Read Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon & the Destruction of Cambodia by William Shawcross Online


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 inveAlthough 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."...

Title : Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon & the Destruction of Cambodia
Author :
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ISBN : 9780815412243
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 544 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon & the Destruction of Cambodia Reviews

  • Aaron Million
    2019-05-19 15:58

    William Shawcross could just as easily have titled this book “An Indictment of Henry Kissinger” and still have it accurately reflect the book's content. While that is the basic theme of the book, it is much more than that, and Shawcross does not seem to happily indulge in Kissinger-bashing. In fact, the entire tone of the book is tragic: the systematic destruction of a country and its people, helped along mightily by short-sighted policies instituted by President Richard Nixon, but more so by his National Security Adviser and later Secretary of State, Kissinger. The title of the book refers to relegation of Cambodia to the backburner of priorities in the Nixon White House. Ending the Vietnam War was the main goal (officially), and then focus was on the opening up of relations with both China and the U.S.S.R. Nixon unconstitutionally expanded the conflict into Cambodia in an effort to lower American casualty rates by forcing more of the battle responsibilities onto the South Vietnamese while the U.S. Reined bombs down inside the Cambodian border. Written in 1979, this work both benefits from that fact (the participants were still alive to be interviewed and their memories had not become hazy due to a long passage of time) and is hindered by it in that Kissinger had not yet published any of his memoirs, there were still countless hours of Watergate tapes that had not been released, and not enough time had passed in Cambodia to see the long-term consequences of what had occurred. Certainly Kissinger's (overly) detailed memoirs would have provided Shawcross with much more food for thought. But fortunately Nixon had published his memoirs, and while not nearly as detailed as Kissinger's would turn out to be, Shawcross is able to make use of them. But this book is not just about Kissinger, his administrative maneuvers, deceits, lies, and secrets. It is also about the dysfunctional and out of the loop State Department. Part of this was due to Nixon's distaste for the department and Kissinger's insatiable appetite for power. But, as Shawcross shows, the embassy in Phnom Penh was continually staffed with people who either didn't care about the Cambodian people or didn't have sufficient influence to be able to change U.S. policy. Reading about the 1975 evacuation of the embassy as the murderous Khmer Rouge moved in was painful – and reminiscent of what happened in South Vietnam. Even more than the detailings of the failures on the U.S. side, Shawcross examines the history of Cambodia, its relationships with other countries in the region (specifically China and Vietnam), and its political structure. Prince Sihanouk was overthrown in 1970, mainly due to his own misreading of his country and his power. Lon Nol, his replacement, was a bumbling and incompetent leader who the U.S. stupidly continued to back even though he showed no promise whatsoever. The only thing good about him seemed to be that he was an anti-Communist. Unfortunately, that quality was not nearly enough to fight off the Khmer Rouge, a murderous guerrilla organization manned mainly by Communist youths who had no compunction at all in wantonly murdering people. Ultimately Shawcross shows that, essentially, the U.S. government did not care about the fate of Cambodia or its people. And the few people who did care, either didn't have the ability to fix things or lacked the political pull to keep the Khmer Rouge at bay. His criticism of Kissinger, as well as Nixon, has stood up to the test of time. One area that he could have easily spent more time on is in discussing in greater detail the rise of the Khmer Rouge, and more importantly, why they became so vicious and evil.

  • Erik Graff
    2019-06-06 20:10

    Until reading this book I had little notion of the place of Cambodia in the postwar struggles in Indochina. I had, however, read Shawcross' book about U.N. peacekeeping and reconciliation programmes in such places as Cambodia, seen The Killing Fields movie and followed Wilfred Burchett's coverage in the old Guardian newsweekly--all of which gave me a rather confused picture of Lon Nol's government and the illegal bombings and invasion of Cambodia conducted by the U.S.A. in the seventies. Consequently, I had a sense of the bad guys, lots of them, from Kissinger and Nixon, to Lon Nol and Pol Pot, but little sense of who was 'responsible' for the mess that led ultimately to the unnecessary deaths of millions. Shawcross takes care of that in this coherent, unsettling narrative. (The 'bad guys' behind it all were Kissinger and Nixon in this account.)

