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Home Action Legislative Action Articles Recent Letters to the Editor by SOA Watch Activists
Recent Letters to the Editor by SOA Watch Activists PDF Print E-mail
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From: The Chattanoogan (Chattanooga, TN)
By David Cook
Tuesday, April 24th 2007

A Letter To Wamp On School Of The Americas

Rep. Wamp,

First, let me thank you for the work you have done for the people not only in Chattanooga but throughout America. To help you help them further, allow me to introduce you to a man named Oscar Romero.

Oscar Romero was the archbishop of El Salvador in the 1960s and 1970s. On an early morning in 1975, the El Salvadoran National Guard stormed his village, using governmental machetes to butcher and kill his parishioners. The government claimed the Guard was punishing communist rebels; Romero knew instead they to be the poor peasants taking communion from him each week, and suffering daily under the heels of tremendous economic inequality and governmental abuse.

In their death, Romero saw the death of Christ.

At this time, he was supported by the Council of Latin American Bishops, who in 1968, had declared that God indeed had a preference, and His preference was for the poor of the earth.

"At the last judgment we shall all be judged according to the treatment we have given Christ, Christ in the person of those who are hungry, thirsty, dirty, sick, and oppressed,'' writes Dom Helder Camara, the deceased archbishop of Brazil who once called upon his fellow Catholic bishops to sell away all their gold ornaments to help the poor.

God's "preferential option for the poor'' gave revolutionary hope to the millions of ditch-poor folks in central America, yet immediately put bishops like Romero, and Camara, at enemy-odds against the established power, namely the government.

The story is a sad one. Throughout central America, totalitarian governments have been the enemy of freedom, the enemy of poor people, the enemy of God. Dictators, assassins, death squads and paramilitary groups all waged acts of terrorism against their own people. Against this, Romero fought his holy war, using the weapons of his Christ-God: forgiving his enemies, feeding the poor, speaking truth to power even as pamphlets were distributed throughout San Salvador saying, "Be patriotic. Kill a priest.''

The pamphlets proved to be prophetic; in 1980, as Romero was leading a funeral, breaking the bread of the sacred body of the communal Christ, assassins entered his church and shot Romero dead. As his blood poured onto the altar, and as some believe, into the communion wine, his reported last words were Christ-like: "May God have mercy on the assassins.''

It is these assassins that I ask you to consider today.

For the last five decades, the US government has funded, sponsored, financed and operated an organization called The School of the Americas. Situated in Fort Benning, Georgia, the School of the Americas (now known as Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) is the premier training facility in the Americas, as Latin American dictators, rulers and paramilitary groups send their men to SOA to receive instruction on torture, execution, assassinations and fear-based terrorism.

"Over its 59 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics,'' writes School of the Americas Watch, the leading opposition to SOA/WHINSEC. ''These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins.''

From Bolivia to Colombia to El Salvador to Uruguay, SOA graduates have become the messengers of death to the poor, the widowed, the priests, the children of Latin America. Were we to line up the dead and decapitated outside the SOA gates, the bodies of those whose murderers once walked its halls, the line of death would stretch and stretch and stretch longer than one could imagine.

In 1989, SOA graduates murdered six Jesuit priests, a woman working alongside them, and her teenage daughter. Within months, a group called School of the Americas Watch formed in Georgia with the single goal of working to shut down the SOA/WHINSEC.

Seventeen years later, the movement to shut down the SOA/WHINSEC has reached tremendous, international attention. Beginning Wednesday, thousands of Americans will participate in a three-day fast and call to action, drawing the world's attention to the histories of the SOA/WHINSEC and the things we can do to stop it.

Currently in the House of Representatives is Bill HR 1707 (sponsored by Jim McGovern with 72 original co-sponsors) which would suspend any and all US governmental funding of the SOA/WHINSEC and also investigate its maddeningly long list of human rights violations. This bill is available immediately for your co-sponsorship, and will soon reach the voting floor.

