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Pol Pot: Peasant Hero. Also, Please Send Us Money!

[ 259 ] October 16, 2012 |

Pol Pot re-evaluation and Counterpunch fundraiser: Two great tastes that go great together!


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  1. Malaclypse says:

    Well, it convinced me on exactly how much money to give.

  2. Surprisingly, Cambodians have no bad memories of that period…The Pol Pot the Cambodians remember was not a tyrant, but a great patriot and nationalist, a lover of native culture and native way of life.


    How about this, you pathetic piece of trash: Cambodians are still so scarred from one of the most horrific slaughters in human history that, when they see some obvious communist apparatchik coming along, they play dumb and tell him what he wants to hear?

    These people don’t even tell their adult children what it was like under Pol Pot, but you think they’re sharing their true feeling with you, Israel Shamir?

    It just goes to show, not all tools are capitalist.

  3. Manju says:

    heh, heh, heh. (This is the first time I’ve seen a classic lefty-snark headline being used against the left…so an additional heh was awarded for integrity)

  4. Manju says:

    The Cambodians I spoke to pooh-poohed the dreadful stories of Communist Holocaust as a western invention.

    It like Thomas Frank (“The Cambodians I spoke to…”) meets Walter Duranty.

  5. Scott de B. says:

    Shorter version: Pol Pot: The St. Francis of Cambodia.

    • Scott de B. says:

      Didn’t read far enough: Slightly longer version: Pol Pot: The St. Francis of Cambodia. Stalin: the savior of the Ukraine.

      • Pestilence says:

        Come home, Uncle Pol, all is forgiven?

      • blowback says:

        Without Stalin, the Slavs, including Ukrainians, would most likely all be dead by now and western Europe still occupied by the Germans (as if it isn’t now).

        • John F says:

          Without Stalin there was no purge of the officer corp and the red army is not caught with its pants down at its ankles in the Summer of 1941

          • Without Stalin, the reports from the front about the German invasion wouldn’t have been ignored for days.

            • gocart mozart says:

              Without Stalin, there would have been no Battle of Stalingrad but only a Battle of StPetersburg which sounds more like a bar fight during spring break rather than the turning point of a world war.

              • J. Otto Pohl says:

                St. Petersburg was Leningrad. Stalingrad was Volgagrad. The two cities are geographically very far apart. Volgagrad as the name implies is on the Volga and St. Peterburg is on the Baltic. The Germans put Leningrad under siege, but there was never a battle in the city. The city withstood the siege for over 900 days and never capitulated. But, about 900,000 people did prematurely die in the city during the war due to the siege cutting off food, fuel, and other necessities.

          • blowback says:

            Irrelevant – the Soviet Union still went on to defeat Germany.

            • …despite the incompetence at the top of the Kremlin.

              • Anon21 says:

                I don’t think there’s a simple story you can tell. Stalin made the carnage of Barbarossa much greater than it had to be in many ways, direct and indirect. He also stayed in Moscow and made the final decision to hold the city, a move which may have doomed the overall German invasion. And later in the war, he had the good sense to get out of his generals’ way, while Hitler did not. Stalin had limited talents as a strategist, but he may have been exactly the war leader than the Soviets needed.

                • Heron says:

                  Exactly? I wouldn’t say “exactly”. I’d say “a war leader incompetent enough to skirt defeat, but not so incompetent as to snatch it from the jaws of victory when Hitler did the reverse”. There’s a lot more to it, like how Stalin’s paranoia may have contributed to his poor decisions leading up to, and general paralysis directly following, Barbarossa, but for a good summary, I think my above statement holds up better than “he’s exactly what they needed”.

                  What the Bols needed was someone who wouldn’t have killed the best of the officer corp, what, a month before the invasion? Don’t really feel like looking up the exact timeframe atm.

                • Timb says:

                  He wasn’t exactly afraid to shoot them during th war as well and to sign off on one of the greatest humanitarian tragedies of all time, the Soviet attack on East Prussia, as well as, enslaving all of the Eastern Europe…

                  But, to paraphrase Stalin, you have to break a few eggs to find silly people on the Internet who will defend the legacy of one of the worst humans ever

                • Anon21 says:

                  silly people on the Internet who will defend the legacy of one of the worst humans ever

                  If that’s directed at me: bullshit. Saying that he may have been exactly the war leader the Soviets needed, because his brutality and lack of regard for the lives of his citizens made victory possible, is not in any way defending his legacy.

        • The Ukrainians didn’t like the Russians. A relative of mine was a fireman in a small town in Ukraine (thus skilled enough to avoid being killed by whomever was invading at the time) and when the Germans invaded they opened up the prisons to show what those awful soviets had been doing, and people were kind of grateful. Then of course they killed all the Jews, but hey: lesser evilism is a tough gig.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          the Slavs, including Ukrainians

          The millions Stalin didn’t kill in punitive, intentionally created famines, I guess you mean.

