Studies regarding mass killing during Guatemalan civil war

A Jan. 6, 2015 Guardian article is entitled: “Ex-Guatemalan officials arrested over civil war killings and abuses”

The subhead is entitled: “The suspects face charges of crimes against humanity involving massacres and disappearances of people by security forces under their command.”

A Jan. 16, 2016 New York Times article is entitled: “Guatemala Arrests Former Military Officers in Connection With Massacres.”

I became interested in the history of Guatemala following an email from Graeme Decarie as noted at a previous post:

On Dec. 26, 2015 Graeme Decarie wrote a long post at his website; he also spoke of mass murder in Guatemala in the 1980s

I have previously discussed conceptual frameworks relevant to the analysis of mass killing:

Final Solutions: Mass Killing and Genocide in the Twentieth Century (2004)

The latter book, as a blurb for it notes, “defines mass killing broadly as the intentional killing of a massive number of noncombatants, using the criteria of 50,000 or more deaths within five years as a quantitative standard; killings like the ones carried out in the Soviet Union, China, and Cambodia; ethnic genocides as in Armenia, Nazi Germany, and Rwanda; and counter-guerrilla campaigns including the brutal civil war in Guatemala and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.”

Final Solutions (2014)

An excerpt (p. 199; I’ve broken it into shorter paragraphs) from the latter study reads:

“Likewise, Franklin Lindsay, a veteran of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (the predecessor to the CIA) who advised the partisan movement against the German occupation of Yugoslavia during the Second World War, writes that ‘a guerrilla force is like the top of an iceberg; the supporting civilian organization, without which it cannot survive, is the much larger part that cannot be seen. Just as control of the air has become a prerequisite for successful frontal warfare, so control of the population is a prerequisite for successful unconventional warfare.’

“The killing of civilians in counterguerrilla warfare has often been attributed to the conduct of overzealous, poorly disciplined, racist, or hate-filled troops.

“There can be little doubt that the frustration of waging a prolonged war against an opponent who refuses to stand and fight, along with the difficulty of distinguishing guerrillas from civilians, helps make atrocities more common in counterguerrilla warfare than in other forms of combat.

“The uncoordinated actions of uncontrollable or racist troops, however, are unlikely to generate the levels of violence necessary to meet the criteria for mass killing as I define it.

“Counterguerrilla forces do not engage in mass killing primarily because they lack discipline or because they hate their victims.

“On the contrary, I argue that mass killing in counterguerrilla warfare, including associated practices such as torture and public executions, often is viewed by its perpetrators in cold military terms, as one tactic among many used to respond to the unique threats posed by their guerrilla opponents.

“As I will document below, counterguerrilla forces have often combined mass killing with ‘positive’ policies designed to improve the lives of the civilian population and draw support away from guerrillas.

“It is this understanding of counterguerrilla mass killing that explains the perverse logic behind the infamous comment of an American officer in Vietnam: ‘We had to destroy the village in order to save it.’ ”

[End of excerpt]

Violence: A Micro-sociological Theory (2008)

Also of relevance is Ronald Collins’ micro-sociological theory of violence:

Video-based analysis of bullying and violence: Marjorie Harness Goodwin (2006) and Randall Collins (2008)


A Jan. 7, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “Topple the Cecil Rhodes statue? Better to rebrand him a war criminal.”

The subhead reads: “The Rhodes Must Fall campaign is not anti-history. But the argument should be less about statues and more about whether we continue to ignore colonial atrocities.”

Additional studies are of interest and that is the purpose of the current post:

Truth Commissions (2007)

Truth Commissions: State Terror, History, and Memory (2007)

A blurb (I’ve broken the blurbs at this post into shorter paragraphs) reads:

“This special issue of Radical History Review looks at the different kinds of history produced by truth commissions organized to investigate political violence, state terror, and human rights violations around the globe and examines how these histories elide or confront social inequality and political violence.

“The essays consider the tensions implicit in the multiple mandates of truth commissions: to establish historical truths, to recognize the experiences of victims, to effect social and political reconciliation, and to reestablish the legitimacy of the nation-state at a time of market-driven globalization.

“The issue also addresses difficulties faced by the commissions, such as limitations on the use and nature of evidence, oral testimony, and archival documentation. Comparative in nature, this collection includes essays on Chile’s long history of amnesties, pardons, and commissions organized to uncover past episodes of political violence; the dissemination and use of the historical findings of the Guatemalan Commission for Historical Clarification; and internal tensions in the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which sought to recover the memories of the victims of apartheid.

“Several shorter essays offer reflections on U.S. commissions related to the country’s history of racial violence, Cold War imperialism, and Vietnam War atrocities and on the findings of the 9/11 Commission report.”

[End of text]

Mayas in Postwar Guatemala (2009)

Mayas in Postwar Guatemala: Harvest of Violence Revisited (2009)

A blurb reads:

“Like the original Harvest of Violence, published in 1988, this volume reveals how the contemporary Mayas contend with crime, political violence, internal community power struggles, and the broader impact of transnational economic and political policies in Guatemala.

“However, this work, informed by long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Mayan communities and commitment to conducting research in Mayan languages, places current anthropological analyses in relation to Mayan political activism and key Mayan intellectuals’ research and criticism.

“Illustrating specifically how Mayas in this post-war period conceive of their social and political place in Guatemala, Mayas working in factories, fields, and markets, and participating in local, community-level politics provide critiques of the government, the Maya movement, and the general state of insecurity and social and political violence that they continue to face on a daily basis.

“Their critical assessments and efforts to improve political, social, and economic conditions illustrate their resiliency and positive, nonviolent solutions to Guatemala’s ongoing problems that deserve serious consideration by Guatemalan and US policy makers, international non-government organizations, peace activists, and even academics studying politics, social agency, and the survival of indigenous people.”

[End of text]

Memory of Silence (2012)

Memory of Silence: The Guatemalan Truth Commission Report, 1st Ed. (2012)

A blurb reads:

Memory of Silence is an edited one-volume version of the Guatemalan Truth Commission report, presenting the definitive account of one of the most brutal cases of government repression in the Western Hemisphere, a thirty-four year conflict forged by the Cold War, strongly influenced by the United States’ foreign policy, and so severe that the Commission determined that the state committed genocide against its own indigenous people.

“Despite its scope, significance, and impact, the conflict remains largely unknown outside the country, in part because until the publication of this book, the CEH report was largely unavailable in English and only available in Spanish in its unedited, twelve-volume form. Memory of Silence presents the voices of Guatemalan victims and the Commission’s analysis of a conflict that created a culture of terror, forced neighbors to commit atrocities against each other, and killed over 200,000 people.

“Despite the difficult, painful, and tragic nature of the conflict, the Commission stated that its commitment to truth ‘should leave no room for despair’ and should instead inspire Guatemalans and others around the world to pursue peace and the defense of fundamental human rights.”

[End of text]


A Feb. 1, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “Guatemalan soldiers to answer civil war sexual slavery charges in historic trial: For the first time ever, sex slavery will be prosecuted where the war crime took place, 30 years after 11 Mayan women from Sepur Zarco were raped and enslaved.”

A Feb. 7, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “‘My family resisted the Nazis’: why director had to film Alone in Berlin.”

A March 6, 2016 CBC article is entitled: “René Girard’s theories still explain the violence all around us: French-born scholar spent his career trying to understand what what makes violence a chronic problem.”

An April 16, 2017 Waterloo Record article is entitled: “Accused war criminal could lose citizenship.”


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *