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The high price of believing in America


A 1999 article by Gabriel Schoenfeld in Commentary describes "one of the more important documents of the entire Vietnam-war era," a poignant letter from Cambodia's former prime minister, Prince Sisowath Sirik Matak, to U.S. ambassador John Gunther Dean:

Dear Excellency and Friend:

I thank you very sincerely for your letter and for your offer to transport me towards freedom. I cannot, alas, leave in such a cowardly fashion. As for you, and in particular for your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would have this sentiment of abandoning a people which has chosen liberty. You have refused us your protection, and we can do nothing about it.

You leave, and my wish is that you and your country will find happiness under this sky. But, mark it well, that if I shall die here on the spot and in my country that I love, it is no matter, because we are all born and must die. I have only committed this mistake of believing in you [the Americans].

Please accept, Excellency and dear friend, my faithful and friendly sentiments.

Not long after, Schoenfeld recounts, the Khmer Rouge seized control of Phnom Penh and shot Sirik Matak  in the stomach, leaving him to die over the course of three days from his untreated wounds.

Those in Congress (and elsewhere) who contend—contrary to every current intelligence assessment—that "once we get out of Iraq, it will be more stable" may wish to read this recent column by William Shawcross in The Times of London.

Those old enough to remember the Vietnam War era will recall that Shawcross was one of the most outspoken critics of the U.S. involvement in Indochina. Today, he takes a very different position regarding Iraq:

The consequences of an American defeat in Iraq would be even worse than in Indochina. As the al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Musab al-Zarqawi, said before he was killed by a US air strike: “The shedding of Muslim blood is allowed in order to disrupt the greater evil of disrupting jihad.”

If Iraq collapses, such nihilist killing will spread far wider. As in Cambodia, bloody mass murder is the only alternative to what the US-led coalition is trying to achieve. Thanks to the sacrifice of young American and British soldiers, and to the courage of millions of ordinary Iraqis, the country can still have a better future — if we remain committed. Remember 1975.

And remember the words of Prince Matak: "I have only committed this mistake of believing in you."

HT: Scott Johnson of PowerLine.

Posted by Rodger on March 8, 2007 at 08:39 AM | Permalink


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