What did the Khmer Rouge do in Cambodia after the U.S. left Vietnam - and what was the U.S.’ role in their actions?Khmer Rouge and the United States

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brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Khmer Rouge were the communist rebels fighting to overthrow the US-allied government of Lon Nol.  When they took over the country in 1975, they attempted to create a farmer's utopia by radically changing Cambodian society.

They evacuated the cities, and began a mass genocide of anyone and anything that might be connected to the West or the old government.  They murdered the educated, many in the defeated military.  All told, in four years they murdered over 2 million people, 25% of the population.

They broke off all ties with the outside world and declared the old calendar null and void, starting over at the "Year Zero".  They empowered and brainwashed the children, giving them command over prison camps and military units, declaring those who spoke a foreign language or who were older as having "memory sickness" and either killing them or sending them away to brutal forced labor "re-education" camps.

There was little the US could do.  Some have said the $5 billion worth of US bombing in the final years of the war in Cambodia radicalized the Khmer Rouge, though it is a difficult accusation to prove.  In the end, it was the communist Vietnamese government who invaded Cambodia and finally ended the nightmare.