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Capitol Rioter’s Excellent Vacation on Trump’s Campaign Trail: A Portrait of an American Insurrectionist

15 May

New York man arrested multiple times for assaulting, threatening to kill cops while flying ‘Blue Lives Matter’ flags on nationwide Trump campaign tour

May 12, 2021

By Nate Thayer

On Jan. 6, 2021, Jonathan Munafo punched a cop twice in the head with his fists, ripped away his riot shield and held it aloft in victory to a cheering crowd of insurrectionists. He then smashed a window with an American flag helping others seize control of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., video, photographs, and court documents show.

But that was not the 34-year old Albany,, New York man’s first rodeo assaulting law enforcement while demonstrating his support for the re-election of then president Trump.

Munafo is charged in at least five states, two federal jurisdictions, and an American Indian reservation with weapons violations and assaulting cops and others as one of Donald Trump’s most fervent supporters in a nationwide crime spree in the run up to presidential elections  and the  insurrection at the Capitol in Washington, court and police documents obtained in an investigation show.

Munafo spent an uninterrupted year criss-crossing the country attending Trump campaign rallies in a borrowed car with official New York state “Naval Militia” license plates,  plastered with pro-Trump stickers, flying Trump and “Blue Lives Matter” flags and “Support our Police” banners from the vehicle’s roof, and a life-size mannequin of Trump seated in the back passenger seat, making a minor name for himself as one of then president Trump’s most fanatical true believers.

Munafo was arrested April 23, 2021 in Florida by a U.S. Marshall’s SWAT team on two separate federal warrants for 10 felony offenses including assaulting a federal officer, violent entry and disorderly conduct related to the January 6 U.S. Capitol riot. 

Other federal warrants accuse him of making 143 calls in a three hour period on January 5, 2021–the day before the Capitol insurrection–to a recorded 911 emergency number of the Calhoun County, Michigan sheriff’s office threatening to kill deputies while he was parked at a Dunn, North Carolina truck stop enroute to the insurrection to seize the Capitol building, according to FBI criminal complaints issued by the federal western district of Michigan court.

Munafo has left a trail of violent kerfuffles arrested on weapons and assault on law enforcement charges in a transcontinental crime spree from Washington D.C. to Washington state to Massachusetts in the days, weeks, and months prior to the January 2021 insurrection in Washington D.C.

But local, state, and federal law enforcement have never connected all the dots–and may not still realize Munafo, now in custody in Florida, is the same man with current outstanding arrest warrants for violence in numerous other jurisdictions.

At least three courts in different states with current outstanding warrants for Munafo’s arrest were not aware of charges in other jurisdictions or that Munafo is currently in custody when contacted this week by a reporter.

“He is scheduled to appear in court later this week–tomorrow– on May 13 for assault and battery on a police officer,” said a Lynn, Massachusetts court clerk when contacted by telephone this week. “I see he has another warrant out for him in Newburyport (Massachusetts) District Court.”

But neither the Lynn or Newburyport Massachusetts courts knew Munafo was at the time in custody in Florida on similar charges and is unlikely to appear in their courts.

“Hhmmm…that is interesting. I’ll try and let the court know he shouldn’t be expected to show up for court,” she said.

On September 14, 2020, Massachusetts State Police received a report that a man in a car “covered in Trump stickers threatened to shoot another man” at a highway rest stop near the small town of Salisbury, Massachusetts. State Police traced the license plate, a New York State vanity plate “Naval Militia 305”, to Munafo and issued him a summons to appear in court.

Law enforcement records show Munafo failed to appear and, instead, on September 22, 2020, in response to the issuance of the summons, called the emergency line for the State Police post in Newberry, Massachusetts 21 times using vulgar language and yelling at state troopers, arguing he shouldn’t be in trouble for threatening to shoot someone at the highway rest stop.

Several weeks later, on November 6, 2020, he was arrested again in nearby Lynn, Massachusetts for hip checking an elderly jogger, punching a 46-year old woman in the face who objected, and then assaulting local law enforcement while holding a placard reading “the no longer silent majority stands with Trump” placard and flying Trump and Blue Lives Matter flags from his nearby car in the quiet seaside town.

That was three days after Trump lost his re-election bid for president, which Munafo contends was stolen from the now former president.

 

 

 

Jonathan Munafo assaulting an elderly passing jogger in Lynn, Massachusetts on November 6, 2020. Photo screen grabbed from a cellphone video taken by a victim of the assault and provided to a reporter

 

“Take a hike, you ignorant motherfucker, “Munafo, carrying a Trump for president campaign placard, is video recorded telling a 46-year old woman passerby who objected to his berating others who disagreed with his one-man pro-Trump demonstration. “You just listen to the media. You’re talking to a real man today.”

Munafo then “punched me in the face. The guy was flying ‘blue lives matter’ and Trump flags and targeting people of color,” said the victim of Munafo in the November incident who pressed charges but asked that her name not be used when contacted this month by a reporter.

“I will fucking knock you silly, lady,” Munafo told her shortly before he hip checked the elderly jogger and punched him in the face with one hand while holding a Trump placard in the other, video of the incident taken by the crime victim shows.

 

Jonathan Munafo’s car in Lynn, Massachusetts November 6, 2020 when he was arrested for assaulting random pedestrians while holding Trump action signs three days after the then president was defeated for re-election

After Munafo was arrested for assaulting those pedestrians on that November Friday night,  he allegedly spit in the face of arresting officers while handcuffed to a hospital bed under police guard on Saturday, calling the cops ‘niggers’ and ‘spics, resulting in additional charges of assault and battery against a cop. After the weekend in jail, he was released November 9 by the Lynn district court on $500 bond pending a trial scheduled for January 7, 2021, according to Lynn, Massachusetts court and police charging documents.

Five days after that, on November 14, 2020, Munafo was photographed with a determined look on his face and flying an American flag at a large pro-Trump demonstration organized by white nationalists in Washington, D.C., a review of video and photographs taken that day show.

Jonathan Munafo in Washington, D.C. November 14 2020

 

The following month, on December 12, 2020, Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police documents show Munafo was arrested again for  “Illegal possession of a prohibited weapon” at the “Mega MAGA March” organized in part by the now nationally known “Proud Boys” supporting Trump and demonstration organizers false claim the presidential election results were fraudulent and his re-election was stolen.

Munafo spent three days in jail and was released on December 15, Washington, D.C. police arrest and incarceration records show.

 

 

Months earlier, Munafo had drawn the attention of news media. “If you’re hoping to get a seat at President Trump’s Tulsa rally, you won’t be able to out compete Jonathan Munafo,” wrote Tulsa, Oklahoma TV KTUL on June 15, 2020. “Not only did he come to Tulsa all the way from Massachusetts, but he’s already been camped out in front of the BOK Center for the past THREE DAYS. He’s got it down to a science…”

Jonathan Munafo’s orange 2015 Chevy TRX in Tulsa, OK June 2020. Munafo is pictured in the background in the blue shirt waiting in line for tickets to the Trump campaign rally in Tulsa.

“It’s just an effort to show support for President Trump and what he is doing for the American people,” Munafo told Tulsa, Oklahoma television while sleeping on the sidewalk waiting in line for tickets to a Trump campaign appearance where he obtained coveted front row seats only feet from the then president, video posted on Twitter by Munafo shows.

“The vehicle behind you is equipped with everything I need for events such as this. I also have reservations at the hotel, obviously for hygiene purposes and whatnot,” he told Tulsa news media at the time.

For months, that orange colored 2015 Chevrolet TRX vehicle with official New York State “Naval Militia 305” license plates criss-crossed the country on a tour that placed Munafo at Trump rallies from Oklahoma to Nevada to South Carolina, during which he aquired criminal felony weapons, assault, attacking law enforcement, and making other threats charges in Washington state, California, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C., court and local law enforcement records show.

Munafo, who records show does not appear to have a valid current drivers license, had been driving the vehicle with “New York Naval Militia” license plates across the country following President Trump’s campaign trail for more than year.

The following month, in July, 2020, Munafo was arrested on a Washington state Native American tribal reservation.

On July 16, 2020, Munafo was arrested by Nisqually Tribal law enforcement for “brandishing a weapon” and “driving with a suspended license” and held in a tribal jail run by the “Nisqually Department of Corrections” outside of Olympia, Washington, Washington state, county police, Tribal law enforcement, and other court records show.

 

Nisqually Tribal Department of Correction records showing Jonathan Munafo being held in their jail for “Brandishing a Weapon” charges in July 2020

After spending 3 nights in jail, a Thurston County, Washington judge sentenced him to a year in jail and then suspended the sentence and Munafo walked out of court to continue his nationwide tour and still unquenched support for the re-election of president Donald Trump.

Munafo’s transcontinental trip involving disputes with law enforcement while campaigning in support of the re-election of Donald Trump, only accelerated from then.

When he was cited for threatening to shoot someone at a Massachusetts highway rest stop in September, 2020 the victim jotted down his license plate number and called 911. Massachusetts State Police ran the license tag number, called the New York Naval Militia and quickly determined that the driver–but not owner–was Jonathan Munafo, 34, of Albany, New York.

When contacted this month, a spokesman for the New York State Naval Militia, Lt COL Richard Goldenberg, tried his best to be helpful but was limited in what information he was allowed to share due to state and federal privacy laws.

Goldenberg was adamant Jonathan Munafo had no connection with the New York State Naval Militia and distanced the official militia from the vehicle owner who he acknowledged had been attached to the military unit. “Our records show that NYNM Militia Vanity plate #305 did belong to one of our former members, discharged and no longer serving in our force,” Goldenberg said in a series of email exchanges. “The vanity plate had been secured appropriately with NYS DMV and the vehicle was borrowed by Jonathan Munafo. Munafo did not own nor register the vehicle in the Lynn, Massachusetts incident, to the best of our knowledge. The owner has since surrendered those plates back to DMV. I hope this answers your inquiry. Munafo has no ties to the New York Naval Militia and the owner of his borrowed vehicle no longer serves in the New York Naval Militia.”

When asked why New York State required a Navy Militia force, he cited the state’s lengthy waterways and commercial ports and said “we do border Canada.”

 

 

 

 

“To the best of our knowledge your account is correct,” said New York State Naval Militia spokesman Goldenberg. “Mr.. Gladding left service with our NY Naval Militia in October 2020 and his vehicle vanity plate remained in effect until he returned the plate to DMV in early 2021. I also have no additional details on Gladding’s departure from service. He may have retired or simply completed his reserve service or decided Naval Militia additional volunteer duties was no longer for him. You’d have to ask him.”

On January 7–the day after the Capitol insurrection, Munafo fled Washington, D.C. in his borrowed orange colored 2015 Chevrolet TRX with NY state “Naval Militia 305” license plates–and “was rear ended by a semi tractor trailer truck in Maryland, which totaled my car,” according to the vehicle owner, U.S. Navy reservist Kenneth Gladding and recently departed member of the New York State Naval Militia, in a telephone interview this week while he was at work as a “senior security officer” for the New York State Department of Health.

Gladding, a “Religious Program Specialist” with the U.S. Navy Reserves, acknowledged he had authorized Munafo to use his car. “He is a big Trump supporter,” Gladding said of his friend. “He just loved driving across the country.”

Gladding said he only learned of the fate of his vehicle when his insurance company called to tell him his car had been totaled in Maryland while being driven by Munafo on January 7. Gladding said he had talked to Munafo “who called me from jail in Florida today and said he still has headaches” from the car accident.

Gladding said his friend, as far as he knew, was never violent prior to Trump becoming president, adding Munafo didn’t have steady employment but worked intermittently in “Pest control.”

11 days after wrecking the vehicle in Maryland while fleeing the violent insurrection in Washington, D.C., Munafo was arrested on January 18, 2021 by Davis, California police for “Disturbing The Peace By Fighting” in Yolo County, California at a Martin Luther King Day celebration .

 

“He got a ride to California with other Trump supporters” who attended the Capitol riots, Gladding said. “Then he took a Greyhound bus to Florida,” he added, saying he had just spoken with Munafo who called him from his Florida jail cell where he is currently being held on federal charges waiting extradition to Michigan before he is sent to Washington, D.C. to face other federal charges related to the January 6 riot there.

Two days after his California arrest, on January 20, 2021, Munafo was charged with “communicating an interstate threat” on January 5th from North Carolina to the Calhoun County, Michigan Sheriff’s Office and charged in the Western District of Michigan federal court.

This was prior to the FBI having connected the dots that Munafo was the same person wanted on other, 10 separate Washington, D.C. federal charges including assaulting federal officers for his role on January 6, 2021 at the Capitol insurrection.

“The caller, later identified as Jonathan Munafo, placed approximately 143 calls demanding to speak with a deputy sheriff or sergeant, tying up the emergency line for several hours,” wrote the Michigan FBI agent in the federal criminal complaint.

