"I accept the regret, the sorrow and the suffering of the million Cambodian people who
lost their husbands and wives. I would like the Cambodian people to condemn me to the harshest punishment."
?Kaing Guek Eav (?uch?, addressing the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Phnom Penh, August 12, 2009
?At times, I have imagined you shackled, starved, whipped and clubbed, viciously. I have imagined your scrotum electrified, being forced to eat your own feces, being nearly drowned and having your throat cut.?
?Rob Hamill, brother of New Zealander and Khmer Rouge victim Kerry Hamill, addressing Duch before the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, August 17, 2009.
It would be easy for me to condemn Rob Hamill.
After all, isn? my Christian theology all about forgiveness?
The technically correct Christian response to the confession of one who has wronged you or your family is to accept the confession and be forgiving as Christ forgives us.
Rob Hamill certainly failed to embody that ethic when given the opportunity to confront Kaing Guek Eav in open court. Confession had been given. Responsibility had been accepted. And yet no forgiveness came from the mouth of Rob Hamill.
My training tells me to tut-tut Rob Hamill and hold him up as a sorry example of humanity? sinful refusal to forgive.
That? what my training tells me . . .
But that is absolutely not what my heart tells me. You will hear no condemnation of Rob Hamill? words from this quarter. Putting myself as best I can in the shoes of Rob Hamill, I cannot honestly say that I would not feel exactly the same way and that I would not express a desire for the infliction of retributive justice at its harshest.
And therein lies the insidiously continuing damage of the evil perpetrated by the Khmer Rogue.
THE ORDEALS OF KERRY HAMILL AND JOHN DEWHIRST
In order to understand Rob Hamill? rage we must first come to know the story of Rob? brother, Kerry.
Kerry Hamill was 27 years old when, in August of 1978, a yacht on which he was sailing drifted into what the Khmer Rouge claimed were Cambodian territorial waters. The yacht was attacked by a Cambodian gunboat. Crewman Stuart Glass was shot instantly. Kerry Hamill and John Dewhirst were taken prisoner and underwent interrogation and torture under Kaing Guek Eav? supervision for two months before being killed by their captors.
Rob Hamill describes a grief at the news of his brother? brutal killing that was nearly unbearable. John Hamill, Rob? elder brother, committed suicide eight months after Kerry? death was confirmed by throwing himself off a cliff.
Copies of the ?onfessions?given under torture by Kerry Hamill and John Dewhirst contain details of their alleged involvement with the CIA that are patently ludicrous. Kerry Hamill revealed that his CIA superior was one ?olonel Sanders.? He also made reference to a ?ajor Rouse,?a clear signal to anyone familiar with the English language that his confession was wholly imaginary.
On the basis of these works of obvious fiction, undoubtedly created in an attempt to placate their insanely paranoid interrogators and stop their torture, Kerry Hamill and John Dewhirst were executed, with their bodies possibly burned in the streets of Phnom Penh.
WHAT IF IT WERE MY BROTHER?
I cannot look myself in the eye in the mirror and assert that if I were confronted with similar circumstances surrounding the senseless death of a loved one I would not also thirst for revenge. I am in no position to claim that I would be able to draw upon my faith, accept an apology, and forgive the perpetrator(s).
However much I might wish to believe that I would heroically overcome my own primal drives and present to the world a face of honest forgiveness, I have to confess that such a scenario is likely a fantasy.
So I must shirk my theological duty of calling Rob Hamill to account for his deficit of forgiveness. The same goes for all of the family members of the Khmer Rouge? victims who are now having their own day in court in Phnom Penh as they describe the implacable grief which Kaing Guek Eav was instrumental in inflicting upon them.
THE CYCLE OF LUCIFER
Attempting to view Duch? confession through the eyes of aggrieved families is a chilling experience. It demonstrates that there are no simple answers in the face of the cycle of violence and revenge that is the heart and soul of the Lucifer Effect.
Let us not forget that the Khmer Rouge originated as a group of idealistic young Cambodians who were seeking redress for centuries?worth of oppression under colonial rule. Whether their perceived grievances were real in an objective sense is a question I leave for historians and political scientists. But those grievances seemed quite real to the Khmer Rouge and a direct line runs from those perceptions to the senseless deaths of hundreds of thousands.
