Why is it that we don’t seek to shut down an automobile driving school if one of its graduates decides to mow down pedestrians as they cross the street? Well, because the school presumably did not teach them to commit evil with their new skills. If they had, they should certainly be held accountable. So too is it with SOA. The burden of proof is on the protesters to prove that the school teaches its cadets to violate human rights. If the protesters can prove such a thing the debate is theirs. The problem is, instruction on objective human rights is copiously woven throughout the entire curriculum at the SOA. And members of the advisory Board of Visitors serve to ensure and verify it. Why is that so difficult to understand?

I wrote about the participation of an American Catholic bishop, Bishop Robert Morlino of the Madison, Wisconsin Diocese, on the advisory board to the United States Army School of the Americas, questioning the relationship of his public witness role of the Catholic faith. With all the irony that the bishop of Madison has tried to rule with a bit of iron fist, like a Latin American strongman. Knowing the old Latin American rule: When a government was weak, its people turned to violence. And the above response came in, to the use of his position as a bishop. Or misuse.

History bears witness to the violence conducted against its own citizens by armies, by regimes, in Latin American nations. Military juntas and dictators in the 20th century attempting to maintain power. These were not violations of human rights. This was outright killing. Perhaps the commenter should rent a couple movies, if he/she cannot read the history. “Missing”, about Chile, starring Jack Lemon. “Salvador,” a movie by Oliver Stone (who does not always let the facts get in the way of his stories.)

The School of the Americas does not teach soldiers from other countries to “commit evil.” Or how to drive. These were
governments sending employed soldiers for training in torture. To enforce their concept of law and order. Bolivian dictator Hugo Banzar arrested 3,000 of his political opponents, killed 200 of them, and tortured the remainder. Argentine dictator Leopoldo Galtieri oversaw the torture and murder of more than 30,000 dissidents. And the School of the Americas helped to show the means for numerous dictators to viciously oppress, even training some founders of Los Zetas, a mercenary army for one of Mexico’s largest drug-trafficking groups known as the Gulf Cartel. Major Roberto D’Aubuisson, the leader of the El Salvador death-squad got his training at the school. To name names.

“Instruction on objective human rights is copiously woven throughout the entire curriculum at the SOA. And members of the advisory Board of Visitors serve to ensure and verify it.”

Really? In 1996 the Pentagon released to the public the SOA training manuals used for years. “These manuals advocated torture, extortion, blackmail and the targeting of civilian populations,” according to

The posed question was why “we” don’t shut down a driving school. In this case, the School of the Americas is not a private school. The school is a part of the government of the United States, at an annual cost of eighteen million dollars. The protest over the School of the Americas has nothing to do with “the graduates” but the support by the United States to the policies and tactics used by governments, in the past, in the present, and in the future. The facts of history demonstrate American foreign policy in Latin America. One administration after another has supported the policies of the elites to torture their own people. And I called the question as to why an American bishop was lending his support on the advisory board to the school. Without even asking why a government school needed an advisory board.

If there ever was a trial about the righteousness of the School of the Americas, the conclusion of law would be based upon the finding of facts. Which facts were true. There is no burden of proof on protesters. The United States Constitution has long been found to grant the right to protest. The same bill of rights that grants freedom of religion. Writers are even free to make inane comments about things that they have little knowledge of. This is not some high school debate. This is about history and the lives and deaths of real people. And rights to free speech and assembly should not be restricted to lattitudes and longtitudes on the map, but to all people.

In May 2009 the Latin America Military Training Review Act was introduced. James McGovern (D-MA) has re-introduced the Latin America Military Training Review Act, (HR 3368), with an aim to suspend all torturous and abusive practices of the SOA/WHINSEC. So far the bill has not come out of committee. Mostly it was young people and the elderly, grandparents and grandchildren, who had the passion to monitor issues of social justice. And to aim the spotlight in gatherings called “protest.”