        • Heron says:

          This is an utterly nonsensical statement. Whatever books you’ve been reading, you need to throw them in a woodchipper because they’ve misled you something fierce.

    • commie atheist says:

      Pol Pot, a monkish man of simple needs, did not seek wealth, fame or power for himself.

      Yep, you nailed it.

    • Josh G. says:

      Torquemada would probably be a more apt comparison. St. Francis never forced anyone to join his order at swordpoint.

  6. mark f says:

    Apparently, the genocidaires were inept, or their achievements have been greatly exaggerated.

    So all in all not bad guys, when you get down to it.

  7. david mizner says:

    I believe this this is the same Holocaust and antisemitism denying nut who was affiliated with Wikileaks in Moscow.

    • Pestilence says:

      I’m curious about who wrote it, but not curious enough to click the link or give counterpunch a single page view.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

          That’s appalling. I wish I were more surprised. Counterpunch has a very long and sad record of printing half-truths and falsehoods. Still acting as a platform for a Holocaust (and antisemitism(!)) denier engaged in attempting to whitewash Pol Pot is probably some sort of new low for them. I wish I were more sure that Alexander Cockburn would be spinning in his grave if he knew about this, but I’m not at all convinced that he would be.

    • Lee says:

      Yes, he recently wrote a piece that defended the the Pussy Riot verdict because they were nothing more than agents of the Jews.

      Counter-punch is one of those publications that advocate for evil in their attempt to be subsersive to mainstream thought. Subversion for the sake of subversion is no virture.

  8. Julian says:

    There’s really nothing cuter than an inept genocidaire.

    Are we totally, totally sure that 10/16 isn’t the socialist April Fool’s day or something?

  9. ajay says:

    I was quite impressed that he got almost through an entire paragraph without lying.

    Now, in the monsoon season, Cambodia is verdant, cool and relaxed.

    It is indeed the monsoon. And I’m prepared to believe that Cambodia is relaxed. It’s fairly relaxed most of the time. As for cool, it’s 30 degrees with high humidity and thunderstorms. But, you know, be generous.

    The rice paddies on the low hill slopes are flooded, forests that hide old temples are almost impassable, rough seas deter swimmers.

    All true.

    It’s a pleasant time to re-visit this modest country: Cambodia is not crowded, and Cambodians are not greedy, but rather peaceful and relaxed.

    Well, statement of opinion, essentialist though it may be.

    They fish for shrimp, calamari and sea brim. They grow rice, unspoiled by herbicides, manually planted, cultivated and gathered.

    No, they use hundreds of tonnes of herbicide every year on their rice. Oh, well.

  10. Just Dropping By says:

    The thing I find really weird about this is that the socialists and communists I’ve encountered in the past always argued that the Khmer Rouge were either directly American puppets or at least the U.S. deliberately facilitated their rise to power, so either way the U.S. (and global capitalism in general) was to blame for the atrocities that happened during their rule, not that the atrocities didn’t happen at all.

    • ajay says:

      Well, he does both: he argues that the US is the reason Pol Pot came to power, and then says “And that’s a good thing!”

    • Evan Harper says:

      The US did support the Khmer Rouge remnants to a meaningful degree after the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia and they took to guerilla warfare.

    • wrye says:

      There is an argument to be made (and I’ve heard it done strongly) that Kissenger’s expanded bombing campaign (going after Vietnamese forces in Eastern Cambodia) destabilized Cambodia enough that it allowed the Khmer Rouge to gain power, so there is a tiny kernel of truth to that, though it’s been tortured beyond recognition

    • redrob64 says:

      It depends on what flavor of communist or socialist you’re dealing with. Maoists usually deny the killings or try to downplay them as the unintended consequences of good policies that were taken out of context by a hostile West. Those who favored Vietnam as a model tend to emphasize the killings and play up the “US puppet” angle to justify Vietnam’s 1978 invasion.

      See Gareth Porter and George Hildebrand, Cambodia: Starvation and Revolution for an example of the denial/minimization technique, but be aware that Porter’s view changed publicly just before the Vietnamese invasion and he began to accuse the KR of mass murder. When the US backed the KR against Vietnam, he criticized the Reagan administration for ignoring the Cambodian genocide.

  11. Fighting Words says:

    My college roommates were Cambodian (born in Cambodia, moved to Long Beach in the late 1970’s). Let me just say that there was a huge party when Pol Pot died.

  12. mds says:

    Israel Shamir lives in Moscow.

    A few decades ago, I would have said “It figures.” But nowadays, when it’s an authoritarian capitalist wolf pit? Pol Pot would presumably not have approved.

