cover image Our War

Our War

David Harris, McHenry Harris. Crown Publishers, $21 (191pp) ISBN 978-0-8129-2576-0

Older readers may remember Harris as the most celebrated (or notorious) of the Vietnam War draft resisters, one who impressed many of his ideological opponents with his moral integrity. Antiwar to the core, he refused to join other activists in their support for North Vietnam. Since that war's end, Harris, who's now 50, has written a number of books (The Last Stand, etc.) but has generally maintained a low profile. Here, he sets out in search of a ""reckoning"" to ""clear our souls of this perpetual shadow"" of the war. His opening chapter, with its beautifully cadenced and nuanced prose, hints of cleansing reflections to come. But this early promise is followed by a disappointingly self-righteous and mean-spirited tome that reiterates much of the all-too-familiar antiwar rhetoric of old. The Vietnamese are romanticized into near childlike creatures. Former Secretary of State Dean Rusk is described as having had ""a round face with liver spots across his nose and ears that stuck out like teacup handles."" That old devil of the left, Richard Nixon, was ""as evil a man as any who has ever partaken of the apex of American power."" And as for former Defense Secretary McNamara, Harris avers, ""Were I he, I suspect I would have blown my brains out years ago."" Elegant prose notwithstanding, this material does nothing to advance any national reckoning. Author tour. (Sept.)