The Vietnam and Salvadoran wars were marked by examples of some of the worst atrocities committed during the course of twentieth century conflict. The massacres at My Lai in Vietnam and El Mozote in El Salvador came to be regarded by many as the defining actions of those wars. These tragedies, however, were not isolated examples, and civilians in each war often bore the brunt of military operations designed to defeat the leftist insurgencies that had erupted in these countries. This thesis will examine why soldiers committed such war crimes in Vietnam and El Salvador.\ud \ud Inextricably linked by the presence of the United States, the conflicts in Vietnam and El Salvador book-ended a period of intense division within American society, politics and the military. Intense debate over the direction of American foreign and military policy had resulted in shifting political tides over the decade between the two wars. This thesis will place the topic of war crimes within this context of a changing political scene in the United States.\ud \ud In doing so, this thesis will break from more narrowly defined investigations of atrocities in Vietnam and El Salvador. It will reject the more common analyses of these conflicts that too often see them in isolation. Instead, the continuation of policies from one to the other will highlight the fact that American foreign and military policy did not simply end with one war and start again with the next.\u
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