Monday, April 26, 2010

School of the Americas Must Be Closed Immediately

What would Thomas Jefferson have thought if he had been told that the United States would eventually establish a military academy to train agents of oppressive foreign governments in the most effective techniques of murder and torture, to be used against politically-active citizens who were only campaigning for their natural rights? The School of the Americas (renamed in 2001 as the "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation", but still better known by its original name) is precisely such an institution. Its very existence is a national disgrace, and it should be closed down immediately.

Established in 1946, the School of the Americas has trained an estimated 60,000 members of the military and police forces of Latin American nations. In addition to basic military training, the academy provides instruction in specialized counter-insurgency tactics, interrogation techniques, and other such subjects. Whether intentionally or not, the School of the Americas has equipped the worst villains in Latin America with the knowledge to wage war on their own people, and it continues to do so.

A quick glance at some of the graduates of the School of the Americas should chill the blood of every decent American citizen. There is Efrain Montt, the military dictator who ruled Guatemala with an iron fist and conducted a campaign of genocide against the Mayan population of his country. There is Robert D'Aubuisson, the Salvadoran army officer and politician who tortured and killed thousands of his political opponents during the 1980s. There is Hugo Banzer, who was dictator of Bolivia in the 1970s; during his rule thousands of political enemies were tortured, killed, or simply vanished. Many of the underlings of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet were trained at the School of the Americas.

Perhaps the clearest example of the evil that has come out of the School for the Americas is the Atlacatl Battalion of the Salvadoran Army, which was organized by men trained at the academy. This unit was primarily responsible for the El Mozete Massacre of 1981, in which nearly a thousand civilians were brutally killed. They also were involved in the infamous murder of six Jesuit priests in 1989, an event which sparked widespread public condemnation of the School of the Americas.

This facility trains brutal agents of undemocratic regimes in the tactics of murder and torture, yet it is run by the American military and is funded by the American taxpayer. Its very existence is an outrage and violates the values on which our nation was founded. The School of the Americas must be eradicated root and branch.

Last May, Representative James McGovern (D-MA) introduced House Resolution 2567, which would abolish the School of the Americas and establish a commission to investigate human rights abuses committed at the institution. So far, 97 other members of the House of Representatives have signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation. Check the list of co-sponsors; if your representative in Congress is not among them, please contact them immediately and ask that they sign on as well.

To answer the question asked by the opening paragraph, Jefferson would lament for his country had he seen the School of the Americas. In our time, however, action should take the place of lamentation. 21st Century Jeffersonians should not tolerate the existence of the School of the Americas, and should use every means at their disposal to ensure that this stain on the honor of the American republic is removed forever.

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