Testimony by Louis Wolf to Board of Visitors' Meeting, June 2012 Print

Louis "Lou" Wolf is a former SOA Prisoner of Conscience. He was sentenced for crossing the line at Fort Benning in November 2008. He presented this testimony at the SOA/WHINSEC Board of Visitors' Meeting on June 28, 2012.

Testimony at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, Board of Visitors Meeting, by Louis Wolf – Jun. 28, 2012

The 1963 CIA ‘KUBARK’ interrogation and torture documents and the early 1980s torture manuals authored by the U.S. Army both documented what has been central to the SOA/WHINSEC curricula taught to thousands of officers from eighteen nations. Then, under significant public and congressional pressure, came the September 1996 disclosure of U.S. Army and CIA torture manuals proving that torture techniques were taught to numerous trainees at the School of the Americas. The secret was out and the national outcry that ensued led the Pentagon to change the school’s name to WHINSEC in January 2001.

In 1992, a former Paraguayan political prisoner, Martin Almada went to a Paraguayan police station accompanied by a judge in search of his police files. What he found, quite by accident instead, were thousands of documents piled high in a storage room detailing the kidnapping, torture, and murder of thousands of Latin American political prisoners during the 1970s. The documents also contained details of Operation Condor, a secret agreement among the Argentine, Bolivian, Brazilian, Chilean, Paraguayan, and Uruguayan security forces.

This conspiracy allowed the governments to track down, kidnap across borders, and murder their political enemies. The documents Almada uncovered became known as the “Horror Archives.” More than 80,000 people were killed or disappeared, and over 400,000 were imprisoned under the program.

"The [same] folder, in a section labeled ‘instruction at the School of the Americas,’ contain[ed] a manual teaching ‘interrogators’ how to keep electric shock victims alive and responsive. The manual recommended dousing the victims’ heads and bodies with salt water, and includes a sketch showing how this ‘treatment’ should be carried out."

—Journalist Stella Calloni, describing the contents of the Paraguayan "Horror Archives"

Despite official claims that torture is no longer taught at the WHINSEC, interrogation and its extensions sometimes leading to torture remains a logical and necessary component in the very wide gamut of special operations, commando tactics, sophisticated counterinsurgency techniques, covert procedures, military intelligence, covert intelligence activities, coup d’etat preparations, psychological warfare, psychological operations or “PSYOPS”, etc. Despite rhetorical statements that the SOA of yesteryear is not the WHINSEC of today, as we stand here, WHINSEC remains primarily a combat school that focuses on teaching combat and paramilitary skills.

According to official statistics, the ‘human rights’ curriculum taught in WHINSEC’s classrooms is neither compulsory nor well-attended. Courses fail to address well-documented human rights massacres conducted by SOA graduates in many countries including Guatemala, Peru, Colombia, and Mexico, among others. There remains no provision of tracking or follow-up on the graduates after they return home.

Over the last decade, it is very telling that numerous graduates of SOA-WHINSEC courses as well as honorees in the SOA-WHINSEC ‘Hall of Fame’ have been implicated, tried, convicted, and imprisoned for their violent savagery, for wholesale murders and disappearances, for drug-running, and for rank corruption against the citizenry. Such cases include graduates from Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and others.

These include Guatemalan SOA-trained member of the elite paramilitary Kaibiles brigade, Pedro Pimentel-Rios, who was sentenced to 6,060 years for his role in the 1982 massacre of 201 civilians. Just one month after the killings, he left to become an instructor at the SOA, then based in Panama. Four other Kaibiles members got 30-year sentences.

Colombian Col. Luis Fernando Borja, a 1986 SOA graduate, was sentenced to 19 years for his participation in 50 extrajudicial killings.

Bolivian Gen. Rene Sanabria and 1993 SOA graduate of a course in psychological operations, was sentenced to 14 years for cocaine trafficking. And the list goes.

A curious strategic choice by WHINSEC is the official seal on its web site that features “the colors blue and white and the Maltese cross, the insignia of Christopher Columbus during his explorations of the Caribbean Sea, which represents the heritage of security cooperation of the Western Hemisphere.” WHINSEC seems blind to Columbus’s infamous and violent legacy during his journey.

It was Henry Kissinger who famously wrote: "The illegal we can do right now; the unconstitutional will take a little longer."

In the prophetic words of Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa: "Some say the only reason there's never been a coup in the United States is because there's no U.S. Embassy in the United States."

However, SOA-WHINSEC is alive and well here in Columbus, Georgia.

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Members of the Board of Visitors, I wish to place the balance of my written testimony in the record and add the following statement.

Since the founding in 1946 of the School of the Americas (then based in Panama), training during the ensuing 66 years by SOA-WHINSEC to more than 64,000 officers from eighteen Latin American nations has been the primary common thread in the documented suffering of untold thousands of innocent men, women, and children who have been defiled, tortured, massacred, disappeared, and executed by graduates of this institution. These victims must neither be forgotten, nor swept under the rug of history.

A cardinal principle in this country is that we are legally and morally accountable for what we do to our fellow citizens. I can not get my mind around how or why SOA-WHINSEC as an institution of the United States military has yet to be held legally accountable for what its alumni have done with the training they received here.

From his bench in January 2009, retired Judge E. Mallon Faircloth questioned: “Why do these officers do these things to their own people?” The undeniable and inescapable answer is: They just went home and did what they were trained to do——tens of thousands of times.