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...


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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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.


Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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