In China and Iran, two countries that are even more enthusiastic about capital punishment than America, authorities sometimes pursue what’s called a “bullet fee.” Basically they try to bill the family of an executed person for the cost of the execution–plus, who knows, a little extra for overhead and expenses or whatever. Families don’t have to pay the bill, but generally that means they forfeit the right to claim the body and give it some kind of funeral ceremony.
We rightly recoil from something so grotesque. Imagine executing someone, quite possibly on false and/or bullshit (i.e., political) charges, then asking that person’s family to pay for the privilege. Here in America, we may not want to pay to keep you from starving to death, or to allow you to see a doctor if you get sick, but when we execute you–whether formally for your third felony marijuana possession charge, or impromptu if you’re doing something really vile like selling loosies–your family can rest assured, it’s on us. Our pleasure, really.
Well, most of the time, anyway.
But what I’m trying to figure out is whether there’s any difference between collecting a “bullet fee” and, say, this:
Half a century after United States B-52 bombers dropped more than 500,000 tonnes of explosives on Cambodia’s countryside Washington wants the country to repay a $US500 million ($662 million) war debt.
The demand has prompted expressions of indignation and outrage from Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh.
Indignation and outrage? You don’t say. Cambodia doesn’t want to pay back its American loan of livestock feed (read the article) simply because American ordinance killed half a million or so Cambodians in the early 1970s and helped grease the wheels for the Khmer Rouge to take over the country, which led directly to the deaths of 2-3 million more? It doesn’t want to repay a debt that was racked up by a government that the US installed in a coup and that never had any popular legitimacy? What a bunch of ingrates.
Let US ambassador William Heidt, seen here shortly after he’d been recruited into the foreign service from his former position as a loan shark for the Gambino family:
explain why the Cambodians are being really unfair and unethical about this whole loan business:
William Heidt, the US’s ambassador in Phnom Penh, said Cambodia’s failure to pay back the debt puts it in league with Sudan, Somalia and Zimbabwe.
“To me, Cambodia does not look like a country that should be in arrears…buildings coming up all over the city, foreign investment coming in, government revenue is rapidly rising,” Mr Heidt was quoted as saying by the Cambodia Daily.
They’re building buildings! Probably to replace some of the ones we blew up while we were looking for the Ho Chi Minh trail in downtown Phnom Penh! What the fuck? Heidt continues:
“I’m saying it is in Cambodia’s interest not to look to the past, but to look at how to solve this because it’s important to Cambodia’s future,” he said, adding that the US has never seriously considered cancelling the debt.
Don’t look to the past you guys, look to the future. Sure, we can bicker about who bombed whose country to rubble, or who allowed whose genocidal regime to come to power and kill millions of people, but where would that get us? The past is the past, man! Live in the present!
OK, now fork over the money we lent you in the 1970s. With interest. PRONTO, FOLKS! Or else we’re going to keep blocking you from borrowing money from the IMF and otherwise fucking with your international finances.
When I read this article to my wife, her immediate question was, “is this guy [Heidt] a Donald Trump appointee or is he just a dick?” And of course he’s not a Trump appointee–at this rate the Trump administration is at least two years away from reviewing its ambassadorships to Southeast Asia. No, Heidt was made ambassador to Cambodia in 2015 by Barack Obama. So he’s just a dick.
But really, he’s not a dick, not all by himself. He’s acting on our behalf in squeezing the Cambodian government for what amounts to a rounding error in the annual Pentagon budget (seriously, they could write the whole loan off as payment for weapons practice and be done with it). So really America is the dick here. We the People are the dick, collectively. And what we’re doing to Cambodia (substitute Yemen, Syria, Libya, etc.) right now is very much the kind of thing that dicks do.
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