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Nixon's Secret Bombings in Cambodia

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Why did President Richard Nixon decide to
have secret bombing in Cambodia in 1969?


A. Plan of the investigation:

i. Subject of the investigation:

Why did President Richard Nixon decide to have secret bombing in
Cambodia in 1969?

The purpose of investigating Nixon?s secret bombing of Cambodia is to understand his real intentions. Also, to find out why he had to hide this from the Congress and the media. Wouldn?t it mean that he is abusing his power by keeping it a secret and not getting permission to do so from the Congress? Last, but not least, is to understand how Nixon actually destroyed neutral Cambodia.

ii. Methods:

a. Evidences from the biographical books on Nixon and Henry Kissinger will be used to support my thesis and topic question.

b. The internet will be another source to find out information on the backgrounds of Cambodia and the events that were happening during the period when Cambodia was secretly bombed.

c. Research for real conversations that Nixon had with his other helping mates about the decision to secretly bomb Cambodia.

d. Find out the real issue he had that led him to secretly bomb Cambodia. Especially when he did not get permission from the Congress, and when the public found out, how did they react to Nixon?s actions.

B. Summary of Evidence:

-George McGovern wrote, ?The secret, unconstitutional bombing of [Cambodia] was the clearest ground for a Nixon impeachment. It was a vastly more serious crime than the break-in at Watergate.?#

- ?In 1973, after the bombing was finally discovered, both Nixon and Kissinger maintained?that the secrecy was necessary to protect Sihanouk, who was variously described as? ?allowing? the raids, so long as they were covert. They maintained that the areas were unpopulated and that only Vietnamese Communist troops, legitimate targets, were there.?#

-Nixon had already known that the American ground offensive, from the summer of 1966 to the Tet offensive of 1968, had failed to destroy the North Vietnamese (communists). Therefore he had an offensive against the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Cambodia. The Communists were making an effective use of the Ho Chi Minh Trail through Cambodia. Suddenly, Nixon ordered the bombing of the Cambodian sanctuaries. His instincts were to respond violently to the Communist offensive.#

-Nixon ordered a second bombing raid on Cambodia because the first had been unsuccessful. It failed both in the sense that it was not able to destroy COSVN (Central Office for South Vietnam) or slow traffic on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and in the sense that it failed to wring concessions from Hanoi in the Paris talk. So this second raid was twice as large.#

- ?To Nixon, Cambodia seemed the perfect place to weaken the communists?Nixon obtained the informal approval of Cambodian leader Prince Norodom Sihanouk, who opposed North Vietnamese use of his country to infiltrate material and soldiers into South Vietnam. Sihanouk warned the Americans, however, that if they made the bombing public, he would disavow it.?#

- ?There was never much debate about the morality of bombing the territory of a neutral nation. It was accepted that since the North Vietnamese had violated the border area of Cambodia, then the U.S. could do so as well.?#

-Joint Chiefs of Staff, Wheeler noted as if it were a benefit, that the bombings had caused ?increased dispersal of personnel and supplies? by the Vietnamese communists in Cambodia.#

C. Evaluation of sources:

Sideshow is an extraordinary book written by William Shawcross, which was first published in 1979. The author was a journalist and a reporter who reported from 1970 onward on the war in Indochina for The Sunday Times of London and other papers.

Shawcross also covered the North Vietnamese offensive in South Vietnam in 1972.
Shawcross?s purpose in writing the book, Sideshow, was to suggest, in a general way, ?the consequences that other countries face when the world?s most powerful nation and, the world?s most vital democracy is governed as it was after Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger moved into the White House in January 1969.?

Sideshow is an extravagant piece of investigative reporting on the important events and other secretive backgrounds in Cambodia that many Americans were blinded of from the president and his other advisors. Shawcross did not only write on the secret bombings of Cambodia, he also wrote about the invasion of Cambodia, the battles and strategies. It is in all, a library to the ?sideshow? of Cambodia during the Vietnam War up until the early 1980?s.

Shawcross?s final words were: ?Cambodia was not a mistake, it was a crime.? His study has been established to prove both that America?s undeclared war on Cambodia was the foreign-affairs equivalent of Watergate and that U.S. policy there actually helped ensure the eventual, overwhelming takeover by the revolutionary Khmer Rouge. He wrote and explained clearly enough that Kissinger and Nixon were the main characters that caused the destruction of Cambodia.

Another source that was used was Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician 1962-1972, written by Stephen E. Ambrose. Ambrose has a clear understanding of Nixon?s characteristics, personality, and actions through researches. In this book, he hoped to give us a magnificent understanding of what President Richard Nixon did in the decade. Ambrose provided a great amount of research on Nixon?s own words, written and spoken, public and private.

As a biographer, Ambrose was concerned with what Nixon said and did, planned and hoped, attempted and achieved. This source was not well supported with a great thesis as the book Sideshows because the author, Ambrose both supported Nixon in his actions and was also against some. The book also covered up all of the events, including the election of presidency to the Watergate scandal. While, on the other hand, Sideshows only covered how Kissinger and Nixon destroyed Cambodia and all of the other relevant facts that were related to the cause.

Another insight that I?ve realized about the authors were that Ambrose is a biographer and Shawcross is a journalist and a reporter of the time Cambodia was being bombed and invaded. These differences that both authors have affects the accuracy and the writing abilities of their books based on facts and researches. Although, the book, Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician 1962-1972 is not a very dependable source to use for a topic based on the secret bombings of Cambodia, it can be a reliable source in writing a paper based only on the president Richard Nixon.

