We’re Not the Khmer Rouge!

Richard Fernandez laments that, “History will probably remember the Guantanamo Bay prison for longer than the already forgotten Prison S-21, where up to 20,000 people were tortured and killed by the Khmer Rouge.”

As for me, I prefer being held to a higher set of standards than Pol Pot.  I mean, of course we’re better than some of the most evil regimes in the history of the planet.  But we’re aiming for shining city on the hill.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    An inability to distinguish among categories of evil is an inability to distinguish between good and evil. Sure, we should be held to a higher standard. But let’s not forget that’s what we’re doing.

  2. Remember? Forgot? How many people ever knew about Prison S-21? How many freshmen in college can tell you who the Khmer Rouge were?

    It is undoubtedly true that we don’t want to be measured on the same scale but it remains important to remember just how bad things can get — and not all that long ago.

  3. steve says:

    Look up to the shining city, but also there are negative consequences when we do not follow our own laws and when we concentrate too much power into the hands of too few people. I still believe that if there had been proper discussion among the correct parties (how could they not include State in a decision which had obvious international implications?) the Bybee memo would have been much different.

    Steve

  4. An Interested Party says:

    Who cares who remembers what…the fact of the matter is that torture is immoral, unethical, and illegal…our government shouldn’t be practicing it under any circumstances…we are supposed to be better than that…

  5. Niall says:

    As you say, “of course” we’re better than some of the most evil regimes in the history of the planet”. And of course that presumes a knowledge of those regimes, a sadly mistaken presumption it seems. Without having a “worse” to compare against, the comparatively minor Guantanamo quickly becomes “worst” and perspective is warped to the point that the ability to comprehend and react against things like S-21 is lost. Certainly any abuses at Guantanamo should be investigated and prosecuted but we are committing a far worse crime if allow our failings at Guantanamo to be used to deflect criticism of so many atrocities past, present and future.

  6. anjin-san says:

    As for me, I prefer being held to a higher set of standards than Pol Pot. I mean, of course we’re better than some of the most evil regimes in the history of the planet. But we’re aiming for shining city on the hill.

    Well said!

  7. Bithead says:

    I’m with Schuler, here.
    Fernandez is off base, here and I think intentionally so.

  8. anjin-san says:

    Fernandez is off base,

    Yes, we know about your shining city on the hill, the one with the torture chamber in the basement.

    The far right has done an interesting rework on “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, now it’s “Oh please, oh please, keep me safe from Obama, whatever you must do…”.

    So much for “Sounding forth the trumpet”…

  9. andrew says:

    “As for me, I prefer being held to a higher set of standards than Pol Pot.”

    Nobody is saying we should be held to the standard of someone like Pol Pot. Richard Fernandez is just pointing out the absurdity that people will remember non-war crimes versus not even knowing about real war crimes that were on a vast scale.

  10. Grewgills says:

    Proximity in time and space is the key here.
    Which do you better remember; the comic book your child (sibling) stole or the kid that robbed a liquor store in the next state over?