The article “US Spending Bill Ties Aid to End of Gov’t Violence” is seriously misleading when it says that the Khmer Rouge’s 1975 capture of the S.S. Mayaguez “led to the deaths of 41 U.S. servicemen.”
—Letter to the editor—
The Mayaguez, a U.S. merchant vessel, had sailed certainly within 6 nautical miles of Cambodian territory and possibly within 2 nautical miles (as some of its crew later charged), and it was flying no flag.
None of the Mayaguez crew were killed. All 41 U.S. deaths were associated with the U.S. assault on Koh Tang island or preparations for it.
That assault began 24 hours after Khmer Rouge Information and Propaganda Minister Hu Nim had made a public radio broadcast announcing that the crew would be released, and around 20 hours after they had in fact been freed. But U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had persuaded President Gerald Ford that the U.S. should give the world “the impression that we are potentially trigger-happy” after its defeat in Vietnam (Greg Grandin, “Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman”).
Mr. Grandin also notes: “Nobody knows how many Cambodians were killed in the [U.S.] attack, but B-52s hit the mainland, destroying a railroad yard, port, oil refinery, and over three hundred buildings. Nine Cambodian ships were sunk.”
If the U.S. Senate really wants the Khmer Rouge tribunal to look into the Mayaguez events as part of Case 003, perhaps the tribunal can charge Henry Kissinger.