The Khmer Rouge: They Did It Because They Were Communists

The four surviving leaders of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge have been indicted for genocide by a UN-backed Cambodian tribunal.

City Journal’s Guy Sorman makes a point that cannot be made often enough: The Khmer Rouge did not slaughter one and a half million of their countrymen because the United States provoked them to do it. They did not do it because of their distinct Khmer history. They did it because they were communists, and that’s what communists do.

What the Khmer Rouge brought to Cambodia was in fact real Communism. There was no radical distinction, either conceptually or concretely, between the rule of the Khmer Rouge and that of Stalinism, Maoism, Castroism, or the North Korean regime. All Communist regimes follow strangely similar trajectories, barely colored by local traditions. In every case, these regimes seek to make a blank slate of the past and to forge a new humanity. In every case, the “rich,” intellectuals, and skeptics wind up exterminated. The Khmer Rouge rounded up urban and rural populations in agricultural communities based on precedents both Russian (the Kolkhozy) and Chinese (the popular communes), and they acted for the same ideological reasons and with the same result: famine. There is no such thing as real Communism without massacre, torture, concentration camps, gulags, or laogai. And if there has never been any such thing, then we must conclude that there could be no other outcome: Communist ideology leads necessarily to mass violence, because the masses do not want real Communism. This is as true in the rice fields of Cambodia as in the plains of Ukraine or under Cuban palms.

Parentheticallly, note that for once the UN is playing an entirely appropriate and salutary role. Let’s not forget this when we denounce them (rightly) for their more characteristic record of pusillanimity, profligacy and uselessness. This is what the UN should be doing.