Breaking the cycle of violence and vengeance is a gargantuan task. As a species, we have a lot of work to do in countering the Lucifer Effect.
Rob Hamill will just have to be deprived of my pious condemnation. Instead, I extend to him my sympathy and my fervent prayer that he, his family and all who have suffered from the insanity of the Khmer Rouge regime can one day, somehow some way, find peace.
I went to school with Rob. He is a decent bloke. He has no obligation to forgive anyone, and it's certainly not up to anyone else to shake a finger and say he should. However, if you read the full transcript of his speech you will see the rest of it is quite moderate for someone in his position, and that you have selectively quoted from how he has felt at times, not what he is requesting right now. He did not "express a desire for the infliction of retributive justice at its harshest". All he asked for is justice, not revenge. Your argument is made of straw.
By Wendy | Posted on September 3, 2009, 1:20 am
i stumbled across this page and have found this discussion extremely thought provoking. It is true that violence and sin has a cumulating affect an almost snowball effect which can reach epic proportions. Is this what you mean by the "lucifer effect"? I am niether a clergy nor a liscensed docter my faith is but a mustard seed but i know wrong from right and i know that there is a difference in wanting to kill someone and actually killing them. Rob may want to see the man die but the fact that he is not acting upon his baser desires speaks volumes for his own humanity. I think that he was speaking how he felt and we cannot control how we feel only how we re-act, and in that department he was entirely within accepted moral bounds. Better he voice his anger than it voice him.
By Anthony | Posted on September 13, 2009, 11:50 pm
I was in Phnom Penh a month ago and spent a day at the Trial. A complicating factor in this trial is the full acceptance of his brutal past by "Duch", his statement he deserves the "harshest sentence", and his call to his former colleagues to "speak the truth". His sole defence for his actions in the Pol Pot years was he had to "Kill or be killed", and this appears to be the truth of his situation. His plea to the court I'm told was admission of guilt.
I can appreciate fully the grief rage and pain of victims and/or their families of the Pol Pot horror. and would want to offer them support and space, in the hope they may one day feel at peace. Meantime I wait with real interest the decision of the court in it's sentence on "Duch".
Would more have been achieved in Cambodia if they had established a "Truth and Recomciliation Commission " as in South Africa after the collapse of Apartheid instead of the present Genocide Trial ? If the goal is reconciliation, I suspect so.
By Roger | Posted on September 14, 2009, 5:52 am
No-one can know the depths of sorrow these families and countless others experienced. No-one can know how the Khmer rouge victims suffered. The Psalms, and the Book of Job depict longing for justice, and gratification at justice dispensed. There is value in society punishing or incarcerating aggressors who commit horrendous crimes. This is not the same as hating your enemy. I would venture that (perhaps?) forgiveness is a process
By irma | Posted on September 15, 2009, 3:44 am
A MEASURE OF THE HONESTY OF THIS DISCUSSION IS THAT ALTHO THE K-ROUGE ARE DESCRIBED AS "idealistic young Cambodians" IT WAS NOT MERELY THE COLONIAL PAST THEY OPPOSED, BUT THE PUPPET GOVERNMENT KEPT IN POWER BY THE U.S. - A NEW COLONIAL RULE.
ALSO, THEY WERE FOR LAND REFORM, A GRAVE NEED ALL OVER FRENCH INDO-CHINA, WHICH LED THE VIETNAMMESE INTO THE VIET CONG, AND TO SUPPORT THE NORTH WHERE THE US HAD EXTERMINATED THE V-C.
FURTHER, FROM PEACEFUL LAND REFORMERS, THE KHMER-R WERE CONVERTED BY THE MASSIVE BOMBING BY THE US OF THE AREA WHERE THEY WERE ACTIVE, WHICH FINALLY DROVE THE CIVILIAN POPULATION TO GO TO LIVE IN CAVES IN THE HILLS, AND ONLY VENTURE OUT A LITTLE AT NIGHT TO TRY TO RAISE SOME FOOD CROPS.
BY THE TIME THEY WERE VICTORIOUS, THE KHMER ROUGE WERE TRANSFORMED INTO VENGEFUL FANATIC CORPS DETERMINED TO EXTIRPATE EVERY TRACE OF SO CALLED WESTERN CIVILIZATION (?sic?) IN THE LAND. Kaing Guek Eav WAS JUST A PART OF THAT.
