From Sideshow
To Genocide:

Cambodia Before the Holocaust

Cambodia Colonized

The Seeds of Independence

Sihanouk and the Geneva Accords

The Cold War and Cambodia

Nixon's War:
The U.S. Bombing Campaign

The Coup

The War Rages

The End of Cambodia;
The Beginning of a Nightmare

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The War Rages in Cambodia:
Lon Nol Loses Ground

From the spring of 1970 to January 1973, Cambodia suffered hundreds of thousands of casualties as North Vietnamese communist forces engaged US-supported Cambodian troops. Despite US assistance, the Cambodian military lost one engagement after another. Corruption among the ranks led to many officers lying about their unit strengths - each unit received a certain amount of money for each soldier, so officers pocketed huge sums over non-existent soldiers while their undermanned units were sent into battles they could not win. Soon communist forces occupied the majority of the Cambodian countryside - apart from Phnom Penh and several key road and river routes extending from the capital, the Lon Nol government had lost control of the rest of Cambodia. Once a spacious city of 600,000 residents, Phnom Penh now bulged to its limits as hundreds of thousands of refugees fled the countryside to seek refuge in the city. Lon Nol's ineptitude had left Phnom Penh a city under siege.

Throughout this period, the Khmer Rouge worked side by side with the Vietnamese in order to gain ground in Cambodia. Invigorated by Vietnamese and Chinese support, the Khmer Rouge grew in strength and size. But as far as the Nixon administration was concerned, the Khmer Rouge were a puppet militia of the Hanoi government - if the war with Hanoi could be settled, the civil war in Cambodia would end with it. It was with this logic in mind that the US signed the Paris Peace Accords with Hanoi on January 27, 1973. US troops would leave Vietnam, Vietnamese troops would leave Cambodia and a cease-fire would take effect between North and South Vietnam. For the Nixon White House, the accords seemed like a victory. But as far as Cambodia was concerned, the peace agreement was a mirage, for the Khmer Rouge immediately broke with Hanoi and vowed to continue their struggle against the Lon Nol government. Because the North Vietnamese had dominated the majority of the Cambodian countryside, the Khmer Rouge were in an excellent position to fight on and potentially capture Phnom Penh. The civil war would continue without the direct support of Vietnam.

In early February 1973, just days after the peace accords, the US reinstituted its massive B-52 bombing campaign in Cambodia in the feeble hope of sustaining the Lon Nol government. For eight months hundreds of thousands of tons of US bombs fell across Cambodia - more than the entire tonnage dropped on Japan during all of World War II. Nearly any place outside of Phnom Penh was fair game for attack, and thousands of small Cambodian villages were flattened or abandoned as a result of the raids. The horrific drama of the 1973 bombing campaign climaxed in early August, when an American B-52 bomber accidentally dropped its load on the village of Neak Luong, southeast of Phnom Penh. Over 125 Cambodian residents were killed, yet the bombardier was fined only $700 for his mistake. As the story of Neak Luong reached the western press, Congress again demanded an end to the bombing. On August 15 president Nixon halted the B-52 campaign. It was the last direct military intervention in Southeast Asia by the United States. From now on Lon Nol would have to defend himself.

Next: The End of Cambodia;
The Beginning of a Nightmare

From Sideshow to Genocide: Copyright 1999 by Andy Carvin. All Rights Reserved.