There are a few books which I believe should be mandatory reading for everyone, regardless of age, social position, political leaning, etc. "A Rumor of War" by Philip Caputo is one of those books. I would put it at the top of the list of most important books of the 20th century. What Caputo does with remarkable skill and power is strip away all the myths that have ever been perpetuated about the act of war, whether those myths came from sanctimonious politicians, overly vocal patriotic robots, or bleeding hearts subject to knee-jerk bouts of insecere moral condescention.
Caputo's approach is simple. He tells it like it was, without embellishment or concealment. He says early on in his forward that every word contained in the book is ture and thanks to his clear and lucid memory, the plausibility of his stories, and the attention paid to detail. He doesn't try to shock us with overwrought language or uptight narratives, he simply lets the truth present itself. He tells us what he did and why he did it; what he felt and why he felt it. The beauty of this approach is the empathy it inspires. It is not at all hard for the reader to imagine himself as Caputo in the jungle, waiting for the VC to show himself.
"A Rumor of War" thrusts us into the heart of the Vietnam War, one of the most important and forgotten chapters of 20th century history. Through this book we bear witness to the essence of warfare, without the moralizations and distortions of those who make the wars, those who justify them, or those who condemn them. I think anyone in a position of power should be required to read this book, as should everyone else. It's not easy for the conscience to rest once we realize that this is the kind of world we live in.