|Fighting the SOA and Public Amnesia|
article from the Spring 2008 issue, by Lesley Gill
The movement to close the School of the America (SOA) punctures the founding myths of American exceptionalism. These myths include the belief that the United States is committed to democracy for all, that it is essentially good, and that because it is good, the United States only uses its power for virtuous ends. The presumed innocence of the United States and its citizens insures that “we” are always the victims of the violence of others. This historical shortsightedness perpetuates a widespread amnesia about the naked violence that has supported U.S. imperialism and the acceptance of torture by U.S. officials for decades.
The movement to close the SOA has exposed how instructors taught torture techniques at the School between 1987 and 1991, and how torture manuals used at the SOA were also distributed for use in Latin American countries long before the claims of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo burst into the headlines. These texts advocated the use of torture techniques that went beyond those displayed at Abu Ghraib, and they appeared to advocate the execution of enemies. Indeed, the road to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo began in military training centers, like the School of the Americas, and it passed through various third world countries along the way.
Published in the Spring 2008 issue.
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Interview with Father Fausto Mila in Honduras
SOA Watch participated in the International Human Rights Encuentro in Honduras in February 2012. Laura Jung spoke with Father Fausto Milla, a religious leader in the Honduran movement who has been persecuted by the State of Honduras.
The Saturday morning assembly in the Convention Center during the 2013 November Vigil was organized in the Peoples Movement Assembly (PMA) format. The PMA model has been developed by Project South and through the US Social Forum (USSF).
Six-hundred people took part in 21 small group discussions about the role of nonviolent direct action, and grassroots organizing. The groups developed collective political understanding through dynamic conversations, and new relationships started to form. A goal for the PMA process is to engage everyone to come up with answers to questions about strategies, to develop our political analysis, and to come up with joint plans for action.
H.R. 2989, the Latin America Military Training Review Act of 2013 renews the legislative efforts against the notorious U.S. military training institute, formerly known as the School of the Americas.
By Pablo Ruiz, Equipo Latinoamericano of SOA Watch
SOAW Chile achieved an important victory; to declassify the names of over 760 Chilean soldiers who took courses at the School of the Americas/WHINSEC during the past decade.
School of the Americas Watch Chile, with the participation of other human rights organizations (La Agrupación de Familiares de Ejecutados Políticos, La Comisión Ética Contra la Tortura, La Comunidad Ecuménica Martín Luther King, La Corporación 3 y 4 Álamos and La Juventud Guevarista) used Chile’s “Transparency Law” to achieve a first victory in their home country.
The Defense Ministry, the Chilean Army, Navy, and Air Force handed over lists that include first and last names, dates, and courses attended by Chilean military personnel at SOA/WHINSEC between 2001-2015.
The declassified materials also mention the names of “invited instructors” who assisted the military school in Georgia as well as those of other high-ranking Chilean officials who are part of the WHINSEC leadership. Additionally noteworthy about the response by the military is the mention of WHINSEC personnel that travelled to Chile to instruct the “Personal Development Course for Cadets” at the Chilean Escuela Militar. Nonetheless, what is left out is the “Combined Operations Course 2012,” held at the Academia de Guerra and organized by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Estado Mayor Conjunto ) together with the mobile team of WHINSEC.
Although the information is incomplete, the declassification still represents an important step since one of the characteristics of the SOAW movement is to monitor the behavior of the troops that receive training at the military base and for that purpose it is indispensable to know, who its graduates are.
Despite the Army not revealing the identities of Escuela Militar students and of some other officials, using the argument that this is “legally secret information,” it is an important accomplishment in the fight for more transparency and for continuing with the to demand to stop sending Chilean soldiers to the School of the Americas.
SOA graduates participated in the assassination of the singer songwriter Víctor Jara, in the car bomb attack, carried out in the middle of Washington, DC, that killed Orlando Letelier and Ronnie Moffitt, and in the death of union leader Tucapel Jiménez; among hundreds of other cases that involved soldiers who received training in the US.
The fight for accountability in the US
It is important to remember that the lists with names of Latin American soldiers who trained at the SOA/WHINSEC after 2005 are classified and secret information in the US.
Prior to that year, from 1946-2004, the names had been declassified. This allowed SOA Watch to know that a significant number of soldiers, who committed human rights abuses, had been trained in counterinsurgency methods in the US; including courses that suggested “to use torture, blackmail, extortion and reward payments for murdered enemies.”
In April 2013, Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton from the District of Northern California, responded favorably to a Freedom of Information request presented by SOAW activists Theresa Cameranesi and Judith Liteky, demanding the declassification of the names of all Latin American soldiers who received training at the so-called “School of the Assassins.”
Judge Hamilton reminded in her verdict that the Freedom of Information Act is meant to “assure a well-informed citizenry, a fundamental thing for making a democratic society work and necessary to stop acts of corruption as well as to hold the governing body accountable to the governed.” Her verdict was immediately appealed by the lawyers of the US government and the trail continues to this day.
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None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free.
A challenging new documentary has quickly become one of the
widest-reaching films to encapsulate the history of the SOA Watch
An in-depth look at the torture practices of the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, focusing on an innocent taxi driver in Afghanistan who was tortured and killed in 2002.