  • Christopher Saunders
    2019-05-19 13:10

    British journalist Shawcross offers an excoriating look at America's "secret war" in Cambodia, one of the Vietnam War's most controversial facets. He places the blame squarely on the shoulders of Richard Nixon and his advisers, arguing that their decision to expand American operations (under the Orwellian guise of "winding down the war") into Cambodia was both cruel and extraordinarily misguided. Shawcross does allow that the NVA's Ho Chi Minh Trail crossed its borders, arguably negating Cambodia's claim to neutrality, but shows that Prince Sihanouk, Cambodia's erratic leader, had little choice but to allow this as pro-American hardliners and Communist insurgents menaced his government, forcing him into a suicidal balancing act. Nixon's secret bombings, increased commando raids and the fatal "incursion" of May 1970, whatever their short-term tactical justifications, wrought untold harm on Cambodia's government, killing tens of thousands, misplacing millions and opening the door for Pol Pot's death regime to take power, all without significantly impacting the wider war. More revealing still are Shawcross's explorations of the Nixon Administration's compulsive secrecy and amoral cynicism in foreign policy, the utter contempt of American officials, soldiers and diplomats for Cambodia (Spiro Agnew's visit to Phnom Penh accompanied by bullying, Uzi-toting Secret Servicemen wins an award for ugly American boorishness) and the gruesome human cost, belying their claims at defending civilization. It's not a pretty book, but neither is its subject: and since America found accommodation with the Khmer Rouge in the name of realpolitik several years later, neither can we claim our meddling gave us any sort of high-ground.

  • Andrew
    2019-06-08 15:57

    This is not a book a reader should 'love' or even rate as 'amazing.' I guess it rates as amazing because of it's depth, research and integrity which are all above and beyond the call of duty. It puts into massive detail and context all the bits of pieces of information that I've read about (and much that I didn't know) concerning America's atrocities in Southeast Asia, especially in Cambodia. Required reading for anyone interested in foreign affairs, American politics and foreign policy whether it be Vietnam-era or otherwise. My addendum is that I don't wholeheartedly agree with his implicit (and explicit) conclusions that it was all or primarily the United States' fault. The Khmer Rouge (and their ideology) did exist beforehand. Additionally, the North Vietnamese invaded Cambodia first. The Chinese aided the KR and the Cambodian gov't was (and is) corrupt to the max. The Cambodian people had a lot of forces using and abusing them over a long period - the US being one of them.

  • Maureen
    2019-05-17 18:52

    Shawcross wrote an absolutely smashing history of the United States' war on Cambodia. I don't think I can describe it better than John LeCarre did in his blurb on the inside of the front cover:"This is a thrilling book, although a terrible one. It is solid contemporary history, yet asks no foreknowledge of the reader. It teems with anecdotes and revelation. It will unloose bitter debate. It conveys us like a hurtling train towards the inevitable disaster. But the final impression is of something yet more disturbing. We are shown a surreal and cut-off world of high politics where deceit masquerades as virtue, rivalry and mayhem as the iron logic of statesmanship, and where the sanctity of nationhood is a legalistic quibble."Sound familiar? Kind of like what is going on today? Bush/Cheney? Yeah.

  • NinaRene Soreco
    2019-06-06 20:11

    Note: I wrote this in Phnom Penh in 2007.Sideshow: Nixon, Kissinger, and the Destruction of Cambodia is well documented and offers historical insight into the horrible events of the war in Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos. Some of the inane quotes from our (US) leaders during that time and other events sound similar to that of some of our current leaders (Bush et al), or like they were written for Saturday Night Live. And parallels with the war in Iraq, such as Nixon's cowboy stance after watching Patton three times, and his determination to make a big last-ditch troop surge to save face and show that a third-world country can't beat the US, are tragically ironic.

  • karl levy
    2019-06-10 20:00

    An incredibly well researched book with Shawcross choosing to lay much blame on Kissinger and Nixon and as a result America for the bombing of Cambodia. By choosing conclusions that sat well with the Anti War lobby in the USA Shawcross became a superstar. It is interesting that he backed and still does George W Bush and Tony Blair's invasion of Iraq that would seemingly completely contradict his earlier political leanings irrespective of reasons that his readers would certainly not endorse for any reason no matter their rationality. Cambodia had requested the USA to help with bombing as North Vietnam and the Vietcong had actually invaded and had reached Siem Reap and were 20km from Phnom Penh. When the NVA pulled out they handed the lands across to King Sihanouk's backed Pol Pot's forces without his armies needing to fight. The Chinese have much to be blamed for their input regarding the fighting with supplied arms and idealogy though a full description to balance Americas' input of this is avoided. This book is an example of superb research though biased conclusions. 4 stars for the research.

  • Stew
    2019-06-09 18:02

    Read this, A Bright and Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan,and Tragic Mountains by Jane Hamilton-Merrit and you will have a complete picture of the U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia.Sideshow is the first book I read when I arrived in Cambodia and is a must read for anyone heading that way.

