08 May 2004

Book Review: "Sideshow: Nixon, Kissinger and the Destruction of Cambodia", by W. Shawcross, ****

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 is far and away the best book on the Cambodian campaign waged by Nixon during the Vietnam War. It contains meticulous research, a wealth of data and some good insights. The appendix to the book, with Kissinger's rebuttal and the author's reply, are particularly useful.

I would have given five stars but for the palpable polical bias that transpires throughout the book. The author hates the guts of Nixon and Kissinger, and anything the U.S. ever did in this book is always inevitably wrong. This emotional approach detracts from the necessary detachment and cold blood I think is indispensable in any historical research work, especially when focussing on topics as controversial as this one.

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