You wouldn't have thought it possible. But then, you underestimate the ingenuity of the New York Times.
The house organ of the liberal church in America, the Times covered opening day of the trial of one of the worst killers in 20th century history without mentioning the "c" word even once.
What technique! The 18-paragraph story certainly made clear that the reporter, Seth Mydans, was none too pleased with the defendant. That much was clear. Kaing Guek Eav (known as Duch) had been commandant of the Tuol Sleng prison camp in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Who were they? Well, according to the story, they presided over a "fanatical . . . government between 1975 and 1979." That they certainly did. But they were communist fanatics, and the Times managed to elide that detail. It's odd because in other contexts the Times is not shy about characterizing governments' political tilt. The Times put the words "right-wing" together with the Pinochet regime in Chile so often you'd have thought it was part of the title. "The Right-Wing Regime of Augusto Pinochet." It was the same with the "right-wing" government of El Salvador when the FMLN communist movement was attempting to overthrow it. The Times has even used the term "conservative" to describe the mullahs in Iran and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
"In Tuol Sleng," Mydans writes, "a prisoner was not only presumed guilty but also tortured until he offered whatever was demanded It was a prison where Duch's word was final and an order like 'kill them all' was a death sentence." Well, yes.
Mydans tells us that hundreds of "diplomats, journalists, human rights workers, and other victims of the Khmer Rouge" attended the trial and quotes one survivor about the horrors he suffered. "When I was in jail, I could get three spoons of porridge a day and both my legs were put in shackles." The reporter also mentions that the Khmer Rouge are thought to have murdered as many 1.7 million Cambodians during their short reign.
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