FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

In the Shadows of the School of the Americas

by STEFAN WRAY

While 10,000 gathered in Columbus, Georgia, in November, outside the gates of Fort Benning to demand the closure of the Army’s School of the Americas — now officially renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation — people joined in solidarity protests across the United States and in Nicaragua.

Small demonstrations and vigils drawing between 15 and 50 participants took place on November 23 in New York, California, and Texas. In Managua, 300 marched to the U.S. Embassy.

Possibly the most significant of these, not because of its size but because of location, was the demonstration in San Antonio, Texas, at Lackland Air Force Base, which attracted 45 people from Austin, Houston, as far as El Paso, and of course San Antonio.

Lackland Air Force Base is home to the Inter-American Air Forces Academy, a relatively unknown, yet seemingly important, U.S. Air Force training program that serves foreign military and police from Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Inter-American Air Forces Academy and the School of Americas (IAAFA) share a similar past in that both were founded in Panama in the 1940s and both remained in that country until the 1980s.

A key difference between the two programs is that SOA graduates have been known to be involved in human rights abuses and political assassinations in Latin America, while a similar pattern of behavior has not been documented for IAAFA graduates.

Nevertheless, in the 1980s IAAFA graduates were pilots and mechanics in the Salvadoran Air Force during a time when thousands of civilians were killed in aerial bombing campaigns during that country’s civil war.

Today, as Colombia tops the list in the Western Hemisphere as a recipient of U.S. military aid, it’s no surprise that Colombians have participated in U.S. military training programs – both in Colombia and at U.S. military installations – more so than militaries from any other country in the region.

Yet it may be a surprise to some that among the U.S. military installations involved with training Colombians, Fort Benning’s SOA is not where most Colombians have enrolled.

In fact, according to State Department data, last year the Colombian military and police enrolled in more courses at Lackland AFB than at Fort Benning.

Despite a claim from Lackland AFB’s Public Affairs office that IAAFA training is just for jet mechanics and should be of little concern, that same State Department data shows that Colombians last year enrolled in training courses for Air Intelligence, Ground Defense Skills, Search and Rescue, Special Communications, and Special Reaction Team.

Lackland AFB’s Public Affairs office has been reluctant to divulge the exact number of Colombians or students from other Latin American countries benefiting from IAAFA training.

The fact that any Colombians at all are trained there is not lost on opponents to U.S. policy toward Colombia, which has become a focal point for SOA Watch and other organizations that closely monitor Latin America.

Val Liveoak, a Quaker and resident of San Antonio, has been to Colombia and works with Christian Peacemaker Teams. She spoke at the Lackland AFB demonstration and pointed out that aerial surveillance provided by the Colombian Air Force helps both regular and irregular ground forces locate their targets, which many times include civilians.

The demonstration at Lackland Air Force Base, with its focus on the Inter-American Air Forces Academy, is the first ever to occur. Wider knowledge of its existence and continued probing into its affairs, will provide an opening for those concerned about U.S. training of foreign militaries to expand their activities beyond the scope of Fort Benning, Georgia.

STEFAN WRAY is a writer, videographer, and activist based in Austin, Texas. He is co-director of the Military Documentation Project and Iconmedia. He can be reached at: swray@io.com

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 25, 2016
Mike Whitney
The Broken Chessboard: Brzezinski Gives up on Empire
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
The Louisiana Catastrophe Proves the Need for Universal, Single-Payer Disaster Insurance
John W. Whitehead
Another Brick in the Wall: Children of the American Police State
Lewis Evans
Genocide in Plain Sight: Shooting Bushmen From Helicopters in Botswana
Daniel Kovalik
Colombia: Peace in the Shadow of the Death Squads
Sam Husseini
How the Washington Post Sells the Politics of Fear
Ramzy Baroud
Punishing the Messenger: Israel’s War on NGOs Takes a Worrying Turn
Norman Pollack
Troglodyte Vs. Goebbelean Fascism: The 2016 Presidential Race
Simon Wood
Where are the Child Victims of the West?
Roseangela Hartford
The Hidden Homeless Population
Mark Weisbrot
Obama’s Campaign for TPP Could Drag Down the Democrats
Rick Sterling
Clintonites Prepare for War on Syria
Yves Engler
The Anti-Semitism Smear Against Canadian Greens
August 24, 2016
John Pilger
Provoking Nuclear War by Media
Jonathan Cook
The Birth of Agro-Resistance in Palestine
Eric Draitser
Ajamu Baraka, “Uncle Tom,” and the Pathology of White Liberal Racism
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt and the New Financial Imperialism
Robert Fisk
The Sultan’s Hit List Grows, as Turkey Prepares to Enter Syria
Abubakar N. Kasim
What Did the Olympics Really Do for Humanity?
Renee Parsons
Obamacare Supporters Oppose ColoradoCare
Alycee Lane
The Trump Campaign: a White Revolt Against ‘Neoliberal Multiculturalism’
Edward Hunt
Maintaining U.S. Dominance in the Pacific
George Wuerthner
The Big Fish Kill on the Yellowstone
Jesse Jackson
Democrats Shouldn’t Get a Blank Check From Black Voters
Kent Paterson
Saving Southern New Mexico from the Next Big Flood
Arnold August
RIP Jean-Guy Allard: A Model for Progressive Journalists Working in the Capitalist System
August 23, 2016
Diana Johnstone
Hillary and the Glass Ceilings Illusion
Bill Quigley
Race and Class Gap Widening: Katrina Pain Index 2016 by the Numbers
Ted Rall
Trump vs. Clinton: It’s All About the Debates
Eoin Higgins
Will Progressive Democrats Ever Support a Third Party Candidate?
Kenneth J. Saltman
Wall Street’s Latest Public Sector Rip-Off: Five Myths About Pay for Success
Binoy Kampmark
Labouring Hours: Sweden’s Six-Hour Working Day
John Feffer
The Globalization of Trump
Gwendolyn Mink – Felicia Kornbluh
Time to End “Welfare as We Know It”
Medea Benjamin
Congress Must Take Action to Block Weapon Sales to Saudi Arabia
Halyna Mokrushyna
Political Writer, Daughter of Ukrainian Dissident, Detained and Charged in Ukraine
Manuel E. Yepe
Tourism and Religion Go Hand-in-Hand in the Caribbean
ED ADELMAN
Belted by Trump
Thomas Knapp
War: The Islamic State and Western Politicians Against the Rest of Us
Nauman Sadiq
Shifting Alliances: Turkey, Russia and the Kurds
Rivera Sun
Active Peace: Restoring Relationships While Making Change
August 22, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton: The Anti-Woman ‘Feminist’
Robert Hunziker
Arctic Death Rattle
Norman Solomon
Clinton’s Transition Team: a Corporate Presidency Foretold
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Hubris: Only Tell the Rich for $5000 a Minute!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail