Taking on the School of the Americas

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.


Weekend Edition
March 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Roberto J. González
The Mind-Benders: How to Harvest Facebook Data, Brainwash Voters, and Swing Elections
Paul Street
Deplorables II: The Dismal Dems in Stormy Times
Nick Pemberton
The Ghost of Hillary
Andrew Levine
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Paul de Rooij
Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Coming in Hot
Chuck Gerhart
Sessions Exploits a Flaw to Pursue Execution of Meth Addicts
Robert Fantina
Distractions, Thought Control and Palestine
Hiroyuki Hamada
The Eyes of “Others” for Us All
Robert Hunziker
Is the EPA Hazardous to Your Health?
Stephanie Savell
15 Years After the Iraq Invasion, What Are the Costs?
Aidan O'Brien
Europe is Pregnant 
John Eskow
How Can We Live With All of This Rage?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Was Khe Sanh a Win or a Loss?
Dan Corjescu
The Man Who Should Be Dead
Howard Lisnoff
The Bone Spur in Chief
Brian Cloughley
Hitler and the Poisoning of the British Public
Brett Wilkins
Trump Touts $12.5B Saudi Arms Sale as US Support for Yemen War Literally Fuels Atrocities
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraqi Landscapes: the Path of Martyrs
Brian Saady
The War On Drugs Is Far Deadlier Than Most People Realize
Stephen Cooper
Battling the Death Penalty With James Baldwin
CJ Hopkins
Then They Came for the Globalists
Philip Doe
In Colorado, See How They Run After the Fracking Dollars
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Armed Propaganda
Binoy Kampmark
John Brennan’s Trump Problem
Nate Terani
Donald Trump’s America: Already Hell Enough for This Muslim-American
Steve Early
From Jackson to Richmond: Radical Mayors Leave Their Mark
Jill Richardson
To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done
Ralph Nader
Ten Million Americans Could Bring H.R. 676 into Reality Land—Relief for Anxiety, Dread and Fear
Sam Pizzigati
Billionaires Won’t Save the World, Just Look at Elon Musk
Sergio Avila
Don’t Make the Border a Wasteland
Daryan Rezazad
Denial of Climate Change is Not the Problem
Ron Jacobs
Flashing for the Refugees on the Unarmed Road of Flight
Missy Comley Beattie
The Age of Absurdities and Atrocities
George Wuerthner
Isle Royale: Manage for Wilderness Not Wolves
George Payne
Pompeo Should Call the Dogs Off of WikiLeaks
Russell Mokhiber
Study Finds Single Payer Viable in 2018 Elections
Franklin Lamb
Despite Claims, Israel-Hezbollah War is Unlikely
Montana Wilderness Association Dishonors Its Past
Elizabeth “Liz” Hawkins, RN
Nurses Are Calling #TimesUp on Domestic Abuse
Paul Buhle
A Caribbean Giant Passes: Wilson Harris, RIP
Mel Gurtov
A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington
Seth Sandronsky
Hoop schemes: Sacramento’s corporate bid for an NBA All-Star Game
Louis Proyect
The French Malaise, Now and Then
David Yearsley
Bach and the Erotics of Spring