Your vote and co-sponsorship in favor of this bill will show your solidarity with the poor and oppressed people of the Americas; those whom the SOA graduates assassinate, rape, torture, threaten and murder are eerily similar to the same folks that Christ himself associated with: the poor, the widowed, the radical priests, the oppressed, the outcast, the dissidents.

I ask you today to cast your vote, your whole vote, in their favor. To do otherwise is to continue to support an exportation of violence that allows totalitarian governments to do what they do best: suffocate freedom from their people through terrorism.

As an example, when SOA/WHINSEC students in Georgia practice simulations with empty bullets, the village priest, played by the US Army chaplain, is often either killed or abused.

As an example, SOA graduates were responsible for the military violence, freedom-less dictatorships and terror reigns in Bolivia and Chile, Argentina and Guatemala, Uruguay and Colombia, the last of which has sent more troops to SOA than any other Latin American country (perhaps because the US is its biggest investor).

As an example, SOA graduates elected into the school's "Hall of Fame'' include Hugo Banzer, the Bolivian whose strategy was to "silence'' the church by assassinating its leaders; he also hosted Nazi warm criminals and participated in drug trafficking.

Before his death, Oscar Romero wrote then-president Jimmy Carter, whose administration funneled millions of dollars to El Salvador, which in turned promised death to Romero's beloved poor.

"You say that you are a Christian,'' Romero wrote to President Carter. "If you are really Christian, please stop sending military aid to the military here, because they only use it to kill my people.''

And so my open letter to you ends in the same way.

From The Times Herald-Record (Hudson Valley, New York)

U.S. role in Latin America leaves much to be desired

By Elmer Brunsman
January 03, 2007

What's going on here? Look it up.

The Record's Nov. 15 editorial criticized Latin America's new governments, asking, "What's going on here?" exclaiming, "Ay, caramba!" Your intention was positive. The problem is that dominating nations forget history that the dominated countries can't forget.

Nicaragua (your term: that "poor Central American country") has suffered under U.S. hegemony since in the early 20th century. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler described his role there as "a gangster for capitalism" since FDR dubbed Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza "an SOB, but he's our SOB," a phrase that has epitomized U.S. policy throughout the region and world since Augosto Sandino's liberation movement and his assassination by U.S. client Somoza. Using your phrase, we can "look it up."

Sandino's cause resurrected in the late 1970s revolution against Somoza's son, bringing Daniel Ortega to the presidency, elected by 63 percent in 1985. In 1990, he was "kicked out of office" (your view) for the U.S.-sponsored Violeta Barrios de Chamorro when he got 41 percent of the vote facing a coalition of opponents and the effect of the invasion of Panama on Nicaraguan voters. This after a U.S.-financed electoral campaign against their government that followed the illegal U.S. "contra" war, which, you say, "precipitated the Iran-contra affair." Fifty thousand Nicaraguans died.

You state your concern as "leftist governments have taken over (they were popularly elected, you know) in Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and the Dominican Republic. That's what happens when friends feel they've been ignored," the Record opines. No, that's what can happen ? governments for the country's people, not the country's U.S. corporate friends ? when the U.S. can't dominate. First controlled by colonial power Spain, then capitalist U.S., they are standing up for their well-being ? what you call "leftist."

Look up John Perkins' "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man," learn what those countries know that we don't know, to our ignorance and loss. Read the history of U.S. covert and overt invasions in Latin America and worldwide in William Blum's well-documented "Killing Hope." From Latin America to the Middle East, we reap what we sow.

These aren't liberal or conservative facts. These are unalloyed facts. Why are we so uninformed? Why no reporting on the conference attended by officials from those countries in mid-November exploring how to re-establish human rights after suffering decades of onerous abuse? Abuse overlooked, condoned, supported by the U.S. in favor of its "friends."