D. Analysis:

Because President Richard Nixon was afraid that neutral Cambodia may also fall into the Communist hands and because he was afraid of losing the war against the North Vietnamese, Nixon began secretly bombing Cambodia beginning March 18, 1969, which was only shortly after Nixon took office.# The secret bombing of Cambodia or codenamed ?Operation Menu? was one of the greatest mistakes that Nixon carried out. By allowing the bombings to be kept secret from the American public, it was served as one great mistake that Nixon made. He should have informed the Congress and asked for permission before taking the action. Instead of trying to keep peace, he?s only startling another nation to become involved with the Vietnam War. In addition to that, he?s also expanding the war that was going on in Vietnam.
Eventually, the secret bombing of neutral Cambodia was intentionally carried out without the consent of Congress, which also violated the articles outlined in the United States Constitution. After all, having kept the bombing of Cambodia a secret was not a success for President Nixon, carrying out the plan wasn?t successful either. It did not stop Communism from spreading nor did it give the North Vietnamese a sense of warning that they needed to stop. Yet, Nixon?s actions only startled up the Vietnam War into a greater one and it also increased worries for the politicians and social divisions in the United
States. To keep the bombing of Cambodia a secret was only ridiculous that sometimes soon, the media would find out about the bombing and the only person to blame for all of the consequences would be the corrupted President Nixon. Nixon?s own egotistical actions led to his downfalls including the downfall of the great Watergate Scandal. He had put this burden upon himself because he carried out actions so freely without having the issue discussed with the Congress and taking advantage of the power that was given to him by going beyond the boundary line.
Great precautions were taken to keep the bombing secret for several reasons. Nixon and others knew that Prince Sihanouk, the head of the Cambodian government, strongly objected the presence of the North Vietnamese army in his country. Prince Sihanouk had asked the United States to retaliate against the North Vietnamese, either with ?hot pursuit? on the ground or by bombing the sanctuaries.# Instead, he used this reason to bomb Cambodia because he was losing the war against North Vietnamese and blinded Cambodia did not see this. Since Prince Sihanouk had asked for the United States to retaliate against the North Vietnamese, he should have notified the Congress to see what they can do, instead of trying to become a hero and do whatever he wants without the approval of the Congress. He should have also discussed this bombing with Prince Sihanouk to let the Americans and the Cambodian residents know why the B-52?s are flying over their countries and its purposes. His other option was to take more time thinking about what he should do to keep Cambodia neutral.
Being in the administration for only about two to three months, Nixon had already made a mistake. Until in the end that, Cambodia, a nation who was hoping to stay neutral, had found that the it was involved with an expanded civil and foreign war. The person to point fingers to would be President Nixon and his advisor, Henry Kissinger.

E. Conclusion

Nixon took advantage of neutral Cambodia and had placed the nation into a position where it did not belong. Cambodia was faced with an expanded war that was civil and foreign. The naïve Prince Sihanouk allowed President Nixon, a man filled with deceptions and tricks, to come in and startle up the country and pushed them into the mud-fight also. Because the secret bombings of Cambodia failed to succeed, it led to the invasion of Cambodia. Hoping to remain neutral, Prince Sihanouk agreed with the United States on the bombing of Cambodia, without looking into the issues and the consequences of what will happen during the post-secret bombing of his own country.
Nixon and his aide Kissinger are the only ones to blame for the destruction of Cambodia. It was a country that was once well-known for its civilization and the great history of Angkor Wat. However, it had been pushed back for centuries because of the consequences of the war that Nixon had put them into. Later, in testimony to Congress when communist forces were completing their takeover of Cambodia in 1975, Kissinger conceded as much: ?Our guilt, responsibility, or whatever you may call it toward the Cambodians is that we conducted our operations in Cambodia primarily to serve our purposes related to Vietnam, and that they have now been left in a very difficult circumstance.?#
As a result of the secret bombings on Cambodia, it was a failure overall, and later leading to the invasion. Nixon did not only sprouted political turmoil and disorder in the neutral country, he also lost much of the trust of the American public. He was not a very great symbol of a political leader. In addition to the dreadful actions and behaviors that Nixon had upon the secret bombings of Cambodia, the Watergate Scandal will also be a record that should explain the nasty behavior and actions that Nixon had. In the end, the only man that suffers greatly for the evil intentions that he had upon the issues that he was faced with, was President Richard M. Nixon. The evildoings that he had done led him to resign from his administration and sent him back to San Clemente alone. He suffered the worst than those other associates, such as Kissinger and Laird, who were also involved in the plans.

Word Count: 1998


F. List of Sources:

Ambrose, Stephen E. Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician 1962-1972. New
York: Simon and Schuster, 1989.

Greenberg, David. Nixon?s Shadow. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2003.

Isaacson, Walter. Kissinger: A Biography. New York: Simon and
Schuster, 1992.

Kamm, Henry. Cambodia. New York: Arcade Publishing, 1998.

Kiernan, Ben. The Pol Pot Regime. New Haven: Yale University Press,
1996.

Kissinger, Henry. Years of Renewal. New York: Simon and Schuster,1999.

Klein, Herbert G. Making It Perfectly Clear. New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1980.

Nixon, Richard M. Memoirs of Nixon. New York: Simon and Schuster,1978.

Shawcross, William. Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon, and the Destruction of Cambodia. New York: Cooper Square Press, 2002.

Small, Melvin. 1999. The Presidency of Richard Nixon. Kansas.
University Press of Kansas.


Table of Contents

A. Plan of the Investigation:
Subject and Method????????????.........................................pg.1

B. Summary of Evidence????????????.........................................pg.1-2

C. Evaluation of Sources????????????.........................................pg. 2-3

D. Analysis????????????..............................................................pg. 4-6

E. Conclusion????????????..........................................................pg. 6-7

F. List of Sources????????????.........................................................pg.8

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