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the Cambodian armed forces at their present level of arms and ammunition.”— Washington Post, February 23, 1975.
"This is a moral question that must be faced squarely."-President Ford, in his request for $222 million supplemental military aid for Cambodia, New York Times, February 26, 1975.
SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE, REPORT ON THE FISCAL YEAR 1975 FOREIGN AID AUTHORIZATION ACT (9-3-74)
For Cambodia, the Committee established a ceiling of $347 million. Within this ceiling, the Committee allocated $70 million for economic assistance, which is specifically authorized in this bill; $200 million in military assistance, also authorized in this bill; and $77 million for P.L. 480 commodities, the amount programmed by the Executive Branch.
As regards the $200 million authorized for military aid, which represents a $191.3 million reduction from the Executive Branch's $391.3 million request, the Committee was influenced by its view that the war in Cambodia is more clearly than ever a civil war-and one in which the United States is, in significant measure, supplying the forces on both sides. American intelligence officials acknowledge that the North Vietnamese play little or no role in the fighting going on in Cambodia today, and that the insurgent Cambodian forces rely heavily on captured or diverted U.S. ammunition, particularly 105 mm. howitzer shells. As for the government side, all reports indicate grossly excessive use of ammunition, including massive amounts of "harassment and interdiction" fire. Of the proposed program, more than 300 million would have been used solely for ammunition.
The Committee believes that the $200 million authorized should be ample for military aid if some measure of discipline is exercised by the government forces, which, the Committee noted, far outnumbered the insurgents. In the Committee's view, it will serve neither the American interest nor that of the local population for the United States to continue to sustain the wasteful practices of the government forces and to arm the insurgents.
CAMBODIA: WHAT DOES THE OTHER SIDE WANT?
(Report on an interview with a Sihanouk representative by Tom Hayden)
March 5, 1975.
As the fall of Phnom Penh nears, one question has taken on special urgency: what does the other side want?
The other side has a recognized governmental apparatus, the Royal Government of National Union of Cambodia (GRUNC), which is officially accepted as a member of the Conference of Non-Aligned Nations. Its head is Norodom Sihanouk. Its ministries are located inside Cambodia territory. Its policies are publicly available.
Besides the GRUNC, the Cambodian struggle against the Lon Nol regime is institutionalized in the National United Front of Cambodia (FUNK).
In Paris on Friday, March 28, I interviewed Ok Sakun, official representative of the GRUNC Mission in France. In the course of a five hour discussion, he clarified the GRUNC position. Not only does he speak officially, he is extremely well-informed (and was leaving for meetings with Sihanouk in Peking this week).
What follows is a summary of his views, in my own words, on the key questions. My notes of the conversation are attached:
1. They are determined to win a complete victory, overthrow the Lon Nol regime, and replace it with the GRUNC.
2. They are confident they can do so in the near future, perhaps in weeks and very likely before June. They claim that the Mekong will remain closed for the rest of the dry season, and that Pochentong Airport can be choked off as well. Then they expect uprisings inside Phnom Penh and the entrance of the GRUNC armed forces.
3. They also claim to be prepared to fight longer, through the coming year, in the eventuality that the U.S. escalates its military involvement to protect Phnom Penh.
4. It is my deduction that their military reserves are far greater than the Pentagon acknowledges, whereas Lon Nol has no reserve force at all. Contrary to the U.S. view of only two months ago, echoed widely in the press, that this would be "just another" Khmer Rouge dry season offensive, it appears that the balance of forces has qualitatively changed in favor of the GRUNC military.
5. They reject any negotiations with Lon Nol, or any political settlement which accords any status to Lon Nol or his circle. Just as Lon Nol has condemned Sihanouk in absentia to death, the GRUNC will hold responsible and probably kill Lon Nol, Sirik Matak, Son Ngoc Thanh, Cheng Heng, In Tam, Long Boret and Sosthene Fernandez the top leaders of the Phnom Penh government. They view Lon Nol as a totally illegitimate usurper of power, a rebel against the legitimate Sihanouk government. They view the U.S. and Lon Nol as seeking to win recognition through negotiations. They distinguish Cambodia from Laos and South Vietnam where the US-supported right-wing (and neutralist) forces are recognized by the January 1973 Paris Agreement and September 1973 Laos Agreement. Lon Nol, they say, has no such base, either in popular support, economic class, or military strength. Therefore they reject any negotiations.
6. On the other hand, the GRUNC envisions an amnesty and reconciliation with all other elements which have served the Lon Nol regime in the past. This is a long-standing policy, and has been affirmed significantly in the Feb. 2425 National Congress held in Cambodia. In the Congress' declaration, it is stated:
As to the functionaries, officers and soldiers, officers and agents of the police, self-defense units, members of military and para-military organizations, politicians and other personalities, members of various organisms of the puppet regime, the National Congress declares that these compatriots can fully rally to the National United Front and the nation and people of Cambodia as soon as they cease all their activities in the service of the seven traitors and all collaboration with them.
