After I got out of the Army in the mid-1970s, I saw articles hidden deep in the back pages of
newspapers. Hundreds of corpses flowed from Cambodia to Vietnam in the Mekong River. The
Vietnam War ended just months prior, and here in Dogpatch, the American People were sick of
hearing any war news.
Meanwhile, Pol Pot was waging a cultural revolution in Cambodia that would erase over 2
million lives. Declaring 1975 to be “Year Zero,” the hardcore communist cadre of the Khmer
Rouge indoctrinated, trained, armed, and conscripted the youth of Cambodia to erase the
existing Cambodian culture. This was one of the first modern “child armies.”
Public monuments, historic buildings, libraries, temples, schools, courthouses, museums, and
educational institutions were destroyed. Countless works of art, literature, and history were
obliterated. Yet the Khmer Rouge was not content with the destruction of all written and visual
archives of Cambodian culture; it was intent on eliminating any person who had put it to
It was determined that the political, military, legal, religious, educational, business, and media
establishments would be entirely erased from existence. Those who worked for or supported the
existing institutions were ruthlessly purged. People deemed to be candidates for reeducation
were sent to forced-labor camps. All others were executed in what came to be known as the
Killing Fields. This cultural purge was not limited to government bureaucrats and workers, but
also included ordinary business owners, engineers and scientists, skilled craftsmen, classical
artists, musicians, writers, actors, dancers, and what was considered to be the intelligentsia of
Cambodia. Indeed, toward the end, there were cases of people being executed simply because
they wore reading glasses.
First, the symbols go, then the people.
Mr. Jeff McCaddon