SOA/WHINSEC: Stand up for Dignity, Justice, Solidarity, and Self-Determination
SIGN UP for the TRIP TO GEORGIA NOV. 18-20:
registration forms @www.ifcla.net/soa.php (scroll down)
DEADLINE Oct. 14! we will create a waiting list...
Read the October 17 Time Magazine article about the SOA. Some of us are called to put our bodies on the line and engage in civil disobedience. Direct action is one of the pillars of our resistance. It is an opportunity for all those who seek peace with justice to bring their grievances to the place where the killers are being trained to protect the policies that benefit the world's richest 1%, at the expense of the 99% throughout the Americas.
Is It Time to Shutter the Americas "Coup Academy"?
TIME Magazine, October 17, 2011
Few of the hemisphere's training centers can boast as many ex-leaders and government strongmen among its graduates. For many schools, this would no doubt be an excellent marketing pitch. Not so for the School of the Americas (SOA). None of its famous alumni reached power by way of the voting booth. Some are even behind bars now, either convicted or facing prosecution in their respective countries for abuse of power.
Schedule of Events, November 18-20
Friday, November 18
Friday, November 18
Saturday, November 19
Sunday, November 20
Thanks to all who attended Roy Bourgeois' talk at Webster University and filled the room! Roy is grateful for the generosity of those who contributed to his work.
Roy's interview on St Louis Public Radio 9-21-2011:
Below is an article by Rose Aguilar, host of Your Call, a daily radio program on KALW 91.7 FM in San Francisco and on KUSP 88.9 FM in Santa Cruz. The article grew out of a recent interview with Nico Udu-gama, field organizer with SOA Watch and Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, associate professor of justice and peace studies at University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.
(You can listen to the full interview below)
Michael Bass SOA Watch San Francisco
The Military's Role in US Foreign Policy and Torture: Why is School of the Americas Absent from the National Dialogue?
Thursday 6 October 2011 by: Rose Aguilar, Truthout | News Analysis
On April 8, 1993, a Newsweek investigation about the Fort Benning, Georgia-based US Army School of the Americas (SOA), also known as the "School of Dictators," "turned up hundreds of less than honorable graduates linked to military death squads." They include at least six Peruvian officers who killed nine students and one professor at a university near Lima in 1992 and four of five senior Honduran officers accused of organizing a secret death squad called Battalion 316 in the early 1980s.
In September 1996, under intense public pressure, the Pentagon was forced to release SOA training manuals advocating torture, extortion, blackmail and the targeting of civilian populations. On September 21, the Washington Post's Dana Priest broke the story:
"Used in courses at the US Army's School of the Americas, the manual says that to recruit and control informants, counterintelligence agents could use fear, payment of bounties for enemy dead, beatings, false imprisonment, executions and the use of truth serum, according to a secret Defense Department summary of the manuals compiled during a 1992 investigation of the instructional material," she writes.
At the time, Democratic Rep. Joseph Kennedy, an advocate of shutting down the SOA, said the manuals "show what we have suspected all along, that taxpayers' money has been used for physical abuse. The school of the Americas, a Cold War relic, should be shut down."
In the 1990s, there were extensive investigations exposing the SOA's practices and its connections to brutal dictators, but over the past decade, the reporting has largely diminished. Even though efforts to shut down the SOA continue, it's rarely mentioned in the national dialog about US foreign policy and torture.
Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, associate professor of justice and peace studies at University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, and author of "School of Assassins: Guns, Greed and Globalization," believes the absence of reporting is largely due to the chilling impact of 9/11.
"We were very close to having the Pentagon close the School and were in touch with the SOA shortly before 9/11," he says. "The attitude now is, 'We can do anything we want, anywhere we want,' and I think there's been a stifling of critical news reporting, not just on the SOA, but on many related issues. Maybe that has been accelerated by the election of a Democratic president who has not followed through on many of his commitments, including this issue."
"Not much has changed under Obama," says Nico Udu-gama, field organizer with SOA Watch, an independent organization that seeks to close the SOA through vigils, fasts and demonstrations. "Militarization in Latin America has increased. People are still mobilizing even though you don't hear about it in the news."
Back in April, hundreds of human rights activists marched to the White House to call on President Obama to close the SOA. Udu-gama and 26 fellow activists were arrested after staging a die-in on the sidewalk in front of the White House to raise awareness about the hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans who've been murdered, tortured, raped, disappeared and forced into exile by SOA graduates.