Look up: the Uruguayan former president and others now under indictment for crimes against that country's citizens; Chilean President Gen. August Pinochet, indicted before he died for human rights abuses after we helped overthrow his elected predecessor; the Argentinean president, generals and other military officers involved in the 30,000 "disappeareds"; the U.S. and CIA overthrow of elected governments in Guatemala, the Dominican Republic and Brazil; the support of a death squad backed government in El Salvador in the '80s; the ludicrous invasion of Grenada by Reagan, which left the island nation far worse off; and the invasion to get Noriega in Panama when he defied his U.S. bosses. That's only a partial list.

Look up School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga. SOA Watch states, "Former Panamanian President, Jorge Illueca, stated that the School of the Americas was the 'biggest base for destabilization in Latin America.' The SOA, frequently dubbed the 'School of Assassins,' has left a trail of blood and suffering in every country where its graduates have returned. ... Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, 'disappeared,' massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins."

U.S. government Latin American friends?

"Ay, caramba!" indeed.

Elmer Brunsman of Montgomery is a history teacher and former Peace Corps volunteer in Peru.

From The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin)

Troop atrocities are nothing new, and they must stop
June 9, 2006

Dear Editor: Another black eye for the U.S.! Are we really surprised that the U.S. military has been involved in a massacre in Haditha, Iraq? And that they need values/ethical training?

These kinds of atrocities by U.S. or U.S.-trained troops have been going on for decades.

Just on our side of the globe: Does anyone remember the massacre of the Jesuit priests, the four Maryknoll sisters, Archbishop Romero and 900 people at El Mozote, El Salvador, or the massacres in Guatemala and Nicaragua, the disappearances in Chile and Argentina? The list goes on and on.

The point is that the above barbaric acts were carried out by graduates of the U.S. School of the Americas, a facility for training Central and South American military, at Fort Benning, Ga. In 1996 the Pentagon was forced to release the SOA training manuals that exposed its teaching of torture, extortion and "neutralizing" and, in general, that it was permeated with contempt for law and democracy. That is when it closed for a brief period and then reopened with a new name, Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

But the savagery goes on, as revealed in Colombia today. That is one military training school. Why would anyone believe that others are different?

As a Christian and a U.S. citizen, I am dismayed when my government is complicit in such wrongdoings, and I cry "Not in my name!" Every November, since 1990, a demonstration at Fort Benning calls for closing WHINSEC for an investigation as to what really goes on there. And every year some demonstrators commit civil disobedience to make their voices heard and are arrested. Right now my husband, Fred Brancel, is serving a sentence in a federal prison, as are 36 others, for revealing something that the U.S. government would rather keep quiet. What a waste of human resources and of taxpayers' money! Revealing a crime is a crime?

At present in Washington, HR 1217, a bill to suspend and study WHINSEC, is being held by Republicans from coming to the floor even though it has 133 co-sponsors. You can help close this school by calling any representative (202-224-3121) and asking her/him to support the amendment to an appropriations bill that would cut funding for WHINSEC. We really need to correct this. Our citizens and our country deserve better.

Mary Ann Litwiller

From the News & Observer (North Carolina)

Pointing out Illegality
January 30, 2006

Thank you for publishing the Jan. 19 article "Torture is part of Bush terrorism effort, rights group says." Today I, along with 32 others, will go on trial in Columbus, Ga., for an act of civil disobedience last November at the Army's former School of the Americas (now called the Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation).

This notorious school trains Latin American officers in combat skills and continues to operate without any type of real accountability. When U.N. human rights reports are published on Guatemala, El Salvador or, currently, on Colombia, SOA graduates are found to have led operations where innocent civilians are tortured, killed and massacred. Why do we allow this school to continue?

With Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Cesar Chavez and many others going back to the Boston Tea Party, I ask: is it a crime to call attention to a crime? Is it a crime to call attention to genocide?

While those who torture and massacre and kill in Latin America walk around free, we people of peace who go on trial this week in Georgia will be given three to six months in a federal prison. I hope people will urge U.S. Reps. Brad Miller and Bob Etheridge to co-sponsor HR 1217 to close the SOA.