    I mean, sheesh. There’s certainly plenty of history of Western capitalists ginning up phony-baloney shrieky fits over leftist (or putatively leftist) leadership, be it Mossadeq, Allende, or even Chavez. But I just wasn’t really seeing the obvious gaping void left by the lack of a Pol Pot apologia, lingering sophistic horseshit about Chomsky notwithstanding.

    • DrDick says:

      I don’t know. I imagine that Vladimir Putin might find much to admire in Pol Pot.

    • J. Otto Pohl says:

      Except that the KR were fiercely anti-Soviet Maoists allied with China against the USSR and Vietnam. I have not seen too many Pol Pot apologists although Brezinski came up with the ideas of supporting the deposed KR as a way of harassing Vietnam which was the USSR’s chief ally in SE Asia. But, that was an enemy of my enemy thing and he never said that the KR were good for Cambodians.

  13. thebewilderness says:

    The math is brilliant! The population has doubled since 1970 and therefore no one died. Brilliant!

  14. Peter Hovde says:

    The hippy with whom I shared an apartment briefly in Seattle told me a story about a BC marijuana grower who packaged his product with a logo consisting of a skull and crossbones and the slogan “Pol Pot: A Skullfuckin’ Good Weed.”

  15. CaptBackslap says:

    “Looking back, it appears that the Khmer Rouge of Pol Pot failed in their foreign policy rather than in their internal one.”

    And the mystery of the Radical Left’s unpopularity continues to deepen.

    • Peter Hovde says:

      An intersection of foreign and domestic policy occurred when the KR designated the entire population of the border zone with Vietnam for liquidation, referring to them as “Khmer bodies with Vietnamese minds.”

      • Peter Hovde says:

        Which Radical Left do you mean?

        • CaptBackslap says:

          “Anyone still apologizing for Stalin” is probably close enough.

          • Malaclypse says:

            So, this guy, plus the voices in J Otto’s head?

            • CaptBackslap says:

              You’d be surprised. I used to post on a web forum that was originally pretty decent, but eventually featured lots of people who had opinions like “I’m on the fence about Stalin personally,” or who would post tallies of deaths caused by the USSR and the US to “prove” the superiority of communism.

            • J. Otto Pohl says:

              Voices in my head? In the last few years Stalin has been almost fully rehabilitated in Russia and Central Asia. He is very popular in the former Soviet states. If you get the chance go look at the books praising Stalin on sale at the bookstores in Bishkek. There are several shelves of them. There are not any books on sale criticizing Stalin and have not been for a couple of years. Jonathan Brent at YIVO and formerly at Yale University Press had a good article a few years ago on the rehabilitation of Stalin in Russia. You can find it reproduced at the address below as well as other places.


              Of course the news stories on the rehabilitation of Stalin as a hero in Russia are not hard to come by. Try doing a Google search.

              • Hob says:

                You’ve claimed repeatedly on this blog (as a Google search for “Pohl Stalin” will show) that a significant number of American leftists are Stalin defenders. American leftists, not bookstores in former Soviet states. You know damn well that that’s what Malaclypse was referring to; you’re just hoping that everyone’s forgotten about it.

                I used to think you weren’t a troll but just an honest weirdo who liked to talk about Ghana, but you’re being amazingly dishonest here.

              • Hob says:

                As you know damn well, but are hoping everyone else has forgotten, you’ve repeatedly claimed that there are lots of American leftists who are Stalin defenders. Try doing a Google search for “Pohl Stalin”.

                I used to think you weren’t a troll but just an honest weirdo who likes talking about Ghana, but I was wrong. You’re being amazingly dishonest here.

              • Hob says:

                As you know very damn well– but are apparently hoping no one else remembers– you have repeatedly claimed on this blog that a lot of American leftists are Stalin defenders. That’s what Malaclypse was rightly making fun of you for; nothing to do with former Soviet states. (Try doing a Google search for “Pohl Stalin” with the scope limited to this site.)

                I used to think you were just an honest weirdo who likes to talk about Ghana, but there’s nothing honest about what you’re doing now.

                • djw says:

                  Indeed. By the way, Otto, in an odd confluence of my worlds that reminded me you’re a real person and not a nym (I’m sorry, J. Otto Pohl just sounds fake; like a clever homage to a character in a book I probably should have read), I came across a reference to your research in a book by one of those awful American academics who is probably an unreconstructed Stalinist blackballing your job applications. (Spinner-Halev, Enduring Injustice, Oxford 2012).

                • J. Otto Pohl says:

                  I claimed there are American academics that defend Stalin from the charge of racial discrimination. This is true. There are also those who defend him from the charge of genocide. This is also true.

                • J. Otto Pohl says:


                  It is a book now? I have only read the article version which had the exact same title. It was a reference to Crimean Tatars as I recall. Spinner-Halev is a political scientist so would not have any influence over history dept. hiring decisions.

                • djw says:

                  Oddly enough, Spinner-Halev is an American academic who is also perfectly aware that Stalin engaged in ethnic and racial discrimination and, indeed, cleansing. He even uses the Tatar case in his book. The same is true of the historian I took Soviet history from as an undergraduate. It seems increasingly likely that J. Otto Pohl has generalized from “A couple of American academics who published articles arguing Stalin’s atrocities weren’t racially or ethnically motivated” to “American academics”, as silly as that sounds.

                • djw says:

                  Yep, the article is ch. 3 of the book. Picked it up at a conference this weekend. Excellent work.

                • J. Otto Pohl says:


                  The most prominent name in the history of Soviet nationality studies, Francine Hirsch denies that there was any racial discrimination by the Stalin regime. She even goes so far to deny that race can be constructed along cultural rather biological lines. The 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of racial discrimination, however, explicitly defines ethnic or national discrimination as racial discrimination under international law. Go look up the wording of the text. John Rex, George Fredrickson, Kenan Malik, Etienne Balibar, and others in contrast to Hirsch have also noted that race is frequently constructed along cultural rather than biological and genetic lines. I side with the ICERD and Rex et. al.

      • Mike B. says:

        I haven’t seen this quote, but from what I’ve read, a great part of the killing was directed against ethnic Vietnamese and Cambodians perceived to be friendly toward Vietnam, including lots of Khmer Rouge in the east.

    • Linnaeus says:

      Well that certainly does it for me. I’m voting for Romney now.

  16. Karen says:

    Thank you for posting this. It’s nice to know that there are idiots that are not conservatives. Granted, all this guy’s ideological mates could have a convention in a couple of booths at McDonald’s and the right wing has gazillions of dollars and thousands of members, but I do like to be reminded that being a leftist is not automatic proof of intellect.

    Oh, and please don’t take this as a defense of a thoroughly rotten article. Just because their group is small doesn’t give them a pass on being so completely idiotic. Few people believe the moon landing was a fake, but they all need to be corrected.

    • Anonymous says:

      Genocide deniers are not people who are misinformed or have an honest mistake in the facts. They are deliberate malicious liars.

      Its not enough to correct their errors, they are not errors. They are intentional untruths for specific political purposes.

      It is not a “left” or “right” thing. Its an extremist thing. In the end extremists are bad no matter what end of the spectrum they are. Its purpose is to minimize the bad PR of genocide to make it easier to do again. It is not the sort of thing one associates with anyone with an inkling of support for democracy.

      • Evan Harper says:

        Shamir in particular is a deliberate malicious liar. It’s one thing to convince yourself that Pol Pot got a bad rap; it’s another to lie about your birthplace, name, ethnic background, etc…

  17. Anonymous says:

    Israel Shamir is holocaust denier and a Cambodian genocide denier. Calling him a piece of shit would be an insult to the effluence. At least bullshit has use as fertilizer.

    There is no form of scum on earth which is lower than a genocide denier. It is malicious lying for nationalist jerks.

    Its bad enough we have Holocaust deniers still lurking online. Luckily they seem to be a dying breed. But there are also Bosnia genocide deniers, many of whom recently got elected to public office in Serbia. We even have Rwandan genocide deniers.

  18. Bert says:

    How is this any different than when ‘moderates’ on the American ‘left’ idolize LBJ, a man who is at least as big of a murderer as Pol Pot?

    The point made about how it is only the atrocities of futurist regimes that are trumpeted and magnified, while those of capitalist regimes like the USA are hushed-up is a valid one.

    One million dead in Iraq thanks to the Great and Wonderful USA. But that’s just collateral damage, not genocide, right guys?

    • CaptBackslap says:

      Yes, LGM’s commentariat is a known hive of Iraq War enthusiasts.

      • I thought we were know for our simple, one-dimensional take on Lyndon Johnson.

        • Bert says:

          My point is this: that the rule seems to be “if capitalists do it, it’s not a genocide”.

          See: Iraq. Vietnam. British India.

          • I can’t speak for what things “seem” to be for you.

            I’ve never seen anyone here dispute that the capitalists in Germany committed genocide. Nor the capitalist Anglo-Americans in North America.

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            And Iraq wasn’t actually a genocide, although it certainly was upwards of a million unnecessary deaths caused by the United States.

            • Malaclypse says:

              True, but in that sense, neither was Cambodia, as the killing was not (to my knowledge, and apologies if I am wrong) ethnically motivated.

              • It was, in a sense, culturally-motivated. Was the educated, urban population a cultural group?

                Whew! Is it semantic in here, or is it just me?

              • J. Otto Pohl says:

                Some of the killing was ethnically motivated. See Ben Kiernan’s work on how the KR targeted ethnic Vietnamese, Chinese, Thais, and Chams. Although a small percentage of the total killed these groups experienced much greater percentage losses than the Khmer as a result of being deliberately targeted for persecution.

