by Joan Didion
A slender volume of reporting on the civil war in El Salvador, seemingly composed at white heat after Didion's visit there in 1982, with writing that's raw in the very best sense of the term. While some of Didion's detractors on Amazon rather curiously try and paint her as a war profiteer for having even published this work, at this remove in time Salvador clearly is/was a call to arms against American support of the corrupt Salvadoran government--prescient advice that unfortunately went unheeded. "Terror is the given of the place," she writes early on, proving that the pronouncement is more than just war zone jitters with a few grisly examples from the local papers. "A mother and her two sons hacked to death in their beds by eight desconocidos, unknown men. The same morning's paper: the unidentified body of a young man, strangled, found on the shoulder of a road. Same morning, different story: the unidentified bodies of three young men, found on another road, their faces partially destroyed by bayonets, one face carved to represent a cross" (14-15). Unpleasant but undeniably powerful reading, not least for its you-are-there snapshot of one of the Reagan White House's most unlikable state terrorism-loving "allies." (http://www.vintagebooks.com/)
It was certainly possible to describe some members of the opposition, as [The Ambassador of the United States in El Salvador] Deane Hinton had, as "out-and-out Marxists," but it was equally possible to describe other members of the opposition, as the embassy had at the inception of the FDR in April of 1980, as "a broad-based coalition of moderate and center-left groups." The right in El Salvador never made this distinction: to the right, anyone in the opposition was a communist, along with most of the American press, the Catholic Church, and, as time went by, all Salvadoran citizens not of the right. In other words there remained a certain ambiguity about political terms as they were understood in the United States and in El Salvador, where "left" may mean, in the beginning, only a resistance to seeing one's family killed or disappeared. That it eventually comes to mean something else may be, to the extent that the United States has supported the increasing polarization in El Salvador, the Procrustean bed we made ourselves.