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The Image before the WeaponA Critical History of the Distinction between Combatant and Civilian$
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Helen M. Kinsella

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449031

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449031.001.0001

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The Civil Wars of Guatemala and El Salvador

The Civil Wars of Guatemala and El Salvador

(p.155) 7 The Civil Wars of Guatemala and El Salvador
The Image before the Weapon

Helen M. Kinsella

Cornell University Press

This chapter analyzes the constitutive role of the discourses during the civil wars of Guatemala and El Salvador. It highlights the pivotal years 1980–1983, in which the majority of deaths occurred. Notably, the diffusion and acceptance of the laws of war in El Salvador was a marked contrast to Guatemala, as the former actively worked to hold all parties to the conflict accountable to international humanitarian law. In the Guatemalan civil war, the laws of war were rejected as inapplicable by the Guatemalan government and the insurgent Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG). Thus, not only are these two conflicts critical cases in the history of the laws of war, but they provide an important comparison of the conduct of the wars, the identification of the civilian, and the treatment of those so designated.

Keywords:   Guatemala, El Salvador, civil wars, laws of war, international humanitarian law, war conduct, civilian identification

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