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Beyond the Killing Fields: War Writings Hardcover – March 1, 2010
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The first section of the book takes us to Cambodia, in the weeks preceding and following the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge. Here Schanberg captures the panic and misery of a besieged city, along with the contributing madness of US bombing and Khmer Rouge shelling. His prose helps us to understand the profound weariness that preceded Cambodia's dark age. Also depicted, of course, is his own near-escape from the Khmer Rouge, the terror of Cambodians, and the trauma of his evacuation from the country.
The second section contains the famous "The Death and Life of Dith Pran" - the basis for The Killing Fields. This is an amazing piece of journalism - as evocative in its own way as the film.
I was pleasantly surprised by the third section, which takes Americans to a conflict they know less about: Pakistan's savage suppression of East Pakistan, followed by the liberation of that territory by the Indian Army. Schanberg reported from East Pakistan in 1971, before he went to Southeast Asia, and one can read this section as informing his later approach to Cambodia. Given the tumult and terror that we associate with Pakistan nowadays, this section has a newfound importance, and it was wise of the editor to include it.Read more ›
Schanberg then went on to reject claims that the communist takeover of Cambodia could lead to state-sponsored genocide: "Wars nourish brutality and sadism, and sometimes certain people are executed by the victors but it would be tendentious to forecast such abnormal behavior as a national policy under a Communist government once the war is over."
NY Times Walter Duranty would have been proud of his colleague Schanberg's work! Like Duranty, Sydney Schanberg like the communists and went on to ignore or excuse their enormous crimes.
My advice to Sydney Schanberg is to apologize for his reporting on Cambodia and give back his 1976 Pulitzer Prize for International he won for his Cambodia coverage.