 

 

Munafo is shown on far left carrying an American flag which he used to smash a window at the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021. Both the FBI and internet sleuths had identified the man as one of the most violent of the Capitol insurrectionists and given him the hashtag #BoyintheHood

After attending a Trump re-election rally in Las Vegas, Munafo made his way back to the east coast where he had his several run ins with law enforcement which included, in September and November, more weapons and assault charges in Massachusetts, more again in Washington, D.C. in December after the defeat of Trump in the November presidential election.

On January 5th, 2021–the day before the Trump fueled and sanctioned insurrection in Washington and at the height of the mass propaganda campaign claiming dark forces had conspired to steal the election from Trump, Munafo parked at a Dunns, North Carolina truck stop, his vehicle flying a “Blue Lives Matter” flag and adorned with numerous pro-Trump signage, and made 143 threatening calls to Calhoun County, Michigan 911 dispatchers, threatening to kill and hurt the sheriff’s deputies, according to geo-location evidence, his Google email accounts, his failed attempt to obscure his phone number, and other social media obtained by subpoena and obtained by the FBI. 

Like all calls to law enforcement emergency numbers, the calls were recorded and captured Mufano–telling the cops his name was “Yankee Patriot”–being very impolite and abusive, telling a 911 dispatcher he was going “to cut your throat” and reciting accurate information of her home address and mortgage payment arrangements during the 143 calls in a three hour period the Sheriff’s office said “tied up the entire county emergency response system,” according to law enforcement records.

The western Michigan Calhoun County sheriff was not amused and contacted the FBI who then launched a federally court approved Jihad to find out who the caller was, FBI criminal complaints and U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan documents show.

They were entirely unaware that hours later on the next day of January 6, Munafo would attract the attention of other law enforcement agencies and more FBI jurisdictions for assaulting law enforcement while violently entering the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

“I have listened to approximately three hours of MUNAFO’s calls, which were recorded by (Calhoun County Michigan Sheriff’s Office) CCSO. MUNAFO advised the 911 dispatcher that he knew where she lived, and recited accurate information about her mortgage and tax obligations,” reads an FBI affidavit seeking a criminal complaint against Munafo dated January 20, 2021.

“Put a fucking cop on the phone now you stupid bitch, or it’s going to go way worse for your family!” Munafo told the Michigan Sheriff’s Office 911 dispatcher, according to the then sealed FBI arrest warrants. “Bitch, I’m gonna cut your throat. I’m gonna make you eat your fucking nose. I’m gonna hurt you bad for this. It won’t be today, it won’t be tomorrow, it’ll be fucking soon though, you stupid cunt. Insurrection Act, I’m coming to your door first and it’s public knowledge, you stupid, stupid bitch!” 

 

At the time, the same man who was photographed January 6 in Washington, D.C. punching Capitol Police officers in the head and ripping away their riot shields, had not yet been identified but was listed as one of the top ten violent insurrectionists by the FBI who released photographs of him at the Capitol building and made a public appeal for help to to identify him.

The FBI said the still unidentified Munafo was the assailant responsible for “one of the most violent and horrifying assaults on federal officers during the January 6th riots at the Capitol. We need your help to identify these individuals.”

 

 

 

In separate criminal investigations, FBI and local law enforcement agencies in Massachusetts, Michigan, and Washington, D.C. were aggressively pursuing Mufano on the same day of the Capitol riots with no idea that other law enforcement were doing the same thing at the same time he was assaulting law enforcement officers and attempting to overthrow the government in Washington.

 

“On or about January 6, 2021, CCSO Detective Jonathan Pignataro (of Calhoun County, Michigan) determined through public records that the phone number making the threat calls was issued by “Bandwidth.com,” an internet phone service provider. A representative of Bandwidth.com advised Det. Pignataro that the number was resold by another internet phone service provider, Textnow.com. Det. Pignataro served Textnow.com an emergency disclosure request, followed by a search warrant. Textnow.com provided the subscriber’s username, gmail address, and IP addresses used at the time of the threat calls, all of which were determined to belong to MUNAFO,” reads a federal criminal complaint from the Middle District of Michigan.

“Also on January 6, 2021, Det. Pignataro served a search warrant on Google LLC, for the gmail account associated with the Textnow.com number. Google disclosed that the subscriber had provided the recovery e-mail address jonathan.munafo@XXXXX.com, and sign-in phone number (508) 418-XXXX.”

“(Calhoun County Michigan) Det. Pignataro’s search warrant establishes that MUNAFO was at a truck stop in Dunn, North Carolina when he placed the threat calls to the Calhoun County Dispatcher on January 5, 2021. In response to the Calhoun County search warrant, Google also provided MUNAFO’s internet search history for January 5, 2021, the day before the assault on the U.S. Capitol. MUNAFO searched for information on “Calhoun sheriff Michigan.” Among other search terms disclosed by Google, MUNAFO also searched for “Freedom Plaza, Washington, DC,” several firearms and military surplus stores, and (Michigan governor) “Gretchen Whitmer” on January 4 and 5, 2021. His whereabouts are currently unknown,” reads the January 2021 police report.

 

“If I had known all this was going to happen, I wouldn’t have lent him my car,” the owner of the vehicle with New York State Naval Militia license plates said this week in a telephone interview.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did the ‘Pink Hat Lady’ command Armed Militia During the D.C. Attempted Coup?

18 Jan

D.C. Riot attracted an odd, combustable mix of extremists: Demonstrators wearing tin-foil hats; carrying spears; dressed in all sorts of inappropriate military camouflage; and wielding beliefs dominated by conspiracy theories from the frightening to the bizarre. One Pennsylvania rioter is even said to have stolen Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s laptop in order to sell to the Russians. Now the Twittersphere has been booster fueled by rumors of “The Lady in the Pink Hat” rumored to have commanded armed rioters inside the halls of Congress during the height of the violence.

The still unidentified woman in a pink knit hat who was coordinating violent rioters with a bullhorn inside the Capitol building and displayed an intimate knowledge of the Congressional floor plan and location

By Nate Thayer

January 19, 2021

Speculation over dark connections between a far right freshman U.S. Congresswoman, Lauren Boebert, who has held office less than a week, and highly organized elements of the armed rioters who took control of the Capitol, has reached a fever pitch. And a growing frenzy of social media mobs suspect it is aa still unidentified middle aged woman dubbed “The Lady in the Pink Hat.”

FBI Wanted Poster for the Lady in the Pink Hat

Intercepted audio communications and videotapes have emerged suggesting rioters conducted surveillance inside the Capitol building prior to, and coordinated tactics during, the January 6 storming of the Capitol. Federal law enforcement called has declared the issue a “top-tier priority” and vowed a thorough investigation, and other elected Congressman insist that coordination between plotters inside Congress and the rioters occurred prior to the attack.

THE LADY IN THE PINK HAT

Some people are insinuating the still unidentified “Lady in the Pink Hat” is the dark hand behind the organized putschists, and a considerable number of them believe her to be the mother of the far-right extremist freshman representative from Colorado, Lauren Boebert.

The Pink Hat Lady at the height of violence when police barricades were first overrun

The allegations took on high drama as the focus zeroed in on a middle-aged woman with a bullhorn wearing a pink knit hat who, video-shows, helped smash a window to breach the capitol, and then barked orders revealing an intimate knowledge of the floorpan of the Capitol’s interior, and bears a remarkable resemblance to Congresswoman Boebert’s mother.

Woman in a pink, knit hat wielding battering ram is identified as a coordinator of armed rioters after the breached the Capitol building

Several elected officials say that rioters that breached some offices in the Capitol building had to have been guided by someone familiar with the layout.

The private office of Congressman Jim Clyburn–known as a ‘hideaway’ and accorded only to select senior elected officials, was looted and Clyburn is convinced that it had to be an inside job. These hideaways have no markings or nameplates and are separate from the public offices of elected officials.

Similarly, rioters located the private offices of Speaker Pelosi in less than 15 minutes of breaching the Capitol, and both federal elected officials and the FBI suspect that someone tipped off and directed the violent mob to zero in zeroed in. Clyburn is known to have an iPad stolen and Pelosi a computer laptop.

Clyburn told CNN’s Jake Tapper he believed “something untoward may have been going on.”

“I have an unmarked office—you got to know exactly where it is,” the South Carolina Democrat said. “It’s where I spend most of my time doing my work as the majority whip.”

“For some reason, these people showed up at that office. But the office where my name is on the door was not disturbed. I’m just saying, they didn’t go to where my name was…Yes, somebody on the inside of those buildings were complicit in this.”

“We saw congress[woman] Boebert taking a group of people for a tour sometime after the 3rd and before the 6th,” in the 48 hours before the riot, Rep. Steve Cohen told CNN Monday.

Riot organizer (L) and Congresswoman Boebert (R)

But Congresswoman Boebert has denied “The Pink Hat Lady” is her mother. Boebert tweeted that during the insurrectionist coup attempt on January 6, her mother was not at the Capitol. To add to the confusion, her mother she was in lockdown in the Congresswoman’s office on the 6th. Both women denied that the Congresswoman gave a tour to her. “I did not give any tours between Jan 3rd and 6th,” she responded in a tweet.

The mother, Shawna Roberts, also known as Shawna Bentz, who owns a saloon in rail, Colorado is known to be a flamboyant, gun-slinging, ardent Trump supporter. She is also known to be currently in Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, federal law enforcement has made it a stop priority to find the facts.

The FBI has appealed to the public to help identify the “Pink Hat Lady,” releasing more than a dozen photographs taken from video of her during the riot.

Other photos taken from the thousands of videos taken during the turmoil January 6

Pink Hat Lady is shown wielding a heavy two-by-four using it as a battering ram to smash heavily fortified bullet proof windows to create an opening where armed militia, many dressed in camouflage and wielding everything from baseball bats to spears to bear spray.

After breaching the window, the unknown middle-aged woman began barking orders through a bullhorn to dozens of her apparent subordinates ransacking offices in the Capitol.

After the woman breached the window with a battering ram, she produced a bullhorn and began giving detailed instructions of floorpans in the Capitol building

“Hey guys! I’ve been in the other room. Listen to me,” she barked at marauding rioters giving instructions. “In the other room on the other side of this door where the feet are standing there is a glass that if somebody, if it is broken you can drop down to a room underneath it.”

“What’s the floor plan?” yelled a frantic long-haired man from inside a nearby office.

Video of the unidentified woman instructing rioters by bullhorn showing intimate knowledge of the floorpan of offices in Congress

“There is also two doors in the other room, one in the rear, and one to the right when you go in. So, people should probably coordinate together if you’re going to take this building,” instructed Pink Hat Woman. “We got another window to break to make it in and out easy. And this window here needs to be broken,” she said, bullhorn in one hand and pointing through the shattered window with her other.

Meanwhile, other connections between Congresswoman Boebert, her mother, and armed, violent insurrectionists emerged over the weekend.

A far right extremist, Robert Gieswein, 24, of Cripple Creek, Colorado was arrested for assaulting a police officer and breaking into the capitol building, entering through the same window that Pink Hat Lady shattered with a battering ram.

Colorado militiaman Robert Griesein breaching police lines
Griesein entering a shattered window at the Capitol building

Gieswein, who adheres to a sect of far right extremists known as ‘3%ers’, heads a Colorado militia group, the “Rocky Mountain Oathkeepers” as well as running an armed militia training camp named the “Woodland Wild Dogs.” 

Griesein, after accessing the Capitol building wearing jungle camouflage, a tactical vest, stitched cloth patch that read “My mother thinks I’m special’, and carrying bear spray in one hand and a baseball bat in the other

Gieswein was photographed inside the capitol wearing military tactical gear, a bullet proof vest, cloth patches that read “My Mother Thinks I’m Special,” and carrying a can of aerosol Bear Spray in one hand and a baseball bat in the other.

But Gieswein and Congresswoman Lauren Boebert are connected by a November 2019 photograph which emerged showing Gieswein and three other armed militiamen posing  flashing white supremacist hand symbols in front of the Shooters Grill in Rail, Colorado—the saloon that is owned by Boebert’s mother.

Colorado militiaman, now under arrest by the FBI, shown posing at the saloon owned by Congresswoman Lauren Boebert’s family. The men are flashing white supremacist hand signals. Photo taken in November 2019

FBI INVESTIGATION

There were “perhaps some type of communication with core groups of people ingressing into the Capitol,”acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin said, adding his a “Tier 1 top priority” for his prosecutors to find out “whether there was this overarching command and control and whether there were these organized teams that were organized to breach the Capitol, and then perhaps try to accomplish some type of a mission inside the Capitol.” 

How to Live and Die With Meaning: The Final Hours of my Friend Buddy, Yesterday

4 Nov

How to Live and Die With Dignity and Meaning: The Final Hours of Buddy, who Made the World a Better Place

Sleep with the angels, my good and loving friend. You made me a better man

By Nate Thayer

November 3, 2013

My old friend, Buddy, left us, forever, at 1: 44 Sunday afternoon. He was wrapped in my loving arms. My head was laying on his heart, listening to it final rhythmic, soothing beat, the one I knew so well and had comforted me through more than a decade of my life. He sighed abruptly and inhaled a last, loud, deep breath.

