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SIDESHOW

KISSINGER, NIXON, AND THE DESTRUCTION OF CAMBODIA

In 1969, Richard Nixon ordered the secret bombing of Cambodia to destroy North Vietnamese sanctuaries in that formally neutral nation. Today, a decade later, Nixon is a President driven from office and Cambodia a country devastated by civil war and occupied by the Vietnamese army. Shawcross, a former Indochina correspondent of the Sunday Times (London), vividly reconstructs—from documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and published sources and interviews—the process that led to this dismal two-part denouement, for it was the secret bombing which necessitated the wiretaps and other illegalities that culminated in Watergate. Shawcross traces the troubled history of Cambodia from the glories of the Angkor kingdom through the establishment of a French protectorate to its independence under the unpredictable Sihanouk. Long a pawn of the Thais and Vietnamese, the Cambodians managed to achieve a tenuous level of stability under the Prince, but Shawcross also takes note of internal political factions and mixed anti-monarchist opposition, though he discounts the strength of this opposition—until the bombing, that is. Sihanouk was powerless to prevent the Vietnamese from using Cambodian territory, but their presence was concentrated in a small border area. Placing the bombing in the context of American overkill, Shawcross argues that the attack—involving B-52 carpet-bombing of areas inhabited by Cambodian villagers—merely dispersed the Vietnamese and their Khmer Rouge allies deeper into the country. The U.S. escalation which followed the coup against Sihanouk progressively undermined Cambodian sovereignty, in Shawcross' view, and bred corruption by rapid militarization. The "sideshow" is what Cambodia came to be contemptuously called in Washington, where its destruction served not only U.S. aims in Vietnam, but the career interests of key Americans, of whom Kissinger looms the largest. Shawcross also chronicles the increasing extremism of the Khmer Rouge—he has monitored leaders' writings over the years—which issued in the repressive Communist regime. A penetrating study of Nixon-Kissinger rule and of its effects on one sad country, this is possibly the best treatment of the legacy of the Vietnam war in Indochina.

Pub Date: April 1, 1979

ISBN: 081541224X

Page Count: 515

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1979

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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