THRE IS a time when words come hard to even the
most hardened and cynical of writers, and we are
far from being that. Perhaps the best way to start is
with an explanation.
- On November 23, 1970, Dieter Ludwig, a 22-year-old
free lance photographer from Bayreuth, Germany, ac-
,.~.... ~companied a Cambodian patrol on a mission about '120
kilometers northeast of Phnom Penh. For eight days
the Cambodians had pounded the North Vietnamese
with the aid of American napalming raids. The enemy
had finally broken and abandoned positions. Scouting
patrols were disbursed to clear out any remaining-
enemy soldiers Ludwig reported:w-
One of these reconnaissance units searching the
breast-high rice fields encountered a four-man patrol
of Vietnamese. Two were killed immediately. Two ran.
One of those was killed, the other taken alive (with a
bad shoulder wound) for interrogation.
A routine day In the war in Indochina.
Later, another patrol comes back. They too have
killed four enemies. Shouting with Joy, they wave the
* captured weapons while still at a distance. As they
come ito view, it is possible to see the severed heads
of four North Vietnamse soldiers.
A routine atrocity in the war.-
A severed head is regarded not only as a desirable
.trophy of victory, but also inflicts even worse pain to
the enemy after death. Religious belief teaches Cam-
bodians that the soul of a human being can never find
~ N xpeace if the head is severed from the body. h-
~ .. ..' .:~y:.*. -But the climax has not been reaiched. One of the
soldiers who returned recently holds something red
in his hand. While his comrades utter encouraging
shouts, he lifts his arm high and shows what it is. A
liver. There can be no possible doubt, it is a bloody
human liver. The crowd roars enthusiastically. A Cam-
bodian journalist says the soldiers will quite certainly
zy eat the liver. An old tradition again. This is how
power over one's enemy can be won.
One of them reveals the simple recipe to me: boiled
liver with Cambodian vegetables. "It tastes fine", he
says, with the mien of a gourmet. He seems to know-
what he is talking about . .s.
SlrWHAT can one say?
Perhaps that if these pictures have caused you to
look twice - to stop and think - then this is good.
But if your thoughs go no farther than distaste for the
atrocities shown here, then that is bad.ho
No matter how sloppily one's head is hacked off
.i.no matter who eats your liver .. . it makes little
difference. You are dead before that. The most atroc-
ious act of all occurred earlier, with a bullet.
If it is badly scarred dead bodies that count, then
napalm does just as good a job as a soldiers machete.
I~. ~~ ~.Except napalm makes it unfit to eat.
BUT THE Cambodian Khmers have no priority on
atrocities and war. North Vietnamese troops are
more than happy to oblige in return. American infan-
trymen are more antiseptic - they use flamethrowers
and napalm and M-16 rifles to mutilate and destroy -
but they do it too.
Maybe we have to think all the way back to the
historical hatred caused by Vietnamese southern and
western expansion that continually nibbled away at
the Khmer empire until the French came to Viet Nam
and stopped it. And started something else. Something
else that has never ended.
Just today, coupled with an information blackout
about operations in Laos, we learn of another invas-
ion of Cambodia by 10,000 South Vietnamese troops with
U.S. air support. If this country cannot send its own
men to kill and destroy, it simply air lifts "friendly"
troops and does its part from the air. Is this country
any less guilty for acts such as these for only working
n concert with those doing the killing?
The actions pictured and described here are of
course being executed by troops receiving equipment
and logistical support from U.S. soldiers. Yet indeed,
since the most important basis for the existence of the
* Lon Nol government for whom they fight is U.S. aid,
are these soldiers not essentially the agents of this
,n WHETHER AMERICAN troops are there makes little
difference. The important fact is that all such acts
of atrocity, destruction and death are essential parts of
this country's morality - parts of its culture. Much as
men here have talked proudly of their was exploits in
the past, so will they in the future. The understand war.
Many of these veterans even say that if opponents of~g*
the war could only see it first hand they would change
their attitude about what we see here.
Perhaps that is true. Perhaps it would do us all
good if we could hold the severed heads and organs and
view the mutilated bodies every time we hear and talk
about the war. Even though these pictures make it hard
for some of us to speak, they too will probably soon be
Distressingly, we must wonder how much more will
be necessary for us to realize that these are not
meant to be pictures of an atrocity. What will be
° required for us to realize that the whole of war is
Editorial Page Editor
PHOTOS BY 1 1 tart th