******September 22 2006
[I just caught this report moments before FTW
is bringing it to you and had no time to corroborate it. If true, as Hugo Chavez laughed at President Bush from the U.N. podium
at the General Assembly, his laughter may be supported by a growing strength in Latin American ties.
All the countries
reported below to be abandoning the deadly US “school of assassins” (the SOA) are all members (or associate members)
of Mercosur, a regional trade alliance. Washington has been trying to pull Uruguay closer
by negotiating a bi-lateral trade agreement with the nation, but Venezuela has been undermining those efforts. – MK]
'School of Assassins' One Step Away From Closure?
Commentary by Willy E. Gutman
Friday September 22, 2006
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At long last, the ignominious U.S. Army School of the Americas may be breathing its
Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay and Venezuela have stopped sending their military officers to the Spanish-language military
academy run by the CIA at Fort Benning, Geo., and funded by U.S. taxpayers. The SOA is losing four countries whose citizens
endured some of its bloodiest teachings. More withdrawals are on the way.
Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru may be next to pull out of an institution that has
embarrassed the U.S. government and mortified principled Americans for more than half a century.
At home, efforts are being
exerted to bring the SOA's bloody history to an end. Introduced by Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., an amendment to the Foreign
Operations appropriations bill proposes the elimination of all funding for the school.
Born in Panama in 1948 and now billeted at Fort Benning, near Columbus, Geo., the
SOA closed in December 2001 and reopened a month later, unchanged but now pompously renamed "Western Hemispheric Institute
for Security Cooperation."
"It was like perfuming it in a toxic dump," said Roy Bourgois, who heads SOA Watch.
the last 60 years, 62,000 military personnel from 18 Latin American and Caribbean basin nations graduated from the SOA, among
them some of the most ruthless despots and human rights violators. The U.S. whitewashed their crimes by describing them as
Many graduates went home and engaged in horrific human rights abuses against their
own people. Scores of alumni became military dictators - or their lackeys - putting their U.S.-acquired military training
to diabolical use in the 1970s and 1980s. Violations included mass arrests, secret and prolonged detentions, torture, "disappearances"
and unspeakable abuses clearly in violation of fundamental human rights.
Most of the persecutions involved teachers, students, union organizers, journalists
and even clergy, some who preached the oxygen-rich Liberation Theology, others whose only crime was to teach indigenous children
how to read and write.
The legitimacy of the SOA and its successor institution shrinks exponentially as
its history unfolds.
The SOA's graduate roster teems with thugs and pathological criminals: Panamanian
dictator and convicted drug trafficker Manuel Noriega, ex-head of the Argentine military junta; General Leopoldo Galtierri,
implicated in the kidnapping and disappearance of 18 leftist sympathizers and the death of three Spanish citizens; and Roberto
d'Aubuisson, mastermind of the Salvadoran death squads and Archbishop Oscar Romero's assassin. D'Aubuisson also took part
in the 1989 El Mozote "incident," during which 900 civilians - men, women and children - were massacred. Of the 26 men who
took part in the assassination of six Jesuit priests and a female employee at a Jesuit mission, along with her 19-year-old
daughter, were SOA graduates.
Also trained by the SOA were Bolivia's Hugo Bnzer Surez, Guatemala's Efra'n R'os
Montt (author of the "bullets or butter" decree - butter if you obey, bullets if you don't), Chile's convicted murderer, Augusto
Pinochet and Honduras' Policarpo Paz Garcia, whose governance was marked by corruption and the emergence of Batali-n 3-16,
a secret right-wing paramilitary death squad trained by the CIA.
Batali-n 3-16 was called upon during the Reagan administration and by U.S. military
"advisers" in Central America to support the Contras. Veterans of the Batali-n are suspected of carrying out extra-judicial
executions in Honduras.
Influential "gray eminences" working behind the seats of power also received training
at the SOA, later applying the lessons learned in the form of repression, torture and assassinations. Vladimiro Montesinos,
security adviser to Peru's ex-President Alberto Fujimori, was a star student at the SOA. So was Manuel Contreras, head of
secret services during the Chilean dictatorship. Contreras engineered the murders of former army chief Carlos Prats in 1974
and ex-Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier in 1976.
SOA's divisive past includes the use of military training manuals, which instructed
students in the use of torture as an acceptable method for obtaining information from potential suspects. Perhaps the SOA's
notoriety is merely coincidental. But the declassification in 1996 by the Pentagon of seven SOA training manuals used at the
school between 1987 and 1991 suggests otherwise.
SOA students were given U.S. Army-issued training manuals which detailed
unconventional and coercive interrogation tactics and routinely condoned human rights violations. These guides came to be
known as the "torture manuals." According to a Defense Department summary of the handbooks, the U.S. military spelled out
acceptable methods for acquiring information that included "beatings, false imprisonment, executions and the use of truth
Latin American movement to close the school began to develop in the 1990s and resonated
quickly in the U.S. The campaign to shut down the SOA received a huge boost when articles in the mainstream media began detailing
torture manuals and other techniques taught at the SOA.
The SOA continues to wage war. A resurgence of human rights violations
in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, and the ongoing conflict in Colombia, are grave reminders that ideology-driven violence
is picking up steam in Latin America.
The School of the Americas, aka Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation,
must be shut down for good. A long overdue and rigorously detailed post-mortem of this infamous "school of assassins" must
Willy E. Gutman of Tehachapi is a veteran journalist on assignment
in Central America since 1991. His column reflects his own views, and not necessarily those of The Signal.