cuban palms.
But killing is Communism's nature. It is essential to how it works, how it survives.
Communism survives - no, thrives - on blood and horror and human misery.
By the way, if all this seems like cold numbers to you, read this. It is an account by Pin Yathay, a man who welcomed the arrival of the Khmer Rouge into the capital - and spent the next two years trying to survive them. He escaped with only his life, watching his entire family die at their hands or by their neglect.
When everything - and everyone - is property of The State on behalf of The People, it is truly horrible what crimes will be committed in their name.
P.S. Ricochet and City Journal should be weekly visits, at minimum. There are some fascinating conversations at Ricochet, and absolutely fantastic writing at City Journal.