Blood of Isaac
an e-book by Charles A. Thomas
Part Three: Gleichshaltung.
Chapter Eight: The Killing Fields – Prelude.
General Robert Shoemaker, commander of the First Air Cavalry, flew his own chopper to the front. He knew where he wanted to go, and it left his crew free to zap the gooks. “Troops are just like children,” he confided to the Reporter on the way in, “They need praise, to be told when they are doing a good job. Everybody’s happy when he is a winner.” But when they reached the fire support base, the Reporter did not see happy troops. “They looked bothered by the sun and the dust,” and perhaps by something deeper. They had been sent to capture COSVN. They had captured 200 pounds of medical supplies, a little over 500 pounds of rice, a sewing machine, and a clock.
even if they never found COSVN – and they never would – they were about to
discover a new objective, one that has always been available to legionaries
with no legitimate mission. The
discovery came at Snoul, a town even smaller than
Unfortunately for the image of the United States Army, several war correspondents were present when the American soldiers entered what was left of the town:
In the streets lay
the bodies of four dead civilians, including a young girl. One of the
I saw one soldier run from a burning Chinese noodle shop with his arms full of Cambodian brandy. A Vietnamese interpreter was behind him dragging a case of sodas to a tank. We watched other soldiers smash open the doors to the remaining shops, pocketing clocks and watches and carrying out electrical equipment before setting the buildings ablaze. One soldier carried a suitcase filled with new shoes to his tank and two others wheeled out motorcycles and tied them to the turrets of their tanks. After about an hour of looting and merrymaking an officer came by and yelled, ‘Get your hands off that stuff, we’re moving on.’ The soldiers laughed and mounted their vehicles.
David Ludwig, of the Second Battalion, interviewed after the fact, observed of
the liquor he had stolen, “I don’t know what kind of Scotch it was because the
label was in Cambodian, but it wasn’t bad at all.” The surviving civilians were left with
nothing but smoking, looted ruins – starving, homeless, “covered by only shreds
of clothing.” Elvy
Roberts, commanding the invasion force, dismissed their plight with a curt, “We
can’t get involved in administering civil government in
convinced he had seen something new and appalling in the American conduct of
the war, abandoned the invasion in a mad dash to his office in
We are in the
midst of a highly charged situation in the
Arnett pointed out that “
is an ugly word anyway and the invasion’s foremost chronicler and apologist
was able to come up with a new term for it: “the great Cambodian souvenir
hunt.” By way of further rationalizing
the complete disappearance of COSVN, he quoted a GI jibe from the first day of
operations, that no one had been able to capture “a guy wearing a COSVN
T-shirt.” Throughout his narrative,
every bag of rice the invaders captured became “a piece of the COSVN
T-shirt.” Thus he was able to conclude
that the Army did capture COSVN after all (even though it had never
existed). He was only mirroring the way
the Pentagon’s public relations mega-machine handled the story. “[O]n the average of every other day, some
field commander says his forces have captured at least part of it, and
sensational news dispatches result.” Another reporter commented caustically on
the way “Army photographers were flown to the site of each new cache as it was
discovered and prints of their pictures were rushed to
ARVN soldiers returned home with looted Hondas, bicycles, and radios, and their commanders did not deter them… ARVN troops frequently ambushed and killed Cambodian officers… the South Vietnamese stole cars, sandwiched them into military convoys, and barreled through border posts firing at Cambodian sentries.
[W]e had found a platoon of South Vietnamese soldiers with two big army trucks loaded full of chairs, beds, wardrobes, and other household furnishings that had been taken from the houses we could see along the main street, their doors hanging open, stripped bare inside. Other soldiers from that same outfit had backed a third truck up to the municipal rice warehouse and were carrying out the rice and loading it into the truck.
[T]roops of the South Vietnamese task force had drive off all usable vehicles, loading some with air conditioners, refrigerators, and other appliances taken from the houses of the French managers [of the rubber plantation at Chup].
As days passed,
whenever I looked into the sky I saw furniture, motorcycles, and luxury automobiles
(Mercedes, Peugeots, Citroens) flying along, suspended from Vietnamese Air
Force (VNAF) choppers bound for some senior ARVN or VNAF officer’s home garage,
or other stash point. Another big item
was livestock, and it was quite a sight watching cows zoom along in midair on
their way back to
the looting was only the most innocuous aspect of the centuries-old mutual
loathing between the Cambodians and Vietnamese, now unleashed by the men in the
White House. The latter “behaved as if
they were conquering a hostile nation, rather than helping a new ally; every
Cambodian was VC and a target.” And Lon Nol, like
his American alter ego, was all too willing to consolidate his dictatorship by
turning the envious wrath of his people loose on a despised minority. In the new Amerika,
the scapegoats were students; in
mass detentions and executions began the next day. As in
By providing such enlistment incentives for potential insurgents and through its own stupid incompetence, the Lon Nol government lost the countryside to the NUF (the National United Front of the Khmer Rouge, Viet Cong, and North Vietnamese Army) with blinding speed.
By late June, the
NUF had liberated more than half of
Old French tanks stood in the streets, their crews asleep underneath them in the sticky afternoons of the Southeast Asian hot season. Students, clutching their belongings in cardboard suitcases and bundles done up with bits of string, paraded in the streets on their way to join the army. They laughed and waved and sang brave songs as the climbed onto the trucks. It was 1914.
Incredibly, an even smaller percentage of them would come back than had from the Western Front.