The signatories, including Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Maxine Waters (D-California) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), write that the closure would result in an annual savings of $18 million.
The letter states, "In 1999, when the US House of Representatives voted by a bipartisan margin to close the SOA, the Pentagon moved the following year to close the SOA one morning and the very next morning open the WHINSEC, on the same site, with many similarities as its predecessor."
WHINSEC, the new name, stands for Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. "Before its closure, the Pentagon said the name was tainted," says Udu-gama. "The new name was a media tactic designed to divert public attention. It's the same school in the same building with the same instructors."
"It was a brilliant move on their part," adds Professor Nelson-Pallmeyer. "It's a stupid move because if US foreign policy planners had decided to let it close, it would have taken attention away from the broader issues of US foreign policy in which the US has backed dictators in many parts of the world for long periods of time."
Originally established by the US Army in the Panama Canal in 1946, the military training school moved to Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1984. Since its creation, the SOA has trained over 64,000 Latin American soldiers, including 10,000 from Colombia.
"The results in that country are absolutely devastating and shocking," says Udu-gama, who lived in Colombia for four years. "Thirty of the 33 brigade commanders of the Colombian Army were trained at the SOA and in those regions where they operated, extrajudicial executions almost doubled."
Professor Nelson-Pallmeyer says there is a direct relationship between SOA graduates and human rights atrocities through Latin America. They include over two-thirds of human rights violators named in the UN Commission report, the head of the central death squads and secret police in Guatemala, the military leader responsible for the disappearance of 20,000-30,000 Argentinians and many of the officers connected to former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
SOA Watch in Chile, which is composed of a group of family members of assassinated politicians, requested a meeting with President Obama when he visited in March. The US Embassy said they "would consider, but Obama has a very busy agenda."
Over the past 15 years, popular movements in Latin America have successfully stood up to US imperialism and neoliberal economic policies, including free trade agreements. The governments of Bolivia, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina and Costa Rica have all severed ties with the SOA.
In March, WikiLeaks released cables that exposed a six-month campaign, in which the US embassy in Costa Rica, the Pentagon and the SOA pressured the Costa Rican government to reverse the decision, which "stunned" senior security officials. The cables describe a meeting among Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, SOA Watch founder Father Roy Bourgeois and SOA Watch Latin America Coordinator Lisa Sullivan Rodriguez as "The Problem."
Costa Rica does not have an Army, but according to SOA Watch, some 2,600 Costa Rican police officers have been trained at the school.
SOA Watch's Udu-gama sees the SOA as a microcosm of US foreign policy. That's why so many people have dedicated their lives to changing the culture of militarization, exposing the SOA's practices and, ultimately, shutting it down. Catholic priest Roy Bourgeois founded SOA Watch in 1990 in a tiny apartment outside the main gates of Ft. Benning. Today, the movement brings together religious communities, students, teachers, immigrants, veterans, and many others.
The next major SOA Watch action is scheduled for November 18-20. There will be workshops, a vigil outside the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, a funeral procession and a Veterans for Peace march.
"Why continue the public efforts to close it?" asks Professor Nelson-Pallmeyer. "When you don't have accountability, you have impunity and what we've seen is a dramatic spread of many of the tactics that were perfected and used at the School of the Americas. They have been revealed to be central to US foreign policy elsewhere."
Listen to Your Call discuss what the SOA does today, efforts to close it and US foreign policy in Latin America.
Nico Udu-gama, field organizer with SOA Watch, an independent organization that seeks to close the SOA through vigils, fasts and demonstrations.
Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, associate professor of justice and peace studies at University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, and author of "School of Assassins: Guns, Greed and Globalization."
Rose Aguilar is the host of "Your Call," a daily call-in radio show on KALW 91.7 FM in San Francisco and on KUSP 88.9 FM in Santa Cruz. She is author of "Red Highways: A Liberal's Journey Into the Heartland."
-----From SOA Watch:
Emerson Library, Conference Room, Webster University 101 Edgar Rd. 63119
Roy is founder of SOA Watch which monitors graduates of the US Army School called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the School of the Americas (SOA) at Ft. Benning, GA
Report from Zelaya’s Return to Honduras
Written by Lisa Sullivan
|In May, Fr. Roy Bourgeois and I accompanied President Manuel Zelaya back to his native Honduras, almost two years after a military coup led by SOA graduates removed him from his country at gunpoint. The short flight we took with him, from Managua to Tegucigalpa, was a journey packed with laughter, tears, songs, nerves, hugs, and decades of history.