It was the sound of death. I have heard it many times before.

I knew Buddy was gone now, forever.

His eyes remained open staring at mine. He had an expression of pure peace on his face.

Buddy had lived a very good life and Buddy just died a very good death.

I looked up into the beautiful eyes and compassionate heart of the kind doctor Christine.

“He is gone now,” I said.

She took the stethoscope off my beautiful boy’s soft furry chest, and said “Yes, his heart just stopped beating.

Preparing Buddy to go to a better place. He was sedated and not asleep. He was still alive, and he squeezed my hand when I gently squeezed his paw. The Dr. prepares the final drugs that would cause his heart to stop, and he died.

Preparing Buddy to go to a better place. He was sedated and not asleep. He was still alive, and he squeezed my hand when I gently squeezed his paw. The Dr. prepares the final drugs that would cause his heart to stop, and he died.

He died painlessly. He was surrounded by love when he went to wherever good dogs go.

Buddy, surrounded by love from his family

Buddy, surrounded by love from his family

We said goodbye. Buddy, a few minutes before he went away, forever, today.

Preparing Buddy to go to a better place. He was first given a mild sedative to relax him. He did not object. Buddy had asked for help to end his good life with dignity and free from more suffering. Here the Dr. prepares the drugs that will cause his heart to stop, and he will die a few minutes later.

Preparing Buddy to go to a better place. He was first given a mild sedative to relax him. He did not object. Buddy had asked for help to end his good life with dignity and free from more suffering. Here the Dr. prepares the drugs that will cause his heart to stop, and he will die a few minutes later.

Part of me died when Buddy did, but much more of him lives alive in me now, the better part of me, since Buddy graced me with sharing his life with me in 2003, more than ten years ago.

Buddy left us forever today

Buddy left us forever today

The doctor came over and eased him from his suffering. Buddy lived a good, fulfilled life.

Buddy gets the final, loving death drug that stops his heart

Buddy gets the final, loving death drug that stops his heart

Buddy gets the final, loving death drug that stops his heart.

Buddy is gone now. But he lives on forever in the hearts of many

Buddy is gone now. But he lives on forever in the hearts of many

He is no longer suffering. Buddy had departed a few minutes earlier. But here his body departs his house. His ashes will come back to me and I  will keep them, forever, in a special place, with me always

The below was written late at night Saturday, in the the hours before Buddy was eased out of this world:

Good Bye, Buddy, My Friend. Thank You for Making Me a Better Man

By Nate Thayer

November 2, 2013

Good bye, Buddy, my friend. Thank you for making me a better man.

My enduring, very important, exceptionally wise, unconditionally loving friend, Buddy, has made me a better man in the ten years and five months we have known each other.

Buddy and I had a long talk today.

He told me that he has had a very worthy, very fulfilling life, full of fun and joy and meaning, has had special friends who he knows have loved him very much, and a full breadth of mostly happy and all meaningful and important adventures and experiences.

He told me he loved me. And I told him I loved him, very much, and I wanted him to know that having him in my life has made me a better man.

Buddy and me, yesterday in the moments before he left us, forever

Buddy and me, yesterday in the moments before he left us, forever

But, today, he told me that the flame of his inextinguishable candle, which has made his life glow and shine on this earth, has been irreversibly, increasingly flickering in recent months, and he asked me if I would be with him to gently blow it out.

The time has come, he said, for his this life to end, and he asked me to help him go gently, with dignity, into the good, permanent night.

He said that he has been in a lot of pain and it has sabotaged his ability to be joyful.

He cannot muster the strength, after a lifetime of his maximally used muscles, to rise after he needs to lay down and rest, which is now most of the time.

He cannot walk without a great deal of pain.

He cannot see the things and people who have brought him delight and pleasure and make his life worthy.

He cannot hear the sounds and voices of pleasure and love that have surrounded him, without pause, for more than a decade now.

He cannot eat much and he is weak.

And he told me that it frightens him to feel the steady march of the erosion of his mind.

My friend, Buddy, a few weeks ago

My friend, Buddy, a few weeks ago

He asked me to help him to go gently, surrounded by love, from this world to a different, unknown place. Even if that place is no place at all, he said he has had a good life full of meaning and joy.

I told him, as he has known has always been true, I would do anything for him, as best I knew how, that will help make him more satisfied, more content, that would give him more pleasure, that would make his heart warmer than one of the already warmest hearts of any of God’s creatures.

He kissed my face and I kissed his forehead, for a very long time. I promised him I would do my best so he would feel better, soon.

Tomorrow, Sunday November 3, a doctor will come to Buddy’s house and I will be holding him tightly in my loving arms as she eases him into a permanent, good, better, final, irrevocable night, and in my elusive dreams and hopes and fantasies, a sunnier bright new dawn where his heart would only smile and be smiled upon.

I want my friend, Buddy, to know this:

Buddy, you have been one of my oldest, closest friends, ever since you were given a reprieve from death row a decade ago and came to live with me.

Buddy has lived with my brother the last couple of years, where he has a backyard and three young whippersnappers who love him.

Buddy, a few months ago

Buddy, a few months ago

Buddy you have had a good life, and you have made this world a better place because you have lived. And you have made my life much richer by sharing yourself with me.

You are an older guy, now, Buddy. Glaucoma clouds your eyes and your hearing is worse than mine. You cannot now muster the strength in your well used legs to get up.

I have had to carry you down two flights of stairs so we could amble ever so slowly to the dog park.

The other day, it took us 23 seconds to cross the street. We had to stop and retreat several times because we wouldn’t have made it to the other side before the light turned green.

But you have been, still, very happy, despite your increasing challenges.

These things happen to all of us, Buddy.

I have been so pained to have watched them happening to you now, increasingly diminishing the joy you have had from, and respect you have accorded, simply being alive.

These are some of my thoughts for you, my friend, Buddy, now.

My tears of sadness are clouding my ability, as I write these words, to say goodbye.

But they are exceeded by my memories of the joy and meaning you having been part of my life and this world has brought me:

To my friend, Buddy:

I remember when I first heard of you.

It was at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in a rural church basement.

Someone—a volunteer at a local human society—stood up and said he loved you but you were scheduled to be executed the next day because you did not have a home.

The man said you were a good dog and you just needed someone to love you.


That was in May 2003. I had just gotten home from Iraq. And I needed someone to love me too, Buddy.

Reciprocal love

Reciprocal love

                                                             Buddy minutes before he died yesterday

So I told the man “Stay the execution, the boy has a home.” We hadn’t actually even met yet, Buddy.

I came to the dog prison and you were hiding at the back corner of your jail cell. They opened the door, and you came out reluctantly but with dignity, but looking humiliated and defeated.

They said you had been a bad boy. They were very wrong, Buddy.

They said that you would run and run and run, and that you demanded to live a free life and that the hated Dog Police had arrested you umpteen times and they had had enough.

So they captured you and put you in a cage.

And then, when nobody wanted to give you a home, they sentenced you to death.

You came out of jail and, once out the front door, you broke free from me, because you didn’t know me then Buddy. I would have done the same thing, if I had been you, then.

You ran and ran and ran from the jail. We had to chase you down the rural roads of Maryland’s Eastern shore until we captured you again.

And then you came home with me, Buddy. That was 10 years ago last summer.

Buddy at home

Buddy at home

And Scoop, my pal from Bangkok, who we both know had a pea brain but a big heart, and we both know, Buddy, really considered that she was an entitled Princess, was also part of your new family. To be honest and generous, she sometimes was a bitch. She was not very nice to you, Buddy.

But, after all, she was born in a fetid sewer on the streets of Bangkok and now had her own waterfront estate in America. She had had a hard life, too, Buddy, and you understood that.

But you were then, as you are now such a good, tolerant boy. You put up with her snarls and growls—just standing there and letting her have her fit.

And you told me: “It’s OK, Nate. If you have enough room in your heart for me and Scoop, I have enough room in mine for you and Scoop, too.”

You taught me to think of others before myself and that anger and ego and revenge and grudges rarely make anyone happy or improve any situation.

I love you for that, Buddy. You taught me how to be a better man.

Scoop wouldn’t let you sleep on my bed for 6 years, but you would come smooch me each night and then you would sleep blocking the bedroom door. I knew you were trying to protect me, Buddy.

So many nights you would bark at what you suspected was some bad guy, and you were right more than a few times.

Do you remember nearby there was a minimum security juvenile prison and how many times those poor fellows escaped? But the problem was there was only one road out to freedom because we lived on that long peninsula that was surrounded by water. It was nine miles to the nearest store and so, many times, the escaped prisoners would sneak across our farm fields and try to steal my truck to make their getaway.

And you would have none of that, Buddy, would you?

So you barked and barked and ran to the door and back to me until I paid attention and we went outside, together Buddy, with my 30 odd 6 and fired off a few very large, very loud rounds their way. And then they would go away. You were, rightly, very proud of yourself, Buddy.

You sympathized with them, but there were certain red lines for you in life that just could not be crossed. I learned which of those red lines were important to you, Buddy, and made some of them part of my own. Thank you for that, you made me a better man, Buddy.

Love and Death

Love and Death

And you forgave me when, another night, you were convinced something or somebody was outside who shouldn’t be and you barked and smooched me over and over, insisting I pay attention and go see what the ruckus was all about. I stumbled out of bed to the front door with the 45 automatic pistol we kept by our bedside, with no bullet in the chamber but the ammunition clip inserted partially in the weapon.

In truth, I may have been half drunk, Buddy. At the front door, before going outside to investigate, I tried to put a round in the chamber but I couldn’t lock and load because the bullet wouldn’t chamber and remained in the clip.

So, like the idiot I can be sometimes, I tried to load it by pulling the trigger and BOOM, I shot a hole through the wall in the front hallway and that round whizzed right by your head.

I was embarrassed for the accidental discharge and you had the bejesus startled out of you, Buddy.

But you still loved me even when I was an idiot, Buddy. I learned this quality from you, too, Buddy: Unconditional love. You made me a better man.

You were such a happy boy. You loved that big farm. You were free. All 70 acres were yours. The waterfront was yours to frolic, which you did every day. And I remember how happy you were, running full speed round and round and round the swimming pool and the deck. You were celebrating and reveling in just how happy you were to be free.

I learned that being free is very important, from you, Buddy. Thank You for making me a better man.

budddy211

You are such a loving boy, Buddy.

When Scoop died in my arms, her head resting on my shoulder, in my bed, you smooched her one last time. Even though she never smooched you, once, in six years.

You saw how devastated I was and you smooched me, too, and you put your paws over my heart and your head on my neck. And you crawled up into my bed and you never left me in the years since.

You taught me the importance of tolerance and empathy, Buddy. You made me a better man.

That was the first night you slept all night in my bed, and you did every night afterwards. You were understanding, forgiving, and loyal, Buddy. I learned that from you, too, Buddy. Thank you for making me a better man.

Buddy and his pal, Lido

Buddy and his pal, Lido

And you smooched me and took care of me, Buddy, when I was sick for a very long time. You would curl up by me every night to protect me, Buddy and you would flow towards more loving when I would ebb towards sicker. I know it wasn’t much fun for you then, Buddy, but you always thought empathy towards others was more important than your own pleasure, in times when others needed you, Buddy.

I learned from you the importance of this, too, Buddy. You made me a better man.

Buddy's friend, Lido, comes over to say goodbye to his constant, loving tolerant companion, one final time

Buddy’s friend, Lido, comes over to say goodbye to his constant, loving tolerant companion, one final time

I remember the night when the barn caught fire. You barked and barked and ran up and smooched me and ran back to the front door and back again to my bed, until I woke up and saw what the commotion was all about. You were so proud of yourself. As you should have been, even though the barn burned down.

You believed that you can not try and certainly fail, or you can try and you may succeed or fail. For you, Buddy, it is more important to try and fail than not try at all. I learned that from you, Buddy. You made me a better man.

You were the perfect guard dog, and your unqualified loyalty to those you love and those who loved you never wavered. You are the perfect friend, Buddy.

I love you Buddy and I know you love me. We love each other with all our hearts.

I want you to know that those hated Dog Police Nazi’s who sentenced you to die ten years ago because they said you were a bad dog were wrong, Buddy. You are a very good dog. The world is a better place because you lived.

Then I got sick again, Buddy, and you were such a loving boy. Every night, curling next to me and kissing and licking me. You would wait there, by my side with me, till the morning when I woke, making sure I was OK, before you went out for your long stroll and swim and frolicked, just thankful to be blessed to be alive, to celebrate your freedom. Every day.

You knew what freedom was because you had experienced it denied to you, Buddy. I learned how important it is to remember that, Buddy, from you. Thank you for making me a better man.

I love you Buddy.

You are an older guy, now, Buddy. Your eyes are clouded from Glaucoma.

You still are such a tolerant fellow, Buddy, such a very loving, very, very good boy.

Now, you let Lamont annoy you and you understand. You let him play his childish puppy games and you even let him eat your food.

And, now, Lamont lies next to you staring up at you, wondering how he can be the man you are.

Buddylamont1111

Lamont misses his Uncle Buddy

Lamont misses his Uncle Buddy

You have shown others a code to live by, by your example, Buddy.

I am very happy and proud to tell the world what a beautiful boy you are, Buddy. It doesn’t matter to me if they can’t understand.

I learned that when you are saying the right thing, believing the right thing, behaving the right way, it doesn’t matter how different people may interpret it. That these are essentials of a well-spent life compass, a code to live by.

I learned that from you, Buddy. You made me a better man.

You have shown others how to live a worthy life of equal humility and consequence by your example.

I am very happy and proud to tell the world what a beautiful boy you are, Buddy. It doesn’t matter to me if they can’t understand.

These are just some of the many ways you have made me a better person than I was before you blessed me with sharing your life with me, Buddy.

Now, you are still as wise but you are more fragile, Buddy. Now, when you come and sleep next to me it is the time for me to show you how important you have been in my life.

I love you Buddy. Thanks for being my friend. I will miss you very much Buddy.

But I will celebrate your life and how lucky I have been to have you share your wisdom and character with me, because you deserve to be remembered with a smile and warm feeling in my heart.

Because, while you are a better man than I, Buddy, you have made me a better man than I was before I was lucky to have you share your very important, special self with me.

Buddy was eased into the gentle night at this moment

Buddy was eased into the gentle night at this moment

Goodbye, my friend.

I love you now and I will love you forever, Buddy.

I will be holding you very closely, tightly in my arms full of love, as you go gently away from me and from all those who have been lucky to have crossed your path, tomorrow, forever.

But, I want you to have no doubt of this: you will remain alive forever.

You represent the better part of who I am today.

Buddy had departed a few minutes earlier. He is no longer suffering. But here his body departs his house for a final time. His ashes will come back to me and I  will keep them, forever, in a special place, with me always

Buddy had departed a few minutes earlier. He is no longer suffering. But here his body departs his house for a final time. His ashes will come back to me and I will keep them, forever, in a special place, with me always

Sleep With the Angels, Buddy: Photographing the Death of My Friend

3 Nov

Buddy left us forever today

Buddy left us forever today

Preparing Buddy to go to a better place. He was sedated and sleep alive, but he was near sleeping. The Dr. prepares the drugs that will cause his heart to stop, when he will die.

Preparing Buddy to go to a better place. He was sedated and sleep alive, but he was near sleeping. The Dr. prepares the drugs that will cause his heart to stop, when he will die.

My old friend, Buddy, left us, forever, this afternoon. Below, I am listening to Buddy’s heart stop beating. He took a last,deep gasp, an inhale of breath. It was the sound of death. I have heard it many times before. I knew Buddy was gone. He lived a good life and died a good death.

buddy32He died painlessly. He was surrounded by love when he went to wherever good dogs go.

Buddy, surrounded by love from his family

Buddy, surrounded by love from his family

We said goodbye. Buddy, a few minutes before he went away, forever, today.

The doctor released him from his suffering

The doctor released him from his suffering

Buddy gets the final, loving death drug that stops his heart

Buddy gets the final, loving death drug that stops his heart

My friend, Buddy, a few weeks ago

My friend, Buddy, a few weeks ago

The doctor came over and eased him from his suffering. Buddy lived a good, fulfilled life.

buddy2He is no longer suffering. Buddy had departed a few minutes earlier. But here his body departs his house. His ashes will come back to me and I  will keep them, forever, in a special place, with me always

Written the evening before Buddy was eased out of this world:

Good Bye, Buddy, My Friend. Thank You for Making Me a Better Man

By Nate Thayer

November 2, 2013

Good bye, Buddy, my friend. Thank you for making me a better man.

My enduring, very important, exceptionally wise, unconditionally loving friend, Buddy, has made me a better man in the ten years and five months we have known each other.

Buddy and I had a long talk today.

He told me that he has had a very worthy, very fulfilling life, full of fun and joy and meaning, has had special friends who he knows have loved him very much, and a full breadth of mostly happy and all meaningful and important adventures and experiences.

He told me he loved me. And I told him I loved him, very much, and I wanted him to know that having him in my life has made me a better man.

But, today, he told me that the flame of his inextinguishable candle, which has made his life glow and shine on this earth, has been irreversibly, increasingly flickering in recent months, and he asked me if I would be with him to gently blow it out.

The time has come, he said, for his this life to end, and he asked me to help him go gently, with dignity, into the good, permanent night.

He said that he has been in a lot of pain and it has sabotaged his ability to be joyful.

He cannot muster the strength, after a lifetime of his maximally used muscles, to rise after he needs to lay down and rest, which is now most of the time.

He cannot walk without a great deal of pain.

He cannot see the things and people who have brought him delight and pleasure and make his life worthy.

He cannot hear the sounds and voices of pleasure and love that have surrounded him, without pause, for more than a decade now.

He cannot eat much and he is weak.

And he told me that it frightens him to feel the steady march of the erosion of his mind.

He asked me to help him to go gently, surrounded by love, from this world to a different, unknown place. Even if that place is no place at all, he said he has had a good life full of meaning and joy.

I told him, as he has known has always been true, I would do anything for him, as best I knew how, that will help make him more satisfied, more content, that would give him more pleasure, that would make his heart warmer than one of the already warmest hearts of any of God’s creatures.

He kissed my face and I kissed his forehead, for a very long time. I promised him I would do my best so he would feel better, soon.

Tomorrow, Sunday November 3, a doctor will come to Buddy’s house and I will be holding him tightly in my loving arms as she eases him into a permanent, good, better, final, irrevocable night, and in my elusive dreams and hopes and fantasies, a sunnier bright new dawn where his heart would only smile and be smiled upon.

I want my friend, Buddy, to know this:

Buddy, you have been one of my oldest, closest friends, ever since you were given a reprieve from death row a decade ago and came to live with me.

Buddy has lived with my brother the last couple of years, where he has a backyard and three young whippersnappers who love him.

Buddy you have had a good life, and you have made this world a better place because you have lived. And you have made my life much richer by sharing yourself with me.

You are an older guy, now, Buddy. Glaucoma clouds your eyes and your hearing is worse than mine. You cannot now muster the strength in your well used legs to get up.

I have had to carry you down two flights of stairs so we could amble ever so slowly to the dog park.

The other day, it took us 23 seconds to cross the street. We had to stop and retreat several times because we wouldn’t have made it to the other side before the light turned green.

But you have been, still, very happy, despite your increasing challenges.

These things happen to all of us, Buddy.

I have been so pained to have watched them happening to you now, increasingly diminishing the joy you have had from, and respect you have accorded, simply being alive.

These are some of my thoughts for you, my friend, Buddy, now.

My tears of sadness are clouding my ability, as I write these words, to say goodbye.

But they are exceeded by my memories of the joy and meaning you having been part of my life and this world has brought me:

To my friend, Buddy:

I remember when I first heard of you.

It was at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in a rural church basement.

Someone—a volunteer at a local human society—stood up and said he loved you but you were scheduled to be executed the next day because you did not have a home.

The man said you were a good dog and you just needed someone to love you.
That was in May 2003. I had just gotten home from Iraq. And I needed someone to love me too, Buddy.

So I told the man “Stay the execution, the boy has a home.” We hadn’t actually even met yet, Buddy.

I came to the dog prison and you were hiding at the back corner of your jail cell. They opened the door, and you came out reluctantly but with dignity, but looking humiliated and defeated.

They said you had been a bad boy. They were very wrong, Buddy.

They said that you would run and run and run, and that you demanded to live a free life and that the hated Dog Police had arrested you umpteen times and they had had enough.

So they captured you and put you in a cage.

And then, when nobody wanted to give you a home, they sentenced you to death.

You came out of jail and, once out the front door, you broke free from me, because you didn’t know me then Buddy. I would have done the same thing, if I had been you, then.

You ran and ran and ran from the jail. We had to chase you down the rural roads of Maryland’s Eastern shore until we captured you again.

And then you came home with me, Buddy. That was 10 years ago last summer.

And Scoop, my pal from Bangkok, who we both know had a pea brain but a big heart, and we both know, Buddy, really considered that she was an entitled Princess, was also part of your new family. To be honest and generous, she sometimes was a bitch. She was not very nice to you, Buddy.

But, after all, she was born in a fetid sewer on the streets of Bangkok and now had her own waterfront estate in America. She had had a hard life, too, Buddy, and you understood that.

But you were then, as you are now such a good, tolerant boy. You put up with her snarls and growls—just standing there and letting her have her fit.

And you told me: “It’s OK, Nate. If you have enough room in your heart for me and Scoop, I have enough room in mine for you and Scoop, too.”

You taught me to think of others before myself and that anger and ego and revenge and grudges rarely make anyone happy or improve any situation.

I love you for that, Buddy. You taught me how to be a better man.

Scoop wouldn’t let you sleep on my bed for 6 years, but you would come smooch me each night and then you would sleep blocking the bedroom door. I knew you were trying to protect me, Buddy.

So many nights you would bark at what you suspected was some bad guy, and you were right more than a few times.

Do you remember nearby there was a minimum security juvenile prison and how many times those poor fellows escaped? But the problem was there was only one road out to freedom because we lived on that long peninsula that was surrounded by water. It was nine miles to the nearest store and so, many times, the escaped prisoners would sneak across our farm fields and try to steal my truck to make their getaway.

And you would have none of that, Buddy, would you?

So you barked and barked and ran to the door and back to me until I paid attention and we went outside, together Buddy, with my 30 odd 6 and fired off a few very large, very loud rounds their way. And then they would go away. You were, rightly, very proud of yourself, Buddy.

You sympathized with them, but there were certain red lines for you in life that just could not be crossed. I learned which of those red lines were important to you, Buddy, and made some of them part of my own. Thank you for that, you made me a better man, Buddy.

And you forgave me when, another night, you were convinced something or somebody was outside who shouldn’t be and you barked and smooched me over and over, insisting I pay attention and go see what the ruckus was all about. I stumbled out of bed to the front door with the 45 automatic pistol we kept by our bedside, with no bullet in the chamber but the ammunition clip inserted partially in the weapon.

In truth, I may have been half drunk, Buddy. At the front door, before going outside to investigate, I tried to put a round in the chamber but I couldn’t lock and load because the bullet wouldn’t chamber and remained in the clip.

So, like the idiot I can be sometimes, I tried to load it by pulling the trigger and BOOM, I shot a hole through the wall in the front hallway and that round whizzed right by your head.

I was embarrassed for the accidental discharge and you had the bejesus startled out of you, Buddy.

But you still loved me even when I was an idiot, Buddy. I learned this quality from you, too, Buddy: Unconditional love. You made me a better man.

You were such a happy boy. You loved that big farm. You were free. All 70 acres were yours. The waterfront was yours to frolic, which you did every day. And I remember how happy you were, running full speed round and round and round the swimming pool and the deck. You were celebrating and reveling in just how happy you were to be free.

I learned that being free is very important, from you, Buddy. Thank You for making me a better man.

You are such a loving boy, Buddy.

When Scoop died in my arms, her head resting on my shoulder, in my bed, you smooched her one last time. Even though she never smooched you, once, in six years.

You saw how devastated I was and you smooched me, too, and you put your paws over my heart and your head on my neck. And you crawled up into my bed and you never left me in the years since.

You taught me the importance of tolerance and empathy, Buddy. You made me a better man.

That was the first night you slept all night in my bed, and you did every night afterwards. You were understanding, forgiving, and loyal, Buddy. I learned that from you, too, Buddy. Thank you for making me a better man.

And you smooched me and took care of me, Buddy, when I was sick for a very long time. You would curl up by me every night to protect me, Buddy and you would flow towards more loving when I would ebb towards sicker. I know it wasn’t much fun for you then, Buddy, but you always thought empathy towards others was more important than your own pleasure, in times when others needed you, Buddy.

I learned from you the importance of this, too, Buddy. You made me a better man.

I remember the night when the barn caught fire. You barked and barked and ran up and smooched me and ran back to the front door and back again to my bed, until I woke up and saw what the commotion was all about. You were so proud of yourself. As you should have been, even though the barn burned down.

You believed that you can not try and certainly fail, or you can try and you may succeed or fail. For you, Buddy, it is more important to try and fail than not try at all. I learned that from you, Buddy. You made me a better man.

You were the perfect guard dog, and your unqualified loyalty to those you love and those who loved you never wavered. You are the perfect friend, Buddy.

I love you Buddy and I know you love me. We love each other with all our hearts.

I want you to know that those hated Dog Police Nazi’s who sentenced you to die ten years ago because they said you were a bad dog were wrong, Buddy. You are a very good dog. The world is a better place because you lived.

