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Home Category Table 'School' of Hard Knocks for Wes
'School' of Hard Knocks for Wes PDF Print E-mail
Written by Vincent Morris   
Thursday, 18 December 2003 00:00
WASHINGTON - In a position that's likely to alienate some Democratic primary voters, retired Gen. Wesley Clark is a big booster of the controversial "School of the Americas" - which critics charge has history of graduating Latin American soldiers accused of rape, murder and torture.

Clark fought for years to keep the school at Fort Benning, Ga., open, even testifying on its behalf in Congress, despite graduates like imprisoned Panamanian ex-strongman Manuel Noriega.

Clark's backing of the school - whose curriculum once included teaching torture, execution, kidnapping and blackmail - puts him at odds with many Democratic officials and groups like Amnesty International, who want the school closed.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) calls the school a "stain on our reputation" and leads the effort to close it. "With all due respect to the general, the school is an insult to our troops," he said. Nearly all Democrats in New York's congressional delegation oppose the school and Reps. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) voted to shut it.

"I would urge the general to support an accounting for the training that's gone on there," said Alex Arriaga, government-relations director for Amnesty International.

Clark isn't embarrassed about ties to the military installation - his campaign Web site features a commencement speech he delivered there a few years ago. "There is nothing going on in these institutions that you in the United States Congress wouldn't be extraordinarily proud of," Clark once testified to Congress.

The school has served as a training ground for thousands of Latin American officers, whose instruction had reportedly including how to torture and assassinate.

Aside from Noriega, the school is known for alums like Leopoldo Galtieri of Argentina, Haitian coup leader Raoul Cedras, Salvadoran death-squad organizer Roberto D'Aubuisson and former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

One of the most controversial school incidents occurred in November 1989, when a Salvadoran army patrol executed six Jesuit priests, their cook and her daughter. The United Nations found that 19 of the 26 soldiers graduated from the school.

In response to complaints, the Pentagon "closed" the school in 2000, but reopened it in 2001 under a new name.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 June 2010 19:50

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