Gail S. Phares
Witness for Peace Southeast

From the Corvallis Gazette-Times (Oregon)
By Barbara Baldwin

Assassination schools operating
December 2, 2005

Thank you for publishing the commentary of Mary Sanchez on Nov. 28, ?Few know of this Georgia school for killers.?

Some readers may remember that her column chastised those of us who don?t know the story of Oscar Romero, the archbishop who was assassinated in El Salvador in 1980.

Her argument is that most of us seek the comfort of ignorance when faced with unpleasant political realities, like the Romero assassination; like the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly the School of the Americas. It is indeed heartening to know, as Sanchez reported, that at least 15,000 people have enough information about the ?School of the Assassins? to protest its continued existence.

Many of us first became aware of this infamous institution during the Reagan administration, when people in

El Salvador and Nicaragua sought to free themselves from military dictatorships.The inhumane and cruel practices used against the rebels by the military were taught under the auspices of the United States training school, then known as the School of the Americas.

The terrible irony is that while Congress attempts to shame the Bush administration into honoring the international prohibition on torture in Iraq, the Institute for ?Security Cooperation? continues to train Latin American military in torture techniques, as it has done since 1946.

Barbara Baldwin

From the Sheboygan Press (Wisconsin)
By Nicole Hertel

Congress must put end to school
December 1, 2005

In Ed Clark's letter "Georgia school doesn't teach, condone torture" in the Nov. 24 Sheboygan Press, about the U.S. Army School of the Americas, he fails to mention the numerous connections that have been made between graduates of the school and horrible human rights violations and murders in Latin America.

I am currently a student at Marquette University who participated in the protest of the School of the Americas in Ga., last weekend with 19,000 other people. To say the school is open, transparent, and promoting anything that has to do with democratic values and respect for human rights is extremely far-fetched. What is the most hurtful to me is that people who believe that it is acceptable that our tax dollars fund this school are failing to recognize the countless innocent lives that have been lost at the hands of its graduates.

I went to El Salvador this past summer and saw the site where on Nov. 16, 1989 six Jesuit priests and their two housekeepers were murdered. Most of the soldiers that were involved with this massacre were graduates of the School of the Americas.

At the protest last weekend, all participants carried white crosses with the names of victims who have died at the hands of School of the Americas grads to place in the fence surrounding Fort Benning. My cross bore the name of Daniel Romero, a husband and father who was murdered in the 1981 massacre of a village in El Salvador. Soldiers of the Salvadoran military murdered the entire village of El Mozote ? 900 people, most of whom were innocent civilians caught up in a bloody struggle. Stories similar to these have occurred throughout Latin America and still do to this day.

In El Salvador's civil war that lasted from 1980 to 1992 over 75,000 people were killed. In 1993, the United Nations Truth Commission Report on El Salvador cited the officers responsible for the worst atrocities committed during that country's brutal civil war. Over two-thirds of those named were trained at the School of the Americas.

The facts are there. The Latin American soldiers who are trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga., often return to their countries and murder and torture poor, innocent people.

Check out www.soaw.org for more information. There is currently a bill in Congress (HR 1217) that calls for the closing of the school and an investigation into the human rights abuses. Please learn more about this bill and encourage your elected officials to support it.


From the Concord Monitor (New Hampshire)
by Jack Bopp

Close the doors on School of Americas
December 1, 2005

Although the event was not covered by the Monitor, last weekend a record 20,000 people gathered in Columbus, Ga., to call for closing the School of the Americas, renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. My daughter and I and other New Hampshire citizens joined students, religious groups and families from across the country in this annual protest to say no to human rights abuse and torture in Latin America and across the globe.

The School of the Americas, a U.S. Army school at Fort Benning, has trained more than 60,000 Latin American security personnel in counter-insurgency, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. Graduates have become dictators, defense ministers and secret police heads. They have crafted genocidal policies resulting in torture, murder, disappearances and displacement for hundreds of thousands of people.

