Shawcross, William 1946–
Shawcross, William 1946–
(Honorable William Hartley Hume Shawcross)
PERSONAL: Born May 28, 1946, in Sussex, England; son of Hartley W. Shawcross (a prosecutor); married Marina Warner (a writer), January 31, 1972 (divorced 1980); married Michal Levin, 1981 (divorced); married Olga Forte (eldest daughter of Baron Forte [Life Peer], and widow of Marchese Alessandro Polizzi di Sorentino), 1993; children: (first marriage) Conrad Hartley Pelham; (second marriage) Eleanor Joan Georgina. Education: University College, Oxford, B.A. Hobbies and other interests: Sailing.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Green & Heaton, Ltd., 37 Goldhawk Row, London W12 8QQ, England.
CAREER: Journalist, writer, broadcaster, and lecturer. Freelance journalist in Czechoslovakia, 1968–69; Sunday Times, London, England, writer on Eastern European affairs, beginning in 1969, war correspondent in Indochina, 1970–72; correspondent in Washington, DC, for New Statesman (London, England) and Far Eastern Economic Review (Hong Kong). Chair, Article 19: The International Centre on Censorship, 1986–96; board member, International Crisis Group 1995–; member, Informal Advisory Group, UNHCR, 1996–2001, Governor's World Service Consultative Group, BBC, 1997–, Cncl. Disasters Emergency Committee 1998–; associate producer, Queen and Country (BBC TV series), 2002. Visiting research fellow at Merton College, Oxford. Charity and relief board memberships include Response, chairman, 1978–; Article 19, chairman, 1986–96; International Crisis Group, member of executive committee, 1995–; High Commissioner for Refugees, informal advisory group, 1995–2000; disasters Emergency Committee, London, England, member of council, 1997–.
MEMBER: American Political Science Association (congressional fellow).
(With Lewis Chester and others) Watergate: The Full Inside Story, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1973.
Crime and Compromise: Janos Kadar and the Politics of Hungary since Revolution, Dutton (New York, NY), 1974.
Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon, and the Destruction of Cambodia, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1979, revised edition, Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD), 2002.
(With Tim Page) Tim Page's NAM, Knopf (New York, NY), 1983.
Quality of Mercy: Cambodia, the Holocaust and the Modern Conscience, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1984.
The Shah's Last Ride, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1988.
Murdoch, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1992, revised and updated edition published as Murdoch: The Making of a Media Empire, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.
Deliver Us from Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords, and a World of Endless Conflict, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.
Queen and Country: The Fifty-Year Reign of Elizabeth II, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.
Allies: The U.S., Britain, Europe, and the War in Iraq, edited by Peter Osnos, Public Affairs (New York, NY), 2004.
Also author of pamphlet and papers Kowtow: After Tienanmen Square, A Plea on Behalf of Hong Kong, 1989, and Camboida's New Deal, 1994; contributor of articles to periodicals, including Guardian, New Statesman, New York Review of Books, Observer, and New Republic.
SIDELIGHTS: In Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon, and the Destruction of Cambodia, William Shawcross documents America's involvement in Cambodia, beginning immediately after President Richard Nixon's inauguration in 1969 and ending six years later. After examining numerous declassified U.S. government documents and interviewing hundreds of people, including American and foreign cabinet ministers, members of the military, civil servants, journalists, and refugees, Shawcross concluded that, from the first invasion of U.S. troops into Cambodia, Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger did everything they could to conceal U.S. involvement in Cambodia from the American public, from manipulating the press to falsifying Pentagon records.
According to Shawcross, Nixon ordered the illegal bombing of Cambodian border areas as early as March, 1969, hoping to destroy the North Vietnamese headquarters that were reported to be in sanctuary there. The attack, contrary to Nixon's goal, merely forced the North Vietnamese troops to move farther into supposedly neutral country, and into areas of increasingly dense population. The initial bombing, code-named "Breakfast," was followed by invasions called "Lunch," "Snack," "Dinner," "Dessert," and "Supper." The Nixon administration later defended "Operation Menu" by saying that it had been instituted in order to expedite removal of U.S. troops from Vietnam. If that was the purpose of the operation, why, Shawcross asks, did the United States engage in its heaviest bombing during 1973, when there were no U.S. troops left in Vietnam? That year, he notes, the tonnage of bombs dropped on Cambodia was greater than that dropped by the United States on Japan during all of World War II.
