SOA Watch Response to a US Army Request for a Meeting Print
The US Army has approached SOA Watch with a request for a meeting to talk about the School of the Americas/WHISC. Below you'll find our response letter. The Army has misrepresented what people have said in the past so we are broadcasting our response. Also, in keeping the discussion open we can be both transparent to the movement and re-focus the light of public scrutiny on the SOA.
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February 10, 2004

Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
General Schoomaker, Army Chief of Staff
General James T. Hill, Commander of U.S. Southern Command
General Benjamin Freakly, Commanding General of Fort Benning

Dear Sirs,

This letter is in response to the US Army?s request for a personal meeting with School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch). SOA Watch agrees to meet with the Army to discuss the future of the School of the Americas, recently renamed the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation or WHISC. A delegation of SOA Watch members and representatives are available to meet on March 15, 2004 in the ?Steward Mott House? near the Capitol in Washington DC. Please let us know if this day works for you.

In advance of this meeting, SOA Watch would like to clarify again our position on the SOA/WHISC and our understanding of our working relationship with the Army and personnel at Fort Benning. We would like to make clear that there are three points that the Army will need to acknowledge for real progress to be made. First, SOA Watch calls for the immediate closure of the SOA/WHISC. Due to both past and present atrocities by graduates of the school, permanent closure of this combat school is the only way to move forward. Even with self-proclaimed reform, as long as the SOA/WHISC remains open, the presence of the school sends a clear anti-human rights message to the people of Latin America.

Second, we ask that the US government offer a public apology to the victims of SOA/WHISC graduates for the US role in the murder of their families, loved ones and community leaders. The acknowledgment of the US role in the suffering and death of tens of thousands of innocent people will help in the process of healing both for our nation and the people in Latin America. Only through accountability and honesty can true healing begin.

Third, we ask that reparations be paid to those who have suffered at the hands of US trained torturers and those who morn the loss of family members due to SOA/WHISC training. Amnesty International, in their report ?Unmatched Power Unmet Principles?, states this position clearly: ?The independent commission of inquiry should recommend appropriate reparations for any violations of human rights to which training at SOA contributed, including criminal prosecutions, redress for victims and their families, and a public apology.?

Finally, we hope to address our outrage at the Army?s recent attempts to thwart and minimize our constitutionally protected nonviolent gathering at the gates of Fort Benning. Over the last fourteen years SOA Watch has had a peaceful and respectful presence at the main gate of Fort Benning and we will come back and speak out until the SOA is closed for good. As we gathered this year on Saturday November 22, 2003 we were met with music that was being blared from speakers on Fort Benning facing the vigil site. This music disrupted our stage program from 8am until 3:30pm. Torture survivors, peace activists, and musicians were prevented from executing their first amendment rights. One woman told of her entire family being disappeared and murdered. While she spoke the song ?A Soldier Never Dies? drowned out her voice. SOA Watch feels that these types of underhanded tactics illustrate the history of disrespect and arrogance the SOA/WHINSEC is known for. We hope that the Army will consider these points carefully and will come to the meeting prepared to address these issues.

Sincerely,



Hendrik Voss
SOA Watch Communications Coordinator