                • djw says:

                  Right. There was sufficient ethnic, regional and religious targeting alongside general class/enemy of the regime targeting to make a pretty clear case of genocide by any definition.

                • J. Otto Pohl says:


                  Are you not required under LGM rules to disagree with everything I write?

                • It’s Otto is sad day. Cheer up! Somewhere out there is a blog for you.

                • djw says:

                  As I’ve repeatedly said, you’re fundamentally right about Stalin, and equally fundamentally wrong that American academics disagree with you about Stalin.

                • J. Otto Pohl says:


                  With the exception of one MA thesis out of Utrecht, Eric Weitz, and one article by Fikes and Lemon nobody else has published anything that agrees with my position that that things like the 1937 deportation of the Koreans were acts of racial discrimination. The words racism and racial discrimination never appear on works on the USSR and Hirsch, Weiner, and almost everybody else writing on the subject agrees with Hirsch’s position. The denial that the Stalin regime ever engaged in racial discrimination is the orthodox position. The claim by Hirsch and almost everybody else in the field is that ethnicity is not race and culture is not biology so it can not be racial discrimination. But, as Rex, Balibar, and Malki point out ethnicity can be race and culture can easily substitute for biology.

    • spud says:

      LBJ didn’t wantonly murder millions of people.

      That’s how its different. Some behavior is easier to gloss over than others.

      • Bert says:

        I think the Vietnamese would disagree, especially those that were on the other end of all his bombing runs and napalmings.

        • How about the Vietnamese – you know, half the country – who were on LBJ’s side?

          I imagine their opinions count for even less than the Cambodian refugees who made it out. Or does your wonderful little habit of speaking for “the Vietnamese” even allow for their existence?

        • spud says:

          Similar to how the Dresden bombings somehow are morally equivalent to Auschwitz to some people.

          It sounds a little silly to some, but IMHO bombing from above is not an equivalent to creating death camps and systematic executions. One is a sometimes permitted form of warfare, the other is always considered crimes against humanity.

          • gen·o·cide   [jen-uh-sahyd] Show IPA
            the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.

            George Bush effed up. He thought Iraq would be an orderly little protectorate after the war, with an obedient little strongman who would keep order. When the civil war that killed the vast majority of the war’s Iraqi dead broke out, it was a complete failure of American policy, exactly the opposite of what Bush intended to happen. He kept pouring more and more resources into the country to try to stop it. He was like a kid playing with matches, who set the house on fire.

            Whereas the 3 million deaths in Cambodia were the deliberate, intended actions of the Khmer Rouge.

            One way to spot a wingnut sock puppetting as a leftist: they never, ever describe George Bush as a screw-up. He’s always an evil genius who got exactly what he wanted.

            • Uncle Kvetch says:

              One way to spot a wingnut sock puppetting as a leftist: they never, ever describe George Bush as a screw-up. He’s always an evil genius who got exactly what he wanted.

              Joe, your broader point is solid: Bush did not knowingly and deliberately set out to kill as many Iraqi civilians as possible, which renders the comparison with the Khmer Rouge moot.

              However…I think you got a step too far here:

              George Bush effed up. He thought Iraq would be an orderly little protectorate after the war, with an obedient little strongman who would keep order.

              Neither of us will ever know what George Bush really thought, and I tend to think there’s little to be gained from trying to discern what political figures really believe in their hearts of hearts, as opposed to what they actually say and, most importantly, do. But I do think there’s ample evidence that Bush really did get what he wanted, overall: he took out America’s No. 1 Bad Guy (something his preppy, nancy-boy father had proven too weak-willed and dithering to do), he won a second term (ditto), he shoveled untold quantities of taxpayer money directly into the maw of the military-industrial complex, and he succeeded in keeping the country on a war footing, with himself as “War President,” with everything that entails in terms of executive power, for pretty much the entirety of his time in office.

              I personally don’t think he gave a moment’s thought to what Iraq would be afterwards — orderly, subservient protectorate or colossal terrorist-spawning meat-grinder, who cares? Those chickens wouldn’t come home to roost until well after he’d fucked off back to Texas to play golf and have his memoirs ghost-written. To this day, there’s simply zero evidence that he (or Cheney or Rice or Rumsfeld) gave a rat’s ass about the horrors that they unleashed on the Iraqi people. None whatsoever.

              Shorter me: “Sociopath” is a word that gets bandied about way too easily these days, but in this particular case, I think the shoe fits. That doesn’t make Bush a moral equivalent of Pol Pot, but I simply can’t swallow the idea that he thought he was doing the right thing (however misguided and wrong-headed and callous that thinking might have been) and just bungled the execution. I honestly think he didn’t give a shit.

              But like I said…we’ll never know.

              • The people at the heart of Bush’s foreign policy team had been fluffing Ahmed Chalabi, the George Washington of Iraq, for years before that war. They staged that little farce, trying to stage a DeGaulle in Paris episode so they could install him in power. In every way, they acted like this was a classic example of toppling a hostile government and installing “our bastard.”

