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Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia [Paperback]

William Shawcross
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Jan 1997
Although there are many books and films dealing with the Vietnam War, Sideshow tells the truth about America's secret and illegal war with Cambodia from 1969 to 1973. William Shawcross interviewed hundreds of people of all nationalities, including cabinet ministers, military men, and civil servants, and extensively researched U.S. Government documents. This full-scale investigation-with material new to this edition-exposes how Kissinger and Nixon treated Cambodia as a sideshow. Although the president and his assistant claimed that a secret bombing campaign in Cambodia was necessary to eliminate North Vietnamese soldiers who were attacking American troops across the border, Shawcross maintains that the bombings only spread the conflict, but led to the rise of the Khmer Rouge and the subsequent massacre of a third of Cambodia's population.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Paperback: 515 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Rev. Ed., Touchstone Ed edition (1 Jan 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671641034
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671641030
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.5 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,356,701 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Shawcross became a writer after leaving University College, Oxford in 1968. He was in Czechoslovakia during the Soviet occupation; this inspired his first book, a biography of Alexander Dubček, the Czechoslovak leader, which was published in 1970. Since then he has written and travelled widely. In 1995 he wrote the BBC Television series Monarchy. In 2002 his BBC Television series and book, Queen and Country celebrated the Queen's Golden Jubilee and examined the changing face of Britain during her reign. Seven years in the writing, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: the Official Biography was published in 2009. He lives in London.

Product Description


Sideshow is both masterly and horrifying... It presents hard and irrefutable evidence... should be compulsory reading! The New York Review Of Books Remarkable and compelling... First and foremost an American political thriller... where American officials spied on each other, lied to each other and falsified reports... ALL TOO REAL. The Boston Globe Sideshow excels... It has the sweep and shadows of a spy novel as it portrays the surreal world of power, severed from morality. The New York Times Shawcross's 1979 volume was powerful when first published and even more so today: Henry Kissinger in his last book spent nearly 100 pages attacking it. This revised edition includes another onslaught, by Kissinger aide Peter Rodman and Shawcross's rebuttal. Essential title. Library Journal --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

William Shawcross, the author of Deliver Us from Evil, lives in London. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hardly a sideshow 12 April 2007
William Shawcross does an excellent job in describing US policy in and towards Cambodia right up to the take-over of the country by the Khmer Rouge.

Shawcross admits to not having been to the country, but he makes good use of hundreds of interviews and a rich supply of US Government documents to write a very good account of what happened to Cambodia during the Nixon and Ford Presidencies. He covers all relevant aspects of the issue. When I read the chapter on `The Advisor', one does get the impression that the National Security Advisor is a rather shady character.

The most interesting bit of the book is actually the Appendix, where Shawcross details the controversy the publication of his book has caused. In the first part Shawcross lists the inaccuracies in Kissinger's memoirs with regards to Cambodia and also appears to suggest that Kissinger's actions created the conditions for the Khmer Rouge to take over the country in 1975.

The second part of the Appendix is a copy of Kissinger's authorised response to `Sideshow', written by his aide Peter W. Rodman for the American Spectator in March 1981. I did not find his arguments terribly convincing, but he has the right to speak up. The third part of the Appendix is the author's response to Mr. Rodman and in the last part of the Appendix Mr. Rodman fires off a hate-mail-type letter. To me it read like the sort of rubbish you often hear from the propaganda departments of totalitarian states. In the late 1990s - if I am not mistaken - Kissinger had to admit that he lied in his memoirs after he was confronted with the original documents. That doesn't exactly add quality to Mr. Rodman's replies.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed and extremely well written 20 Mar 2007
This is a superb account of how US escalation of the Vietnam conflict led to the destruction of Cambodia and how the extent of US cross-border bombing was illegally concealed by the Nixon administration. It is remarkable that practically all of the heavyweight histories of the Vietnam war make little mention of this aspect of the conflict.

In addition to extensively referenced details of the history, the appendices to the book contain numerous literary critiques of 'Sideshow' that appeared in the popular press. These make fascinating reading and several defensive pieces originating from those close to Kissinger, together with the author's refutation, read like the closing arguments from high-court barristers.

For a coherent and comprehensive guide to a much neglected aspect and rather shameful episode in the US involvement in Indochina, read this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The world is diminished by the experience 11 July 2010
Written in the days before Shawcross became an apologist for Murdoch and a biographer for the Queen Mother, this account of the causes and effects of the spreading of the Vietnam conflict into Cambodia is a devastatingly cool, but angry, look at how a major power can destroy a poor country for what? Tactical necessity? Hubris?

By launching first bombing, and then invading, the North Vietnamese strongholds on the Cambodian border many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of American (and, lest we forget, Vietnamese) lives were saved. Unfortunately it also helped tip Cambodia into a civil war which claimed hundreds of thousands of Cambodian lives and paved the way for the eventual takeover of the Khmer Rouge who, with their obscene social engineering experiments (dreamt up in the Universities and coffee-shops of Paris), led to the deaths of 1 million ? 2 million? Cambodians. Oh, and it was illegal according to both US and International law.

Shawcross is in no doubt who was responsible: Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. Nixon gets a bit of a pass as he was, well, Richard Nixon, a delusional paranoiac, who felt he had to prove how `tough' he was both to himself and the rest of the world. Kissinger gets no such pass. Obviously an intelligent man, Kissinger was interested in himself and cared not a jot for others. From toadying to his boss, flattering reporters he thought might be helpful, to plotting against his `rivals', Laird and Rogers, and bullying his subordinates, Kissinger's main interest was Kissinger. The fact that his best-remembered saying is `Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac' tells you all you need to know about him.

My copy is the original and so the full extent of the `Killing Field' horrors was still to be revealed; also I understand there is an attempt by Kissinger in later editions to justify his actions. Good luck. An outstanding book which is, unfortunately, very hard to get hold of these days - worth the effort.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Cambodia was not a mistake; it was a crime... 30 Jan 2011
By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER
... The world is diminished by the experience." William Shawcross concludes his excellent book with the previous succinct summation of his 400 plus page indictment of the policies and actions of Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon in regards to Cambodia. Of particular interest is the 50 or so pages of additions at the end, regarding Kissinger's reaction to the book - there is no real rebuttal, or listing of factual errors, it is all classic Kissinger dissembling. Sadly, the book remains achingly relevant today: one of the prime reasons stated for the invasion was to "save the lives of American troops," the same rationale President Obama just used in refusing to release photos of prisoner abuse at Gitmo.

In January, 1994 I walked through S-21, the Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh. Aside from the caretakers, I was the only one there. The exhibits are mainly the haunting pictures of the torture victims. The nightmare of the Cambodian auto-genocide, in which a third of the population died within four years, was finally ended by the Vietnamese invasion in 1979. The agonizing question is why, in two countries with similar experiences in fighting a long war under the bombs, did this happen in Cambodia and not Vietnam. Shawcross gives some of the most likely reasons we'll ever have: "That summer's war provides a lasting image of peasant boys and girls, clad in black, moving slowly through the mud, half-crazed with terror, as fighter bombers tore down at them by day, and night after night whole seas of 750-pound bombs smashed all around (p 298). Even more telling, Shawcross latter says: "All wars are designed to arouse anger, and almost all soldiers are taught to hate and to dehumanize their enemy.
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