"Here is the School of the Americas. It's a combat school. Most of the courses revolve around what they call "counter-insurgency warfare." Who are the "insurgents?" We have to ask that question. They are the poor. They are the people in Latin America who call for reform. They are the landless peasants who are hungry. They are health care workers, human rights advocates, labor organizers. They become the insurgents. They are seen as "the enemy." They are those who become the targets of those who learn their lessons at the School of the Americas." - Father Roy Bourgeois
This weekend Kucinich traveled down to Georgia to protest the School of Americas with a fellow campaign leader who is from Argentina. I know this because that leader from Argentina worked with us to get Kucinich on the ballot in Illinois. Argentina has experienced some of the most egregious violations from this organization now known as WHINSEC. Kucinich said on Sunday in front of a crowd of 10,000:
"The type of thinking that produced this school is the same type of thinking that produced the war in Iraq and is producing a war against Iran."
The School of the Americas Watch details this school as being “a combat training school for Latin American soldiers.” It has:
Initially established in Panama in 1946, it was kicked out of that country in 1984 under the terms of the Panama Canal Treaty. Former Panamanian President, Jorge Illueca, stated that the School of the Americas was the “biggest base for destabilization in Latin America.” The SOA, frequently dubbed the “School of Assassins,” has left a trail of blood and suffering in every country where its graduates have returned.
Over its 59 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins.
The school has for the past few years strove to provide “professional education and training to military, law enforcement, and civilians to support the democratic principles of the Western Hemisphere” since being renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). However, the school’s graduates include “the late Salvadoran rightwing militia leader Roberto D'Aubuisson, known as "Blowtorch Bob" for his interrogation methods; Efrain Rios Montt, later accused of genocide in Guatemala; Leopoldo Galtieri, the late Argentinian junta leader jailed for human rights abuses, and Manuel Noriega, the former Panamanian leader now serving 40 years for drugs offences in the US.”
It has been thankfully declining in success but unfortunately, the success it still has is unacceptable especially since as Latin American countries decline in enrollment, more and more U.S. soldiers are enrolling.
According to the Guardian, in April of 2006 “the defence ministers of Argentina and Uruguay decided to stop sending soldiers to train at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (Whinsec), the military academy based at Fort Benning, Georgia.” It joined Venezuela whose leader Hugo Chavez stopped sending soldiers to be trained at the academy in 2004.
Since then, Bolivia has also stopped sending soldiers to train at the School of the Americas or WHINSEC.
The recent protest action resulted in thousands of “the martyrs in a solemn funeral procession at the main gate, 10 SOA Watch activists entered the Fort Benning military base through a side entrance in an attempt to carry the protest to the site of the SOA/WHINSEC: Le Ann Clausen, Diane Lopez Hughes, Stephen Schweitzer, Gus Roddy, Ozone Bhaguan, Arthur Landis, Chris Lieberman, Michelle Yipe, Ed Lewinson, and Joan Anderson were arrested by military police. Teil Rainelli, of Los Angeles, CA climbed the barbed wire fence at the main gate of Fort Benning during the funeral procession, raising the number of arrested to 11. Three more SOA Watch activists face charges from the city for refusing to relinquish crosses at the vigil site whose size exceeded Columbus police regulations.”
The action had scant support from Democratic presidential candidates unfortunately with Chris Dodd and Barack Obama offering these not-so-comforting remarks on the institution:
“I have concerns about the history of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation...The Institute has made some reforms, for example introducing more courses on instilling an awareness of human rights and democratic principles. At the same time, I believe that continued reforms are essential. I will continue to monitor the Institute's operations closely in the interest of ensuring that it and its graduates hold to the principles and values of our country.” –Chris Dodd- Advertisement -
Spokesman for Obama said: “...has not committed to closing down the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, but he will take a hard look at the program and the progress it has made once he is elected... Obama is pleased with the institution's inclusion of human rights courses.”
And if you read the article you can see that Hillary Clinton and Bill Richardson dodge the School of Americas issues choosing to just say they are for human rights and John Edwards and Joe Biden dodge the issue of the School of the Americas even more.
Yet, the candidate that should be against the School of the Americas and who people should be supporting for president in 2008 attended the action [video of speech] and has been very vocal about abolishing the School of the Americas since taking office in Congress in 1997. Dennis Kucinich in a statement for people prior to the action this weekend said that closing school would be doing “God’s work.” An article in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer said of him: