I had zeroed out all memory of "Counterpunch". Alex Tabarrok brings knowledge of it and its Alexander Cockburn memorial issue back. I suppose he is doing a good deed: I should not forget that such things as "Counterpunch" and its Cambodian Holocaust deniers exist:
Israel Shamir: Pol Pot Revisited » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names: Now, in the monsoon season, Cambodia is verdant, cool and relaxed…. It’s a pleasant time to re-visit this modest country: Cambodia is not crowded… Cambodians are not greedy…. They fish for shrimp, calamari and sea brim. They grow rice, unspoiled by herbicides, manually planted, cultivated and gathered. They produce enough for themselves and for export, too….
Socialism is being dismantled fast: Chinese-owned factories keep churning tee-shirts…. Nouveau-riches live in palaces… precious tree trunks are constantly ferried to the harbour… destroying forests but enriching traders…. French restaurateurs in the capital; NGO reps earn in one minute the equivalent of a worker’s monthly salary. Not much remains from the turbulent period when the Cambodians tried to radically change the order of things in the course of their unique traditionalist conservative peasant revolution under communist banner. That was the glorious time of Jean Luc Godard and his La Chinoise, of the Cultural Revolution in China sending party bonzes for re-education to remote farms, of Khmer Rouge marching on the corrupt capital. Socialist movement reached a bifurcation point: whether to advance to more socialism Mao-style, or retreat to less socialism the Moscow way. The Khmer Rouge experiment lasted only three years, from 1975 to 1978.
Surprisingly, Cambodians have no bad memories of that period…. The omnipotent narrative-making machinery of the West has embedded in our conscience the image of bloody Khmer Rouge commies cannibalising their own people over the Killing Fields and ruled over by a nightmarish Pol Pot, anybody’s notion of ruthless despot.
A much quoted American professor, RJ Rummel, wrote that “out of a 1970 population of probably near 7,100,000 …almost 3,300,000 men, women, and children were murdered …most of these… were murdered by the communist Khmer Rouge”…. However, Cambodia’s population was not halved but more than doubled since 1970, despite alleged multiple genocides. Apparently, the genocidaires were inept, or their achievements have been greatly exaggerated.
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…. He felt compassion for the ordinary village people who were ripped off on a daily basis by the city folk, the comprador parasites. He built an army to defend the countryside from these power-wielding robbers. Pol Pot, a monkish man of simple needs, did not seek wealth, fame or power…. Pol Pot was suspicious of the Vietnamese and Chinese minorities. But what he hated most was acquisitiveness, greed, the desire to own things. St Francis and Leo Tolstoy would have understood him…. As for the mass killings, these are just horror stories, averred my Cambodian interlocutors. Surely the victorious peasants shot marauders and spies, but many more died of American-planted mines and during the subsequent Vietnamese takeover, they said…. Noam Chomsky assessed that the death toll in Cambodia may have been inflated “by a factor of a thousand.”…
Looking back, it appears that the Khmer Rouge of Pol Pot failed in their foreign policy rather than in their internal one. It is fine that they canceled money, dynamited banks and sent bankers to plant rice. It is fine that they dried up the great blood-sucking leech, the big-city compradors and money-lenders. Their failure was that they did not calculate their position vis-à-vis Vietnam, and tried to push beyond their own weight. Vietnam was very powerful – it had just defeated the US – and would brook no nonsense from their junior brothers in Phnom Penh. The Vietnamese planned to create an Indochinese Federation including Laos and Cambodia under their own leadership. They invaded and overthrew the stubborn Khmer Rouge who were too keen on their independence. They also supported the black legend of genocide to justify their own bloody intervention…. Now we may cautiously reassess the brave attempts to reach for socialism in various countries. They were done under harsh, adverse conditions, under threat of intervention, facing hostile propaganda. But let us remember: if socialism failed, so did capitalism. If communism was accompanied by loss of life, so was and is capitalism. But with capitalism, we have no future worth living, while socialism still offers hope to us and our children.