William Shawcross: Let Kissinger speak

William Shawcross is the distinguished journalist and author of many interesting books. His father, Sir Hartley Shawcross, served as Great Britain’s Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial. When Winston Churchill himself needed a lawyer after the war, he turned to Sir Hartley.

Those of us of a certain age are probably most familiar with William Shawcross from his book Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon, and the Destruction of Cambodia. Originally published in 1979, Sideshow was a huge hit on the left. It presented the occasion for a detailed critique by the late Peter Rodman, Henry Kissinger’s colleague, in the pages of the American Spectator and a subsequent exchange with Shawcross that was equally riveting. Shawcross included the review and exchange in the paperback edition of the book, which is still in print. There aren’t many authors of prominent books on public affairs who would give a searing critic of his book the last word, but that’s what Shawcross did.

At the time American Spectator editor R. Emmett Tyrell named Sideshow the winner of his J. Gordon Coogler Award for the worst book of the year. I don’t think anyone reading Sideshow in 1979 would have anticipated Shawcross’s subsequent turn toward America. He writes now as an unabashed, unashamed friend and supporter of the United States. In recognition of Shawcross’s turn, Tyrell rescinded the 1980 Coogler award in a 2012 column hailing Shawcross.

Last night Mr. Shawcross wrote to let us know of his November 20 column posted at RealClearPolitics: “Kissinger and I Were Once at Odds, But Let Him Speak.” He apologized for the late notice. We missed it at the time.

In the column Mr. Shawcross takes up the fraught question of speech on campus about which we have written many times. He tells the story of the evolution of his views on the subject of Sideshow. He also relates his friendship with Peter Rodman that grew out of their exchange.

In a sort of O. Henry twist, Mr. Shawcross adds a tribute to Henry Kissinger. In a follow-up message to me last night he simply commented: “Henry Kssinger is a great man…” Say what you will, Shawcross himself is an exemplary man and this is an extraordinary column.

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