On a Saturday morning in July, Cambodian opposition politician Mu Sochua traveled to the dusty, sun-baked suburbs of Phnom Penh for a rally. Close to 100 Cambodians—most of them poor women sitting on plastic chairs squeezed into the ground-floor room of a supporter’s house—stood and applauded when she arrived. Wearing a traditional sarong, with her silver-streaked brown hair tied back, the American-educated parliamentarian took a microphone and began to speak. “People are in the mood for change.
The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism By Pascal Bruckner Translated by Steven Rendall (Princeton University Press, 239 pp., $26.95) I. Once upon a time, it seemed an incontestable fact that the life of the mind radiated from the Left Bank outward. Within a small quadrant of the Latin Quarter in Paris, an intellectual elite labored to produce magisterial works that lesser minds all over the world received eagerly, gratefully—and by and large uncritically.
Yesterday, in Cambodia, a perpetrator of one of the twentieth century’s great crimes was sentenced. Kang Kek Lew, also known as Comrade Deuch, was the head of the infamous Tuol Sleng prison during the reign of the Khmer Rouge, and was at least partly responsible for the murder of more than 12,000 people.
The president doesn’t like Mort Klein. I don’t know whether they’ve ever met. But the Obama folk did convene a meeting for the president with the “Jewish leadership,” which included, as it happens, American Jewish organizations (new on the block and who are financed mostly by Jewish billionaires who care not a fig for the survival of a people they do not think of as their home) believing that Israel is basically responsible for the intensity and duration of the conflict with the Arabs, in general, and the Palestinians, in particular.
My old friend Samantha Power, a member of the president’s National Security Council staff, came to dinner last Sunday night after a showing of the movie Sergio, drawn from her book of the same title and directed by Greg Barton. The film is an HBO production which will air on May 6. Sergio was Sergio Vieira de Mello, the Brazilian head of the United Nations mission to Iraq who was killed in a terrorist explosion at the U.N.’s headquarters in August 2003, months after the American invasion and months before Saddam Hussein was snared in his cave of hiding.
Genocide is much discussed and poorly understood. It is regularly decried, yet little is done to prevent it. It is seen to be one of the most intractable of modern phenomena, a periodic cataclysm that erupts seemingly out of nowhere, often in distant places--Indonesia, Guatemala, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur--where ethnic conflict or hatred is said to have spun out of control. So we can do little about it.
Living in Rwanda After the Genocide By Jean Hatzfeld (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 242 pp., $25) The Antelope’s Strategy: Killing Neighbors: Webs of Violence in Rwanda By Lee Ann Fujii (Cornell University Press, 212 pp., $29.95) After Genocide: Transitional Justice, Post- Conflict Reconstruction and Reconciliation in Rwanda and Beyond Edited by Phil Clark and Zachary D.
The wheels of justice creak along. In Cambodia they've been creaking along for three decades. From 1.7 million to arguably many more than 2 million people were killed in this genocide. Yes, the genocide that Noam Chomsky denied occurred or that he denied the Khmer Rouge committed.
The speed at which popular culture now dramatizes actual events is extraordinary. I'm not sure whether a movie was made about Kennedy's assassination not long after the event, but it was decades before a film appeared that portrayed Kennedy's murder with real provocative detachment, Oliver Stone's tendentious JFK. Two years later Hollywood finally applied itself big-time to the Holocaust with Schindler's List. There were previous Holocaust films, obviously; but Hollywood gigantism in the treatment of the subject had to await Steven Spielberg.