Activists Rally for Friend, New Cause Print
from the Chicago Tribune

Kathy Kelly is billed as a co-host of the Peace Jubilee benefit, to be held Thursday at the Catalyst Ranch, a meeting hall on the Near West Side. Sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee, the evening will honor "the achievements of the Chicago peace community."

But Kelly, co-founder of a Chicago-based group called Voices in the Wilderness, won't be there.

She's in a federal prison Downstate, serving a term for protesting the long-standing teaching of torture techniques at the U.S. Army's School of the Americas at Ft. Benning, Ga., now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

Last year, she invaded the training center, whose alumni include former dictator Manuel Noriega of Panama and Salvadoran military personnel involved in the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980 and the slaying in 1989 of six Jesuit priests, a cook and the cook's daughter.

Kelly was sentenced to 3 months in prison.

To discuss the prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq, a group of Kelly's supporters met Monday at the 8th Day Center for Justice, an activist religious organization with offices in the Loop at 205 W. Monroe St.

"For people to say, `This is just a few bad apples' is to really misuse the media to cover up what has been going on intentionally for many years," began Rev. Bob Bossie, a Roman Catholic priest and an 8th Day Center member.

Manuals on counter-terrorism focus on humiliation and on taking pictures," observed Joe Ferrara, from School of the Americas Watch, another activist group. Ferrara said that, in 1996, the Pentagon, under pressure from that group and other watchdogs, had released classified school training manuals that promoted a variety of forms of extreme interrogation and punishment techniques, including torture, blackmail and execution.

Reforms were promised, both for the school and for the almost 300 other U.S. military schools and installations that provide training for American and foreign military and police forces. But John Farrell, of Voices in the Wilderness, was doubtful.

"It is highly unlikely that ordinary U.S. soldiers would know, on their own, how to humiliate Iraqis," Farrell said Monday, as others in the room pondered what to make of pictures of abuse and abasement from the Abu Ghraib military prison near Baghdad.

"There are manuals, procedures. Soldiers are taught to think that their enemy is not human," said Kathy Long, of the 8th Day Center.

At Ft. Benning, Lee Rials, public affairs officer for the Army institute, took a different tack.

"I would say absolutely and categorically what is taught here in manuals and other instructional materials is all standard U.S. doctrine, vetted and cleared by TRADOC, the Army training and doctrine command," Rials said, in a phone interview. He noted that institute programs now have outside oversight.

As for Kelly, she has been weighing in from Pekin Federal Prison Camp, in dispatches posted at

She watched CNN coverage that juxtaposed images of the president in a flight suit under a "Mission Accomplished" banner with what Kelly called "ghastly photos of US military members apparently enjoying degradation and torture of Iraqi prisoners."

"We need to ask ourselves very carefully, What is the mission? What has been accomplished?" Kelly suggested.

Bossie spelled out further goals. "We need full disclosure. Monitoring by outside groups. Religious leaders to decry this history of behavior. And honor and praise for those who have the courage to speak out against it," he said.

Then he closed the gathering with a quote from Abraham Lincoln: "Let the people know the facts and the country will be safe."

Copyright ? 2004, Chicago Tribune