In 1979, a civil war broke out in the Central American nation of El Salvador. The war was the culmination of decades of iron fisted rule by the Salvadoran oligarchy in collusion with the military. The rebel forces aligned under the banner of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) took up arms against the Salvadoran state only after attempts at peaceful reform had been repeatedly met with harsh repression.

As the war progressed so did the ongoing litany of human rights violations by the Salvadoran government and army. The assassination of dissidents, massacres of civilians, and torture were commonplace. The use of paramilitary “death squads” by the Salvadoran regime as a form of state terrorism made the regime into an international pariah. Yet the United States continued to provide extravagant amounts of military and economic aid to the regime during both the Carter and Reagan administrations even as the American public remained largely opposed to U.S. intervention in Central America.

In this well researched analysis of the conflict, Keith Preston examines the factors leading up to the civil war, the war itself, and the UN sponsored peace settlement. Additionally, Preston highlights the crucial role played by the Catholic Church in a conflict that would last for over a decade and cost the lives of over 75,000 people.