Graduates are cited for some of the most horrific atrocities in Latin America, including the El Mozote massacre of 900 civilians in El Salvador, the assassination of six Jesuits and their co-workers in San Salvador, the assassination of Archbishop Romero, terror campaigns against civilians and indigenous people in Guatemala, and massacres in Colombia.

In 1996 the Pentagon was forced to release training manuals for the school that advocate torture, false imprisonment, extortion and execution. With the shocking revelations at Abu Ghraib, degrading treatment at Guantanamo and secret CIA detention centers, it is clear the atrocities committed by School of the Americas graduates are not the work of a few bad apples.

This school and its policies are out of line with the core values of everyday Americans. Closing it would be an excellent start toward a national redirection and reclamation of U.S. foreign policy. Please call Rep. Charlie Bass and ask him to co-sponsor HR 1217, the Latin America Military Training Review Act of 2005.


From the Minnesota Daily, October 28, 2005
by Elizabeth Nadeau

WHINSEC still is a U.S. terrorist camp

Being a spin doctor for a well-funded government project is apparently an excuse for the smoke-and-mirrors defense of a military base that has both proven and alleged connections to violations of human rights, democracy and sovereignty that have occurred in the past century in the Western Hemisphere.

It?s curious to me why the School of the Americas, re-named the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation finds it necessary to reply to a piece written by a student journalist at the University of Minnesota. While we are flattered by Lee A. Rials? attention, on behalf of the critical community here in the Twin Cities, we don?t buy what Rials is selling. What threat does SOA/WHINSEC perceive that you rush to respond with your kind offer of an ?official tour? and a question and answer session with the very people who are heavily invested in protecting the image of the institution?

Could this be part of the strategy that we saw at play in January 2001 when, as the result of legislative action by Congress, the School of the Americas closed down, only to reopen the next day as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation? The participants and graduates of this school are clearly not intended to be figures in the public spotlight. This is what makes the SOA/WHINSEC?s influence particularly insidious: It serves the interests of certain foreign policy programs in the United States without explicitly being connected to (or accountable to) any official body. Rials can play with words, but eventually those who seek the truth will find it, and this is why for the past 15 years School of the Americas Watch (www.soaw.org) has been diligently researching and peacefully demonstrating to remove this institution from the taxpayers? bill and create accountability for those who are trained therein.

It is true that the coup to unseat the democratically elected Hugo Chavez in Venezuela did not succeed. But this was not for lack of trying. The reason the coup did not succeed was that the soldiers in that country recognized the beauty and power of ?government by and for the people? and when it comes down to it, no amount of training can unseat the desire for this in the human heart. Good prevailed in this case. However, that neither exonerates the SOA nor pardons the actions of those people who have participated in these campaigns.

We at the University can discover the truth for ourselves, without even visiting Fort Benning, though many community members will, as we have been doing for the annual vigil every November. Anthropologist Lesley Gill has written a well-researched book about SOA/WHINSEC after being granted unique access to all aspects of the institution and spent time speaking with SOA/WHINSEC representatives as well as many of the past and present students. The School of the Americas: Military Training and Political Violence in the Americas is available everywhere, and I would urge everyone to read it. The SOA Watch Web site does have links to the evidence Rials claims is missing, as well as the official rosters of your graduates as released by the institution.

Clearly, SOA/WHINSEC has an agenda to maintain, and a strategy to protect. But we shall know the truth and the truth shall set us free. Not only we, the community at the University, but those fighting for sovereignty and rights in Louisiana, Georgia, El Salvador, Venezuela, Iraq and throughout the world.

Elizabeth Nadeau is a University student.

From The Olympian, June 30, 2004

Dear Editor:

Recent reports of the torture of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib military prison near Baghdad are part of a larger pattern of abuse and torture at the hands of US soldiers, mercenaries and intelligence agents around the world. In fact, U.S. Army intelligence manuals advocating torture techniques and how to circumemvent laws on due process, arrest, and detention were used for at least a decade to train Latin American soldiers at the U. S. Army's School of the Americas, renamed in 2001 the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation or WHINSEC.

