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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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