                • Uncle Kvetch says:

                  Agreed — I should have added that Iraq really was a massive fuck-up from the standpoint of the neocon project, which a lot of people really did believe in wholeheartedly. I’ve just always been skeptical as to whether Bush was one of those people, or whether all that was just pretty window-dressing for what he wanted to do anyway.

          • RedSquareBear says:

            Look at this Capitalist Fascist Imperialist right here!

            Leave Bert. Leave this place and never come back.

          • Leeds man says:

            Of course Dresden and Auschwitz aren’t morally equivalent, and attempts to make that equivalence by neo-Nazis are egregious. Still, calling it a “bombing from above” or “a sometimes permitted form of warfare” is a bit much. Maybe you could tell me under what circumstances you would countenance carpet bombing of civilian targets.

            • Spuddie says:

              “Maybe you could tell me under what circumstances you would countenance carpet bombing of civilian targets.”

              When an enemy who initiates a conflict does so first. Much like terror bombing in Warsaw, Rotterdam, and Shanghai opened the door for Allied efforts at mass bombing. Of course back then it was really the only way to perform the task of strategic bombing.

              Carpet bombing back in the day was also a function of technology at the time. Nowadays, there is no real excuse for a developed nation to engage in it.

              Indiscriminate bombing wasn’t even considered a per se war crime until after the UN Treaty resolved to consider it such until 1981. Pol Pot’s activities would always considered crimes against humanity in of themselves.

    • mark f says:

      What? Who the hell idolizes LBJ?

    • Malaclypse says:

      How is this any different than when ‘moderates’ on the American ‘left’ idolize LBJ,

      I never knew that it was really Young Republicans chanting “Hey, hey, LBJ…”

      a man who is at least as big of a murderer as Pol Pot?

      Total Vietnamese civilian casualties, including the Nixon years: 2 million per the Vietnamese gov’t. 411,000 per our official undercount.

      Cambiadian deaths: 740,000 to 3,000,000.

      So no, Pol Pot was worse.

      One million dead in Iraq thanks to the Great and Wonderful USA. But that’s just collateral damage, not genocide, right guys?

      Find me one person on this board that is not JenBob who supported Iraq.

      • Bill Murray says:

        a man who is at least as big of a murderer as Pol Pot?

        Total Vietnamese civilian casualties, including the Nixon years: 2 million per the Vietnamese gov’t. 411,000 per our official undercount.

        Cambiadian deaths: 740,000 to 3,000,000.

        So no, Pol Pot was worse.

        To be pedantic, you can’t unequivocally say Pol Pot was worse when the ranges overlap without making a case that the Nixon years bring the purely LBJ count to less than 740,000

    • mds says:

      Ya know, as I alluded to above, despite a bunch of assertions to the contrary, Chomsky was perfectly able to criticize US foreign policy horrors without actually declaring Pol Pot to be a warm, wonderful human being. You should try “both/and” sometime, too. Now, why don’t you go castigate some Quakers who approve of Medicare and the Civil Rights Act?

    • Janastas359 says:

      For what it’s worth, I can’t find any sources that claim that 1 million people have died as a result of Iraq.

    • Walt says:

      This is how trolling is done, people. Take notes.

  19. Anna in PDX says:

    Shamir sounds like a real piece of work. What a completely awful article. How can Counterpunch expect anyone (except the fairly small pro-genocide lobby) to want to keep their mag going?

  20. Lee says:

    I first learned about this CounterPunch article from the British blog Harry’s Place. Israel Shamir is a very nasty piece of work. Other recent articles from him defended the jailing of Pussy Riot by claiming that they are nothing more than agents of the Jews who secretly control the world. He his also a big fan of the mini-Stalin in Belarus and rated out dissidents to him.

  21. Trollhattan says:

    All this thread and no Dead Kennedys yet? You kids…also, too, 1. lawn, 2. evacuate #1.

  22. Josh G. says:

    I read this article and it was indeed truly odious. Counterpunch would be better off dropping Shamir as a writer, as he has little or nothing worthwhile to say, and appears to be none too balanced.

    Nonetheless, if Counterpunch as a whole can move the Overton Window even a micron to the left, they will have done a good deed thereby. Leninist Communism is a terrible system to live under, but it is great for your working class when it happens in lots of other countries. The existence of bloody-handed, bloody-minded no-kidding Communists concentrates the minds of the ruling classes just wonderfully. Suddenly, sharing the fruits of capitalist productivity with the workers doesn’t seem so bad in comparison. Communism is what made the New Deal, Great Society, and Civil Rights Act possible. We had to be on our best behavior or risk losing to the Reds. Once it became clear that Soviet Russia couldn’t keep up, the plutocrats almost instantly switched to trying to repeal the New Deal and bring back the 19th century.