The headlines in 2009. “School of Americas” Generals Charged in Colombia – Two Colombian generals, both of whom received training at the U.S. Army “School of The Americas” at Ft. Benning, Georgia have been accused by Colombian authorities of crimes involving narcotics and collaborating with criminal paramilitary groups, according to a report in the June 15th issue of The Nation magazine.

Military Coup in Honduras – Tegucigalpa, Honduras – On June 28, 2009, graduates of the School of the Americas overthrew the democratically-elected government of Honduras.


On January 25, 2010 in Columbus, Georgia, Nancy Gwin, Ken Hayes, and Fr. Louis Vitale were all given maximum federal prison sentences of six months each for civil disobedience opposing in the name of human rights the School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC). The three had crossed onto Fort Benning property on November 22, 2009. The judge also issued a warrant for the arrest of Michael Walli who consciously chose to not return for trial.

Was feedback not unlike blowback? Like the blowback from American support in the war between Iran and Iraq. Who ever thought that covert support would end up in creating a Bin Laden? Who ever thought that those crimes involving narcotics and collaborations with criminal paramilitary groups would come so close to American borders?

August 2010, From the National Catholic Reporter, raising the question, where is the goodness in institution church?

“The American missionary order Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers has discontinued a longstanding annual grant to the antimilitary campaign group School of Americas Watch because the organization’s founder, Maryknoll priest Roy Bourgeois, (now excommunicated) publicly supports women’s ordination.

“Given Fr. Bourgeois’ central role as the founder and public face of the SOA Watch, [Maryknoll] society leadership has determined that it cannot continue its financial support of that organization without giving the impression that it also supports the actions of its leader concerning the issue of women’s ordination,” said a Maryknoll statement.

The statement dated May 24th was not made public until July 22, 2010 after SOA Watch announced a fundraising drive to replace the $17,000 grant. Within a week, the fund drive had raised nearly $10,000. While US Taxpayers continue to fund the School of the Americas, exporting its long-standing policy of research and development of torture, under both Republican and Democrat Administrations, at a cost of $180 million since 2002.

So what exactly has changed in the three years of a new administration?


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3 comments so far

  1. paperlessworld on

    Loyola Law School Professor Bill Quigley of the SOA Watch Legal Collective has provided a summary of 429 pages of documents that The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund received under a Freedom of Information Act request. According to the National Catholic Reporter, these documents obtained by Washington D.C. lawyer Mara Verheyden-Hilliard demonstrate that School of the Americas Watch was investigated and infiltrated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for at least a decade, from 2001 through 2010.

    The 429 pages of documents — which were obtained for the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund by Washington D.C. lawyer Mara Verheyden-Hilliard — show this nonviolent human rights organization was under surveillance by the FBI’s counter-terrorism division as well as “a consortium of law enforcement agencies.”

    “In comments to The National Catholic Reporter, Quigley said the FBI surveillance has had a chilling impact on some SOA Watch activists.”

  2. paperlessworld on

    So to announce to the world your pain over the 1989 assassinations of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter. Spain indicted 16 people plus Former Salvadoran Colonel Inocente Orlando Montano [who had been illegally living in the U.S. since 2002 when he lied on immigration papers] for plotting and carrying out the murder of five Spanish Jesuits plus one other priest. Last year, U.S. officials deported two retired Salvadoran generals living in Florida who were implicated in the 1980 murders of four U.S. churchwomen, among other crimes. General Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova and General Jose Guillermo Garcia had been both recipients of the U.S. Legion of Merit award. And like Former Salvadoran Colonel Inocente Orlando Montano – the former Vice Minister of Defense for Public Safety – they were trained at the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas.