The fount and embodiment of the unreality was Lon Nol himself. He had managed to convince himself that the Americans would not abandon him. Like Nixon taking refuge with Billy Graham (by telephone) in his darkest hours, the Cambodian dictator closeted himself with select Buddhist charlatans, relying on their assurances that the “occult sciences practiced by our ancestors” such as magic spells (including those inscribed on the vests worn into battle by their soldiers), astrology, and the ancient unarmed fighting arts would prevail against AK-47s
Out of stone and wood, we can make beefsteaks, cloth, and other useful objects; we can travel through space to the stars, use an electronic brain, communicate across oceans, and go round the world in less than twenty-four hours.
Totally deluded, he was scarcely alone. Many of the Cambodian elite who had sold their souls to the CIA to bring the dictator to power convinced themselves that the June 30th deadline was just a ruse to fool the communists. Too late they realized that, “they were, in fact, alone, except for the rampaging military intervention of the South Vietnamese, whom they fear little less than those of the North. They were alone and with the fiercest of adversaries.”
the deadline approached, they might have been encouraged by hints that the
May 18th, Laird announced that
If this were a gambit to see if the American presence could be extended indefinitely, Nixon himself shot it down. He announced the next day that he was “encouraged” by the progress the troops were making in Cambodia and was sure the operation would prove a complete success by the time they were pulled out on June 30th As one reporter implied, it was difficult for him to do anything else after a month of each capture of enemy supplies “being announced in Washington with considerable fanfare” – another piece of the “COSVN T-shirt.”
Although the Defense Department public relations machine was still capable of hyping the operation, the men on the ground in Cambodia seemed fed up with it, not the least of them the outspoken combat colonel who attended a “postoperational briefing” at the command post of the spearhead division, the 1st Cavalry (Airmobile).
Among those in
attendance was a young brigadier general with brand-new, rumpled green fatigues
and the pasty-white face of someone who’s been sitting at a desk too long. It was Army bureaucrat Alexander Haig, visiting from
briefing, everyone talked about the operation enthusiastically, as if it were the
greatest military feat since the
believe I made my decision to quit the U.S. Army then and there, and to leave
A well-informed assessment from a perspective of a quarter century was as qualified in its enthusiasm:
[T]he extent to which
As for assertions
that the Cambodian invasion reduced
one real fact is that the conflict subsequently engulfed
And it eventually triggered the
most savage episode of genocide – especially considered relative to the total
population of the country – since the heyday of Hitler and Stalin, outstripping
even the body count that the oil companies and CIA had notched up in
The nation’s business leaders were so unsettled by the invasion and the student murders that followed in its wake that Nixon finally had to invite them to the White House, toward the end of May, to reassure them about his intention to pull the U.S. military out of Indochina. Nor were the dinner guests impressed with the commander-in-chief’s long speech after dinner claiming that the operation had been a victory. “He said they’d bought a year,” one of them groused, “and he makes it sound like a smashing success.”
had also managed to alienate the generals.
They claimed that, once again, the politicians had not let them
win. If the invasion looked like a
failure, it was because Nixon had raised too many expectations with his Churchillian rhetoric on the evening of April 30th. “[T]he operation was oversold because of
political considerations and is being undercut because of political
considerations.” Nixon returned the scapegoating
with interest; it was the military that had lost
the invasion did have one immediate and powerful success – fulfilling the need
for something Nixon, Haldeman, and Kissinger had
discussed more than a year before (April 19, 1969) for something “to galvanize
people into overcoming slothfulness and detachment arising from general moral
decay” (see above). The invasion had
galvanized people, all right, and now they were marching on the White House,
their ranks swollen exponentially by the murders at
 Gloria Emerson, “General Visits GIs in
Fishhook,” New York Times,
 Peter Kann, “Two
Kinds of War,” Wall Street Journal,
 Buckley quoted in William Shawcross, Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon, and the
 “Operation Successful: Outcome Uncertain,” Newsweek,
 Peter Arnett, Live From the Battlefield
 Gloria Emerson, “Ruined
 Kann, p. 13.
 Arnett, p. 267. EMPHASIS ADDED.
 Lt. Col. (retd.)
J.D. Colman, Incursion: From
 James P. Sterba,
“Cambodian Foray After a Month: From Arms and Rice to Buttons,” New York
 Terence Smith, “Results Uncertain in First
Cambodian Forays,” New York Times,
 Shawcross, pp. 174-175.
 Richard Dudman, Forty Days With the Enemy. (New York; Liveright, 1971), p. 65.
 Henry Kamm, “Big
Rubber Tract in
 Hackworth and Sherman, p. 733.
 Shawcross, p. 174.
 Henry Kamm,
 Kann, “Big Rubber Tract”, p. 6.
 Banning Garrett, “The Road to
 Tad Szulc, “
 “Memories of 1929,” (editorial) Wall
 H.D.S. Greenway, “
 David Chandler, The Tragedy of Cambodian History: Politics, War, and Revolution Since 1945. (New Haven; Yale University Press, 1991), p. 205.
 Kamm, p. 102. Kamm titled this
chapter (in a sense of bitterness?) “The Price of Trusting
 James P. Sterba, “Nixon
Deadline Worries Field Officers,” New York Times,
 Tad Szulc, “
 Tad Szulc, “Foes’
 Robert B. Semple,
Jr., “Nixon ‘Encouraged’ by Briefing on War,” New York Times,
 Hackworth and Sherman, pp. 736-737.
 John Prados, The
Hidden History of the
 Terry Robards, “The
Day Wall Street Met the President,” New York Times,
 James Sterba, “Cambodian
Foray After a Month,” New York Times,
 Nixon Memo Asserted ‘Sabotage’ of His
Orders,” New York Times,