In conclusion: it is impossible for the US to maintain the Lon Nol regime. Under present conditions, its defeat is very near. But it is possible to reduce bloodletting and arrange a peaceful transference of power in Phnom Penh. If the "seven traitors" go, there does not have to be a bloodbath at the end. All that is needed is for the US to notify Lon Nol that our support for him is ending. arrange his departure (and that of the others), and notify GRUNC to this effect. Talks with the GRUNC, in my opinion, could begin immediately after the departure of the Lon Nol elements. Sihanouk will fly immediately to Phnom Penh as Head of State (though his functions will be largely in foreign affairs), ready to receive all guests including journalists, members of US Congress and US officials. Talks regarding a new relationship could begin at once.
This may not be pleasing to the State Department, but it is perhaps all that is left to do. The US will have to make a policy decision against maintaining Lon Nol or face the disintegration of that regime in a bloody and chaotic disaster. Once this policy decision is made, it is possible at least to save lives and create a new foundation of US-Cambodian relationships.
EXCERPTS FROM INTERVIEW WITH OK SAKUN, FEBRUARY 28, 1975
About the general situation: Cambodia includes 185,000 square kilometers of land, and 160,000 are under our control. The enemy zones are isolated islands, linked only by air. So the first point is that the Lon Nol regime, which is recognized by a majority of Western countries, has no land, no territory. They are the bandits, the rebels, artificially created. We are reducing their enclaves to
The second point: the enemy has no economy. They produce nothing. They receive everything from the U.S. On our side, economically we depend entirely on our own resources. We can maintain a long war...
Third, the enemy has no popular support. We have five of seven million people in our zones. The people in Lon Nol's zones are hostile to him. Now we can say
all the conditions for a general uprising exist. For the urban people it is a question of life and death. In Phnom Penh there is nothing more to eat. People are forced to become soldiers. They have been hostile to Lon Nol for a long time but now they are prepared to fight.
On the political level, Lon Nol has no political power. It is the U.S. Embassy which is the power. On our side, people have power. There are committees of the NUF elected in every commune, district and province, dealing with education, health, defense, etc. It is very important to understand how Cambodians have changed in the last five years. We are not the same kind of people. We are actually witnessing a renaissance. Since the civilization of Angkor Wat the Khmer people have gone through a period of being asleep, and now they are awakening. This is what Washington has not understood. They foresaw everything but this. Now they're not able to believe this is happening.
It is important to understand all this in grasping our relationship towards Lon Nol. This is why we do not want to negotiate. The enemy wants to portray us as hard, inflexible. But we are realistic. You cannot compare our situation with that of other Indochinese countries. This is not a war between two political forces or tendencies. We are fighting a situation entirely created by the U.S. after the 1970 coup.
We consider the Lon Nol group as criminals and we will judge them. They are responsible. But the others, apart from these, if they cease their collaboration, we are ready to welcome them in our front. We are prepared to forget the past. We will pursue a foreign policy of neutrality and non-alignment. This is not a tactical choice, but a fundamental choice, corresponding to our conditions, geography and the temperament of our people. We want friendly relations and aid from all countries, East and West, without conditions.
About the situation in Phnom Penh: the general objective of our January 1st offensive is to destroy the maximum of the enemy forces while protecting our own, to win over people, to create a new balance of forces. It is a liberation war like Vietnam and China. Winning new territory is not the important thing. If we win territory, it is good, but the essential thing is the balance of forces. This has been our constant position for five years.
Since January 1st, in the first months of the offensive we have destroyed near Phnom Penh about 400 large and small posts. The effect is to weaken the Phnom Penh defenses. The enemy has lost 15,000 men (our figures). The U.S. sources say ten thousand. And these are elite troops. According to the U.S., Lon Nol has about 20,000 elite troops, that's all. Also we destroyed posts all along the Mekong River, about 80 kilometers in all, and occupied the banks. There are only two positions we haven't taken, Neak Loung and a smaller one, but they are encircled and bombarded. At the same time we have attacked provincial capitals still controlled by the enemy.
In general, they are in a critical defensive situation. We have been strengthened. We have recovered much material, especially in the river, which is like a treasure chest.
