First They Killed My Father HISTORICAL CONTEXTS, KHMER ROUGE RHETORIC, IMPACTS OF GENOCIDE, AND CONTEMPORARY PROPAGANDA… Contemporary events surrounding and antecedents leading to genocide… The Vietnam War in neighboring Vietnam from 1959 to 1975 United States bombing in Cambodia from 1969 - 1973 (ordered by Nixon and intended to be kept secret from the populace) ("The CGP, 1994-2008" ). First secret bombings dubbed Operation Breakfast in honor of the meal consumed by Nixon and advisors when deciding to carpet bomb Cambodia. Subsequent plans in Operation Menu included Operations Lunch, Snack, Dinner, Dessert, and Supper. U.S. forces destroyed thousands of miles of Cambodian soil and killed over 150,000 people during Operation Menu (Carvin). Contemporary events surrounding and antecedents leading to genocide (cont.)… Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, taps into rural resentment of the Lon Nol government in Cambodia to gain support for his guerrilla coup. At the end of a civil war, the Khmer Rouge displaces the former government in April in 1975 (Carvin). Basic Propaganda of the Khmer Rouge Much like Hitler’s exploitation of the “volkgeist” (the spirit of the people), Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge utilized the idea of the Khmer to ensnare the belief and obedience of his followers. For the Germanic people, “The volk…was not simply the people of a country, but a spiritual entity out of which a people's particular culture and customs develop. Literature, music, art, folklore, and religion…are manifestations of the spirit of the people, or the ‘volkgeist’” (Balvo). The Jews were painted as enemies to this national spirit or embodiment of the German way of life. The Khmer Rouge employed a similar pattern – treating the Khmer influence as an endangered cultural root crowded by the infestation of outside, Western influences. Basic Propaganda of the Khmer Rouge Not unlike Hitler’s conception of the “true” Aryan German as the blonde-haired, blue-eyed peasant, the Khmer Rouge valued the “old people”: peasants in rural districts who were seen as hard-working, honest, and untainted by the Western and modern world. On the other side of this didactic coin were the “new people”: Cambodians living in urban centers who were educated and/or had been exposed to elements of the modern world were considered enemies of the Khmer Rouge (Carvin). Basic Propaganda of the Khmer Rouge New rules were quickly implemented for the displaced populations shuffled out of urban existences and relocated to rural work camps: religion, personal property, money, communication with the outside world, and acknowledgment of family connections were strictly forbidden. The Khmer Rouge claimed that as of April 17th, 1975, Cambodia entered “Year Zero”: all past responsibilities and rights were null and void. The Khmer Rouge used secrecy as a prime propaganda tool, limiting the amount of information citizens have about the new government. Most citizens are only aware of a faceless Angkar, or “the Organization”, harshly dictating their fate (Carvin). S21: Tuol Sleng Among the Khmer Rouge known as “the place where people go in but never come out.” This prison admitted several thousand people during the Khmer Rouge years. Only a handful survived the experience (Carvin). The Khmer Rouge Cambodian Genocide Angkar slogan: “Keeping new people is no benefit…losing them is no loss.” Whether from starvation, lack of proper medicine, outright murder in the killing fields, or through harsh interrogation, the Khmer Rouge reign (from 1975 - 1979) claims the lives of approximately 1.4 to 2.2 million (Carvin). United States’ Response to Genocide Aware of at least some of the Khmer Rouge’s atrocities, our nation decided to not act to intervene. U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger: "You should also tell the Cambodians that we will be friends with them. They are murderous thugs, but we won't let that stand in our way. We are prepared to improve relations with them” ("The CGP, 19942008" ). Cambodia today… The impact of the Khmer Rouge genocide still echoes on. The country is still recovering economically, physically, and emotionally. The illiteracy rate is staggering, land mine victims are in abundance, and survivors still suffer from their experiences. The Khmer Rouge was not officially disbanded until Pol Pot’s death in 1998. Trials of some of the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders began in early 2009 ("The CGP, 1994-2008" ). Visual Propaganda Examples – Vietnam War During the Vietnam/American War, both sides of the conflict used images and words to try to shape public opinion. Above are two examples of American propaganda supporting the war. The poster on the left encouraged Vietnam citizens to trust American troops for military support. The leaflet on the right showed the harsh fate of the Viet Cong, subtly warning the Vietnamese to choose the “correct” side in the conflict ("The CGP, 1994-2008" ). Visual Propaganda Examples – Vietnam War This American-made poster shows a mourning Vietnamese soldier holding the body of his son, killed by the Viet Cong. The staggering image calls into question the motivation and end results of the Viet Cong’s struggle ("The CGP, 1994-2008“) . Visual Propaganda Examples – Vietnam War In America and Europe, there was a strong surge of anti-war sentiments. The poster on the left corrupts the well-known Uncle Sam recruiting poster to reflect the high mortality rate of U.S. infantry during this military struggle. The poster on the right advertizes an anti-war rally in London (Carvin). Visual Propaganda Examples – Vietnam War On the left is a copy of the cover of John Kerry’s anti-war book, The New Soldier (1971). Kerry, a decorated war veteran, become a wellknown anti-war spokesman. On the right is an American-made poster highlighting the death of innocent children in the Vietnam/American war ("The CGP, 1994-2008" ). Visual Propaganda Examples – Vietnam War The Americans and Europeans were not the only ones engaged in propaganda warfare. Both the Viet Cong, the Southern Vietnamese forces, and rebellious factions working in South Vietnam in support of the Viet Cong created propaganda leaflets and posters. The poster to the right is a pro-Viet Cong image featuring an idealized V.C. soldier and supportive female citizens (Carvin). Visual Propaganda Examples – Vietnam War The poster on the left warns Viet Cong members of their impending doom. The leaflet on the right encourages members of the American army to defect and/or demand America’s retreat from Vietnam ("The CGP, 1994-2008" ). Major Resources Balyo, Mike. "Nationalism." History 112 World Civilization. Chemeketa Community College, Web. 5 Oct 2009. <http://terra.chemeketa.edu/faculty/balm/handouts/hst111ntlsm .html>. Carvin, Andy. From Sideshow to Genocide: Stories of the Cambodian Holocaust. 5 May 2009 <http://www.edwebproject.org/>. "The CGP, 1994-2008." Cambodian Genocide Program. 2009. Yale University. 5 May 2009 <http://www.yale.edu/cgp/>.