Cambodian Official Urges Rumsfeld to See Iraq Through
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
SINGAPORE, June 5, 2004 – Long before the world heard of the mass graves Saddam
Hussein filled in Iraq, the Khmer Rouge slaughtered millions of Cambodians in
the mid-1970s after the United States stopped bombing their sanctuaries in
Today, Cambodia's co-defense minister urged Defense Secretary Donald H.
Rumsfeld not to allow the United States to be discouraged or dissuaded from
completing its work in Iraq.
Prince Sisowath Sirirath made his comments to Rumsfeld during a question-and-
answer session following Rumsfeld's keynote address here before delegates to
the "Shangri-la Dialog," an annual Pacific security conference sponsored by the
International Institute for Strategic Studies.
He expressed the hope that the Abu Ghraib prison scandal will not affect what
the United States is doing for Iraq, as the My Lai massacre helped to erode
public support for the Vietnam War in the 1970s.
"Let's not have the lesson of Cambodia repeated in Iraq," Sirirath said,
expressing his disagreement with the notion that a fixed timetable should be
established for the departure of coalition forces.
"Speaking purely from the experience I had in my country," he said, "barely two
years after the announcement of halting of the bombing in Indochina by U.S.
forces, Cambodia, South Vietnam and Laos collapsed. So I am against those who
call for the United States to (set) a timetable for U.S. forces and its allies
to withdraw from Iraq."
The Iraqi security forces are not yet experienced enough to be able to take on
the responsibility for their country's security, he said, and they will need
the help of U.S. and coalition forces until they're ready.
"In Cambodia, as you know, after U.S. forces left, (Communist leader) Pol Pot
came and 2 million people perished under the Khmer Rouge, Sirirath said. "So I
hope this will not happen to the Iraqi people." Saddam Hussein loyalists remain
in Iraq, he said, disrupting what the United States is doing to help the Iraqi
"(U.S. action) has also opened the eyes of tyrants throughout the world that
they cannot continue to oppress the people that they rule," he said. "What you
are doing in Iraq also will open the door to demilitarization of the region and
the protection of human rights and justice."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld