"We bombed Cambodia during the Vietnam War?" I questioned with great confusion In June of 2016 on my first visit to Cambodia. My ignorance of this country and the causes of the exploitation and selling of girls into what has been called "Sex Tourism" seemed inexcusable. Especially for a person who studied U.S. History in college and learned about Vietnam from a professor who lost his legs during that war. We never talked about the ramifications in the neighboring countries. I think our humiliation and ultimate withdrawal from southeast Asia post Vietnam would cloud our judgement of who is the enemy and who are the victims in the years that followed.
Communism or more specifically the "Red Scare" drove American foreign policy during the second half of the 20th century. The pinnacle of this policy would be the Cold War, the shadow war between the post World War 2 super powers of the world. The most devastating of endeavors with ramifications still felt today would be the America involvement in the Civil War within Vietnam or as Americans refer to it, the Vietnam War. Never officially declared a war by the U.S. Congress, our presence in the Indochina conflicts were fear driven. In order to protect our allies from the threat of spreading communism from the USSR and China, as we had in Korea, the U.S. attempted to push back the communist Vietcong forces in North Vietnam from expanding into South Vietnam. What began as an act of defense would quickly turn offensive in the years following 1965 with the inauguration of Lyndon B Johnson the 36th president of the United States. He would be the one to deploy massive military campaigns and ground troops to defend our allies in the South.
In our American history books we learn of the painful loss of life taken by American forces who had been drafted into a war they told could be won. Holding Saigon would prove to be a losing battle as Vietcong forces deployed guerrilla warfare tactics that proved they knew how to utilize their own landscape better then we did. In 1973, President Richard Nixon would sign the Paris Peace Accords, effectively calling for the immediate withdraw of U.S. Troops from Southern Vietnam. This cease fire between the U.S., Vietnam and Laos would seemingly end the U.S. direct involvement in the Second Indochina war. However a loophole was extorted behind enemy lines with a country the U.S. had not made an agreement with. Cambodia.
The Vietcong had made a system of trails to route supplies from North Vietnam and Laos to feed their forces in South Vietnam, It was called the Ho Chi Minh trail. This long path ran through the eastern border of Cambodia. Starting in 1969, the U.S. began dropping an endless barrage of bombs in order to halt the supply train of the Vietcong along this trail system. The Paris Peace Accords were signed in January of 1973 but the bombs in Cambodia continued to reap destruction until August of that year.
Cambodia had suffered the most from the Indochina conflicts. Fighting from within and without brought Cambodia to a breaking point and it would be impossible to absolve any one country from what would occur between 1975 and 1979. It would seem that the Cambodian genocide would be directly connected to the Vietnam War leading up to 1975.