Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Name May Have Changed, But The Game's Still The Same

The Army's 'School of the Americas' (SOA) was originally established in 1946 and was later moved to Fort Benning (located near Columbus, GA) in 1984. In 2001, it's name was changed to WHINSEC (Western Hemispher Institute for Security Cooperation) to divert attention from it's historical reputation. However, it's mission remained the same: to instruct Latin American soldiers in military and police-keeping tactics. Tactics being taught include coercive interrogation techniques and torture ... tactics the U.S. Government supposedly condemns as violations of human rights. Yet, they promote human rights violations via their teachings and thus, erode our country's image as a defender of democracy and human rights. It's kind of like saying one thing publicly ... yet doing something entirely different behind closed doors.

Among the SOA/WHINSEC's nearly 60,000 graduates are notorious dictators Manuel Noriega and Omar Torrijos of Panama, Leopoldo Galtieri and Roberto Viola of Argentina, Juan Velasco Alvarado of Peru, Guillermo Rodriguez of Ecuador, and Hugo Banzer Suarez of Bolivia. You'd think the army would have learned by now that the curriculm they're teaching is not stabilizing the Americas ... but destablizing them instead.

Latin American soldiers who have been trained at the SOA/WHINSEC have repeatedly committed human rights violations and atrocities on the peoples of their home nations ... so much so that 5 Latin American countries (Coasta Rica, Bolivia, Venezuela, Argentina and Uraguay) have severed all ties with the SOA.

President Evo Morales of Bolivia criticized the institution for training Latin American militaries to identify social movement leaders as “enemies of the state.” He also noted that “they are teaching high ranking officers to confront their own people, to identify social movements as their enemies.”

A bill in Congress attempted to close the SOA/WHINSEC, but it failed. Maybe next year, after this election, Congress will finally have sufficient votes to close the school and begin to restore our image and credibility throughout the world as a true defender of human rights ... instead of a country that says one thing ... yet does another.

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