  • Russell Bittner
    2019-05-16 18:16

    “‘I have not addressed such a distinguished audience since dining alone in the hall of mirrors’” (p. 307)This direct quote by Henry Kissinger, uttered at the historic first meeting of the ambassadors (to Washington) of Israel and Egypt, pretty much sums up Kissinger’s estimation of himself.Let me say first off that this is a superb bit of journalism – not only superbly written, but also superbly (not to say ‘superhumanly’) researched. It’s also not an easy read. But the difficulty in reading it lies in the length and in the extraordinary detail describing a time, a series of events, a pair of men (even if Nixon and Kissinger are hardly alone in their nefarious actions), and a war that most of us would rather forget.The problem is – as George Santayana once so knowingly admonished – “he who ignores history is condemned to repeat it.” And because we apparently learned very little from our debacle in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, we’re repeated the selfsame errors in Iraq and Afghanistan.Right up until George W. Bush became president, I’d always thought Richard Nixon was the worst we’d ever elected to that office. I’m inclined, after reading Sideshow, to return to my previous judgment. Now, however, I’d like to add Kissinger as an additional stain on Nixon’s original sin.Much to his credit, William Shawcross doesn’t inject his own opinion into his reporting. Instead, he lets the facts speak for themselves. One exception – and one I think worth quoting at length – is this final paragraph, on p. 299, of Chapter 19, titled “The Bombing”:“For those men [the Khmer Rouge], 1973 confirmed a historic conviction that survival, let alone victory, could be guaranteed only by absolute independence and astonishing fixity of purpose. They faced an enemy who at least appeared to have enormous support from his sponsor, while they themselves could not trust even their own leader [Pol Pot], let alone their friends. The attack upon Phnom Penh was a madness born of desperate isolation, which bred a dreadful hatred of their enemy and a contempt for the attitudes of the outside world. But for the [American] bombing and their shortages of munitions, they might have won the war that summer. As it was, the indifference of their allies and the assault upon them by the supporters of their enemy stamped out thousands upon thousands of them, and the survivors had neither the men nor the firepower for a final assault upon the capital when, after August 15, 1973, the rains re-inherited the skies.” (The insertions between parentheses are my own, supplied to aid in the understanding of this paragraph out of context.)On p. 329, we find this personal quote from Kissinger, so typical of the way both he and Nixon thought and acted: “I would like to think that when the record is written some may remember that perhaps some lives were saved and that perhaps some mothers can rest more at ease …. But I leave that to history. What I will not leave to history is a discussion of my personal honor.” Keep in mind that these two men were exclusively responsible for the deaths of thousands of American servicemen and millions of Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian civilians while the two of them continuously lied – to Congress, to subordinates, to journalists, and even to each other. “Personal honor” indeed. It’s enough to make one retch.But the central issue of this book – the real issue, to which Nixon and Kissinger are, themselves, merely a sideshow – is the tragic, and often barbaric, history of Cambodia. After all, and as William Shawcross says in his conclusion (on p. 396), “(n)either the United States nor its friends nor those who are caught helplessly in its embrace are well served when its leaders act, as Nixon and Kissinger acted, without care. Cambodia was not a mistake; it was a crime. The world is diminished by the experience.”And what, in sum, was that experience? I’ll return to p. 367 to name it. “The nature of Angka was not clear to the evacuees at first, but within hours millions of Cambodians had realized that its orders, transmitted through the fierce young soldiers who supervised their trek, were to be obeyed instantly, and that complaints were often met by immediate execution. As they walked into that first night of April 17, 1975, they were told that from now on only Angka ruled and that Cambodia was beginning again. This was ‘Year Zero.’”RRB04/19/15Brooklyn, NY

