Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Taking on the School of the Americas

by Rev. Charles Booker-Hirsch

Since the tragedy of 9/11, we have learned some of the ways Osama bin Laden has schooled his al-Qaida organization into a formidable terrorist organization. No major media organization I know of, however, dares today to discuss how for more than five decades – the last two decades on our own soil – our own government systematically has been operating a more substantial terrorist school.

Established in Panama in 1946 as a hemispheric Cold War beachhead, the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA), which operates solely for the training of Latin American military officers, was moved to Ft. Benning in Columbus, GA in 1984. Over 60,000 have graduated. They include Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega and Bolivian dictator Hugo Banzer; the assassins of an archbishop, a bishop, six Jesuit priests and four American churchwomen; and countless other military strongmen responsible for the deaths of literally hundreds of thousands.

From 1989-93, I worked with and heard the graphic persecution stories of untold numbers of Central American refugees fleeing de facto military dictatorships. It was no coincidence that the majority of SOA graduates in those years hailed from the Central American countries of Guatemala and El Salvador. Today, the majority of trainees are imported from Colombia, where we have pumped over $2 million of military aid daily the last two years into a “war on drugs” smokescreen for business interests that has only served to inflame the 40-year civil war there. Just two weeks ago, a narrow House majority freed this “drug eradication” money to openly engage in counterinsurgency operations. Vietnam, anyone?

In 1996 the Pentagon was forced to release training manuals used at the school that advocated the use of torture, extortion and execution, according to The School of the America’s Watch, a watchdog organization. Even after these were made public, Defense officials continued to point out that most of the school’s graduates had not committed the scores of human rights abuses against the millions of refugees fleeing the wrath that’s come. This may be true. At the same time, for the last 55 years most of the Latin American military officers who actually ordered these abuses learned their lessons well through our taxpayer-supported SOA.

After the House of Representatives decisively voted to shut down the school in 1999, a House-Senate conference committee voted 8-7 to keep it open, provided the school be renamed – get this – the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC). Even SOA proponents saw no difference in the much-touted renaming.

Georgia’s late Sen. Paul Coverdell assured his constituents the name switch was “a cosmetic change,” and the Columbus, Ga. Ledger-Inquirer strongly concurred in a recent editorial. Different name – same shame. Orwellian Doublespeak, anyone?

Please join me and numerous communions such as the Presbyterian Church in urging leaders such as our distinguished Sen. Carl Levin, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to close SOA/WHISC and discontinue “Plan Colombia.” The irony again is that, in the midst of our current war on terrorism to parts East, we train and unleash scores of future terrorists yearly to parts South. Hypocrisy, anyone?

Rev. Charles Booker-Hirsch is pastor of Northside Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor. He was one of 43 indicted in April for trespassing onto Ft. Benning during what he describes as a solemn nonviolent civil disobedience action last November. The “SOA 43” trial date has been set for July 8 at the U.S. District Court in Columbus, GA.

 

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyon
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
Gareth Porter
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]