Then I got sick again, Buddy, and you were such a loving boy. Every night, curling next to me and kissing and licking me. You would wait there, by my side with me, till the morning when I woke, making sure I was OK, before you went out for your long stroll and swim and frolicked, just thankful to be blessed to be alive, to celebrate your freedom. Every day.

You knew what freedom was because you had experienced it denied to you, Buddy. I learned how important it is to remember that, Buddy, from you. Thank you for making me a better man.

I love you Buddy.

You are an older guy, now, Buddy. Your eyes are clouded from Glaucoma.

You still are such a tolerant fellow, Buddy, such a very loving, very, very good boy.

Now, you let Lamont annoy you and you understand. You let him play his childish puppy games and you even let him eat your food.

And, now, Lamont lies next to you staring up at you, wondering how he can be the man you are.

You have shown others a code to live by, by your example, Buddy.

I am very happy and proud to tell the world what a beautiful boy you are, Buddy. It doesn’t matter to me if they can’t understand.

I learned that when you are saying the right thing, believing the right thing, behaving the right way, it doesn’t matter how different people may interpret it. I learned that from you, Buddy. You made me a better man.

These are just some of the many ways you have made me a better person than I was before you blessed me with sharing your life with me, Buddy.

Now, you are still as wise but you are more fragile, Buddy. Now, when you come and sleep next to me it is the time for me to show you how important you have been in my life.

I love you Buddy. Thanks for being my friend. I will miss you very much Buddy.

But I will celebrate your life and how lucky I have been to have you share your wisdom and character with me, because you deserve to be remembered with a smile and warm feeling in my heart.

Because, while you are a better man than I, Buddy, you have made me a better man than I was before I was lucky to have you share your very important, special self with me.

Goodbye, my friend.

I love you now and I will love you forever, Buddy.

I will be holding you very closely, tightly in my arms full of love, as you go gently away from me and from all those who have been lucky to have crossed your path, tomorrow, forever.

But, I want you to have no doubt of this: you will remain alive forever.

You represent the better part of who I am today.

Freelance Investigative Journalist Who is Convinced Rupert Murdoch and Arianna Huffington are Satan

23 Oct

Freelance Investigative Journalist Who is Convinced Rupert Murdoch and Arianna Huffington are Satan

By Nate Thayer

October  23, 2013

I was invited to speak in a couple of weeks at a conference on the new-fangled world of the tatters of credible journalism at Columbia University. The topic: how to come up with a viable business model for the new world of digital journalism.

First, they invited me for the three-day conference in NYC. I said: “Sure, I assume all expenses are paid.” They said yes. Then, it turns out, that doesn’t include eating food and transport from the train station to the hotel or between the conference and the hotel in NYC for three days, which, anyone who knows NYC, knows easily can run several hundred bucks at hotels and restaurants and taxi cabs etc. I then retracted my acceptance to speak at said conference. They then came back to me and said they would make an exception, and pay all my actual expenses. We are not talking any speaking or appearance fees.

We have been corresponding on the necessary details.

From today:

They asked for a bio and a pic for their publicity efforts: I sent them the standard self promoting, more than slightly embarrassing pabulum:

“Hi K,

Here is a brief bio and attached pic. You can feel free to edit the bio with abandon. It is longer than you will want, I am sure:

Nate Thayer is an investigative journalist based in Washington D.C. he spent 25 years as a foreign correspondent, much of that based in Asia with the Far Eastern Economic Review, and currently specializes on North Korea. His work has been published in several hundred media outlets worldwide, and he has been on staff or long-term contract with a number of media organizations, including the Associated Press, the Phnom Penh Post, Agence France Press, Soldier of Fortune magazine, the Washington Post, and Jane’s Defence Weekly.

Thayer’s reporting has earned him “The World Press Award’, the “British Press Awards Scoop of the Year Award”, and the “Francis Frost Wood Award for Courage in Journalism”, given to a journalist “judged to best exemplify physical or moral courage in the practice of his or her craft.”

He was the recipient of the “Center for Public Integrity’s International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) “Award for Outstanding International Investigative Reporting of the Year.” Upon awarding Thayer the ICIJ Award, the judges noted: : “He illuminated a page of history that would have been lost to the world had he not spent years in the Cambodian jungle, in a truly extraordinary quest for first-hand knowledge of the Khmer Rouge and their murderous leader. His investigations of the Cambodia political world required not only great risk and physical hardship but also mastery of an ever-changing cast of Political faction characters.”

Thayer was given a prestigious “Peabody Award”, broadcast journalism’s highest honor, and was the first person in 57 years to turn it down because of unethical practices of the American broadcast industry, saying: “I in no way want my name associated with such egregious violations of journalistic and professional ethics.”

Thayer is also the recipient of “The Overseas Press Club of America Award” and the “Asian Society of Publishers and Editors Award for Excellence in Reporting.”

Thayer was also honored with the Johns Hopkins SAIS-Novartis Award for Excellence in International Reporting.”

He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by The Wall Street Journal.

He was a visiting scholar at the Paul H Nitze School of Advance International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.


He can be contacted at thayernate0007@gmail.com or 443 205 9162″

The nice woman who is organizing said conference replied: “Thanks Nate, this is great. Whittled down to a paragraph, but tried to include the main highlights. Could you please let me know what your “title” is? I.E. what should we put in the program?

Thanks so much,
K”

I replied: “Hi K,

Freelance Investigative Journalist or Freelance Journalist or some such thing. Starving Investigative Freelance Journalist, Formerly Quite Financially Well Off Investigative Journalist Now Living Below the Poverty Line. Pissed Off Investigative Freelance Journalist, Freelance Investigative Journalist Who is Convinced Rupert Murdoch and Arianna Huffington are Satan, Freelance Journalist Deeply Disturbed by How Few People Appear to get That Quality Journalism is Dead”…..feel free to play around with any related variations…..”

Lunching With Mass Murderers: Khmer Rouge leaders explain why they slaughtered their own people, and why it was, really, for the best: Excerpts from “Sympathy for the Devil” By Nate Thayer

12 Oct

Lunching With Mass Murderers: Top Khmer Rouge leaders explain, in their own words, why they killed 1.8 million people, why it was not their fault, and really for the best.

Excerpts from unpublished manuscript “Sympathy for the Devil: A journalist’s memoir from inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge” By Nate Thayer

(Copyright Nate Thayer. All rights reserved. No republication, quotation from, copying or dissemination in whole or in part without prior written permission from Author)

During the Chinese Cultural Revolution style “People’s Tribunal” held to denounce  Pol Pot in the jungles of Anlong Veng in northern Cambodia in July 1997, a middle age man dressed in a pea green military uniform, hobbled up on his amputated leg and one crutch, and stood in front of the gathered crowd.

Bang Man was very angry, very confused, very sad and very sincere.

Pol Pot sat only a few feet away, cheeks shaking trying to maintain his composure, in a simple metal folding chair. He stared off into the distance avoiding eye contact with anyone, including me who circled freely around him taking close up portraits inches from the face of the mass murderer who had not been seen in the 18 years since he was driven from power, leaving behind the corpses of 1.8 million of his countrymen. Next to Pol Pot, sat three manacled, surly Pol Pot military loyalist comrades, under arrest, their fate certain.

Pol Pot was not being condemned for genocide, mass murder, or crimes against humanity. He was charged with “crimes against the revolution.”

Bang Men introduced himself as “a representative of the people.” He spoke with sincerity and passion, his voice strong, as he stood at the crude podium under an aluminum roof that served as a warehouse for artillery and other weapons of war. On the dirt jungle floor, a microphone was  hooked up to a car battery the crude sound broadcast over loudspeakers tied to the cut forest trees that served to hold up the roof of the open air structure where several hundred peasants and cadre squatted in the dirt, their lives work collapsing, after thirty years at war and in the jungle. Their once infallible leader was being denounced:

“The people and masses of Anlong  Veng, tens of thousands of people, have abandoned their land, homes, their parents, siblings, children, and grandchildren for close to 20 years, with the aim of solving the problem of the nation, the race….not thinking of the danger, their lives. This struggle is an exceedingly hard and difficult struggle, which has never been encountered before in the history of our nation. In the spirit of loving the nation, of loving the race, we have striven to achieve and express this most lofty and supreme heroism, to continue the struggle. But finally, the result was not in keeping with most of our wishes, our intentions. We have been separated and lost tens of thousands, millions, and then in the period of 1996-1997, we encountered the most terrible, the most barbarous incident of Pol Pot, who continually had us study about the view, the stance, fighting, enduring to fight, the stance becoming even stronger, the situation becoming ever more difficult. They saw enemies everywhere, saw them as rotten flesh, swollen flesh, enemies surrounding them, enemies in front, enemies behind, enemies to the north, enemies to the south, enemies to the west, enemies to the east, enemies in all eight directions, enemies coming from all nine directions, around them, closing in, with no place to breathe…Pol Pot wanted to further strengthen our stance. Strengthen over and over and over, including measures to successfully kill and purge our own ranks, including strugglers in the movement of the same rank….Looking backward, Cambodia was dissolving into nothing…fighting continually and Cambodia steadily dissolving.”

Nuon Chea, the chief political ideologue of the Khmer Rouge and number 2 in  rank behind Pol Pot,  was a rural peasant from Battambang province in western Cambodia who was educated in Thailand after the Thai’s temporarily invaded and annexed that part of Cambodia. He graduated from the prestigious Thammassat University in Bangkok and joined the leftist Thai Democratic Youth League in 1946 and the Thai Communist party in 1950. That same year he joined the Vietnamese controlled Indochinese Communist Party.

Ieng Sary, the third ranking leader of the Khmer Rouge, was born in former Cambodian territory annexed by Vietnam for more than a century in the Mekong delta of Vietnam to a Chinese immigrant to Vietnam and an ethnic Khmer citizen of Vietnam of middle to upper class origins. He received his higher education in France and joined the French Communist Party during his studies there.

Ta Mok, the top military field commander of the Khmer Rouge, was an uneducated peasant whose family ran a lumber mill in rural Cambodia. He received Buddhist religious training to be a monk, and joined the anti-colonial Democratic Party in 1946 and later the anti-French underground armed nationalist movement, the Khmer Issaraks.

The other leaders were mainly all dead.

In several interviews with Ta Mok in 1997 and 1998, until the days before he was arrested when the final remnants of the Khmer Rouge collapsed, he expounded in straightforward detail to me about the politics and theory the fueled the Communist Party of Kampuchea. Mok was a military man who, while ranked number five in the party hierarchy, had no formal schooling, and his marginally more sophisticated comrades at the core of power despised and dismissed him, cringing when he spoke of politics. But in Cambodia, whoever has the guns has the power, and Mok had recently overthrown Pol Pot in a day’s long duel of life and death after Pol Pot had ordered him killed. Mok acknowledged to me that “hundreds of thousands died. Hundreds of thousands yes. Not millions like the Americans say.” He contended that the “Communist Party had sucked the blood of the people” and that “Pol pot had clearly committed crimes against  humanity.” But Mok was clear in parsing the distinctions of who was legitimately killed. All the thousandshe ordered murdered deserved their fate. “I joined the movement when I was 16. I have no theoretical ideology. My ideology is patriotism. Before I joined the Communist Party, but I had no idea what communism was!” he said, throwing his arms in the air and chuckling. “They said the Party was a patriotic one. That is why I joined the party. Later I found out that the Communist Party was sucking the blood of the people.”

He added that his one regret was working with Pol Pot “whose hands are soiled with blood….each of us has our own lessons to learn from ourselves. Ours is Pol Pot.”

But there was a reason Mok had earned the nickname “the Butcher.” ‘I never killed Khmers,” he said. “ Vietnamese, yes.” When I asked about the purges of other of his senior KR cadre comrades he was known to have been dispatched to kill, Mok claimed that thousands of ethnic Khmer were in fact agents of Vietnam.

“Sao Phim. He was Vietnamese,” Ta Mok said bluntly, referring to the former number four in the Standing Committee of the CPK who headed the eastern zone military on the Vietnamese border. The tens of thousands of ethnic Khmers Ta Mok massacred when he was the top battlefield commander who launched military attacks on the eastern zone forces of the Khmer Rouge were not, in his mind, Cambodians, and therefore their murder was not only justified, but necessary. “They were Vietnamese,” he said dismissively. There is a saying in Cambodian “Kluen Khmer, Kbal Yuon.” It means “To have a Khmer body but the mind of a Vietnamese.” Mok was deeply implicated in the purges of thousands of civilians and cadre during the KR rule. Including his own deputy who he sent to his death at Tuol Sleng. “He was Vietnamese,” Mok told me. Three westerners who ventured to close to his control zone in the months before my visits in 1997 and 1998, were captured and executed—two European humanitarian workers sightseeing near ancient temples and a British former military officer who was volunteering training Cambodians how to unearth buried landmines.

