Rivers of Blood: A Comparative Study of Government Massacres

Rivers of Blood: A Comparative Study of Government Massacres

Rivers of Blood: A Comparative Study of Government Massacres

Rivers of Blood: A Comparative Study of Government Massacres


Rivers of Blood offers a glimpse into the brutal world of state terrorism. In this innovative study, the author explores the strategies, targets, and motives of terror by reviewing the conditions surrounding government massacres. By introducing an innovative typology of massacres and a classification of terror strategies, the author develops a structural approach to the study of state terror, thus challenging the viewpoint that state terrorism is a situational or reactionary phenomenon. Case studies of government massacres such as those occuring in China (Tiananmen), Iraq (Halabja), and El Salvador (San Salvador), are included. Each case study includes a discussion on the historical, political, and social climate preceding the massacre. Rivers of Blood is a welcome addition to the literature on state terrorism.


The title of this book derives from my readings of massacres and the imagery of bodies being swept down the river. In many ways, it is disappointing to know that so few social scientists study issues of government violence and terrorism. Yet, after spending several years studying torture, "disappearances," and massacres, I can certainly understand why so few people undertake the endeavor to study this troubling phenomenon. It is my intent that this project is sufficiently "objective," although I admit maintaining distance and dispassion was indeed a difficult task. I can only hope that this study will make a contribution to the broad field of state terrorism and inspire a person or two.

There are many people who made a valuable contribution to this book. My interests in sociology are a direct outcome of the outstanding sociology program at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire. In particular, those who inspired me while I was there include Terence Miethe, Margaret Cassidy, and Jim Williams. I hope the tradition continues. Also, I would like to recognize the university's openness to a diverse range of subjects and, in particular, its support of a course on the Holocaust. UWEC opened many doors for me.

As a graduate student at Syracuse University, I was fortunate enough to study with wonderful people from around the globe, enriching me with a diverse set of views. The dark skies were made a lot brighter by special friends--Cheryl, Holly, Hassan, Nawal, Carla, Maggie, Qian. Thanks for sharing the struggle.

Since 1989, I've had the good fortune of residing in northern California. Over the past few years, I have been privileged to know some exceptional people. In particular, I'd like to acknowledge my comrades at the university--Annette Bethea, Mary Taylor, and Maryan Tooker. We've shared some incredible times and I'm glad to call you my friends.

This book benefited from the resources of the Data Center in downtown Oakland. The center's human rights files made the collection of data a lot less tedious. Also, Julianne Traylor sifted through UN documents for me, saving me . . .

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