VIETNAM SHADOWS by Arnold R. Isaacs


The War, Its Ghosts, and Its Legacy
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 Isaacs (Without Honor: Defeat in Vietnam and Cambodia, 1983) covers a good deal of territory in this sober, strongly written, and persuasively argued book. According to the former Baltimore Sun foreign correspondent, the ``lingering legacies'' of the Vietnam War include a continuing impact on American veterans, on nonveterans of the Vietnam generation, and on American foreign and military policy, as well as the POW/MIA issue, Indochinese immigration to the US, US-Vietnam relations, and reconciliation efforts in this country. Examining those topics is a huge, complicated task, but Isaacs does so extremely capably. He amasses a large amount of solid information in each area, carefully analyzes it, and comes up with honest, insightful conclusions. In the chapter on veterans, for example, he serves up a mixture of previously published and original interviews, along with a catalog of factual data to back up his conclusions. These include a strong condemnation of Hollywood and the news media for consistently presenting stories of Americans perpetrating atrocities in Vietnam. That situation, he argues effectively, ``made a clichÇ of atrocities'' and unfairly portrayed veterans as ultraviolent misfits, causing many Americans for years to blame the veterans for the war. Elsewhere, Isaacs marshals a vast amount of evidence to buttress his contention that the widely held belief that Vietnam continues to hold American POWs is a myth. The majority of Americans still listed as missing in Vietnam, Isaacs says, were ``undoubtedly killed at the time they disappeared.'' It is ``virtually inconceivable that any [are] still alive,'' he says, nor will it ever ``be known exactly how or where'' they died. Those blunt conclusions are sure to be controversial, given opinion polls indicating that two-thirds of the public believes Vietnam continues to hold American prisoners. A valuable book that shows vividly how the Vietnam War continues to have a wide impact on American society.

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1997
ISBN: 0-8018-5605-1
Page count: 248pp
Publisher: Johns Hopkins Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1997


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