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Home News Organizing Updates Vigil update - new fence info - victory in Uruguay - news
Vigil update - new fence info - victory in Uruguay - news PDF Print E-mail
SOA Watch Update
November 9, 2004

Ten days and counting!

"You stand for peace instead of war, compassion instead of brutality, a country mindful of human rights and rejecting militarism....It is actions like yours that historically have been necessary to bring about social change. I believe that your persistence, year after year, will one day bring results, that this school of assassins will be closed and we will be one step closer to world peace."
-- Howard Zinn, historian and author

1. November 19-21 Vigil update and new fence information
2. Victory for the people of Uruguay
3. An open letter to those considering visiting the SOA/ WHINSEC this November
4. SOA/ WHINSEC in the news


We are just over a week away from our 14th annual gathering at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia! Hundreds of people from around the country are working together to make this year?s vigil and nonviolent direct action our most powerful yet. To plug in as a volunteer, contact John Stith in the SOA Watch office at 202-234-3440 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

On the heels of SOA Watch?s Eleventh Circuit Court victory banning the use of metal detectors and checkpoints at the annual Fort Benning vigil, the City of Columbus has installed a new fence on Fort Benning Drive, the site of our annual gathering. Built less than a month before our annual gathering, the 8? high chain link fence will stretch approximately a half-mile from the military fence towards Torch Hill Road on both sides of the street.

Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer that police had to find new security options because they couldn't search each protester, claiming, ?Law enforcement has to be ready for anything.?

Like other attempts to silence and criminalize dissent ? from the blaring of military music during last year?s gathering to intimidating and unconstitutional searches ? this new fence will not quiet our cries for justice, peace and the closure of the SOA!

Click here to read the Associated Press article about the new fence.


You may have had to turn to page A48 to find it in your US newspaper, but October 31st marked an historic day for the victory of democracy and people?s movements for social and economic justice in Latin America. In Uruguay, a leftist coalition, the Frente Amplio, won the presidency with their candidate Tabar? Vazquez, who shares a vision for justice in Latin American with Argentina's Kirchner, Venezuela's Ch?vez, and Brazil's Lula da Silva.

In the same election, more than 60% of the Uruguayan people supported an amendment adding water as a human right to the Constitution and setting the basis for its exclusive public, participatory and sustainable management.

Recent history has seen peoples movements?from Brazil to Uruguay to Venezuela?building enough power and energy to take back power in their national governments. May we continue to learn from and be inspired by their stories of resistance, resilience and victory!

Former SOA Watch media coordinator Matthew Smucker was in Uruguay the night of the elections. Click here to read his article, ?Witnessing the Victory of the Left in Uruguay?.


Fr. Joe Mulligan, SJ and Gary Ashbeck both served time in prison for their acts of nonviolent civil disobedience at Fort Benning in November of 2003. They recently wrote an open letter to anyone considering visiting the SOA/ WHINSEC while in Columbus this November:

?Some faculty and students of Jesuit and other universities are being invited to make an officially approved visit to the U.S. Army's Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the School of the Americas (SOA). Those who accept the invitation may be able to raise some important questions and to learn some interesting things about WHINSEC, but they should recognize that they will be entering onto the Army's well-financed public-relations turf. Military officials would not extend the invitation if they were not confident that they could make a good presentation of their Institute -- within their desired parameters of analysis.

To those who may visit the Institute we would like to offer the statement (see below) which we and others issued last November when we "crossed the line" at Ft. Benning. We tried to express aspects of our opposition to WHINSEC which are broader than the reasons which have to do with the past -- teaching torture (which the Pentagon admitted in 1996), training future human-rights violators and even a few dictators, etc.

Visitors must be prepared to hear distortions of the truth. For instance, in the past Army spokespersons at WHINSEC have denied such basic facts as the existence of the torture manuals. It is hard to debate when your adversary uses falsehoods?.?

Click here to read the rest of their letter and statement.


The National Catholic Reporter ran a front page story in its November 5 issue entitled, ?The US and Torture: Roots of Abu Ghraib in CIA Techniques.? This informative piece delves into the history of torture at the hands of US and US-trained soldiers and includes a section on the manuals used at the School of the Americas that advocated extortion, blackmail and torture. The article begins:

?Last April when Americans found themselves looking at photographs of U.S. soldiers abusing naked and hooded Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison, it?s a safe bet that most didn?t realize they were looking at torture techniques refined by the Central Intelligence Agency over the last half century.

The Bush administration worked overtime to convince Americans that what they were seeing was the work of a ?few bad apples?.??

Click here to read the whole article.

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