FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Report from the School of the Americas Protest

by LORI KORTE

Fort Benning, Georgia. War is peace. Terror is human rights. The U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA) is now the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC).

Some 7,000 demonstrators from all regions of the country descended on Fort Benning last weekend to disagree. Young and old, religious and secular, veterans and sympathizers, gathered with deep pacifist convictions reminiscent of the 1960s civil rights movement.

Despite requirements of the USA Patriot Act that no terrorists be harbored or trained in the United States, supporters of the movement to close a military training facility in Fort Benning, Georgia contend that foreign persons are indeed being trained by the US military in tactics that qualify as terrorist.

This knowledge is what moved protestors like Barbara Baker, a psychotherapist from Oshkosh, Wisconsin to come to Columbus, Georgia to protest the work of the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA), now the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC). “We are fighting this war on terrorism, but here we are, the largest exporters of terrorism. We are supporting this particular school with our tax dollars. My small part is to be here and stand witness to what I really feel, which is my desire for peace and more non-violent work.”

According to the Intelligence Oversight Board, a federal panel commissioned in 1996 by President Clinton, SOA/WHISC used training materials that specifically condoned “executions of guerillas, extortion, physical abuse, coercion, and false imprisonment”. This training directly resulted in atrocities by the SOA/WHISC trainees such as those detailed in the findings of a U.N. Truth Commission on the civil war in El Salvador, “Three quarters of the Salvadoran officers responsible for seven other massacres during El Salvador’s bloody civil war were trained by the Fort Benning school.” This is only one of the numerous examples that protestors cited as an example of grievous, deadly acts committed by SOA/WHISC trainees– graduates carrying on the work of US foreign policy.

Currently, graduates of the SOA/WHISC are being implicated by other international human rights organizations. Human Rights Watch found SOA graduates directly responsible for numerous human rights violations, and one graduate, Brigadier General Jaime Ernesto Canal Alban, exemplified the legacy of SOA training through his leadership of the infamous Columbian Calima Front and the forced disappearance of 2,000 persons as well as 40 assassinations.

With hopes of raising awareness for these US Army-facilitated atrocities and energizing activists through visible solidarity, SOA Watch organizes protests, vigils and educational activities each November at Fort Benning. Said Eric LeCompte, SOA Watch Outreach Director, “The protest is part of a very strategic campaign, and it’s important for the movement to gather. It serves as a mobilizing point to call people to do the legislative, media, outreach and education work required to close the SOA and ultimately last beyond the SOA.”

Non violence is also a guiding mission of the protests. On both Saturday and Sunday, protestors pledged commitment to and recited a vow stating that each protestor will “not assault_either verbally or physically_those who oppose or disagree with us…even if they assault us. We will protect those who oppose us from insult or attack…Our attitude as conveyed through words, symbols and actions will be one of respect toward all_including police officers, military personnel, members of the larger community, and all vigilers and members of the SOA Watch family.” This pacifist commitment to non violence was successfully upheld throughout the weekend.

With the opposition to the apparently violent operations of the SOA/WHISC, many protestors said they were traveling 1,000s of miles out of a broader objection to US foreign policy, which includes opposition to the actions to the Bush Administration’s desires to wage war with Iraq. Annie Quimby, student of Northland College, Ashland, Wisconsin, said, ” How can we say that what Iraq is doing is wrong when we are doing things (training soldiers at the SOA/WHISC) that are also wrong, if not worse?”

“An argument of the administration for war with Iraq is based on the danger that Iraq poses to the democratic freedoms of its population and potentially to other countries. Yet it is difficult to think of an action more antithesis to democracy than the training of individuals that ultimately cause torture and death to people who work to uphold social change, such as six Jesuit priests, their co-worker and her teenage daughter who were massacred in El Salvador by an SOA/WHISC graduate,” said another protestor who wished to remain anonymous.

Though there is legislation at the Congressional level to dissolve the SOA/WHISC, organizers foresee that more work will need to be done, especially in the congressional climate fostered by so called war on terror. “This can’t be a one-day-of-the-year kind of thing. If we are really serious about closing this school and ultimately transforming our foreign policy, we need to be doing work in between. That’s education, that’s legislative…It’s putting forceful constituent pressure on our representatives so that they are accountable to us”, SOA Watch’s LeCompte said.

As SOA Watch brings its campaign to colleges, high schools, churches, human rights groups, and union halls around the country, its contention that the US government has been actively training deadly terrorists around the globe for decades is all too believable.

LORI KORTE is a writer living in Madison, Wisconsin. She can be reached at lorikorte@hotmail.com.

 

More articles by:
June 30, 2016
Richard Moser
Clinton and Trump, Fear and Fascism
Pepe Escobar
The Three Harpies are Back!
Ramzy Baroud
Searching for a ‘Responsible Adult’: ‘Is Brexit Good for Israel?’
Dave Lindorff
What is Bernie Up To?
Thomas Barker
Saving Labour From Blairism: the Dangers of Confining the Debate to Existing Members
Jan Oberg
Why is NATO So Irrational Today?
John Stauber
The Debate We Need: Gary Johnson vs Jill Stein
Steve Horn
Obama Administration Approved Over 1,500 Offshore Fracking Permits
Rob Hager
Supreme Court Legalizes Influence Peddling: McDonnell v. United States
Norman Pollack
Economic Nationalism vs. Globalization: Janus-Faced Monopoly Capital
Binoy Kampmark
Railroaded by the Supreme Court: the US Problem with Immigration
Howard Lisnoff
Of Kiddie Crusades and Disregarding the First Amendment in a Public Space
Vijay Prashad
Economic Liberalization Ignores India’s Rural Misery
Caroline Hurley
We Are All Syrians
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail