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Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon, and the Destruction of Cambodia Paperback – August 14, 2002

4.7 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


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)

About the Author

William Shawcross, the author of Deliver Us from Evil, lives in London.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 542 pages
  • Publisher: Cooper Square Press; Revised ed. edition (August 14, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081541224X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815412243
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,006,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
While I've read this book many times over the years, my most recent reading struck me hard. The description of the May 8, 1970 meeting between Henry Kissinger and a number of his friends and personal advisors from Harvard did not seem especially interesting in past years, but jumped off the page this time around. Thomas Schelling told Kissinger that after the invasion of Cambodia the group no longer had faith in Henry or the Nixon administration's ability to conduct foreign policy, and would have nothing further to do with Kissinger. The group pointed out that the invasion could be "used by anyone else in the world as a precedent for invading another country, in order, for example, to clear out terrorists." Another section recounts Arthur Schlesinger Jr. quoting a historian's recollection of the Romans -- "There was no corner of the known world where some interest was not alleged to be in danger or under actual attack. If the interests were not Roman, they were of Rome's allies; and if Rome had no allies, the allies would be invented." Shawcross also notes that in 1964 the US condemned Britain for assaulting a Yemeni town used as a base by insurgents attacking Aden. Another chilling touch is the mention of Lincoln's reaction when he was advised that the President could invade a neighbor if necessary to repel invasion -- Lincoln replied, "Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after you give him as much as you propose." Lincoln's famous speech given as a young man in the 1830s in which he remarked that all the armies of Europe could not forcibly take a drink of water from the Ohio River and therefore "...Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Really bad decisions made by the Nixon administration toward Indochina and the Vietnam War are now fairly obvious. However, we must remember how difficult this type of investigation would have been back when Shawcross did his intensive research back in the late 70s. Here Shawcross builds a very hard-to-dismiss case against Nixon and Henry Kissinger, in terms of how their problematic military and diplomatic strategies at least indirectly led to the hideous destruction of Cambodia (in fact, one of Nixon's documented strategies was to make the Communists think he was a madman, assuming they'd get scared and give up).

During the earlier years of the war, Cambodia was a relatively tranquil nation that was trying to remain neutral. But the country was being used as a hideout by North Vietnamese soldiers, leading to bombing by the Americans. Here Shawcross shows how Nixon and Kissinger made use of political trickery and overhyped threats to keep the bombing going to an extent that was far more destructive than necessary. As a bonus, this book also documents the wire-tapping paranoia and unconstitutional shenanigans in the Nixon White House. Shawcross is especially tough on Kissinger, finding that he disregarded the integrity and safety of Cambodia (which he had only ever visited for four hours), in favor of short-term political advantages and unyielding ideology. The relentless bombing destabilized Cambodian society, leading indirectly to the hideous genocide and societal destruction enacted by the Khmer Rouge a few years later. It is difficult to argue with Shawcross' heavily researched conclusions, and the hellish wholesale collapse of Cambodia (of a type never before seen in modern history) becomes all the more poignant as a result.
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By David Alston on September 16, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book has managed to live on, which is perhaps unfortunate - historically speaking, it's far more relevant to contemporary geopolitics than it should be.

In any case, SIDESHOW has managed to stand as one of the better books on Cambodia, and America's involvement in Cambodia (Elizabeth Becker's WHEN THE WAR WAS OVER is a must-read as well). One could debate Shawcross' perspectives, but his research is meticulous and has withstood many attacks, and his depiction of the machiavellian darkness that can creep into foreign policy is chilling and ruthless, and - for better of worse - makes for hypnotic reading, all the more frightening as it's drawn straight from history, research, the Freedom of Information act.

Now more than ever, this is essential reading.

-David Alston
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By A Customer on November 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is about the war in Cambodia that occurred during, and which was largely caused by, America's intervention in Vietnam. Hence the title "Sideshow," although as the book makes clear this was no minor conflict but rapidly turned into a large scale conflagration. This book should be read all those who saw the movie "The Killing Fields" as it fleshes out the US role in the development of that tragedy. Shawcross does this by documenting the actions of the CIA and the US military under the direction of the Nixon administration in setting the stage for that calamity by first overthrowing Prince Sihanouk and then intervening in Cambodia on a massive scale first through land invasion in April 1970 and continuing with a massive bombing campaign which did not cease even after Congress expressly prohibited it, but went on secretly on a wide scale. This policy created a chain reaction of events that propelled the Khmer Rouge from the margins of society to center stage as millions were disclocated from the land and agricultural production collapsed. Nixon's role in these events was the subject of one of the impeachment articles against him that was not passed by the House Judiciary Committee in 1974 although it received over a dozen votes in its favor.
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