As “Board of Visitors” Meets, School Is Engaging in Public Relations, Not Genuine Policy Change Print
“We can’t expect this terrorist training camp to reform itself: after all, it refuses even to acknowledge that it has a past, let alone to learn from it.” - The Guardian, UK

Columbus, GA
– The Board of Visitors (BOV) for the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC) is scheduled to hold its first meeting June 3-4. The Institute—formerly known as the School of the Americas, and popularly known as the School of Assassins—has heralded the BOV as an “independent oversight” mechanism. The board is mostly comprised of military officials, and reports solely to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

“This school wants to distract people with a public relations smokescreen of accountability,” said Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, a professor at St. Thomas University and author of School of Assassins. “The first step toward justice and true accountability is to close the school. Then a truth commission will need to be installed to explore the full scope of SOA atrocities, and following that we’ll need to talk about reparations for the thousands of victims in Latin America.”

The SOA/WHISC is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers. Its graduates are consistently involved in human rights abuses and atrocities. In 1996 the Pentagon was forced to release training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. In 2000 Congress authorized the WHISC to replace the SOA. The renaming was widely viewed as the Pentagon’s attempt to diffuse public criticism and to disassociate the school from its dubious reputation at a time when SOA opponents were poised to win a senate vote on legislation that would have dismantled the school.

“The renaming maneuver has failed to fool the public,” said Nelson-Pallmeyer.

The campaign to close the school continues to grow since the renaming. A broad movement of human rights groups, people of faith, students, veterans and others maintain that the underlying purpose of the school remains the same: to control the economic and political systems of Latin America by aiding and influencing Latin American militaries.

New legislation to close the school (HR1810) was introduced in the House of Representatives last year. Opponents of the SOA/WHISC are preparing for large-scale demonstrations for November 15-17, at Ft. Benning, GA, home of the school. Forty-three people are scheduled for trial in federal court July 8, facing six months for nonviolent civil disobedience at last November’s demonstration, where 10,000 people gathered at the gates to Ft. Benning.

SOA Watch works to stand in solidarity with people of Latin America, to change oppressive US foreign policy, and to close the SOA/WHISC.