With the WarOnTerra (cleverly disguised as the Occupation of Iraq) dominating the news cycles for the last several years, it's always discussed in an olde western movie framework. The United States is always the one wearing the white hats, trying to save the damsel of freedom tied to the railroad tracks of terrorism. It seems we always paint ourselves as the good guys, and deride "them" as the ones who torture, who kill innocents and - worst of all - train their people to engage in these despicable acts.
Flying under the radar, though is a little known reality. We train terrorists. We train assassins. We do the same thing. It's commonly known as the School of the Americas, although the name was changed in 2001 to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in a failed attempt to convince detractors that the SOA had been closed. We are not so easily fooled.
Started in Panama in 1946, and moved to the U.S. at some point after 1984, the school "has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics..." (per SOAW). The graduates then go on to use their newly developed skills and knowledge to terrorize the occupants of their own countries.
Also from the SOWA
In 1996 the Pentagon was forced to release training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Among the SOA'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. Lower-level SOA graduates have participated in human rights abuses that include the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the El Mozote Massacre of 900 civilians.
Even though the school is little known in the U.S., it was even less known before 1989. However, on Nov 16, 1989, graduates of the school massacred 6 Jesuits in El Salvador. This action inspired a priest to protest the school and he has returned every year on the anniversary of the action. Over the years, the protest has grown larger. This weekend marks the anniversary; this weekend is the protest. It is attended by people from all areas of the country, a large number of them from religious organizations.
I attended the protest last year, and it was an amazing experience. Sadly I will be out of town this weekend, but may be able to catch the end of it on the way home. Check out the SOWA
website, read the articles, and get inspired. We cannot hope to eliminate torture and terrorism in other countries when we teach it in our own backyard.
Not in our name. Not on our soil.