Monday, March 23, 2015

Tuol Sleng shows how dangerous Western lefties can be

I am in Cambodia and today I went to Tuol Sleng, the former Khmer Rouge prison known as S-21, which is now a museum to the genocide committed by Pol Pot and his henchmen during their reign of terror in this country from 1975 to 1979. Tuol Sleng was the site of the torture and death of around 20,000 people considered to be enemies of the Khmer Rouge regime, including children and babies. It was one of 150 such prisons across Cambodia where, together with various rural work sites, an estimated 2 million Cambodians were killed by their Marxist government.

Tuol Sleng is a strange place. It was originally a high school and its origins are still evident. Tiny cells that are barely large enough to stand up in are partitioned in what were once classrooms. Some of the iron-framed beds that prisoners were shackled to are still in place, together with the iron shackles. There are cabinets full of skulls and a bin full of (what I realised were) human rib bones. Entire walls are given over to photos of prisoners, as the Khmer Rouge, in common with the Nazis and other genocidal regimes, were meticulous in documenting their victims. It is, as Hannah Arendt so aptly put it, the banality of the evil that is so astounding.

The most revealing part of my visit to Tuol Sleng, however, was the exhibit about the Western sympathisers who promoted the denial of the genocide not only during the Khmer Rouge's four years in power but for years afterwards. The most notorious of these sympathisers was a group of Swedish left-wing politicians who visited Cambodia in April 1978. Despite the fact that reports had been surfacing of the genocide since the Khmer Rouge had sezied power in 1975, the Swedish delegation produced a laudatory, white-washing report of Pol Pot's Cambodia. The delegates admitted that they knew the cities had been cleared out (the Khmer Rouge evacuated the entire population of Phnom Penh and sent them to the countryside to work as slave labour the day after they gained power) but they hailed this as a geat egalitarian experiment. Gunnar Bergstrom, the only member of the delegation to since express regret about the propaganda victory, said they did not realise that all of that huge exodus were being starved, tortured, executed or just worked to death. 

In New Zealand we had our own versions of Gunnar Bergstrom. Keith Locke, who later became a Green Party Member of Parliament, was known to be a supporter of the Khmer Rouge. Personally, I find it difficult to accept that a supporter of one of the most evil regimes in recent history could go on to find respectability as a New Zealand MP.

You might say that everyone has the right to change their political views. However, I think we need to consider the harm these supporters of the Khmer Rouge did. Their denial of the genocide in Cambodia probably allowed the regime to survive a lot longer than it should have. In fact, the Khmer Rouge were still recognized as the legitimate government of Cambodia long after the Vietnamese had invaded and put an end to this most vicious political cult. It wasn't until 1993 that Cambodia's United Nations seat was removed from the so-called Cambodian government-in-exile (that included the Khmer Rouge) and given to the successor Kingdom of Cambodia. It was people like Gunnar Bergstrom and Keith Locke who were instrumental in maintaining support for the Khmer Rouge, even after its fall from power and the reliable documentation of its horrors. These people almost certainly prolonged the life of the regime and therefore were in some small way responsible for many deaths (although, in fairness to Keith Locke, he claims he reversed his support for the regime after the extent of its horrors became known).

This is the biggest issue I have with the political left-wing in the West - that they are allowed to get away with supporting all manner of horrors, up to including full-blown genocide, if it is done in the name of their Marxist ideals. When the full extent of the horrors is revealed, they inevitably say they didn't know what the regime in question was was really up to and, anyway, it was a perversion of true Marxism. But I contend that Marxism is, by its very nature, genocidal and I don't believe anyone who truly understands Marxism as a philosophy could disagree with this. Marx himself made no bones about the fact that he expected a whole lot of killing when his philosophy was applied in practice.

There is a double standard in respect of political respectability. Left-wingers are forgiven their earlier political excesses to an extent that those on the right are never allowed. I cannot imagine a former Nazi sympathiser being allowed to take a seat in the New Zealand Parliament. Those who support genocidal regimes should be held accountable for their support, whatever their political hue.

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