Senator George McGovern, well known for his opposition to the American war effort in Viet Nam, seemingly reversed himself recently when he suggested using military force in Southeast Asia. The senator said a multi-nation army might be formed to stop the slaughter in Cambodia, where an estimated 2.5 of 7.7 million people have died of disease, starvation, or execution since the Communist takeover three years ago. He calls the situation “a clear case of genocide.”

But what was more surprising than McGovern’s suggestion was the silence that followed his remarks. Americans who recently bristled at the television film on the Jewish holocaust seem to ignore a contemporary holocaust in Cambodia. Perhaps we think that the carnage will evaporate like a TV image at sign-off. After hearing House testimony concerning Cambodia, Congressman Stephen Solarz (D-NY) said that the indifference of the nation to the Cambodian situation was “almost as appalling as what has happened there.”

Perhaps our ignorance of the situation explains our silence. Indeed, the nine-man ruling group in Cambodia, which has transformed the land of the “gentle people” into its so-called Democratic Kampuchea, has created the darkest media blackout in modern history.

Almost all information has come from refugees who have escaped across Cambodian borders. Although the reports have varied, they are consistent on several points. The refugees describe a system of forced labor, where whole families work sixteen-hour days in the fields and subsist on seven tablespoons of gruel per day per person. They say that being late for work or initiating male-female relationships outside the allowed two day per year “mating periods” is punishable by death—usually by a beating with bamboo ...

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