Year Zero: The Silent Death Of Cambodia
April 17, 1975 marked the end of the civil war in Cambodia. President Nixon and Henry Kissinger had unleashed one hundred thousand tons of bomb on this land, perhaps the gentlest territory in Asia. Illegally and secretly, they bombed this neutral country back into the Stone Age. After a few minutes of eerie silence that morning, the streets of Phnom Pehn were taken over by the Khmer Rouge— an army of angry young men who had probably never before set foot in the capital city. People were cheering because the five-year civil war had finally come to an end, but Khmer Rouge had other plans. Disaster broke out almost immediately as everyone was forced from his or her home and into the jungle. Even the hospitals were evacuated as the sick and wounded were marched out of the city at gunpoint. Those who were too weak to move were viciously dumped on the sides of the road.
The new rulers of Cambodia referred to the year 1975 as “Year Zero.” To them it marked the beginning of a new order in which there would be no families, no emotional connections, no expressing of feelings, no hospitals, no schools, no music, no holidays, no money—only work and death. The world never really found out about what was going on in Cambodia and what was being done to seven million people of which two million are still unaccounted for.
Phnom Pehn used to be one of the most beautiful cities in Asia until, in 1969, American troops began secretly dropping bombs on the country. This covert operation was part of a cover-up that was the real beginning of Watergate. The bombing was said to be a strategy to wipe out a Vietcong base in the jungle. The only problem was that there was no such base in reality. President Nixon claimed that he wanted to prove to the communists just how tough he could be. It was a blatant lie. The Cambodians who died due to the bombing were called ‘collateral damage’ and their burning villages were called ‘friendly fire.’
This unnecessary war tore apart the very fabric of Cambodia and spread hunger, disease, and trauma. President Nixon was later apprehended for Watergate, but not for the genocide of Cambodians. Henry Kissinger received a Nobel Peace Prize.
As you witness the heart-rending footage of human suffering plagued by the sounds of children in unspeakable pain, this documentary by the highly-respected John Pilger is bound to move you. Watch it now.