Cambodian Official Urges Rumsfeld to See Iraq Through
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
SINGAPORE, Jun. 5, 2004 Long before the world heard of the mass graves Saddam Hussein filled in Iraq, the Khmer Rouge slaughtered millions of Cambodians in the mid-1970s after the United States stopped bombing their sanctuaries in Indochina.
Today, Cambodia's co-defense minister urged Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld not to allow the United States to be discouraged or dissuaded from completing its work in Iraq.
Prince Sisowath Sirirath made his comments to Rumsfeld during a question-and- answer session following Rumsfeld's keynote address here before delegates to the "Shangri-la Dialog," an annual Pacific security conference sponsored by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
He expressed the hope that the Abu Ghraib prison scandal will not affect what the United States is doing for Iraq, as the My Lai massacre helped to erode public support for the Vietnam War in the 1970s.
"Let's not have the lesson of Cambodia repeated in Iraq," Sirirath said, expressing his disagreement with the notion that a fixed timetable should be established for the departure of coalition forces.
"Speaking purely from the experience I had in my country," he said, "barely two years after the announcement of halting of the bombing in Indochina by U.S. forces, Cambodia, South Vietnam and Laos collapsed. So I am against those who call for the United States to (set) a timetable for U.S. forces and its allies to withdraw from Iraq."
The Iraqi security forces are not yet experienced enough to be able to take on the responsibility for their country's security, he said, and they will need the help of U.S. and coalition forces until they're ready.
"In Cambodia, as you know, after U.S. forces left, (Communist leader) Pol Pot came and 2 million people perished under the Khmer Rouge, Sirirath said. "So I hope this will not happen to the Iraqi people." Saddam Hussein loyalists remain in Iraq, he said, disrupting what the United States is doing to help the Iraqi people.
"(U.S. action) has also opened the eyes of tyrants throughout the world that they cannot continue to oppress the people that they rule," he said. "What you are doing in Iraq also will open the door to demilitarization of the region and the protection of human rights and justice."