In response to Sen. Luger's thoughtful consideration of our situation in Iraq: Beyond Politics on Iraq, Michael Gerson replies with a tirade against the democrats: An Exit to Disaster. While this is not at all surprising coming from a member of the White House Iraq Group, his quoting of Kissinger shows an astonishing blindness:
In 1974, a weary Congress cut off funds for Cambodia and South Vietnam, leading to the swift fall of both allies. In his memoir, "Years of Renewal," Henry Kissinger tells the story of former Cambodian prime minister Sirik Matak, who refused to leave his country.
"I thank you very sincerely," Matak wrote in response, "for your offer to transport me towards freedom. I cannot, alas, leave in such a cowardly fashion. As for you, and in particular for your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would have this sentiment of abandoning a people which has chosen liberty. You have refused us your protection, and we can do nothing about it. You leave, and my wish is that you and your country will find happiness under this sky. But, mark it well, that if I shall die here on the spot and in my country that I love, it is no matter, because we are all born and must die. I have only committed this mistake of believing in you [the Americans]."
Eventually, between 1 million and 2 million Cambodians were murdered by the Khmer Rouge when "peace" came to Indochina. Matak, Kissinger recounts, was shot in the stomach and died three days later.
I could not resist pointing this out in a letter to Gerson that I have no expectation will be read or replied to:
Dear Mr. Gerson
It is exceptionally ironic that you use the words of the architect of the escalation of the Vietnam War to argue that we have a moral obligation to continue the Iraq War for the foreseeable future. I can certainly imagine the self-serving appeal of using Kissinger’s "Matak Story" to transfer moral responsibility for the Iraqis fate from Bush and your hands - you who as part of the White House Iraq Group sold this War on lies – to democrats who have no faith in a president who has run his administration on lies. Like Kissinger, you seem to have an blindness to a countries exhaustion with bloodletting in the name of peace; an exhaustion with people who claim victory is around the corner and that more death is a sign that less death will come soon; that you do not speak for the American conscience or the Iraqi conscience. Like Kissinger, you speak only for your own compromised conscience – the conscience that spoke of mushroom clouds to justify a war that is now a disaster. Unlike the democrats that you criticize, the hundreds of thousands of dead in this war – like the million dead in the Vietnam War at the time of our retreat there – cannot be laid at the feet of those who criticize the war. Those dead sit at the feet of an administration that promoted lies, started a war that created today’s chaos, and is now clueless as to what to do about it. Nothing the democrats could do could be worse than that that – there is no more credibility in any Bush, or your, argument for achieving peace then there is truth is Kissinger’s suggestion that something we could have done would have saved Matak and the Cambodian people.
It seems to me that Gerson's mental state is the state that must exist in the White House as a whole - a delusional world where it is still possible to win; where the awful bloodletting that has come to pass cannot have mean't nothing; that decisions laden with political cynicism and personal hubris could still have been right. We can only hope that with Sen Luger and his bretheren, the administration will see that they no longer have the faith of the Republican Party and will need to make a change - even if they cannot see why it is necessary.
In retrospect, I think that I overstated Kissinger's role in the Vietnam War in my letter - he was not the architect of escalation; that dubious honor goes to Lyndon Johnson. However, Kissinger is responsible, along with Nixon, in excalating the war into Cambodia:
Kissinger played a key role in a secret American bombing campaign of Cambodia to target PAVN and Viet Cong units launching raids against South Vietnam from within Cambodia's borders and resupplying their forces by using the Ho Chi Minh trail and other routes, as well as the 1970 Cambodian Incursion and subsequent widespread bombing of Cambodia. The bombing campaign inadvertently contributed to the chaos of the Cambodian Civil War, which saw the forces of dictator Lon Nol unable to defeat the growing Khmer Rouge insurgency that would emerge victorious in 1975.
From Wikipedia Henry Kissinger
This does not give a sense of the awfulness of the incursion into Cambodia:
Richard Nixon wrote to Prince Sihanouk in April, 1969, assuring him that the United States respected "the sovereignty, neutrality and territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Cambodia ..." Over 14 months, however, approximately 2,750,000 tons of bombs were dropped, more than the total dropped by the Allies in World War II. The bombing was hidden from the American public. In 1970, Prince Sihanouk was deposed by pro-American general Lon Nol. The country's borders were closed, and the U.S. and ARVN launched incursions into Cambodia to attack PAVN/NLF bases and buy time for South Vietnam. The coup against Sihanouk and U.S. bombing, destabilized Cambodia, and increased support for the Khmer Rouge.
From Wikipedia Vietnam War
This reality really accentuates the absurdity of Gerson's use of Kissinger - the man who along with Nixon made Cambodia a hell.