Nationwide Legislative Media Campaign 2007 Print
As part of the take action campaign in the aftermath of the extremely close June 2007 vote in the House of Representatives, activists nationwide are participating in a grassroots effort to hold Members of Congress accountable for their votes in Congress. In many instances, House Representatives switched their votes as political favors, ignored the wishes of their constituents, and refused to question the flawed information from the WHINSEC PR campaign.

SOA Watch identified 26 SOA Accomplices and put a call out for district office meetings, call-in days, and letters to the editor in local media outlets.

Here are a few fantastic letters to the editor that were published:

Representative votes for terrorism if it's the doing of the U.S.
Palladium Item
Richmond, IN
July 12, 2007
By: Lonnie Valentine, Richmond

An anti-terrorist piece of legislation was almost approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, but our Representative Mike Pence voted against it. The School of the Americas has been training members of Latin American military on "counter-insurgency" techniques including that of torture used in U.S. prisons during our current conflict in Iraq.

The SOA or WHINSEC, a U.S. taxpayer-funded school located at Fort Benning, Ga., made headlines in 1996 when the Pentagon released training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Despite this shocking admission and hundreds of documented human rights abuses connected to soldiers trained at the school, no independent investigation into the training facility has ever taken place.

The institution has refused to make public the names of its graduates and instructors since 2005, preventing the work of human rights organizations that in the past used said information to identify many of the school's alumni as guilty of crimes against humanity in their home countries.

However, past graduates included many known human rights violators, such as Manuel Noriega, former dictator of Panama. A number of past graduates accused and in some cases convicted of human rights violations returned to the school as instructors.

The School of the Americas is a terrorist training camp and hurts the reputation of the United States. Recently, a number of Latin American countries have refused to send soldiers there for training. However, Mike Pence continues to support this place. So, Mike Pence supports terrorism, as long as the U.S. does it.

First step in the war on terror: Win back our integrity.
Bucks County Courier Times
Bucks County, PA
July 11, 2007
By: Linda Manzo

I am astounded and deeply disappointed to find that Congressman Patrick Murphy was one of only 42 Democrats to vote with the Republicans who narrowly defeated the McGovern amendment (HR 1707) that would have eliminated the funding for and essentially closed the infamous "School of the Americas" (aka Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation).

This school has graduated over 61,000 Latin American soldiers since 1946. Those graduates include many brutal Latin dictators as well as known human rights abusers. In 1996, the Freedom of Information Act forced the Pentagon to release "Torture Training Manuals" used at the school that advocated various techniques calling for intimidation through torture aimed specifically at those calling and organizing for social justice such as religious workers, teachers, labor organizers and those working with the poor.

During the 1980s and 1990s the following are just a sampling of the atrocities proven to involve known graduates of the school:

  • 2 of the 3 cited for the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero
  • 3 of the 5 cited for the rape and murder of 4 churchwomen
  • 3 of the 3 cited for the murder of union leaders
  • 10 of the 12 cited for the El Mosote massacre of 900 men, women, and children
  • 19 of the 26 cited for the massacre of 6 Jesuit priests and 2 housekeepers

    The torture, assassinations and disappearances continue today in Mexico and Columbia, where the majority of the SOA students currently come from.

    Congressman Murphy received video as well as literature documenting the history of this institution, verifying the findings released under the Freedom of Information Act, and petitions with over 75 signatures of Bucks County residents. He also received numerous e-mails and letters from constituents who thought they were voting for a change in November. I was assured by his staff that he had reviewed the information so my question is, "What did he not understand?"

    The first step in a "war on terror" has to be to restore our integrity and remove the blemish on our history. We cannot have credibility on this issue when we are training and exporting terror from Ft. Benning, Ga.

    Congressman Murphy, what were you thinking?

    Linda Manzo
    Langhorne, PA

    Sources: United Nations Truth Commission Report, March 15, 1993; SOA Watch (Washington DC), http://www.soaw.org; "School of Assassins" by Jack Nelson Pallmeyer (ORbis Press). I also visited Nicaragua and El Salvador during the civil wars of the 80s and 90s and had the opportunity to listen to people's stories.

    David Cook: An Open Letter to Rep. Zach Wamp
    The Chatanoongan
    Richmond, IN
    Chatanooga, TN
    July 26, 2007
    By: David Cook

    Rep. Wamp,

    I have seen your name and face in three peculiar locations within the last month. The first was on the cover of Chattanooga Christian Family, a free local publication whose mission is to "promote positive living'' through examples of area Christians. The front page pictured you seated at your Congressional office desk, with a hearty and kind smile, while the interior article described what could be called your conversion experience.

