Eleven years of civil war and still the killing goes on, pushed by a perverse belief that increased military pressure is the required precursor to a cease fire. The nation thus trapped between a right-wing army and a left-wing insurgency is poor little El Salvador, which has nothing to show for the mayhem except 72,000 graves, a destroyed economy and enough heartache to last generations.
El Salvador does not even get the headlines that placed it on the front pages of the Reagan era. Which is just as well. President Bush's policy has been to put Central America on the back-burner, its fires no longer stoked by superpowers fighting proxy wars. Instead his administration has encouraged United Nations-sponsored peace negotiations between the government of President Alfredo Cristiani and the rebel Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN).
Mr. Cristiani is now in Washington seeking understanding, which he should get, and the release of $42.5 million in military aid, which he should not. Under current statute, Mr. Bush can make this money available only if he finds the FMLN intractable. He made such a finding in January after rebels shot down a U.S. helicopter, but has wisely not released funds. Pressure has to be kept on Salvadoran authorities, especially the army.