The SOA/WHINSEC has trained over 64,000 Latin American soldiers in combat skills and psychological warfare. Graduates are consistently linked to human rights abuses and atrocities in Latin America. In September of l996 the Pentagon, under intense public pressure, released the classified training manuals. the Washington Post reported that the manuals promoted '"executions, torture, blackmail and other forms of coercion against insurgents." They also recommended the imprisonment of family members of those who support :"union organizing or recruiting, those who distribute "propaganda in favor of the interest of workers, as well as those who make "accusations that the government has failed to meet the basic needs of the people." The training manuals are available on the SOA Watch website,

Later in July the possible vote will be held in the House of
Representatives through an amendment to the foreign Operations
Appropriations bill that would cut funds to the institution.

I urge all who value freedom for all to let your Representative know you views on this injustice.

Edith S. Downing
Lacey, Washington

From The Washington Post, June 18, 2004

The tactics used by U.S. interrogators at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, as Walter Pincus suggests in his June 13 news story, have been used by American interrogators in other conflicts to collect intelligence information from captured enemies and suspected enemies.

The article did not mention that the United States also has a history of exporting unethical interrogation methods to other countries.

Shortly after his inauguration in January 1961, for example, President John F. Kennedy issued directives to assist Latin American military institutions in containing the threat of communism. As a result, the United States provided materiel and training to the militaries of Argentina, Guatemala and El Salvador, among others.

One element of that policy was teaching these "allies" in the war against communism effective ways to collect intelligence. Latin American officers and noncommissioned officers learned from U.S. military experts more effective methods of conducting "tactical" interrogations. In some cases, the recipients of this training became notorious torturers.

The "KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation" manual of July 1963 that Mr. Pincus mentioned served as a blueprint for the creation of several Spanish-language manuals used by the U.S. Army School of the Americas and other U.S. military educational institutions to train Latin American military personnel.

As former defense secretary Robert S. McNamara has said, the driving force behind many Cold War policies pursued by several U.S. presidential administrations was the misguided belief that to do good, you might have to engage in evil.

Alex Taylor

Torture as longstanding policy
From the Ann Arbor News, Michigan, May 25, 2004

The recently reported torture of Iraqi prisoners unfortunately reflects longstanding U.S. foreign policies. The ?few bad apples? argument is the same one used to defend the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA), which since 1946 has trained over 60,000 Latin American military personnel. The SOA Watch group has documented a pattern of atrocities by graduates.

Pressure to close the school grew after the 1989 Jesuit murders in El Salvador, which the UN Truth Commission linked to a U.S.-trained elite unit. The U.S. government denied that torture was part of the training, until forced to release interrogation manuals in 1997. Now this school in Georgia has been renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), a transparent attempt to cover the trail of abuse.

Long before Bush ignored the Geneva Convention, the U.S. flauted the 1986 World Court ruling condemning U.S. backing of contra terrorists in Nicaragua. Long before Guant?namo, U.S. forces detained thousands of Panamanians without charges in camps in the Canal Zone, after illegally invading to capture Gen. Noriega (another SOA graduate).

Taxpayer-funded, unaccountable mercenaries currently operate in
Colombia, the world?s third largest recipient of U.S. military aid, in a raging conflict misleadingly sold as a ?war on drugs.? These patterns of militarization and deceit only perpetuate cycles of violence.

SOA Watch founder Father Roy Bourgeois, a Vietnam veteran, recently spoke in Ann Arbor to support H.R.1258, a bill to close WHINSEC. As Father Roy noted, even President Bush says he favors closing all terrorist training camps.

Richard Stahler-Sholk
Ann Arbor

The writer is active with and a consultant to several human rights organizations, including the Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition International.

America, we know you all too well
from the Toledo Blade, Letters to the Editor
May 28, 2004

In the aftermath of the illegal invasion of U.S. forces in Iraq, the world is reeling from abhorrent images of prisoner mistreatment at Abu Ghraib prison. Recent photographs and reports detail accounts of sodomy, rape, and even murder at the hands of U.S. agents.

