FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
Jonathan Cook
How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions
Ajamu Baraka
North Korea Issue is Not De-nuclearization But De-Colonization
Andrew Levine
Midterms Coming: Antinomy Ahead
Louisa Willcox
New Information on 2017 Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Deaths Should Nix Trophy Hunting in Core Habitat
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Singapore Fling
Ron Jacobs
What’s So Bad About Peace, Man?
Robert Hunziker
State of the Climate – It’s Alarming!
L. Michael Hager
Acts and Omissions: The NYT’s Flawed Coverage of the Gaza Protest
Dave Lindorff
However Tenuous and Whatever His Motives, Trump’s Summit Agreement with Kim is Praiseworthy
Robert Fantina
Palestine, the United Nations and the Right of Return
Brian Cloughley
Sabre-Rattling With Russia
Chris Wright
To Be or Not to Be? That’s the Question
David Rosen
Why Do Establishment Feminists Hate Sex Workers?
Victor Grossman
A Key Congress in Leipzig
John Eskow
“It’s All Kinderspiel!” Trump, MSNBC, and the 24/7 Horseshit Roundelay
Paul Buhle
The Russians are Coming!
Joyce Nelson
The NED’s Useful Idiots
Lindsay Koshgarian
Trump’s Giving Diplomacy a Chance. His Critics Should, Too
Louis Proyect
American Nativism: From the Chinese Exclusion Act to Trump
Stan Malinowitz
On the Elections in Colombia
Camilo Mejia
Open Letter to Amnesty International on Nicaragua From a Former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience
David Krieger
An Assessment of the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit
Jonah Raskin
Cannabis in California: a Report From Sacramento
Josh Hoxie
Just How Rich Are the Ultra Rich?
CJ Hopkins
Awaiting the Putin-Nazi Apocalypse
Mona Younis
We’re the Wealthiest Country on Earth, But Over 40 Percent of Us Live in or Near Poverty
Dean Baker
Not Everything Trump Says on Trade is Wrong
James Munson
Trading Places: the Other 1% and the .001% Who Won’t Save Them
Rivera Sun
Stop Crony Capitalism: Protect the Net!
Franklin Lamb
Hezbollah Claims a 20-Seat Parliamentary Majority
William Loren Katz
Oliver Law, the Lincoln Brigade’s Black Commander
Ralph Nader
The Constitution and the Lawmen are Coming for Trump—He Laughs!
Tom Clifford
Mexico ’70 Sets the Goal for World Cup 
David Swanson
What Else Canadians Should Be Sorry For — Besides Burning the White House
Andy Piascik
Jane LaTour: 50+ Years in the Labor Movement (And Still Going)
Jill Richardson
Pruitt’s Abuse of Our Environment is Far More Dangerous Than His Abuse of Taxpayer Money
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
Pardons Aren’t Policy
Daniel Warner
To Russia With Love? In Praise of Trump the Includer
Raouf Halaby
Talking Heads A’Talking Nonsense
Julian Vigo
On the Smearing of Jordan Peterson: On Dialogue and Listening
Larry Everest
A Week of Rachel Maddow…or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Ronald Reagan
David Yearsley
Hereditary: Where Things are Not What They Sound Like
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail