from the book
The CIAs Greatest Hits
by Mark Zepezauer
In 1955, when CIA intervention in Cambodia
began, there was no communist threat to rationalize it. Sandwiched
as he was between two US client states, Thailand and South Vietnam,
Prince Norodom Sihanouk, the popular sovereign of Cambodia, had
one overriding goal-to keep his country from becoming involved
in the Vietnam War. To that end, he stuck tenaciously to a policy
of neutralism from 1955 to 1970, accepting aid from both communist
and capitalist states but criticizing each on occasion.
Sihanouk dismissed as fraudulent CIA documents
that predicted imminent Communist aggression against him, but
the plots and coup attempts by US-backed factions were all too
real. In his memoir, My War with the CIA, Sihanouk alleges at
least two assassination plots against him. There were also numerous
incursions by Thai, South Vietnamese and US troops, a 1958 CIA-backed
coup attempt and countless "accidental" bombing runs
into Cambodian territory. Sihanouk's unwillingness to join the
crusade against Communism made him the CIA's enemy.
Perhaps the final straw was when Sihanouk
denounced US military incursions into Cambodia at a major press
conference (dutifully, the US media barely mentioned his charges).
In March 1970, Sihanouk was deposed by a CIA puppet named Lon
Nol, who immediately began committing Cambodian troops to the
war in Vietnam.
With Sihanouk out of the way, war quickly
engulfed Cambodia. US bombing intensified near the Vietnamese
border, driving North Vietnamese and NLF troops deeper into Cambodia.
From 1969 to 1975, US bombing killed 600,000 Cambodians and created
a full-scale famine.
Not surprisingly, forces opposed to Lon
Nol's regime grew rapidly. In 1975, one of them, the Communist
Khmer Rouge, took power (before Lon Nol, they'd been a tiny, marginal
As depicted in the film The Killing Fields,
the Khmer Rouge carried out many atrocities, executing probably
between 100,000 and 350,000 people. For propaganda purposes, Western
reporters inflated the total by adding famine deaths to it.
The Khmer Rouge's hideous crimes didn't
prevent the CIA from supporting it after Vietnam invaded Cambodia
in 1979, and for many years thereafter. As the Arabs say, "the
enemy of my enemy is my friend."