Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare

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9780805080063: Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare

"The text sparkles with shrewdly plausible inferences mortared into a compelling narrative . . . [Short] is excellent at coining pithy summations of political motives that ring humanly true."―The New York Times Book Review (front page)

Observing Pol Pot at close quarters during the one and only official visit he ever made abroad, to China in 1975, Philip Short was struck by the Cambodian leader's charm and charisma. Yet Pol Pot's utopian experiments in social engineering would result in the death of one in every five Cambodians―more than a million people.
How did an idealistic dream of justice and prosperity mutate into one of humanity's worst nightmares? To answer these questions, Short traveled through Cambodia, interviewing former Khmer Rouge leaders and sifting through previously closed archives around the world. Key figures, including Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary, Pol's brother-in-law and foreign minister, speak here for the first time.
Short's masterly narrative serves as the definitive portrait of the man who headed one of the most enigmatic and terrifying regimes of modern times.

"Short chronicles the stages of the Cambodian revolution with admirable clarity . . . A few chilling details, expertly deployed, do the necessary work." ―The New York Times

"A spectacularly efficient job of describing what happened and why . . . A chillingly clear portrait." ―The Economist

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About the Author:

Philip Short has been a foreign correspondent for The Times (London), The Economist, and the BBC in Uganda, Moscow, China, and Washington, D.C. He is the author of the definitive biography of Mao Tse-tung, and lived in China and Cambodia in the 1970s and early 1980s, where he has returned regularly ever since. He now lives in southern France.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

There were many causes of the egregious tragedy that befell Cambodia in the last quarter of the twentieth century, and many actors amongst whom responsibility must be shared. The over-confidence of the country’s new leaders, above all of its principal leader, the man who would become Pol Pot, was but one element among them, and at the time of the Khmer Rouge victory, one that was skillfully dissembled.

Another full year would pass before the reclusive figure who had directed the war on the communist side would emerge from clandestinity and take the name by which his compatriots, and the rest of the world, would remember him.

Even then, he did so reluctantly. For two decades he had operated under multiple aliases: Phouk, Hay, Pol, “87,“ Grand-Uncle, Elder Brother-to be followed in later years by “99” and Phem. “It is good to change your name,“ he once told one of his secretaries. “The more often you change your name the better. It confuses the enemy.” Then he added, in a phrase which would become a Khmer Rouge mantra: “If you preserve secrecy, half the battle is already won.” The architect of the Cambodian nightmare was not a man who liked working out in the open.

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