The most important result is that they are losing men and posts. Phnom Penh is cut off except for the airport. Phnom Penh needs 800-900 tons of ammunition daily, 600 tons of rice, 150-200 tons of gas, according to Western sources. The airport cannot supply this amount for three reasons. (1) financial: the U.S. Congress is little disposed, and it costs very much. But even with money, there is (2) a technical problem. There is only 1 runway. It is also used by Lon Nol's air force, and commercial traffic. They say their airport is saturated by 1,000 tons per day. Every day there is a deficit. And Western figures underestimate the situation. Soldiers in Phnom Penh are used to making a wasteful "war of the rich". They are not used to economizing munitions (and when they are afraid, they use up more). Same thing about gas: they are used to a motorized war (they don't carry things on their backs). The (3) factor is military. We often rocket the airport, causing problems for traffic. We are coming closer and will even be able to take the airport.
But the airport is not the problem. It is in Phnom Penh. People there cannot` remain passive. It is life or death. Until now they have been discontented but haven't risen up. But as the airport is cut off there will be less rice (the priority' is military supplies). It will push people to rise up. Before they hesitated because Lon Nol was stronger. But now when he is weak people will have more courage..
They also are encouraged by knowing we are close. When they rise up, we will be there to enter the city right away.
Conditions in the weeks ahead will become worse in climate. March and April are the hottest months. Even now electricity is off much of the time. During the greatest heat there will be no water because not enough fuel for pumps. This will add to tension.
So our perspective is that in the weeks ahead things will become decisive, very decisive. They think opening the Mekong will solve their problems, but the river continues to lower until April. In April conditions to block the river are best. There is no hope for them. Another important factor is the declining morale of the Lon Nol army, it will worsen. Last week almost every day entire units were wiped out, and high officials killed.
If this situation remains without massive US intervention we can expect the final moment in the weeks ahead.
Whatever happens, and it depends on Kissinger, we have created a new balance of forces which cannot be changed by the US. What Kissinger and Ford can do is push back the final day, prolong the war a few months or a year, but they cannot prevent a total fall.
LETTER TO HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE ON CAMBODIA AND VIETNAM
AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION,
HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE,
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN AND COMMITTEE MEMBERS: The question of the survival of Cambodia and Vietnam hinges on decisions you and other members of Congress will have to make in the forthcoming weeks. These countries have been the innocent victims of overt agression by the totalitarian Communist regime of Hanoi. Undoubtedly, bringing peace to this war torn region and the preservation of the national integrity and diversified cultural, political, religious and social nature of these countries is of concern to us all.
As you make decisions in regard to providing aid to Cambodia and Vietnam, we respectively ask that you will carefully consider the following:
1. Bloodbath.-From historical experience and current actions by the Communists there is no question that a bloodbath will ensue should Cambodia and Vietnam fall to Communists control.
Well known Asian scholars Douglas Pike, Hoang Van Chi, Joseph Buttinger and Bernard Fall all agreed that over 500,000 people were eliminated by the Communists after they came to power in North Vietnam. During the Tet offensive in 1968, nearly 5,700 innocent civilians were massacred in Hue alone.
Abundant news coverage has shown that massive Communist massacres of innocent civilians, government officials, students, religious and educational leaders has taken place in Cambodia. Such indiscriminate killing by the Communists will become all the more necessary as they solidify their control should Cambodia and Vietnam fall.
2. Moral commitment.-The people of Vietnam and Cambodia are fighting to preserve their national integrity and the right of self-determination. They have not asked the U.S. to fight for them but only to provide the necessary aid to repel Communist aggression. It should be their decision to fight or surrender-not ours. Traditionally, the U.S. has supported the cause of freedom and justice throughout the world. It would be hypocritical and immoral for us to act as if freedom were a privileged commodity belonging only to ourselves but to be denied others. We must ask ourselves, "Would the U.S. exist at all had not the French given us aid to fight the British for our freedom and independence?" All the Cambodians and Vietnamese are asking is that we give them the same support in the fight for freedom that we asked for and received during our struggle against tyranny.
Many argue that the U.S. should leave Southeast Asian's to their own devices and let them choose their own government. But we will have denied people of Vietnam and Cambodia the choice to fight for freedom should the U.S. discontinue economic and military aid to these countries. Like Pilate we will have "washed our hands" of our moral responsibility.
3. Legal commitment.-The U.S. not only has a moral commitment but a legal obligation to fulfill the provisions of the Paris Peace Accords. Article 7 of that agreement provides that the U.S. may supply weapons to South Vietnam on a one-for-one basis. However, we have not replaced a single jeep, tank, artillery piece or other military equipment lost by South Vietnam since those accords were signed. The $700 million in aid they have received has barely provided a minimal amount of ammunition to defend themselves. Only $268 billion has actually been spent on ammunition since 62 percent of that aid is used to pay for transportation, salaries, and other logistical costs. Hanoi, on the other hand