I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just. Thomas Jefferson
November, 1989. The war in El Salvador -- America's longest and most expensive military engagement since Vietnam -- had been dragging on for nine years.1
For Salvadorans the devastation was catastrophic. By the end of the war ( January 1992) more than seventy-five thousand Salvadoran citizens -- 1.5 percent of the country's population -- would be dead from the conflict, the majority murdered by right-wing death squads. The proportional equivalent within the United States would be 3.75 million American citizens dead: the combined populations of San Francisco, Dallas, Denver, St. Louis, Atlanta, and Washington DC. Of those cities, the last four would have had their entire populations wiped out by death squads.2
By fall 1989 it was the virtually unanimous opinion of the U.S. media that democracy had been restored to El Salvador. El Salvador had held five elections, sponsored and overseen by the United States and certified by the American media as free and fair. But the slaughter continued. Meanwhile, negotiations between Salvador's right-wing government and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) were dragging on. Everyone in El Salvador was weary of the war, most Americans had forgotten about it, and the U.S. Congress seemed to have lost all interest.
Then it happened.
Saturday, 11 November 1989, 8:00 P.M.: While Salvador's elite dined and danced at the lush El Camino Real Hotel -- their bulletproof Jeeps outside and their armed guards nearby -- suddenly the guerrillas were everywhere. Not out in the countryside where you usually found them -- Chalatenango, Guazapa, Morazán -- but all over the capital city, attacking the headquarters of the First Infantry Brigade, mortaring the