SOON I SHALL come to Henry Kissinger and David Frost and William Shawcross and all the rest who are arguing about what America did or did not do in Cambodia. First, though, I want to say something about a girl named Allison Krause. She deserves to be mentioned.
I had forgotten about her. She was only 19 when she died and the truth of the matter is that I never knew her. She went to a school outside of Washington, and the day after she died I went up there and talked to her teachers and the students and then wrote a story about a girl -- one of four students -- who died at Kent State University.
The teachers talked about her looks. She was extraordinarily pretty -- sweet and pretty. She was a good student and well-mannered, but always the teachers camb back to how pretty she was. Even the women said that. Allison Krause must have been one stunning girl. She died protesting the American invasion of Cambodia.
Now, once again, I'm looking at her picture. It's on my desk along with newspaper clippings about Cambodia and the book, "Sideshow," by William Shawcross, and all the stuff about Henry Kissinger and David Frost. They have been arguing, the three of them, about who was responsible for what -- everthing from the secret bombing of Cambodia back in 1969 to the sad state of that country today. Once again, Kissinger is winning the debate.
What he has managed to do is turn this all into an argument over tactics or strategy -- military and diplomatic -- and not about law and morality. As a result, the debate is conducted in the language of overseas cables. We are supposed to care when and where Prince Norodom Sihanouk may or may not have indicated that he not only knew of the secret bombings (how could he have not?) but acquiesced to them (how could he have not?).
"We kept the raid secret," Kissinger wrote in a letter to the British Magazine, The Economist, "because we wanted to gear our response to Sihanouk's and to protect his position. We were prepared to acknowledge the bombings if sihanouk protested -- which he did not." In the same letter, Kissinger also writes: "Throughout, Sihanouk not only did not protest; he publicly disclaimed any objection to American bombing in areas annexed by the North Vietnamese and asserted that no Cambodians had been killed."
So what it came down to for Kissinger was an attempt to protect Shihanouk from suffering excruciating political embarrssment had the secret American bombing of his country become known. In other words, the question remains whether the bombing and the subsequent American invasion of Cambodia were militarily justified.
What you get from Shawcross, however, is another point of view entirely. He's willing to argue the military staff with Kissinger and to tangle with him diplomatically. But he also points out that the bombings were secret, probably illegal. This attempt to keept the American people in the dark led to the wiretapping of 17 persons, including newsmen, in order to find out who had leaked the story to The New York Times. This was the process -- a lie followed by an abuse of power -- that led inexorably to Watergate.
What matters more than whether Sihanouk knew we were pounding his country literally back into the Stone Age is the fact that the American people did not. They were being told of Vietnamization and troop reduction -- of peace efforts and secret plans to end the war. They were not told of the bombings. They were not only not told of the bombings, they were lied to.
The Air Force kept a double set of books, to disguise the raids. If you asked for the books you got phony ones. The Air Force, to its credit, made no exceptions. It lied to Congress, too.
Even as late as 1970, the administration clung to the lie. Richard Nixon, in announcing the invasion of Cambodia, said the United States had "scrupulously respected" the neutrality of Cambodia. As for Kissinger, he turned away the protest of his aides by calling them, more or less, yellow: "Your view represents the cowardice of the Eastern establishment."
Through it all, Kissinger argues tactics and strategy ad the mumbo jumbo of diplomacy. It is important to him to prove that Sihanouk approved of the secret bombings and that they were militarily justified. The face remains, though, that the American people did not know; that Kissinger, in his contempt for us and his conviction that he knew best, never let us in on the secret. And he never concedes to this day that it would have been best had he and his boss, Richard Nixon, consulted with the American people before taking us into Cambodia. Cambodia might have suffered anyway.
But Allison Krause might still be alive.