    I respect your honesty and simplicity in telling your spiritual story, and find that we share a similar faith. You mentioned that you became a Christian in elementary school, but this was an elementary faith that did not become real until you hit, as a wise friend once described it, "the barroom of your soul.'' Your Christ became real at that point, not elementary, and I understand this quite clearly, and my letter to you is written in the spirit of such brotherhood. Yet, because of my own Christ-haunted experience, this letter is also written in a spirit of great sorrow, concern and anger.

    For the Christ that I know is a non-violent Christ, a suffering God who lived as a poor prisoner, a compassionate God who forgave his enemies, and a radical God who told his friends to lay down their swords and above all things, to love one another. And the following two places I have seen your name and face this last month suggest your Christianity is drastically different than mine.

    I find your appearance in Chattanooga Christian Family to greatly contradict your appearance at the Oak Ridge Y-12 Complex earlier this month. The Y-12 Complex produces the majority of the nation's uranium for its nuclear weapons arsenal. You and other officials at the ceremony applauded two new Y-12 buildings for their ability to generate more than $1 million in area taxes, and for their ability to upgrade Oak Ridge's uranium production. "These two facilities change the face of Y-12,'' you were quoted as saying.

    No, Congressman, they do not change the face of Y-12. They only add more madness to our government's hell-bent philosophy that nuclear weapons will bring peace on earth. Would Christ have toured such a facility, with its uranium and capacity for massive death and destruction? Would he have applauded such weapons, since the weapon he gave his followers were spiritual, and not nuclear? Would he have smiled warmly at the billions of annual dollars suffocated by the nuclear weapons industry, which instead could be distributed among righteous things - like the world's suffering poor?

    As a Christian, you believe that Christ was God in human form. Let us then consider all the forms of man Christ could have chosen to inhabit (a soldier, a general, a politician) and then meditate on the form he did choose: a poor blue-collar worker, who entered homelessness and prison and the gallows preaching a radical gospel of love, forgiveness, compassion and revolution. Granted, Christ is big enough for all men and women, and I most certainly am not suggesting one cannot be a Christian and a soldier, general, or politician. I am suggesting, though, that one cannot be such and applaud, celebrate and promote nuclear weapons.

    I do not understand how you could either.

    The war in Iraq has cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars. If the war had not been fought, a tiny portion of this money could have gone in other ways: $37 billion to provide clean water for the entire globe; $5 billion to end global illiteracy; $24 billion to cut world hunger in half. Imagine the choice Christ would have made and compare that choice to Washington's.

    Regrettably, the third place I saw your name this month was in the No Vote column in regards to HR 2764, also known as the McGovern/Lewis Amendment, which was a bill designed to remove funding from the School of the Americas. The SOA is a branch of Georgia's Fort Benning that is used as a boarding school of sorts for Central American dictators and death squads who send their troops to the SOA (whose name has been whitewashed to WHINSEC) where they receive expert instruction on, essentially, how to kill, torture and terrorize. The SOA has been operating for decades, and many priests in the southern Americas have begged, pleaded, prayed and written politicians in Washington asking that their funding of such violence end, immediately.

    In most cases, the folks suffering are the poor workers, who Christ identified mostly with. If you want to find me, He said, then visit the poor, the widowed, the hungry, the naked. These are the people who suffer under the School of the Americas, and in an open letter to you earlier this spring, I described such atrocities, and asked you to vote to stop such funding. I was saddened and confused to see you did not truly hear my pleas, and voted to support such violence.

    Many moons ago, the priest and war-resister Daniel Berrigan declared that "seeking logic from governments is like pressing stones for blood.'' Underneath this bold declaration is the belief that governments like yours and mine, which are massive in their ability to create weapons and systems of destruction like our trillion dollar military budget, are so far removed from the logic of truth. What is that truth?

    That love is the first and last, the alpha and omega, the door by which we are to enter peace on earth.

    Nuclear weapons and the death of poor people violate this truth.

    On Saturday, Aug. 4, in memory of the 1945 atomic bombing of Japan, a large group of Americans will gather outside the Y-12 gates in Oak Ridge under the banner of an organization Stop the Bombs! In the spirit of brotherhood and fellowship, I ask you to join me here at this protest. I promise to suspend all journalism and walk and talk with you in the spirit of brotherhood. You were there in July for another ceremony of sorts. I invite you now to join a more truthful one.

    In the words of Thomas Merton: "The Son of Man is never glorified by human violence.''

    David Cook is a former journalist for the Chattanooga News-Free Press. He currently teaches American history at Girls Preparatory School
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