    • mark f says:

      Worst subscription mailer ever.

    • RedSquareBear says:

      Shorter Verbatim Josh G.:

      Communism: rough for those workers, good for our workers!

      Well, long live the International Proletarian Revolution to you too, tovarish.

    • mds says:

      “Maybe Pol Pot was really a fine fellow, and by the way, global warming is a load of hooey” helps shift the Overton window to the left? I fail to see how further marginalizing the Left by associating it in any way with such flagrant moral and intellectual bankruptcy moves things in a more progressive direction.

      • djw says:

        Yeah, no kidding. If the concept of the “overton window” is to have any strategic value whatsoever, it really can’t mean “crazy, stupid, evil, loud people situated awkwardly on “the left” will make the rest of us look better!”

        • Bill Murray says:

          it works for the right

          • mds says:

            No, what works for the right is to have one major political party totally embrace the protofascist cesspool in all its festering glory, which sufficiently shifts the political center of gravity for the other major political party to become center-right. The less right-wing major political party can then use “makes us look better.” So it’s not even close to symmetrical, until there’s a major political party making excuses for mass murders by left wing rulers, denouncing “penis science,” and demanding that copies of the Necronomicon be installed in every public building … all of which will have joined the airports in being named after Ernesto Guevara. Then it will work for the sane left to say, “Hey, at least we’re not those guys.”

      • Warren Terra says:


        There are a lot of magazines that are actually good, and genuinely shift the Overton Window to the left. Pick your flavor: Mother Jones, The Progressive, The Nation, etcetera. Heck, the wonkish center-left folk of The American Prospect, who for all I like and indeed support them are not remotely a radical bunch, shift the Overton Window to the left; not all the shifting has to be done at the boundaries.

        But CounterPunch, and during his lifetime Alexander Cockburn, do the opposite. They serve only to discredit the progressive causes they purport to support. The only useful effect they have on public debate is to the Right, to the people who get to dismiss The Left by pretending American liberals like Stalin, and Pol Pot, etcetera.

  23. There is so much wrong with this piece that the little things can get lost in the shuffle, but did anyone else notice that the factory workers were oppressed because they made $80 a month, but the “relaxed, peaceful” farm workers are just fine because they have rice?

  24. herr doktor bimler says:

    Surprisingly, Cambodians have no bad memories of that period…

    The villages of Khmer refugees in Laos sure do.

  25. MkDL says:

    Before this get’s picked up as a cudgel with which to beat lefties from here to eternity, let it be known that it was first brought to my attention on Doug Henwood’s mailing list, whose member’s universally excoriated it.

    • You know the old saying about how most of the people who paid dues to the CPUSA were FBI infiltrators?

      Maybe Counterpunch Magazine and its readers are the same way. Hey, “Bert,” how’d you like to be an editor?

      • J. Otto Pohl says:

        The joke/anekdot I heard was half the Daily Worker’s circulation was purchased by the KGB to fund the CPUSA and the other half was purchased by the FBI to prevent people from reading it. It may actually have been true. But, it is funny nonetheless.

        • Warren Terra says:

          What is certainly true is that the executive committee of the CPUSA was controlled by the FBI. The FBI had a quorum; it may even have had unanimity. It was The Man Who Was Thursday, without the theology.

  26. Hob says:

    Sorry if I posted basically the same reply to J. Otto twice– my comments aren’t showing up, I don’t know if they’re being saved.

      • Hob says:

        Strange. Well, I was replying your comment: “Voices in my head? In the last few years Stalin has been almost fully rehabilitated in Russia and Central Asia. He is very popular in the former Soviet states. …. Try doing a Google search.”

        As you know very damn well– but are apparently hoping no one else remembers– you have repeatedly claimed on this blog that a lot of American leftists are Stalin defenders. That’s what Malaclypse was rightly making fun of you for; nothing to do with former Soviet states. Try doing a Google search for “Pohl Stalin”.

        I used to think you were just an honest weirdo who likes to talk about Ghana. But there’s nothing honest about what you’re doing now.

      • djw says:

        I don’t know why they were in moderation purgatory, but I have attempted to release them.

      • Hob says:

        Oh– my comments went into the moderation queue because I mentioned a Google search term that the site thought was a bad link. I posted a fixed version above. Enjoy.

  27. Warren Terra says:

    Alexander Cockburn: still a touchstone of evil, corrupting everything he touches. I don’t know how many letters I wrote to The Nation requesting they fire him, but I rejoiced at his death.

    • The Dark Avenger says:

      Gee, you’re really a swell guy, standing up to revel in someone’s death because you disagreed with him politically. Capitalism triumphant much?

  28. spencer says:

    I can accept the idea that Russia’s transition to capitalism was incredibly difficult and fraught with massive hardships, but I really would like Shamir to provide some evidence for

    Introduction of capitalism in Russia killed more people than introduction of socialism, but who knows that?