Above all, this was an epic Latin American journey, a brief Latin American freedom ride of sorts. It was a moment to display to a world that does not often look this way, a loosely woven cloth of Latin American sovereignty and integration. As the only U.S. citizens invited to be part of a small group of international accompaniment, Roy and I felt extraordinarily privileged to be sharing this moment with our Latin American sisters and brothers.Zelaya’s return was made possible by an agreement brokered by the presidents of Venezuela and Colombia, to the surprise of Secretary of State Clinton, who had logged thousands of miles in her own unsuccessful efforts to negotiate this accord. Though far from being the return to his rightful place as president and only one piece of a four-point accord, the return of Zelaya and the official welcome in his country is nonetheless a significant victory.Almost as significant as the return itself, was the form in which it was negotiated: by two nations who put aside conflicts that often seem more imposed from without than created from within. Blood brothers bound by their claim to Simon Bolivar, the Latin American liberator who was born in Venezuela and died in Colombia and dreamed of a united Latin America, these two nations unexpectedly unleashed a lightning bolt of hope that was felt the length and breadth of Latin America.This was the emotion that dominated the group of 30 or so Latin American diplomats, ministers, social leaders and former presidents who prepared to board the plane with us in Managua. Uruguayan ambassador Julio Miguel Baraibar leaned over and whispered to me “ this is not just the journey of Mel Zelaya home after a coup, it is a journey of each one of us. And, because it was negotiated by Venezuela and Colombia, it is a journey of Latin American unity”.Baraibar himself had spent over a decade in exile from his country’s military dictatorship, an experience not exclusive to him in that group.This historical role reversal was poignantly demonstrated as Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega walked President Zelaya to the plane, down a red carpet spread on the runway in Managua These scene turned upside down the image that of these two countries held by those of us who remember the 1980’s, an epoch when Honduras was dubbed the “USS Honduras”. It was from Honduras that the US military trained, armed and launched the Contras into neighboring Nicaragua, shattering lives, homes and dreams of a new society. Now, Sandinista leader and current president Ortega was helping to return his neighbor’s president from Augusto Sandino International Airport, all to the tune of the Honduran national anthem played by the Nicaraguan military band lining the red carpet.Sitting just a few rows behind Zelaya and his wife, and next to their youngest daughter “La Pichu", Roy and I felt the electricity of the moment. As we lifted off, spontaneous applause broke out among observers and journalists. No sooner had reached our altitude than we began to descend. At that moment a rainbow spread out the right side of the plane’s window, above the green hills of Honduras, eliciting emotional audible sighs from the passengers. Zelaya’s wife Xiomara told me a few hours later “I couldn’t believe that I was actually in the air of Honduras and with Mel at my side.” As a leader of the strong Feminists in Resistance, Xiomara had returned many times to Honduras, but this was the first time with her husband since June 2009. She recently announced that she would be a candidate for the presidency in 2013.As the plane began to approach the Toncantin airport suddenly a crowd of hundreds of thousands lining the airport gates became visible through the clouds, most donning red shirts. Even those in small farms dotting the landscape and on winding streets down below us looked up, waving wildly. As the plane descended, we burst into a song that we all knew too well, “De pie cantar, que el pueblo va a triunfar……“El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido!”. Descending lower and lower the chant in the airplane swelled: Venezuela: PRESENTE! El Salvador: PRESENTE! Argentina: PRESENTE! until each of our countries had been named. Finally: Honduras PRESENTE! That cheer was punctuated by massive cheers from the crowd that rose above the screech of the brakes.I later learned from a Venezuelan official that the current Honduran Lobo regime informed him at the last minute that only President Zelaya’s family and the Venezuelan minister would be allowed to get off the plane. However, journalists were the first to hustle off the plane, immediately setting up their cameras to film those descending. With images being shown on television channels around the globe, it apparently wasn’t a very good moment to send us back on the plane.After kissing the ground and sweeping his mother and grandson into his arms, Zelaya took the wheel of an SUV while the rest of us packed into a few vehicles, literally hanging out the windows. It felt like Zelaya couldn´t get too quickly to the crowds that awaited him almost like a messiah. We sped to the road lined by hundreds of thousands of wildly cheering, red shirted Hondurans, shouting “Si se pudo! Si se pudo!”