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Guerrillas and Generals: The Dirty War in Argentina Paperback – Nov 30 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Praeger (Nov. 30 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0275973603
  • ISBN-13: 978-0275973605
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 23 x 1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #391,542 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


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First Sentence
At a few minutes before 6:00 P.M., on 9 December 1985, Jorge Rafael Videla 60 years of age, former president of Argentina, retired lieutenant general and former commander in chief of the Argentine army, stood with eight other generals and admirals in the Federal Court of Criminal Appeals in Buenos Aires, awaiting his sentence. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Jan. 6 2003
Format: Paperback
I have studied the Argentine Dirty War for over 20 years, and if I were to recommend one book to anyone to read on the subject it would be this one. There are two things that Lewis does which really set this book apart from the literature on the subject so far.
First, Lewis describes and makes sense out of all of the background starting with Peron that led up to the Dirty War. This really helps place the Dirty War in its proper context so the reader can comprehend why such terrible things occurred later. He then gives a full account of all the atrocities committed by the Argentine military. In this way he does not exonerate or excuse the Dirty War, but does make sense of why things happened the way they did.
Second, Lewis points out that there really was a war going on. The guerrillas were active, were powerful, were committing acts of terrorism and were seriously threatening to destabilize the Argentine state. A lot of anti-military sources try to portray the security threat posed by the guerrillas as a figment of the military's imagination. This was simply not true. There was a real war going on and Lewis shows that this was the case. Lewis does not excuse the ways the military chose to deal with the guerrilla threat, but does explain why rational and normal men would choose to commit such horrorific acts. In their mind they were in a desperate life and death struggle, and they acted accordingly. In retrospect they made some very bad choices, but Lewis helps explain how it all seemed rational and necessary at the time.
This book is balanced, honest and cuts through a lot of the cherished popular myths. It is fair to both sides of the conflict. Finally it is well written and flows well. I got through it in two days. This book will become a classic text on the Argentine Dirty War.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 12 reviews
57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
The one book you should read about the Dirty War Jan. 6 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I have studied the Argentine Dirty War for over 20 years, and if I were to recommend one book to anyone to read on the subject it would be this one. There are two things that Lewis does which really set this book apart from the literature on the subject so far.
First, Lewis describes and makes sense out of all of the background starting with Peron that led up to the Dirty War. This really helps place the Dirty War in its proper context so the reader can comprehend why such terrible things occurred later. He then gives a full account of all the atrocities committed by the Argentine military. In this way he does not exonerate or excuse the Dirty War, but does make sense of why things happened the way they did.
Second, Lewis points out that there really was a war going on. The guerrillas were active, were powerful, were committing acts of terrorism and were seriously threatening to destabilize the Argentine state. A lot of anti-military sources try to portray the security threat posed by the guerrillas as a figment of the military's imagination. This was simply not true. There was a real war going on and Lewis shows that this was the case. Lewis does not excuse the ways the military chose to deal with the guerrilla threat, but does explain why rational and normal men would choose to commit such horrorific acts. In their mind they were in a desperate life and death struggle, and they acted accordingly. In retrospect they made some very bad choices, but Lewis helps explain how it all seemed rational and necessary at the time.
This book is balanced, honest and cuts through a lot of the cherished popular myths. It is fair to both sides of the conflict. Finally it is well written and flows well. I got through it in two days. This book will become a classic text on the Argentine Dirty War.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Thorough and informative Nov. 28 2009
By ConsDemo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Guerrillas and Generals is probably one of the best English language descriptions of chaos that engulfed Argentina in the last half of the 20th century. Many of the descriptions of Argentina's dirty war under the military junta that lasted from 1976 to 1983 tend to focus those years alone and give scant attention to what took place before or after. The first half of this book deals with the years leading up to the junta's ascension to power. Thanks the class cleavages exacerbated by populist President Juan Peron and the influences of the cold war and leftist nationalism that swept through Latin America in the post-WWII period, Argentina was facing a serious terrorist revolutionary movement. The 1960s and 1970s experienced an explosion of college attendance in Argentina and campuses became hot beds of radicalism. By itself, that isn't shocking since it was true in many other countries but this occurred under authoritarian governments that, for whatever reason, made little or no effort reign in the faculty and administration that not only tolerated revolutionary radicalism but encouraged it.

The revolutionary groups, the Monteneros and ERP were not just idealistic young people fighting for the rights of the poor; they were committed leftists with a strong predilection for violence that a series of military and civilian governments had failed to quell. The hard ball tactics to crush the rebels did not begin with the military coup of March 24, 1976 that overthrew erratic President Isabel Peron (who assumed the Presidency when husband Juan died in 1974). Peron's government had given the military orders to "annihilate" the rebel groups, however, the harshness of tactics and the scope of those targeted greatly expanded after the coup.