Shawcross divides America's Cambodian involvement into four stages. The first stage, the 1969 bombing of Cambodian border areas, pushed the North Vietnamese into increasing conflict with the forces of Cambodia's ruler, Prince Norodom Sihanouk. Stage two came in 1970, when Sihanouk was overthrown in a coup led by Cambodia's prime minister, General Lon Nol. Shawcross suggests that Kissinger (then assistant to the president for national security affairs) encouraged, perhaps even aided, Lon Nol in his effort to oust Sihanouk. Whether Kissinger was involved or not, Lon Nol and his co-conspirators "clearly acted in the expectation of American support, which they promptly got," noted New Republic reviewer Michael Walzer. Saturday Review contributor Fredric M. Kaplan observed that "immediately upon Lon Nol's successful deposition of Sihanouk in 1970, Nixon and Kissinger rushed U.S. support to the new government despite direct warnings … that such actions would compromise Cambodia's neutrality and thus invite a dangerous broadening of the war."
Stage three followed immediately, beginning with the April, 1970, invasion of Cambodia by U.S. and South Vietnamese troops. The invasion, like previous attacks, did more damage to Cambodian civilians than to the communist forces it was allegedly designed to destroy. As the North Vietnamese moved farther into the Cambodian countryside, the United States responded by helping Lon Nol build his army. Lon Nol knew, however, that Cambodia was incapable of defending itself, and it was at this point, says Shawcross, that Lon Nol realized exactly what U.S. support meant. According to David Butler of Newsweek, Lon Nol came to believe that the U.S. invasion was designed not to destroy the sanctuaries of the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong (North Vietnamese guerrillas), but to drive them farther from South Vietnam and deeper into Cambodia.
Stage four marked the rising of the Khmer Rouge, a band of communist terrorists that had grown steadily in number since the days of Prince Sihanouk. In 1975 the Khmer Rouge seized Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital city. Between bombings by the United States and continuous terrorist attacks by the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia was transformed into a nation of refugees. "Moreover," commented Butler, "the South Vietnamese [who were] sent in as 'allies' of Lon Nol displayed an aptitude for killing Cambodians—and looting their villages and raping their women—that they had rarely shown against the Vietcong." Millions of Cambodians were driven from their homes in the country into the cities during the course of the war, Shawcross writes. After the Khmer Rouge's victory, they were driven back to the countryside, where, noted Walzer, "there was, after the years of war, neither food nor shelter nor medical supplies available." "Through all the suffering," a Time contributor wrote, "Washington continued to support the 'bankrupt' and 'corrupt' regime of Lon Nol because he was willing, if far from able, to go on fighting the Communists."
The motive for U.S. interference in Cambodia is difficult to discern, Shawcross acknowledges in Sideshow. He postulates that the entire Cambodian affair was engineered and executed under direct orders from Nixon and Kissinger, and he reasons that nothing short of a mad hunger for power and a paranoia about the spread of Communism could have prompted them to act as they did. Shawcross's point, deduced Fredric M. Kaplan, is that "the workings of Kissinger's ego—coupled with Nixon's self-described 'madman' policy-making—were more directly responsible for the devastation in Cambodia than were geopolitical necessities."
Sideshow was characterized by John Leonard in the New York Times as having "the sweep and the shadows of a spy novel." Washington Post Book World reviewer Jean Lacouture noted the author's "admirable competence, precision, factual richness and talent for description."
In the end, Shawcross passes judgment on Nixon and Kissinger by naming the Cambodian tragedy a crime for which both were responsible. Tribune Books reviewer Harrison E. Salisbury agreed with his conclusion, calling American involvement in Cambodia a "crime which no number of presidential pardons can wash off [Nixon's] record and that of his collaborator, Henry Kissinger. The spot will not out."
With his 2000 book, Deliver Us from Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords, and a World of Endless Conflict, Shawcross delivers a "rude awakening to reality," according to a Commentary article by Robert Kagan. In this study the author surveys a decade's worth of what a Publishers Weekly contributor called "fast-breaking, vicious little wars" that have sprung up since the end of the Cold War era in 1990.
Researching this work took the author around the world with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. The resulting text, noted Kagan, "[touches] down one moment in Iraq to view the [UN's] failed efforts to root out Saddam Hussein's weapons, [then] takes us to Cambodia, where international efforts produced a generally fair election that was then undermined by Hun Sen's seizure of power, then on to Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and East Timor—places the international community responded to crises slowly or not at all, with results that ranged from the disastrous to, at best, the partially successful."
Today's international conflicts are often underlined by "instant media," the CNN-style as-it-happens reportage. Such phenomena, suggests Shawcross, might fuel a strong desire for quick resolution. Neither is humanitarian intervention always a good answer. On the subject of food drops, for instance, Shawcross declares that such actions often do more harm than good, "[supplying] the combatants and so [prolonging] the suffering of the starving people for whom the food was intended," as the Publishers Weekly contributor described it.
Shawcross wrote Queen and Country: The Fifty-Year Reign of Elizabeth II as part of the month-long celebration of Queen Elizabeth II's reign in England. The author details how Great Britain has changed over the years since Elizabeth assumed the throne in 1952, with her subjects becoming increasing jaded about the monarchy over the more recent years. The author notes that increased scrutiny by tabloid journalists have contributed to changing opinions of the monarchy. Despite the monarchy's lessening popularity, Shawcross reveals a side of the Queen that shows her strengths, such as her integrity and ability to function well with Britain's various prime ministers. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that the "lavishly illustrated biography attempts to portray the monarch in both her personal and public capacities." Writing in the Library Journal, Isabel Coates noted: "Shawcross's tone is refreshingly reverential, and his conclusion is touching." Brad Hooper, writing in Booklist, called Queen and Country an "an edifying summary of Elizabeth II's reign thus far."
In Allies: The U.S., Britain, Europe, and the War in Iraq, Shawcross sets forth his case against the populace's growing belief that the Iraq War headed by U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair was a mistake resulting from many grave miscalculations. Shawcross writes with disdain of France and Germany in their relationship with Iraq's former president, Saddam Hussein. He also justifies the invasion as humanitarian and as the correct geopolitical response to the dilemma of Hussein's potential possession of weapons of mass destruction. The author also points out the horrendous abuses of power approved by Hussein, including mass murder and torture. Nevertheless, Shawcross voices criticisms of the invasion, noting the poor planning for controlling Iraq following the first strike's initial victory and the significant mistake of disbanding the Iraqi army.
"In Allies, William Shawcross does not pull punches," wrote Jeffrey Gedmin in the National Review. "In short, this book is a gem." Noting that the author praises both Blair and Bush, Gedmin also wrote that the "book is no whitewash, though." A contributor to the Economist commented: "In … telling the story of the build-up to war … [the book] shows how the issues weren't simple at all. Which is one big reason why the war took place." The reviewer went on to note: "Mr Shawcross is well placed to comment on the war," adding: "He is no pro-American, pro-war sap: he made his name in 1979 with Sideshow, a book that chronicled and lambasted America's war in Cambodia earlier in that decade." Writing in the Library Journal, Marcia L. Sprules commented that the author "has mustered his facts forcefully" and added that his "book will add balance to Middle East collections."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 2002, Brad Hooper, review of Queen and Country: The Fifty-Year Reign of Elizabeth II, p. 1051.
Business Week, April 17, 2000, review of Deliver Us from Evil, p. 24.
Commentary, April, 2000, Robert Kagan, review of Deliver Us from Evil: Peacekeepers, Warlords, and a World of Endless Conflict, p. 58.
Economist, January 31, 2004, review of Allies: The U.S., Britain, Europe, and the War in Iraq, p. 80.
Foreign Affairs, March-April, 2000, review of Deliver Us from Evil, p. 143.
Library Journal, April 15, 2002, Isabel Coates, review of Queen and Country, p. 100; April 1, 2003, Michael Rogers, review of Queen and Country, p. 136; January, 2004, Michael Rogers, review of Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon, and the Destruction of Cambodia, p. 170; March 1, 2004, Marcia Sprules, review of Allies, p. 93.
Nation, May 15, 2000, review of Deliver Us from Evil, p. 30.
National Review, March 8, 2004, Jeffrey Gedmin, review of Allies, p. 50
New Republic, May 26, 1979, Michael Walzer, review of Sideshow,.
Newsweek, April 30, 1979, David Butler, review of Sideshow.
New York Times, April 24, 1979, John Leonard, review of Sideshow, p. C12.
New York Times Book Review, March 26, 2000, Jack Matlock, Jr., review of Deliver Us from Evil, p. 26.
Publishers Weekly, January 21, 2000, review of Deliver Us from Evil, p. 88; April 8, 2002, review of Queen and Country, p. 215.
Saturday Review, June 9, 1979, Fredric M. Kaplan, review of Sideshow.
Time, May 7, 1979, review of Sideshow.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), April 22, 1979, Harrison E. Salisbury, review of Sideshow.
Washington Post Book World, April 29, 1979, Jean Lacouture, review of Sideshow.
International Crisis Group, http://www.intl-crisis-group.org/ (October 13, 2006).
William Shawcross Home Page, http://www.williamshawcross.com (October 13, 2006).