Son Sen was born in South Vietnam, studied in Phnom Penh and Paris, and returned to teach at the prestigious secondary school of Lycee Sisowath in Phnom Penh. Son Sen, during the Khmer Rouge period was directly in charge—as Army Commander and chief of National Security—for the activities of the CPK secret police, including overseeing S-21, the Tuol Sleng torture and extermination  center. He, his wife and 18 of his family members were killed in an orgy of violence on the orders of Pol Pot in June of 1997—an event that sparked the internal power struggle at the core leadership of the Khmer Rouge which Pol Pot lost and Ta Mok won.

Khieu Samphan was born in the eastern province of Svay Rieng and educated in Paris, receiving a Doctorate of Economics. He returned to Cambodia to be elected to the National Assembly, and was widely idolized for his reputation as incorruptible while in parliament under the regime of Norodom Sihanouk. He served briefly as Sihanouk’s minister of commerce, before fleeing to the jungle in 1967 after public threats by Sihanouk. While serving as the public face of the Khmer Rouge, he was never a member of the CPK most powerful body, the Standing Committee. He never revealed his affiliation with the CPK.

In a February 1998 meeting in the jungles of Anlong Veng, I sat at a roundtable luncheon over fresh fish and warm soda in Ta Mok’s house. The lunch guests hosted for three hours by Ta Mok included Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, and several other senior Khmer Rouge cadres. I was allowed to film and record the entire event. Mok had by then captured Pol Pot and controlled the army and therefore the power. Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan hated Mok with a passion, considering him a competent military commander but wholly ignorant of political theory and a loud and course peasant soldier.

Ta Mok began to recite the names and ranks of the Party leaders who had been executed. “ That is right, a (“a” is a pejorative Khmer term meaning ”the contemptible’) Nhim was what number? A-Chong was what number?”, referring to their ranks in the Standing Committee of the CPK. “ A-Phong was what number? Why do I want to count them all? Because I want to relate clearly that all of them were what?” Ta Mok was naming top party leaders arrested, tortured, and executed at Tuol Sleng. “ From number One Pol Pot to all of those I mentioned, some of them were Yuon ( a derogatory term for Vietnamese). Was Pol Pot Yuon or not? I don’t know, it is not clear. But So Phim is clear. He was Yuon. From the east. He was Yuon through and through, a pure Yuon. Chong was Yuon. He was a person of the Yuon.”

Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea were seething sitting to my right with Ta Mok on my left. Their loyalties were still with Pol Pot and they despised Ta Mok. They looked like they were about to explode. Revealing Party secrets is an offensive that had always meant certain death, and to do so in front of an American was unfathomable to them. I knew they had already concluded I was a CIA agent, but considered me a useful back channel.

Cor Bun Heng, a young intellectual, asked “Chong was from where?”

Ta Mok replied: “Koh Kong. Or CIA. It is the same.”

Mok then laughed and pointed his finger at me. “CIA! Have you heard of them?” while laughing menacingly, grinning broadly and gazing his narrow eyes locked on mine, laughing louder and more. I had been told earlier by Khmer Rouge confidantes that Mok was convinced I was an agent of the CIA. I said nothing. “So within the leadership, there were Yuon and CIA. And there were Americans. Have you heard of them?”  , he asked me again, perhaps trying to be both funny and menacing.

Mok laughed again. “ A-Thuch, what was his original name?” laughing and cackling, clearly enjoying making the whole table very uncomfortable for very different reasons.

Khieu Samphan, who was decidedly not laughing and decidedly annoyed, answered: “Koy Thuon.”

“Koy Thuon was an American,” Mok declared.” This is what I want to explain to you.“ Mok continued. “It was like this. It was a mess. And it is this that causes the talk of two million or three million killed. Because internally things weren’t good, they carried on killings. The Yuon group wanted to kill the American group. The American group wanted to kill the Yuon group and kill the Khmers. Internally, there were these three, three parties: The American party, the Yuon party, and the Khmer party. I want to tell you this just honestly, straightforwardly.”

It was the first time Nuon Chea had ever granted an interview in the 50 years since he joined the revolution. And he wasn’t happy. Mok presided and was periodically sarcastic, animated, and demeaning towards his senior colleagues, whose expressions seethed at Mok’s flippant and derogatory remarks.

Mok put down Khieu Samphan, who was seated next to him, saying: “Pol Pot, it is like the Americans say about Khieu Samphan, that he is only a figurehead. Because where are the forces? Who is Cambodia? I am not saying this to boast. Ask the Army. Pol Pot had only himself. The forces were the Southwest,” he said referring to the zone he ruled as military commander during the Khmer Rouge years in power.

I asked Nuon Chea about the alleged coup attempts against Pol Pot and Nuon Chea between 1975 and 1979. “ During the three years holding power, it was the Yuon and the henchmen of the Yuon, “ Nuon Chea replied through clenched teeth.

“What happened?” I asked.

“This is a historical matter of long past, long ago. There were assassination attempts, there were attempts to poison, from what I could gather,” Nuon Chea replied. “But most of it, some places, it is hard for me to recall. I don’t know what Ta would say,” he continued trying to avoid an answer. “ This I am telling you frankly,” Nuon says. “They accuse us.”

Ta Mok then interrupts, offering specific and never before revealed details to the extreme consternation of Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. “Okay, I’d like to tell you. This matter isn’t something that is clear and transparent, it is very difficult, because internally who was it who was in charge? Who was responsible? It was Pol pot who was responsible. There wasn’t anyone else who was number one but Pol Pot. Pol Pot was number One.”

Then Mok turns to Nuon Chea, smirks, his eyes twinkling and his lips pursed in a mixture of menace and mockery, and says ”Brother, you were number two, right?’

Nuon Chea glares, pauses, and answers curtly, “Yes.”

“Yes, you were number two,” Mok repeats, “ Ieng Sary was number three. So Phim was number four. And Ta Mok was only number five. And A-Nhim was what number?” Mok asks Nuon Chea, in a clear attempt to goad and implicate him.

“I don’t know what number, Ta,’ Nuon Chea says.

“It is the number two individual who knows the most,” Mok continued, laughing and mocking Nuon Chea,” But I didn’t understand much. I just looked from the outside. I observed. I just want to express that opinion.”

Although popularly labeled as Communists, evidence from previously unpublished interviews with all the top leadership of the Khmer Rouge show the Khmer Rouge movement and its murderous policies was founded on an amalgam of ideologies and homegrown political theory uniquely Cambodian.

The handful of core leaders who comprised the all-powerful apparatus of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea came from disparate backgrounds, widely divergent political influences, and  training, or absence of training, that clearly suggest a CPK structure of organized power based on no external models. Their policies and tactics drew firmly from the mainstream of their Cambodian historical and contemporary political predecessors  with influences from anti-colonialist movements, extreme nationalism, previous political rulers who assumed the role of all powerful God Kings, and, almost tangentially, various non-Cambodian communist parties in Europe and Asia in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

In fact it is more accurate that they had no single central organization or ideology when they seized power, but rather were dominated by a unique amalgam of loosely allied regional fiefdoms with little uniform central ideology, coordination or control. In effect, in April 1975, six separate armies, long void of a unified command leadership converged on Phnom Penh, simultaneously overthrowing the U.S. installed Lon Nol government. These loosely coordinated regional armed  Khmer Rouge factions then struggled against each other for dominance within the framework of the CPK to assert influence and control.

Once in titular power, there was a stark absence of predetermined strategy or national leadership that implemented what evolved into an orgy of internal power struggles and shocking comfort level with employing tactics of crimes against humanity as routine policy, and a bumbling, delusional, ill prepared and wholly unskilled and incapable cadre of government leaders  and technicians that was predestined to implode in disaster, surrendering in defeat to their own incompetence and failed policies after three years, eight months and 20 days in power.

It is useful to introduce a historical overview of the Khmer Rouge movement and its leadership prior to them seizing power on April 17, 1975.

Cambodia in the 1960’s offered few conditions that traditionally provided fuel to ignite and sustain a communist movement. It had virtually no industrial base or manufacturing sector from which to recruit a working class base of an exploited labor force by those who owned the means of production. Almost all its peasants—85% of the population—owned their own land, eliminating the opportunity to recruit popular support based on the exploitation of tenant farmers by a landlord class. The country was rich in natural resources, with abundant rice crops and some of the most productive fishing waterways in the world. It was a leading exporter of rice until after the war that engulfed the country in 1970. The population was very small compared to the productive land mass and there was virtually no malnutrition or starvation. Cambodia was at peace, despite being surrounded by the regional Indochinese wars that raged on all its borders. Despite its many failings, throughout the mid-20th century, the Cambodian government under royal control, led by Norodom Sihanouk, maintained delicate political neutrality, deftly juggling outside pressures of alliances during the superpower struggles that rendered much of the world allied with one of the three great powers of the era. As a result there were no significant Cambodian proxy armies fighting for the power interests of foreign nations. Importantly, Cambodia was largely ethnically and religiously homogeneous, precluding a racial or religious pretext to foment resentment or strife.

The conditions for revolution were not abundant. The Khmer Rouge–formally known as the Communist Party of Kampuchea–remained an infinitesimal and marginal organization with less than 5000 members until 1970.

While a number of anti-colonialist movements and nationalist armed groups flourished in the 1940’s and 50’s, the signing of the French granting independence to Cambodia in 1953 and the subsequent Geneva accords in 1954, spelled the demise of virtually all the armed underground movements in Cambodia. The Cambodian branch of the Indochinese Communist Party—entirely controlled by the Vietnamese—withdrew their entire ethnic Khmer cadre to Hanoi in 1954. The anti-colonialist Khmer Issarak party evaporated. The leftist Pracheochon above ground political party and the anti-Sihanouk Democratic Party were neutralized. While leftist sentiments lingered and Sihanouk’s autocratic rule kept alive a movement seeking more democratic rule, it was largely marginalized by his heavy handed tactics.

So to what does one attribute the rise of the ultra-radical Communist party of Kampuchea that seized power in 1975 to, leaving millions of bones stacking the killing fields that testified to the Khmer Rouge unprecedented political experiment which ended with the military conquest of Cambodia by Vietnam that brought a halt to the CPK’s 3 years and 8 months in power? What was the genus of its ideology or origins in political theory that allowed them to burgeon and drove the implementation of its disastrous rule?

On September 30, 1960 a group of 10-15 men gathered at a secret meeting in the Phnom Penh railroad station for the first party Congress and formed the Communist Party of Kampuchea. For three days and nights they hammered out and approved a party line and statutes. A Central Committee was chosen with Tou Samouth as Party Secretary, Nuon Chea as Deputy Party Secretary, Saloth Sar, alias Pol Pot, as member, Ma Mong as member, Ieng Sary as member, Chong as member, and Kaev Meas as member. The more powerful sub grouping of the Standing Committee of the CPK compromised Tou Samouth, Nuon Chea, and Pol Pot. As Pol Pot was a teacher, as was Ieng Sary, (as well as both their wives, who were sisters), they were limited to working from Phnom Penh. Nuon Chea was tasked with travelling to the countryside.

According to unpublished interviews I conducted on three separate occasions in January, February, and March 1998 with Nuon Chea, he said: “ We implemented the principle of absolute party leadership in accordance with the slogan: a protracted, difficult, hard struggle, self-reliance, self-mastery, independence…As for the party statutes, the principles of Marxist-Leninism were used and the principle of Democratic centralism. And the Party had to build from the countryside as the foundation and the towns as following behind.”

Nuon Chea’s reference to Marxist-Leninism as a guiding party principle was the sole reference I heard from any senior or other party figure of the CPK. These included  extensive and repeated interviews with hundreds of Khmer Rouge senior political and military cadre, including every surviving member of the party leadership in research from the 1980’s to date. These included interviews with Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith, Ta Mok, Son Sen, Ke Pok, and Khieu Samphan, the only surviving members of the CPK Central Committee after their internal purges and the end of their rule in power. Other research also included hundreds of interviews with other senior political cadre and military commanders who mostly had joined the movement in 1970 or the late 1960’s.

Each of the leaders had their origins as members of other political parties that formed and disintegrated in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

In 1962, the Secretary General of the CPK, Tou Samouth, was arrested while riding his bicycle to get medicine for his sick child in Phnom Penh and taken to the home of then Sihanouk security chief Lon Nol, and interrogated in an unsuccessful attempt to reveal the names of other CPK members, tortured and then executed. He had been betrayed by a government double agent, Siev Heng, who was a former Secretary general of the earlier Vietnamese dominated Communist Party–the Kampuchean People’s Revolutionary Party (KPRP).

The KPRP  had effectively dissolved after the 1954 signing of the Geneva Agreements which mandated the withdrawal of armed forces to Hanoi, and the 1953 bilateral agreement of Cambodian independence between France and Cambodia, which returned Cambodia to independence from Colonial French rule.

After Tou Samouth’s execution, another Party Congress was held in 1963, and Pol Pot was named Secretary General. While logically Nuon Chea was slated to be Secretary General, he was the nephew of the traitor Siev Heng, and deep suspicions of his loyalties—given the impossible to minimize influence of family loyalty in Cambodian culture—precluded him from assuming the top post of the CPK.