...BUT IT IS NOT POLITIC TO LAY BLAME FOR THE REAL DISASTERS IN INDOCHINA - OR KOREA - OR AFGHANISTAN - OR IRAQ - THE MILLIONS KILLED++ WORLDWIDE, WITH THE REAL TERRORISTS, WHERE IT BELONGS... IS IT?
By WHOISNOTGUILTY | Posted on September 18, 2009, 4:51 pm
The comment by WHOISNOTGUILTY contains some truth that is worth pondering. Unfortunately, that truth is clouded by an aggressively accusatory tone that virtually precludes the possibility of having a rational discussion. The chain of responsibility for the events that gave birth to the savagery of the Khmer Rouge is extraordinarily complex. It includes the governments of the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and the People's Republic of China, as well as the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Prince Norodom Sihanouk bears significant responsibility for his exhortation to the Cambodian people to join the Khmer Rouge after he was deposed. These are issues that I have addressed in other forums. Anyone who wishes to engage in a rational and respectful dialogue about them is more than welcome to do so.
-- Curtis Webster
By Rev. Curtis Webster | Posted on September 22, 2009, 9:46 pm
This is a heart-wrenching topic, Curtis, and you are courageous to engage with it. Anyone who has not experienced the extreme suffering of a loved one is not equipped to judge someone who is still in the grip of that pain. Anyone who has experienced a loved one's suffering is unlikely to judge. The movement from pain to forgiveness comes as the result of hard-won spiritual growth, and most of us have not been tested. I pray we may never be.
By Rev. Jennifer Brooks | Posted on October 11, 2009, 7:18 pm
I was a victim of mental, emotional, phical and sexual abuse over a long period of time and I am a survivor of PTSD. I have also had a significant loss due to evil actions. I have seen the "lucifer effect" outisde of a controlled application. Its not as simple as some claim it to be...solely based on selfishness. You can not ignore the primal urges you have in response to a situation like this. From personal experience, it is a stepping stone to healing to acknowledge those feelings, see what is wrong in those actions and rise above it. Ultimately ending in full and complete forgiveness. Let go of the idea that you have to forgive and forget. Thats for the little things. Peace really only comes with knowledge, understanding the aggressors plight, letting go of the hate for them, giving the judgement up to God and finally fully forgiving them. It is a long long process that requires patience and seeking God. For something of this magnitude, it will require God's hand and many years...never to be forgotten. It must be done to break the cycle...or another seed will be planted which will grow through generations
By Sommer Alvarez | Posted on May 29, 2010, 1:53 am
I don't have time to contemplate the issue right now - but I will. On initial reading , I found your feelings to be similar to mine - there is a sense of "outrage" towards the evil that perpetrated those horrors. I understand why you cannot condemn Rob for not being molded into some form of "Christian" theology that tells the sufferers to just forgive those responsible for horror.
I would wish that, had I been in the room with the torturers , I would have executed them without malice before they commenced on their tortures. I believe that that act would have been an "act of goodness".
The hard part is the realization that the sense of outrage is so strong that a Christian person fears he may enter upon the stage of very strong "reactioary feelings" approaching hatred in his ruminations about the horrors that were practiced upon the victims. He may then be concerned that he himself is captured of evil in the same way the torturers were. I somehow don't think that at all comparable - I sense it's just not.
I don't think Rob or his brother would EVER have participated in the type of evil that the victims suffered and somehow that makes all the difference.
Above , Sommer realized that the primal urge can not be ignored - the feelings must be acknowledged and then some type of full/complete forgiveness can be achieved. Sounded reasonable to me until she spoke of "understanding the aggressors plight" - at which point I rebelled. Jesus forgave those who clamored at the Cross for His execution as they "knew not what they did " and it always carried a sense for me that He saw them as doing the work of satan and as somewhat "duped". But, at the same time, Jesus will judge and He said many, many things about the fate of those who reject Him and His Ways that lead one to believe that there are consequences for decisions made and that at some point - there is no forgiveness.
Perhaps, wrath is only for God and Sommer's view of forgiveness is for mankind but if I were able to achieve forgiveness for horror like this - I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be because I "understood the aggressors plight".
In conclusion, I do NOT see a difference between the Lord in the OT and The Lord in the NT. I see the same Lord - Loving and Just. We see through a glass ......