    I really don’t think I’m asking for all that much.

    • Craigo says:

      If you assume that every Russian death since 1989 was due to capitalism, the math gets a lot easier.

      • Craigo says:

        Also, he said “Russian,” which conveniently sidesteps the Holodomor, German POWs, Soviet minorities, etc.

        • Craigo says:

          Or maybe not. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he intended to say those things. More than likely, further perusal of this gentlemen’s work would likely reveal that the Holodomor did not occur anymore than the Holocaust, or any other genocide not caused by a Western power or directed at The Jews.

    • Warren Terra says:

      I believe I heard someplace in the news, sometime in the last decade or so, that life expectancy in the former Soviet Union had fallen since 1991. But even if this is (1) the gospel truth and (2) the fault of Capitalism, there’s rather a big to equate “old people aren’t living as long” with “systemic terror, deliberate famine, rampant executions of the innocent, and forced exile to be worked to death in a hellhole far from home.”.

      To be clear: apparently this dick isn’t equating them. He’s saying the former is worse.

      • Digger says:

        Not really. Life expectancy dropping doesn’t just mean old People not living as long, the average is dropping so more people are probably dying young as well. In the context of Russia I know that this drop was around 10 years for men, that really is carastophic and is probably the result of the welfare system no longer functioning and people dying from things like malnutrition, exposure, and not getting needed medical care. And yes in many ways this was deliberately engineered. I don’t know of any good excess death numbers but your almost certainly looking at a number in the millions.

        • Vance Maverick says:

          “Deliberately engineered” is pretty strong. The politics of the country took a sharp turn for the plutocratic, and the powerful led it in the direction of their own interest. This is bad enough without accusing them of desiring an increase in mortality.

          • Digger says:

            Did they get rid of the welfare system by accident? Mao didn’t want to starve millions of Chinese either, but I’d call the great leap forward deliberate too

      • djw says:

        I believe I heard someplace in the news, sometime in the last decade or so, that life expectancy in the former Soviet Union had fallen since 1991.

        It fell off a fair bit in the 1990’s with the economic collapse, but Russian life expectancy today is the same as it was in 1991.

    • Anonymous says:

      Per Wikipedia, “Russia’s population peaked at 148,689,000 in 1991” and was 142,856,536 in 2010. That’s a real drop, though if you want to assign numbers to the “introductions” of the two systems under comparison, there’s plenty of ways to tip the scale.

  29. heckblazer says:

    I actually visited Cambodia about 20 years ago to see Angkor Wat. This was when Pol Pot was alive and the Khmer Rouge were still active as guerillas – for several days in Siem Reap I could hear regular rocket fire in the distance. Here are my reactions top the article:

    1) The country was so painfully poor I felt guilty just by existing. Sweatshops paying $80/month can’t be worse.

    2) The minefields around Angkor Wat at least weren’t planted by Americans.

    3) Mr. Shamir says he visited the Killing Fields memorial. Oddly, he does not mention the stupa with glass windows that allow you to see the thousands of skulls inside. At the time I was there you could still see bits of bone and fragments of cloth sticking out of the ground.

    4). Mr Shamir also seems to have skipped visiting the Tuol Sleng genocide museum. You know, the one housed in the former high school turned into a torture center, still the way the Vietnamese found it. Here the Khmer Rouse did take pictures of the 17,000 victims that passed through the prison, prints of which cover several of the walls.

    5) For some bonus personal outrage, my grandfather escaped the Ukraine in early 1932.

    I don’t think Mr. Shamir did much actual reporting in Cambodia. I hope I never meet him because I’m afraid I won’t be able to resist punching him in the face.

  30. Tracy Lightcap says:

    Actually, I bet that a lot of what Shamir reports here may be true. Why?

    a. The country has an extremely young population (wonder why?) and these events were 35 years ago.

    b. Cambodians don’t cotton to Vietnamese and Pol Pot resisted the Vietnamese takeover of the country.

    c. Pol Pot actually did idealize his country’s culture, albeit with disastrous results.

    Soooo … youngsters who don’t know anything much about their country’s past, except that the Vietnamese tell them that the government that fought them was a genocidal nightmare, refuse to believe that and draw all the wrong conclusions. Sounds a lot like kids today talking about the ’60s.

    Oth, he could be lying through his teeth. From this article, it’s hard to tell.

    Oh, and the total number of “excess deaths”, as the demographers say, was probably more like 1.2 – 1.8 million during the KR regime. We’ll probably never know how many people were killed directly and how many died from starvation or early death from overwork. Hundreds of thousands, at least, were executed or murdered. Enough to mark the Khmer Rouge as one of the greatest tyrannies of the 20th century.

  31. IM says:

    So Cockburn was actually the voice of reason over at counterpunch?

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