The 1963 Party Congress elected Pol Pot as Secretary General, Nuon Chea as Deputy Secretary, and Ieng Sary, Chong, Keu (Sophal), Vorn Vet, Ruoh Nhem (Muol Sambath), Ta Mok, Ma Mong, and Sao Phim to the Central Committee of the CPK. The highest ranking body, the Standing Committee of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, was comprised of Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Sao Phim, and Ieng Sary. Of these ten, six were executed by the Khmer Rouge themselves in a series of purges once they obtained power.

Later in 1963, Prince Sihanouk, in his inimitable style, tauntingly announced that he would name 24 specific people as co-Prime Ministers of his government. They were the exact list of all 24 members of the central committee of CPK including Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Son Sen, Khieu Samphan, and three leftist CPK supporters who were then members of Parliament, Khieu Samphan, Hou Nim, and Hou Yuon. The decision was made that most named would have to flee the city and go underground to various jungle redoubts.

This splintered the party leadership undermining its ability at communicating with one another or central organization and implementation of a coherent national policy to be in place when they seized power in 1975. It resulted in the development of essentially autonomous regional fiefdoms without any effective central party leadership. This is central to explaining the confusion over the origins of the killings after 1975 when essentially six separate Khmer Rouge armies converged on Phnom Penh simultaneously. The struggle for consolidating leadership and consistent national policy cannot be overemphasized, as the political policies and ideological philosophies differed widely on the ground in the different Khmer Rouge regions throughout the country.

The leadership themselves had scarce communication or coordination with each other, with Pol Pot based in the far Northeastern province of Rattanakiri, Ta Mok based in the Southwest, Nuon Chea travelling from Phnom Penh to the countryside, and Sao Phim based on the Vietnamese border to the East.

It is instructive to note, in an analysis of the origins of the political influences of the ideology that drove the CPK policy, that the CPK didn’t fire a shot for 7 years after its founding in 1960. A spontaneous peasant uprising in 1967 in the remote Battambang district of Samlaut over abusive government tax collectors sparked the CPK to make a decision to react in support. On 17 January, 1968, the Khmer Rouge raided a police post in Samlaut, killed a handful of government soldiers, stole weapons, and fled into the jungle. It was the beginning of a nascent armed struggle that would bring Pol Pot and the CPK to power 7 years later.

And it is crucial to recognize that they chose to embark on this guerrilla war after directly rejecting the plea’s not to initiate an armed struggle by both the Chinese and Vietnamese Communist Party leadership, according to Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, and Ta Mok in independent interviews with each.

“The Chinese and the Yuon (Vietnamese) told us that ‘If you decide to fight, it is like fighting your own father,” Ta Mok told me in February 1998, referring to Sihanouk. “But we saw that if we didn’t use arms the movement would be finished. Therefore we decided that we had to mobilize the armed movement. And it wasn’t as if there was a proper leadership. The southwest was the southwest, the east was the east, enjoying independence-self-mastery.”

This stands as a stark early example of the CPK refusing to follow the leadership or strategy of the international communist movement, even from the countries key to their short term tactical survival.

Mok’s analysis that there was no central leadership of the Khmer Rouge forces contributes to explaining the later purges by Pol Pot and his loyalists of most of the other senior leadership of CPK after 1975.

Of the ten members of the CPK standing committee named in 1963, 6 were executed by Pol Pot after they took power in 1975 and before they were deposed in 1979.

In 1975, when the CPK seized power, they had never publicly announced that the CPK even existed, and it wasn’t until September 1977, more than two years after the seized power, that it was announced that the CPK was ruling Cambodia. Previously, they had publicly contended that a united front government of divergent political ideologies were running the government, naming a fictitious group of United Front personalities who held nearly zero internal influence in formulating State policy but represented a broad sector of well-known figures, including King Sihanouk. Sihanouk remained the public Head of State while in fact under strict house arrest.

In September 1977, the CPK held another Party Congress and named as their standing committee members, in order of rank, Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Sao Phim, Ieng Sary, Son Sen, Ta Mok, Vorn Vet, and Nheum. Of those 8 members, 3 were executed during the Khmer Rouge reign in power—Sao Phim, Vorn Vet, and Nhuem. They also named 22 members to the central committee of the CPK. Of these, 18 were ordered executed by the time the Khmer Rouge were ousted from power in 1979.

Among the first to be purged was Hu Yuon, who as finance minister, objected to the abolishment of markets and the elimination of the use of currency. He was believed to have been executed in the months after the 1975 liberation of Phnom Penh.

Hun Nim, Minister of Information, was arrested  and executed in 1977. It wasn’t the first time Hu Nim had been purged. In 1967, while a member of Parliament, Sihanouk publicly berated Nim as “a little hypocrite” whose “words carry the scent of honey, but hides his claws like a tiger”, and he “had the face of a Vietnamese or Chinese.”  Sihanouk added Hu Nim would be “subjected to the military tribunal and the execution block”.  He promptly fled to the Khmer Rouge controlled jungles. After Sihanouk was overthrown in 1970, and he himself joined in alliance with the Khmer Rouge, he called Hu Nim “one of our greatest intellectuals.

Hu Nim served as Minister of Information for the Khmer Rouge until arrested and tortured and executed in Tuol Sleng in 1977. In a  handwritten Tuol Sleng confession of 28 May, 1977 he wrote: “I have nothing to depend on, only the Communist Party of Kampuchea. Would the Party please show clemency towards me?” He also wrote “I am not a human being, I am an animal.”

“You say the enemy was trying to assassinate you, but most of your central committee was executed in Tuol Sleng before your years in power were finished, “ I asked Pol Pot, during an interview in October 1997, the only public sighting or comments he made after he was driven from power in January 1979. “Did they deserve to die, or was it a mistake?”

“You raise this question, but let me clarify this. These people were in the central leadership of Democratic Kampuchea, but they were not the people of Democratic Kampuchea,” Pol Pot responded. “In 1976 and 1977, that group of people you were talking about set up a coup d’état committee, especially against me. In that committee there were Vietnamese agents in the majority.”

“And among the leadership, they included whom?” I asked.

“My memory does not serve me well on that,” he answered rather incredulously, unable to remember the names of his top comrades he had ordered executed. He paused for about 30 seconds and then exclaimed, pointed his finger at me and fixed his gaze on my eyes, “but among those who were in the coup committee were Ya. He was a Vietnamese agent since 1946.”

Ya, alias Maen San was the zone secretary for the northeast appointed in January 1976, the same month he was arrested. He was also a member of the Standing Committee of the CPK.

The confession of Ya is particularly chilling. In an S-21 (Tuol Sleng ) document dated January 10, 1976, the Khmer Rouge chief executioner, Duch, wrote a note to Ya’s interrogator that “I reported to Angkar ( a reference used either for Pol pot or Nuon Chea. However Duch said he reported only to Son Sen and Nuon Chea and never directly spoke to  Pol Pot until 1988) at ten minutes to nine on the case of Ya based on the documents that comrade (you) provided…Angkar says that in the case that Ya remains reluctant and continues to hide his traitorous connections and activities, Angkar has decided to have him killed…Angkar has decided it is a case of having him looking down on the Party, not just down on our state security. Therefore for Ya, you can use the hot measures and for a long time. Even if those measures led to his death, comrade will not be wrongful toward Angkar’s discipline.” Duch signed off with “warm revolutionary fraternity.”

Pon, S-21’s top interrogator, added a note to the document in handwriting designated to be read by Ya. “Brother Ya, read this and think it through thoroughly.” The document was then given back to Ya.

Included among those executed were many top leaders of the Communist Party of Kampuchea named in power in 1975. They included Ya, Vorn Vet (ranked #7), Ruo Nheum alias Muol Sambat, Chou Chet alias Thang Si, Sao Phim, Koy Thuon, alias Thuoch (ranked #5), Chey Suon alias Non Suon (ranked  #11) and Ruos Nhim. All were members of the Standing Committee of the Party. Among the Central Committee members of the CPK who were arrested tortured and executed included Pang alias Chheum sak-aok alias Seuang, Chan, Pin, Reran alias So Sarouen, Mon, Meah Tal alias Sam Huoy, Nat alias Im Long, Koe alias Kung Sophal alias Kan, Phuong, and Chong, who was Ta Mok’s chief deputy and an ethnic Thai from Koh Kong province whose real name was Prasith.

An October 30, 1976 party  document entitled “Decision of the Central Committee on a Number of Problems: the Right to decide on extermination within and outside the ranks” named the following; All 6 zone heads, the 22 members of the central Committee of the CPK, the Standing Committee of the CPK, and the top leaders of the Armed Forces.

Many of these same leaders would also be arrested and executed at the instruction of other members of these bodies in the period between 1975 and 1979..

In 1999 interviews I conducted with Duch, the head of S-21 (Tuol Sleng), the primary internal security service responsible for arrests and executions, he blamed the genesis of the killings on Pol Pot’s 1973 decision to have all leaders come from the peasantry, eliminating educated cadre from positions of influence.

“ At that time many things changed, and many people were killed. After liberation in 1975, Pol Pot said ‘We must protect our country by finding enemies within the ranks of the party. We are not strong enough to attack enemies from the outside, so we must destroy them from within.’ First we arrested the people from the North, then the Southwest, then the Northwest, then the East. He used Nuon Chea to do the work. Pol Pot never directly ordered the killings. Nuon Chea was always cruel and pompous. He never explained to the cadre. He only ordered them. For arresting people, it was the everyday job of Nuon Chea and Son Sen. Pol Pot knew about S-21, but did  not direct it personally. He left that job to Nuon Chea as number 2 in the Party and Son Sen as head of the Army and Police,” Duch said.

“They arrested nearly everyone by the end…it is a permanent rule,” said Duch. “Whoever is arrested must be killed.”

In May 1978, Sao Phim, a top Standing Committee member and head of the Eastern Zone under Khmer Rouge rule, was ordered arrested and killed at a secret meeting of select top party leaders. In more than two weeks of recorded interviews, totaling 40 hours, with Duch while he was in the jungle living clandestinely under an assumed name immediately prior to his arrest, the commandant of the Khmer Rouge security service S-21, the killing machine of the regime, the man who actually personally carried out the orders to arrest, interrogate and execute that came from the top political leadership, he said: “It was brother number one (Pol Pot) who decided that Sao Phim would die…a very secret meeting was held—Pol Pot ordered it. Khieu Samphan was there—He was the note taker. Three men and especially one man ordered it. Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Son Sen were at the meeting–not Ieng Sary or Vorn Vet.”

By late 1978, another sweeping purge  was starting to crest. Among high ranking victims was Vorn Vet, a Party Standing Committee member who was also the deputy premier in charge of the economy. He was a long time protégé of Pol Pot, who had personally inducted Vorn Vet into the Communist Party of Kampuchea. In his “confessions” under torture,  Vorn Vet discussed his opposition to Pol Pot’s purges, which in turn was used as proof that was a traitor and enemy agent.

When the Vietnamese invaded in late 1978, documents found at Tuol Sleng revealed that another two senior leaders were also targeted for arrest and liquidation. One was long time Pol Pot associate and comrade, Son Sen, the Deputy premier in charge of National Defence, Chairman of the Armed forces general Staff, and  Standing Committee member. In practice, Son Sen was head of the entire Khmer Rouge Military and Security Services, including the secret police and execution and torture apparatus, during their years in power. As such, he was,  along with Nuon Chea, the CPK party representative that was the link between the political leadership and the killing machine itself. He was in fact the direct supervisor of the S-21 torture and execution center and the man to whom S-21 commandant Duch reported directly, alongside Nuon Chea. In Mid-1978, Son Sen was dispatched to command the troops fighting the escalating war with the Vietnamese on the eastern front, and relinquished his duties as S-21 liaison with the Party leadership to Nuon Chea. With the war going badly against Vietnam, the CPK leadership blamed not the superior military strength, troop numbers, battlefield experience, and superior firepower and morale of the Vietnamese, but Son Sen as an enemy agent because it was unfathomable that the CPK’s strategy was untenable in itself. With that logic used, it had to be purposeful sabotage of “enemies from within” that was responsible for the war not succeeding.

Another target for execution found in the files of S-21 from the last days before the Vietnamese overran Phnom Penh, showed that Ke Pok, Party Secretary and commander of the Central zone, also a member of the Standing Committee, was also targeted for arrest and execution. Ironically both Ke Pok and Son Sen were saved by the Vietnamese invasion before their arrests could be carried out.

The remaining five in the years after, all turned against each other.

Ieng Sary broke with Pol Pot in 1996 calling him a “dictator worse than Hitler” and sentencing him to death.

Pol Pot and Ta Mok announced that Ieng Sary was a “Vietnamese agent” and in turn sentenced him to death.

