50 Years Ago, in 1969, the Moon Was Not Shining for Everyone

Photo credit: Getty Image
  • Lim Tola
  • July 28, 2019 7:23 AM

Reading the news round the world these last few days, one is left with the impression that the year 1969 virtually amounted to one event: a man’s first steps on the moon on July 20. 

On that day, American astronaut Neil Armstrong came out of the Apollo 11 lunar module that had just landed in the Sea of Tranquility and, having set foot on the Earth’s natural satellite, said those now mythical words:  "That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind." 

And 300,000 kilometers from there, Americans and their friends throughout the world exulted. 

Of course, this was an incredible technical, scientific and human achievement that revolutionized humankind’s relationship with the universe.

However, for the political and military leaders of the United States and its allies, this first step by Armstrong also—if not especially—amounted to asserting U.S.’ superiority over the Soviet Union they were fighting on Earth through third-party countries. 

Because what is referred to the Cold War in diplomatic language and which opposed the Eastern and Western blocs through supposedly silent weapons put some countries to fire and the sword 

Cambodia was one of them.

A few months before the U.S. moon odyssey that thrilled people in parts of the world, U.S. bombers had embarked on a carpet-bombing operation along Cambodia’s eastern border to destroy Vietcong refuges used to back assaults against the U.S.-aligned political regime in Saigon. During this bombing campaign, more than 100,000 tons of bombs would be dropped on Cambodian rice fields.  

And in this bomb downpour, no one could see the moon.  

After the huge military operation of 1969, U.S. bombings would be carried out until 1973 while, in its wake, the ranks of the Khmer Rouge forces would swell.    

Fifty years after the first human being setting foot on the moon, let’s not forget that the dreams of some can fuel the nightmares of others.  

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