A Ruse by Any Other Name

For more than 50 years, the US Army's School of the Americas (SOA) at Ft. Benning, Georgia, has trained foreign soldiers who have propped up repressive dictatorships throughout Latin America. SOA training manuals, obtained by the public in 1996, revealed that the training included torture, blackmail, sabotage and execution. Targets included labor organizers, student activists and women. The SOA trained the assassins who killed El Salvador Bishop Oscar Romero and Guatemalan Bishop Juan Gerardi. Major Joseph Blair, who spent three years as a trainer at SOA, has charged that "the SOA was the best place a Latin American officer could go to launder his drug money." The SOA became such an embarrassment that, on May 18, 2000, Congress was compelled to act. An attempt to shut down the SOA failed by 10 votes. Instead, Congress simply renamed the facility the Defense Institute for Hemispheric Security Cooperation. The DIHSC will continue to use the same instructors to teach the same repressive counterinsurgency skills. Rep. Joe Moakley (D-MA), who sponsored the amendment to close the SOA, compared Congress' action to "pouring perfume on a toxic dump."

For more information see School of the Americas Watch

© Earth Island Journal, Summer 2001