Prominent US journalist Bernard Krisher, the publisher of The Cambodia Daily and a person very near to the modern Cambodian history, said on his own paper on May 4, 2011, that Pol Pot, the leader of the bloody Khmer Rouge regime, who died in the jungle in 1998, should have been killed like Osama bin Laden. He says ‘This did not happen but should have when Pol Pot was killing his people. The US had the ability at the time to determine where Pol Pot was based and should have sent in a team, as it did to kill Osama bin Laden.’ Krisher continues to explain why it did not happen: ‘The Nixon-Kissinger regime was focused on winning the war in Vietnam and went as far as bombing Cambodia in order to disrupt the Ho Chi Minh Trail from supplying Vietnam with munitions.’
Yes, it’s true. US could do it at the time, but it was not possible. However, the willing to kill Pol Pot was not lacking, I think. The War of Vietnam was an open attend to kill communism and its leaders (good or bad) in the context of the Cold War. The heavy bombings to the north of Cambodia was one of those attempts. At the time Pol Pot was not a strong leader, but a member of the Khmer Rouge guerrillas and an ally of the Viet Cong, even if he will become their more dedicated enemy after 1975.
When the communist regime of North Vietnam took control over Saigon and the Khmer Rouge established their murderer regime in Cambodia, US just walked away. Pol Pot did not attack US or its allies, even if he was always afraid that US could return and bomb his ‘Democratic Kampuchea.’ The only enemy he was dare to attack was Vietnam. He ordered the killing of several Vietnamese villagers. Thus Vietnam entered Cambodia in 1979 and precipitated his power. In a certain way, Vietnam did what US was doing with Osama bin Laden.
Osama bin Laden was an open enemy of the United States and he challenged its national security. This is the reason – the only one – why Washington dedicated all its resources to reach him. At this moment, there are several bandits in power around the world, responsible for extra-judicial killings, displacement, suffering and hunger. It is true that it is right to intervene in another country ‘just as a neighbor is justified in storming into another neighbor’s home if he hears cries for help from a wife or child who is being abused,’ as Krisher suggests. But US does not intervene in another country just to protect a people that is abused by its leaders, but it does it only in the case that its own interests or its own national security is at risk. At the same time, few countries today would dare to intervene in others under humanitarian reasons, at least their own interested are at risk. Pol Pot did not represent after 1975 a risk for Washington. When the first denounces of human rights abuses under the Khmer Rouge regime began to be published, few persons and groups believed on it. Thus the late establishment of a Tribunal.
The discussion is open. Why US did not kill Pol Pot? Why no Pinochet? Why not many others?