After cutting off all financial and military support, many of the anti-war members of Congress expressed shock when the Communist “North Vietnamese army leaders shredded their agreements” with the U.S. and “brazenly rolled over their Southern neighbors.”
When the “U.S. ambassador and his staff had to be airlifted by helicopter from the embassy roof” in Saigon, President Ford said, “This is not a day for recriminations.” Bennett says, “Ronald Reagan reportedly answered, “What better day?””
The potential outcomes of the discontinuance of aid had been openly discussed. When Representative Don Fraser (D-MN) was asked if he and his colleagues wanted Cambodia to fall, he replied “Yes, under controlled circumstances to minimize the loss of life.” Rep. Fraser and his colleagues willed a legally established pro-American government to fall because they said that Americans were tired of the war.
In the vacuum left by our abandonment of our allies, the Communists gleeful and horrifically ousted the legitimate government. The Killing Fields of Cambodia soon consumed over two million human lives. It’s difficult to imagine how much worse it would have been had not the loss of life been “minimized,” per the anti-war crowd’s desire.
Bennett’s description (pp. 448-449) of what happened when we quit supporting the Republic of Cambodia is almost difficult to read.
“Henry Kissinger records the response of a pro-American leader of Cambodia. Distraught at the collapse of American will and American allies in Southeast Asia, Kissinger offered to rescue Sirik Matak from certain death. Matak’s response, in elegant French, is memorable:“I thank you very sincerely for your letter and your offer to transport me towards freedom. I cannot, alas, leave [Cambodia] in such a cowardly fashion. As for you, and in particular your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would … [abandon] a people which have chosen liberty. You have refused us your protection, and we can do nothing about it. You leave, and my wish is that you and your country will find happiness under the sky. [If I die here] I have committed only this mistake of believing you.”
“When the Communist Khmer Rouge seized Phnom Penh, they shot Matak in the stomach. Unattended, it took him three days to die.”
Bennett suggests that Matak “should have sent his letter to Senator Kennedy and Congressman Fraser.”
This dishonorable episode is just one of the reasons Bennett titled his chapter covering 1974-1981, The Years the Locusts Ate (see Joel 2:25).