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Monday, May 14, 2007

# Posted 9:24 AM by Taylor Owen  

CAMBODIA BOMBING REDUX: The article I wrote with Ben Kiernan on the US bombing of Cambodia has been reprinted in Japan Focus. The newer version was slightly updated and a few more maps were added. A critique of the piece sent to the Walrus is here and our reply is here. A series of zooms that I kind of like, but were not included in either version are below. Finally, the piece is a finalist for a Canadian National Magazine Award - fingers crossed.





“The town of Chantrea was destroyed by US bombs... The people were angry with the US, and that is why so many of them joined the Khmer communists” - Chantrea bombing survivor


The bombing in this map represent 2245 tons, 221 sorties and 89 targets hit with A-37, B-52, F100, F5, A1 aircraft. The large rings are areas hit by B-52s and the small rings are cluster bomb areas.

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In the critique sent to the Walrus, one letter was from someone who could not possibly have been there: "Between 1968 and 1969, I lived in Saigon [...] Every night, we turned out the light around eleven o’clock, and immediately the windows in our bedroom would begin to rattle and the bed would vibrate. It was B-52 bombers on their way to Cambodia. We could hear the thunder of their engines as they passed overhead." Such BS. B-52s passing directly overhead (unlikely if coming from Guam or impossible if coming from U-Tapao) above 20,000 feet would make little if any noise and would definitely not rattle windows. I lived in Saigon for a couple of months in mid-1972, a time when Arc Light strikes were more frequent than in 1968-69, and not a BUFF did I hear. This sort of fake "first-hand testimony" is absurd.
 
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214 tons of bombs before 1969 really is not significant- particularly if they were dropped by 2500 sorties. A 2000lb bomb is one ton. One aircraft could drop several of those. What did the other sorties do? Just orbit around looking for targets? Or were they air cover or spotter sorties?

That small amount of ordnance could just be accidents (oops! wrong country!)and tactical strikes, as you said. That really isn't much to stick LBJ with.

I was amazed by the magnitude of the 1973 bonbing. It's interesting that we tried so hard to kill Khmer Rouge.

I think we learned that indiscriminate bombing doesn't work. It's not how many bombs you drop, but whether they hit anything important. You can't do that very well unless you have people on the ground directing the airstrike. Air power alone is very inhumane and not very effective. It's better to have soldiers find the enemy first.
 
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"It's not how many bombs you drop, but whether they hit anything important...It's better to have soldiers find the enemy first."

I'd replace "find" with "invade." You don't win by destroying an army's routes of travels. You win by capturing the places where the armies originate.

The US never lost a war in which the US invaded the enemy (although Korea was a tie, and the Iraq War was put on hold after the US coalition gained the advantage in 1991).

The US did not invade Weimar Germany or North Vietnam, and thus did not end the threats posed by either nation. Only one of those messes has been cleaned up. Hopefully, Vietnam will some day emulate nations like Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia and party like it's 1989.
 
Come to think of it, in the Korean War we invaded one enemy (NorKs) but not the other (China). That only reinforces the "no victory without invasion" principle.

Korea couldn't be ultimately won because true victory meant defeating China, which was both impractical and a political tough sell. The Korean stalemate survives because of a powerful military deterrent; no such deterrent was there to enforce the Kissinger-brokered Vietnamese truce.
 
"That really isn't much to stick LBJ with."

Considering that it was a completely secret bombing to the American people (not so much the Cambodians), and of a theoretically completely neutral country, it kinda is.

If President Bush dropped "only" 214 tons of bombs on Ontario over the past four years, people might look askance, even if, as you say, in the larger scale of massive bombings it's not so much.
 
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"If President Bush dropped "only" 214 tons of bombs on Ontario over the past four years..."
Well, that would explain what happened to my house.
 
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