The irony that both Pol Pot and Ieng Sary had been sentenced to death, together,  as the “Pol Pot-Ieng Sary clique” in a 1979 political show trial by the ex-Khmer Rouge installed by the Vietnamese invasion as the new Cambodian leaders, went largely unnoticed.

Pol Pot ordered the arrest of Nuon Chea, Son Sen and Ta Mok in November 1996, blaming them for the defection of Ieng Sary. He later, in June 1997, ordered the execution of Son Sen and Ta Mok, succeeding in killing Son Sen.

Khieu Samphan went on the clandestine jungle radio controlled by Pol Pot on June 10, 1997, calling Son Sen a “traitor and Vietnamese agent.” Ta Mok fought back and captured Pol Pot, Khieu Samphan, and Nuon Chea.

Days after the execution of Son Sen, Khieu Samphan went back on the radio—this time on behalf of Ta Mok—referring to Son Sen as “comrade” and announcing that “Pol Pot” was under arrest as a “traitor.”

During several interviews in the Khmer Rouge controlled jungles with Khieu Samphan from October 1997 through1998, I asked if he was a hostage of Pol Pot during the internal fighting, he said: “You could call it something like that.”

So in the end, all ten of the original members of the 1963 Standing Committee of the CPK had been arrested, murdered, or sentenced to death by each other as “traitors.”

In fact by the end of Pol Pot’s rule in 1979, of the 22 members of the central committee of the CPK that were named in 1975 when they seized power, 18 had been executed or named to be executed as ‘enemy agents”  covertly plotting from within the CPK ranks.

Many cadres who fled to Vietnam in 1977 and 1978, including current premier Hun Sen, ruling party president Chea Sim, the titular head of the original  Vietnamese installed government Heng Samrin, Interior Minister Sar Kheng, and Defence Minister Tea Banh fled in 1977 and 1978. Many were loyal officers who remained in power with the Khmer Rouge while hundreds of thousands died  at the hands of the government they were still loyal to, well after the disastrous policies and purges were implemented. They left the Khmer Rouge, not because of objection to Pol Pot’s policies, but rather because they were aware they were next on the list of targets.

During the massive purge of mid 1978 against “internal enemies” in the Party, the Khmer Rouge publicly announced that they were not just preparing for war against Vietnam, but the extermination of the entire Vietnamese race and the military re-capture of territory on the Mekong Delta that had been lost centuries before.

The Khmer Rouge strategy was clearly tactically, strategically and psychologically delusional. But they were no doubt serious.

They announced on State radio that Cambodia, with a population of 8 million, would eliminate the entire Vietnamese population of battle hardened 60 million, and explained their crude strategy. The May 10, 1978 Khmer Rouge radio proclaimed in a public broadcast. “ The party has instructed that we destroy as many of the enemy as possible, and try to preserve our forces to the maximum. We are few in number, but we have to attack a larger force. This is our slogan:  In terms of numbers, one of us must kill 30 Vietnamese. If we can implement this slogan, we surely can win. Using these figures, one Cambodian is equal to thirty Vietnamese. And 100 Cambodians are equal to 3000 Vietnamese. We should have 2 million troops for 60 million Vietnamese. We don’t have to engage 8 million people. We need only 2 million to crush the 60 million Vietnamese, and we would still have 6 million left We must format our combat line in this manner in order to win victory. The entire army, party, and people must be made fully aware of these views, lines, and stands. We must review our history. Have the Vietnamese succeeded in swallowing Cambodia? No, they have not. We must purify our armed forces, our Party, and the masses of people in order to continue fighting the enemy in defence of Cambodian territory and the Cambodian race. If we do not try and defend our territory, then we shall lose it, and then our race will disappear. The Vietnamese will bring in one or two million people into Cambodia every year, and then we will lose our territory, and our race will be completely swallowed up.”

This official Khmer Rouge strategy was not a secret later unearthed from an internal party document. It was broadcast on their radio for both internal and foreign consumption in 1978 in their final months in power. Their military and political formula was patently delusional, and based on no remotely viable military strategy. It was simply ludicrous.

The “victory” was that the Khmer race would remain, in theory, with 6 million alive, ancient Khmer territory lost centuries ago would be re-conquered, and current territory would be saved from fictional, delusional, non-existent, foreign plots of foreign designs of annexation rooted in age old historical grievances.

It was nothing less than the manifestations of delusions of grandeur, still oozing the puss of the deep humiliation, resentment, and fixation for vengeance for the defeats now ancient history, seared into the minds of the popular Cambodian consciousness, harking back 800 years to the still forever at the forefront of contemporary political agenda of the Great Angkor Empire, which had evaporated by the 14th century.

This deep sense of racial and cultural insecurity, a national psychological disorder of a shared racial and cultural inferiority complex combined with a shocking national acceptance of the need to exact eventual revenge and a deep sense of humiliation, preceded the Khmer Rouge and remains at the very core of mainstream political and psychological culture. But when mixed with Stalinist style internal political power structures under Pol Pot, the inevitability of an implosion into an orgy of unspeakable violence and collapse seems retrospectively both logical and predictable.

Pol Pot’s other major internal central policy focused singularly on the rapid creation of a patently untenable rise in agricultural production. He based his goals on the superior racial abilities of the Khmer peasants. He set unachievable quotas for rice production that were guaranteed to fail.

He was obsessed  with an ability to create a superior agrarian utopia based on self-reliance on Khmer resources, which largely didn’t exist. Pol Pot’s domestic policies of agricultural production goals, the regional production of rice quotas mandated by the central party, were simply unattainable, guaranteed to fail, and a queer mixture of delusion, incompetence  and a stark false sense of self grandeur.

Cambodia’s mechanized resources were simply non-existent, its agricultural productive capacity and infrastructure decimated by 5 years of warfare when Pol Pot came to power, and its trained human resources and technically skilled cadre with even minimum expertise  minuscule in number and capability. In addition, anyone with foreign training and the skills, who returned from abroad upon victory to build a new society, were deemed suspected spies and most were killed. In addition, local and regional cadre who questioned the ability to meet the quotas were deemed foreign enemy agents intent on sabotaging the revolution and arrested and executed.

“They fought against us, so we had to take measure to defend ourselves,’ Pol Pot told me in 1997, blaming “enemies from within” for sabotaging the regimes’ policy goals. He blamed starvation that killed hundreds of thousands on “enemies within our ranks” who “withheld food from the people. There was rice but they didn’t give rice to the population to eat.”

The list of enemies ranged from officials of the defeated Lon Nol regime, to “internal agents” within the Party and the army, to Vietnamese, CIA, and KGB plots, often working simultaneously in coordination with one another, to his contention of six attempted coup attempts to depose assassinate and him, to finally the entire nation and race of Vietnam.

In 1977, Khieu Samphan stressed the rejection of foreign aid as a “science.”

“In the old regime did the school children, college children, university graduates know anything about the true natural sciences? Could they tell the difference between an early crop and a six month rice crop…they relied completely on foreigners, expecting foreign equipment and even foreign experts to do their job for them. Everything was done according to foreign books and foreign standards. Therefore, it was useless and could not serve the needs of our people, nor could it be of any help building our nation. By contrast, our children in rural regions have always had useful knowledge. They can tell you which cow is tame and which cow is skittish. They can mount a buffalo from both sides. They are masters of the herd. They have practically mastered nature. Only this should be called natural science because this type of knowledge is closely connected with the realities of the nation, with the ideas of nationalism, national construction, and national defense.”

In its place the Khmer Rouge mandated thousands of underfed and overworked forced labour to build poorly designed water irrigation systems, planting and harvesting at a pace that resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands from sheer overwork and exhaustion. The nationwide system of irrigation and water canals was designed with the help of North Korean engineers and can be clearly seen criss-crossing the entire country from space satellites. None of the irrigation  canals or dams work today, a colossal failure in clueless technology . untrained expertise and delusional visions of racial grandeur that cost hundreds of thousands of lives, starved and worked to death, forced to hand build the absurd scheme.

The ban on the use of money was also a direct consequence of the CPK hyper focus on foreign enemies trying to destroy Cambodia. “Pol Pot was convinced that only the ban of the use of money could prevent the CIA from carrying out any activity in Cambodia because in his view the CIA used money to buy people and recruit agents,” said CPK Standing Committee member and Pol Pot’s brother in law Ieng Sary after he defected in 1996.” He boasted that if we used money, his regime would not have lasted three months and so far no other country could do the same.”

In July, 1976, the Khmer Rouge embarked on a Four Year Plan in all Fields, 1977-1980.” The document acknowledged “we are extremely weak” in industry and technology, but said “technology is not the decisive factor; the determining factors of the revolution are politics, revolutionary people, and revolutionary methods.” It also rejected  accepting foreign assistance saying “we would certainly obtain some, but this would affect our political line…there would be political conditions imposed on us without fail.” The document concluded that Cambodia “had leaped over the feudalists and capitalists of every nation, and have achieved a socialist state right away.” They even said they had out achieved North Korea, China, and North Vietnam, saying “ we are faster than them…nothing is confused as it is with them…we don’t need a long time for the transformation.”

But while modern Cambodia bears no political or geographical resemblance to the ancient political and military and cultural antecedents of the Angkor period, the Angkor empire is crucial to understanding the motives and psychology of Pol Pot and, indeed, the modern Cambodian society that  created the Khmer Rouge rise to power, and to a significant degree the political culture that succeeded it and remains dominant today.

Pol Pot’s political contemporaries almost all shifted allegiance in recent decades to serving alternately as military and political allies and adversaries to the Khmer Rouge. Sharing many similar objectives and characteristics, the political leaders succeeding and preceding Pol Pot in power, comprise a consistent modern political culture remarkably still dominated by the same cast of characters from French independence in 1953 to the present. They together share key responsibility to the disaster wrought by the Khmer Rouge and their short tenure in power.

But it reelected the sincere belief of Khmer racial and cultural and political prowess that was superior to all other nations and theories in history and this belief was carried out in all sectors of government policy.

A look at the backgrounds and statements of the leaders of the CPK provides little substantiation of the theory that their murderous policies were inspired by any allegiance to communism, but rather points instead to its roots in traditional Cambodian political themes of nationalism, anti-colonialism, vitriolic abhorrence to foreign domination, sovereignty, retaking territory lost in past centuries to neighboring powers, racial superiority of Khmers and racial hatred for foreigners, particularly Vietnamese.

In detailed personal interviews with every living  member of the Standing Committee of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, only once did I ever hear a reference to Communism as an influence in their ideological development

The leadership of the Khmer Rouge was a disparate grouping of individuals with few shared teachings, backgrounds, ideology, or unified vision.

Pol Pot was a failed radio technician student from a rural middle class background influenced by anti-colonialist and nationalist movements who dabbled in leftist politics while a student in France and was inducted into the French Communist Party. Upon his return to Cambodia in the early 1950’s, after failing out of his radio technical school, he was inducted into the predecessor to the CPK, the  Indochinese Communist Party, by the Vietnamese, who held firm control over the communist movement in the three Indochinese countries at the time. Before joining the original formation of the CPK in 1960, he taught school and wrote articles under pseudonyms signed “The Original Khmer” and the “The nation, the People, and the Race.” The latter was the same pseudonym he used to sign his radio broadcasts from the jungles in the 1980’s and 90’s, after being deposed from power.

In 1997, when I asked Pol Pot about his political influences and what drove his policies during his reign, he said: “I would like to say that my conscious is clear. Everything I have done is for the nation the people and the race of Cambodia. I want to tell you, I am quite satisfied with one thing: If there was no struggle carried out by us, Cambodia would have been Kampuchea Krom (a reference to areas of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam which were annexed by Vietnam in the 1700’s) in 1975.”

“ During 1975-78 there were of course some conflicting views, this is true,” he said, obliquely avoiding my questions of mass murder under his rule. “There was opposition to Democratic Kampuchea, and, of course, Democratic Kampuchea had to do something about that. The Vietnamese carried out activities for some time. Naturally we had to defend ourselves. They wanted to kill me.”

“Who is they?” I asked.

“Mainly the Vietnamese. They knew without me they could easily swallow up Cambodia.”

Pol Pot saw himself literally as the personal embodiment of the Cambodian nation. Any opposition to him was interpreted as treason against the Khmer race and Cambodian nation itself, by definition. This fealty to a single infallible God King like ruler, who demands unquestioned, obsequious loyalty, has been the dominant characteristic of Cambodian organization of government power for 800 years, both historically and immediately preceding Pol Pot’s rise to power and the dominant feature of his successor, the ex-Khmer Rouge officer, the dictator Hun Sen, who has held power since Pol Pot was forced back to the jungle in 1979.

Pol Pot, the ugly truth remains, is very not only Khmer, but fits comfortably in mainstream contemporary Cambodian political culture, sharing dominant core traits with his ostensible contemporary adversaries.

(Copyright Nate Thayer. All rights reserved. No republication, quotation from, copying or dissemination in whole or in part without prior written permission from Author)

 

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