Lewis is not sentimental about either side, and thus he presents an unbiased description of events. In the process, he takes down some of fashionable myths about the period. First, there is very little evidence the United States had much of anything to do with the junta. While the Administration of U.S. President Gerald Ford didn't raise many objections to the military's actions, the junta had a frosty relationship with Jimmy Carter. Certainly Ford's Secretary of State Henry Kissinger glossed over the junta's actions but the junta received neither help nor inspiration from the Americans. Rather, their guide was the French counterinsurgency strategies in Vietnam and Algeria, which is interesting, given they knew neither strategy was ultimately successful. Nor was the junta a promoter of neoliberal economic policies, as is sometimes suggested by the socialist left, as it carried on the interventionist policies of governments before it.

Another aspect that should surprise developed world readers accustomed to civilian control of the armed forces was the status of the military in Argentina. Apart from its tactics in the dirty war, it seemed to operate in its own fiefdom well before the 1970s and was frequently at war with itself. The book is replete with descriptions of units taking up arms against units of the same military. It may have been this sense of detachment from the society as a whole that allowed the military leaders to believe they could act with such impunity when they had control of the government.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
"The Dirty War": a rare, truthful account July 1 2013
By Kurt J. Acker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In most journalistic accounts of Argentina's "Dirty War", there is a clear tendency to villify the Argentine Military and whitewash their adversaries, portraying them as youthful idealists, subversive but essentially harmless. This approach is highly misleading. One cannot understand "the Generals" without understanding "the Guerillas". The great merit of Paul Lewis's book is that it promotes an objective understanding of both sides.

In Lewis's evenhanded account we learn that the Monteneros, the ERP, the FAR, the FAP and others - were not innocuous hippies or armchair radicals, but rather violent and utterly ruthless revolutionaries who would stop at nothing to impose a communist dictatorship on Argentina.

As the title suggests, Lewis doesn't take sides, but allows the facts speak for themselves. He describes the brutality on both sides of the conflict with unflinching candor, in a narrative that is thoroughly engrossing and delivered with verve and style.

Who, then, were the revolutionaries who were defeated by the Military during Argentina's "Dirty War"?

- Groups of urban guerillas and armed terrorists were organized by the Peronist Youth during Juan Peron's exile. Peron's eventual return to Argentina in 1973 owed much to their efforts.
- The largest of the guerilla bands were the ERP and the Montoneros. Both fought for a communist state similar to Cuba's. The Montoneros believed, mistakenly, that Peron agreed with their goals. After Peron's election as President in 1973, when it became clear to him that the urban guerillas would not obey his orders or cooperate with his movement, he turned decisively against them. Among other things, he funded the "Argentine Anti-communist Alliance", under the leadership of his close crony, Jose Lopez Rega - an organization devoted to the murder of as many communists as possible.
- At the height of its power, the ERP ("People's Revolutionary Army") had 5,000 heavily-armed soldiers and a support-network of some 60,000 sympathizers. The Montoneros fielded a disciplined force of some 25,000 armed combatants, assisted by a total membership of some 250,000.
- These groups (and others as well) had intelligence networks, munitions workshops, printing presses, training camps, safe houses and "peoples' prisons". They engaged in the entire gamut of terrorist activity: bombing, assassination, kidnapping, bank-robbery, etc. Their activities were funded by tens of millions of dollars, much from multi-nationals paying ransom for kidnapped executives.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Fair and balanced!! March 15 2013
By artis gil - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I lived in Argentina during thie dirty was and this book gives a balanced account..the liberal and communist media of south america and certain entites in the US has revided the history to believe the only bad guys were the military..when in reality both sides committed atrocities..the bottom line is that I prefer a democratic Argentina as we have now than a communist one..it is often easier to move a country from a dictatorship to a democracy that from a communist state..ie Chile took 15 years and Argentina to 10 while Russia that is sort of democratic took 70 and China ..well continues to be communist after 70 years with a little bit of democratic movement. highy recommend.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
As good as it gets in English. Dec 3 2010
By Tom Babajanian - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is as good as any English language resource on Argentina's "Dirty War". Consice, broad-based and well balenced, it's most salient characteristic is that it is easy to read. As a basic narrative it will be in the bibliography of every college student who ever writes about the subject of Argentina from 1976-1983. With a marked absence of political baggage either for one side or for the other, the author begins the narrative with the socio-political setting that set the stage for the conflict. Without sparing either the leftist terrorists that plagued Argentina in the early to mid-1970s or the brutal Right-wing government that crushed the former, the author narrates the messy political violence that befell Argentina of the 1970s and 80s.

All told, this book is a must-read for anyone intersted in the subject matter addressed in the book's title.

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