    And implicated in these murders were all the members of the US Congress which continues to fund this world wide terrorism through the School for the Americas. Naming names, for those representatives, of the graduates. At the top of the list, the general in charge of Argentina’s so-called “Dirty War,” the internal conflict in the late-1970s and early-1980s where an estimated 30,000 people were tortured, disappeared, and murdered, was a graduate of the School of the Americas. Generals from eight other Latin and Caribbean nations, many cited by human rights groups for involvement in human rights abuses in their own countries. Among other graduates, Manuel Noriega, former president of Panama. Four of the five ranking Honduran officers who organized death squads in the 1980s as part of Battalion 316, are graduates. Half of the 250 Columbian officers cited for human rights abuses attended the school. The three highest ranking Peruvian officers convicted in February 1994 of murdering nine university students and a professor were all graduates, as well as the Peruvian army commander who brought out tanks to obstruct initial investigation of the murders. Hugo Banzer, former dictator of Bolivia, is a graduate of the school. Some of the others similarly honored are the former dictators of Honduras, Ecuador, and Argentina.

    Women working at the National Security Archives in Washington D.C. made a discovery when they obtained a copy of two declassified cables from the American Embassy in El Salvador. In one cable from the Ambassador to El Salvador in 1981, Dean Hinton, he discussed a meeting during which Roberto D’Aubuisson plans the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero, with a described a lottery that the people who are attending the meeting hold to see who would draw the “right” to kill Romero himself. Roberto D’Aubuisson was trained at the School of the Americas as were two of the three officers directly responsible for the assassination of Archbishop Romero.

    Presidents like Barack Obama do not like the Edward Snowdens of the world that expose these kinds of Truths, like the world learned last week about off-shore tax shelters through the release of the Panama Papers. Hillory Clinton, who worked as Secretary of State for this president while keeping her own emails on a private server, whose husband kept the School of the Americas open, is not much different from the president of Iceland and all the world leaders involved in coverups, so that they might grab hold of and retain power.

  3. paperlessworld on

    The Untouchables.

    The Book of Numbers. In the history of modern war, soldiers are much more likely to injure the enemy than kill them.

    The Mexican Army kills eight for every enemy wounded. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross in assessing wars since the late 1970s, about four or more are injured for each person killed. In Mexico, the body count is reversed. According to the government’s own figures, Mexican soldiers are exceptionally efficient killers. Mexican authorities who in early 2014 quit reporting these statistics explain that their soldiers are simply better trained and more skilled than the drug cartels they battle. Those who study the issue say Mexico’s kill rate is practically unheard-of; these numbers reveal something more ominous.

    Summary executions. Without trial. In Mexico, fewer than 2 percent of murder cases are successfully prosecuted. Anywhere.

    Per an article in the New York Times on May 26, 2016. From the same culture that comes out of General Franco and the culture of Inquisition, in an unique relationship between the military and the government dates back more than 70 years, to the period after the country emerged from civil war. To maintain stability, historians say, the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party reached a pact with the armed forces.

    The Untouchables. In exchange for near total autonomy, unlike many Latin American nations, the military would not interfere in politics. So Mexico has never suffered a coup. And the armed forces are protected from scrutiny.

    Spotlight. Macho men. “Not only is torture generalized in Mexico, but it is also surrounded by impunity,” said Juan E. Méndez, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture told the New York Times. “If the government knows it is frequent and you still don’t get any prosecutions, and the ones you do prosecute usually wind up going nowhere, the blame lies with the state.”

    The armed forces kill their enemies because they cannot rely on the shaky legal system. Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, the defense secretary, has publicly defended the military, saying it is the only institution confronting organized crime — and winning. Behold this impunity, “with
    growing ties with the United States military through exercises, training and military hardware sales meant to improve the professionalism and, by extension, the human rights record of Mexico’s armed forces.”

    Two years ago, after the United States agreed to sell Black Hawk helicopters to Mexico, “Senator Patrick J. Leahy (Democrat of Vermont) wrote a law barring the United States from providing training or equipment to foreign troops who commit “gross human rights violations” like murder or torture,” according to the New York Times.

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