If these acts had taken place in the United States under the auspices of civil authorities, there would be far greater consequences for the guilty than a year in prison and loss of a job, or rather, there should be.

Among President Bush's many lies and deceits is his contention that the abuses do not reflect "the America that I know."

The America I know is rife with a history of government-condoned abuses and murder, from the massacre of countless Native Americans to the genocide of African people during the Atlantic slave trade to acts of vigilante terrorism carried out, in many cases, with government complicity.

The documented 2,805 victims of lynch mobs killed between 1882 and 1930 in 10 southern states alone is part of the America I know.

The America I know took part in the lynching of Emmett Till, the My Lai massacre, and the brutal torture of Abner Louima.

The America I know funds the infamous Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formally known as the School of the Americas, where torture techniques are taught to U.S. and Latin American soldiers who have committed countless, documented human rights abuses.

In 2002, the Bush Administration fought against the U.N.-sponsored International Convention Against Torture. As governor of Texas, Mr. Bush oversaw the executions of more inmates than any in U.S. history.

The abuses at Abu Ghraib prison do indeed reflect past and continuing human rights abuses carried out in the America that I know.

Renoir Gaither
Scottwood Avenue

U.S. has been training torturers for years at School of the Americas
from the Manhattan Mercury, Letters to the Editor
May 25, 2004

Dear Editor:

"Why the great surprise over Abu Ghraib?" asked Jennifer Harbury, a U.S. attorney whose husband was tortured for two years and then either dismembered or thrown from a helicopter by Guatemalan military officials receiving generous CIA payments. "This has been standard operating procedure for years." Reports of the torture of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison, while abhorrent, are merely part of a larger pattern of abuse and torture at the hands of U.S. soldiers, mercenaries and intelligence agents around the world. The U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA), an Army training school based at Fort Benning, Georgia, trains soldiers and military personnel from Latin American countries in such subjects as counter-insurgency, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics.

More than 64,000 Latin American soldiers have attended the SOA since 1946, and hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have either disappeared or been tortured, raped, forced into refuge or massacred by those trained at the school. This training is funded by U.S. taxpayers. The Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB), a four-person, independent board created by President Clinton, was charged with investigating excesses and abuses by the U.S. intelligence community. The IOB, headed by attorney Anthony S. Harrington and including retired Air Force Gen. Lew Allen Jr., issued a report June 28, 1996, in Washington, D.C., that concluded that the U.S. Army School of the Americas used training materials that condoned "executions of guerrillas, extortion, physical abuse, coercion, and false imprisonment."

In September 1996, under intense public pressure, the Pentagon released the classified training manuals used at the SOA that taught U.S.-trained soldiers how to circumvent laws on due process, arrest and detention. The Washington Post reported that the manuals promoted "executions, torture, blackmail and other forms of coercion against insurgents." These training manuals are now available on the School of the Americas Watch website (www.SOAW.org).

In 2001, the SOA was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC). The name-change measure passed when the U.S. House of Representatives defeated, by 10 votes, a bipartisan amendment to close the school and conduct a congressional investigation. The new institute is simply a continuation of the SOA under a new name.

As reports of abuse at the hands of U.S. soldiers continue to materialize, military authorities try to distance themselves from the heinous misdeeds. Officials are claiming the soldiers seen in the photographs are "just a few bad apples," but as instances of human rights violations continue to grow around the world, a much larger picture of well-organized abuse seems to be developing.

My brother, Philip J. Enlow, was killed-in-action in Vietnam. I have other relatives and close friends who either have served or are currently serving in the military. I support the current administration and will unashamedly vote for Bush in November. But God have mercy on us if our country's military leaders are indeed guilty of contributing to the atrocities mentioned above!

For more on the School of the Americas and efforts to close it, visit www.SOAW.org or call 202-234-3440.

Paula K Goldwyn
702 Laramie St.
Manhattan, KS 66502


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