  • Michael Goglia
    2019-05-20 13:03

    Having lived through the Vietnam war without serving (too young thank God), I was continually repulsed with Nixon's voice/image on TV explaining why his psychopathic ways were necessary for the freedom of America. Of course, I didn't know what a psychopath was back then. It was pure intuition. We all have an innate sense of right and wrong but "things get confused out there." So after reading Sideshow, I feel like a memory gap has been somehow released back into my consciousness because, if anything, wars are pure traumatic experiences that most people lock away for future referral cuz we can't deal with them in the present.Although this is more about Cambodians than the Vietnamese, I can't help but think of all victims in that war collectively including Americans. But, it was foreign lands we invaded. We had no rightful business there. And for what reason(s) did we invade these Asian countries? The pure maniacal hubris, arrogance and complete madness of a few madmen. Also, and I only learned this after reading Sideshow... it was said madmens' EXPERIMENT. Mad "Dr No's." Nazis doing what they do best; getting OTHER order-following scapegoats to do their dirty work for them and "test the waters" of social indignation, military capabilities, political blowback and drug running. Yeah. Millions killed and maimed, families and homes destroyed, beautiful and ancient countries left in ruin. All for the satisfaction of a few manipulative criminals; Richard M Nixon, Heinz Kissinger, Robert McNamara, George Bush and assorted blowhard generals/minions etc etc. The "Nixon Doctrine" at it's finest. It seems as though some things never change.It's clear after reading this book that Lon Nol wasn't the most beneficent ruler of the ages. But somehow he was managing Cambodia and, for the most part, the people liked him. Until the CIA got involved and fomented a coup which thereby exiled Lon Nol to the four corners. Yep, our good ole CIA parasites. That's ALL they are. PARASITES. Squirming little bugs that love to get into peoples' business in order to feed their chaos-ridden brains. While in exile, Lon Nol spoke at Ohio University and, apparently, it wasn't a very "pro US" speech. A short while later, four protesting students were shot dead by police. I don't know if there's a connection but something tells me there is.Sideshow is an important book. It is documented evidence of the operations of psychopaths and those complicitous minions (whether by choice or by ignorance and mind control) who carry out orders no matter how inhuman and hellish. Everyone should read it because if we don't know the enemy and the types of weapons they use, we don't stand a chance of someday defeating them. With the 2016 election eminent, we face more of the same only on a much grander stage and with nuclear weapons "on the table." What are WE going to do about that?

  • Katie
    2019-05-27 14:53

    Shawcross provides a detailed, well-documented look at the deplorable actions taken by Kissinger and Nixon in Cambodia, a "sideshow" to the Vietnam war. While very detailed it is still very readable, easy to start an stop again, as he focuses on major aspects of the war in each chapter. I was familiar with the ravages of Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge, and knew generally about the U.S. involvement and bombing of Cambodia. However, this book used Freedom of Information Act documents to clearly depict Kissinger and Nixon's deceptions, from requiring the filing of false military reports to blatant lies given to the media and the American people, and how the actions they took in many ways laid the foundation for an ineffective government in Cambodia that failed to counter the Khmer Rouge. Sadly, the book also depicts the tragic results of a people caught in the middle of American politics - with Nixon and Kissinger wanting to continue the war and Congress cutting off funding and limiting actions - and the impact that had on the potential for success. (Also interesting, there are many references to John McCain's father and his role in our involvement as well.)

  • Mikko
    2019-05-25 15:10

    A nicely organized story about a two man's show that lead Cambodia into war. Huge amounts of letters and newspaper articles and other information in the end, which seemed a little bit too much, and much speculation of what would have happened if the initial bombings did not happen. Sometimes hard to keep track on who was doing what, otherwise very nice writing. The brief history of Cambodia was a very educative chapter to a completely ignorant European like me.

  • Ubaid Dhiyan
    2019-06-09 19:54

    An incredible and disturbing work of research and history, Sideshow paints Nixon and his foreign policy advisor Kissinger in rather poor light. This account is damming not just of US foreign policy towards Cambodia during and after the Vietnam war but also of the military. I found the book crucial in understanding the impact of the war on both Laos and Cambodia, an impact both real and obvious on the ground today. Highly recommended.

  • John Hardin
    2019-06-09 12:14

    The first book I read after navy basic training in 1980. It's a good expose of the war in Cambodia and how the nation eventually fell to the Khmer Rouge in 1975. If it's true, it's a damning indictment of the Nixon Administration's Vietnam strategy. If not true, then it's just one man's opinion. A good read, though, and very thought-provoking.

  • Judy
    2019-05-16 16:50

    If you think what Bush & Cheney did in Iraq and Afghanistan was bad, you should read this history of what Nixon & Kissinger did in Vietnam and Cambodia. A compelling and tragic story of N&K's war crimes. Finished reading it on the 44th anniversary of RFK's death and wondered, what could have been...

  • Skip
    2019-06-10 12:16

    One more story about the US killing

  • Jeannette
    2019-06-10 19:07

    I would like to read Sideshow again. I recommend this book. What politicians do in our name!

  • Jessica
    2019-05-31 13:13

    Fascinating, engaging, and enlightening. This one I will finish.

  • Tim Parnell
    2019-05-28 14:06

    Fantastic, engaging and really quite scary.

  • Lee
    2019-06-08 12:08

    A fascinating look at the the role that American politics played in Cambodia's destruction.

  • Samantha
    2019-05-18 12:58

    Should be required reading for every American. It is a sin that most people do not know that Nixon and Kissenger put us in a war without congress's consent.

  • winter
    2019-05-18 16:59

    This details the insidious war crimes of Nixon and Kissinger and the systematic destruction of Cambodia. It is both gripping and horrifying.

  • Fallon
    2019-06-08 12:50

    excellent history of U.S. involvement in Cambodia

  • Paul Medici
    2019-06-13 13:48