(Yes we could!). Over and over and louder and louder, an affirmation that the bravery of the resistance movement was what really made possible this deal.After the almost impossible task of making our way through pressed flesh and up to the stage, Roy and I clung to the edges, the appropriate place to be as two North Americans, as Zelaya and other Latin American leaders took center stage. With the encouragement of Zelaya, over and over the crowd’s reiterated the scene on the airplane, but with a twist. They shouted: Brazil, gracias!, Venezuela, gracias! Dominican Republic, gracias! and so on and so forth. This moment of sheer joy written on the faces of so many Hondurans in that sea of red , was brought to you exclusively by Latin America.I wish I could end this report on that note. After 34 years in Latin America, a continent that I so dearly love, and whose roads and mountains and homes and hearts I have traversed and collected so much pain and so much courage, I want to end on this upbeat note of triumph. But, the back of the stage was a different scene, one that reflects the reality of Honduras behind the floodlights.Suddenly thrust into my arms were three weeping women, the sisters and niece of Isis Obed Murillo, the young teenager who was shot down as he waited with hundreds of thousands on June 5, 2009, as Zelaya attempted to return and military tanks were sent to block the runway. The stage were Zelaya was speaking at that moment was at he newly baptized “Isis Obed Murillo plaza”. While Zelaya acknowledged the sacrifice of Isis and so many others in the Resistance movement whose courage and determination and refusal to give up made this moment possible, Zelaya was here while Isis was gone forever.More worrisome is that Isis is not alone. Over 100 Hondurans have lost their lives in the struggle for justice, including dozens in the past months alone, as we learned first hand in a recent visit to Honduras’s Aguan valley. In the back edges of the stage were several key Resistance leaders and the looks on their faces were bittersweet. Berta Caceres of COPIN embraced me, while at the same time telling me with pain “Lisa, today they are militarizing the Aguan”.This week Honduras might briefly pop up again in your local paper when it is probably accepted back into the Organization of American States, one of the reasons motivating the timing of the return of Zelaya. But then, expect Honduras to once again disappear from the front sections of all major international newspapers.But, pay attention to two things that you might miss. A month after the OAS meeting, the new CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States will be inaugurated in Venezuela. Comprised of all the nations of the Americas, except the U.S. and Canadian, this new body reflects the growing integration we witnessed so dramatically on this trip and the exclusion of the U.S. is not by chance.But also pay attention to the edges in Honduras. The lives of teachers, journalists, farmers, human rights activists and Resistance leaders outside the floodlights, rolling up their sleeves with the grueling and treacherous task of building a truly democratic nation. SOA Watch celebrates with the people of Honduras and the people of Latin America this wonderful moment, honors the privilege of being present, but above all, we continue to commit to walk with the people of Honduras while international eyes turn away.Democracy Now report:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6LZl1beJGU&feature=player_embedded#at=15Twenty months ago, masked soldiers armed with automatic weapons burst into the bedroom of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, ordering him to board a plane, or die. The plane refueled at the US airbase of Palmerola, then flew on to Costa Rica where it dumped the elected president on the runway, in his pajamas. The soldiers were operating under the command of two SOA graduates: Generals Vázquez Velázquez and Prince Suazo.Honduras is certainly not the only example of how soldiers trained at the SOA have obliterated the sovereignty, dignity and very lives of people throughout Latin America. But, it is the most recent egregious example. Today - twenty months after the coup and ensuing illegal "elections" - Honduras continues to bleed. Over 4,000 grave violations of human rights have been registered since the coup, including 64 political assassinationssince the U.S. approved "election" of Porfirio Lobo.But Honduras also continues to resist. And, in the resistance movement, comprised of teachers, farmers, trade unionists, feminists, journalists, gay rights activists, indigenous communities, and progressive religious groups, I find some of my greatest inspiration today.We went on a delegration from April 30 to May 9, bringing our message of solidarity directly to the Honduras Resistance. We did so in the spirit of Father James "Guadalupe" Carney, a St. Louis Jesuit priest whose commitment to the poor campesinos of that country led him to make decisions that ultimately led to his disappearance in 1983, under orders of another SOA graduate, General Gustavo Alvarez Martínez.We met with Resistance leaders, human rights activists, journalists, workers and campesino organizations struggling to return democracy to their nation, and will visit places that marked the extraordinary life of Fr. Guadalupe, and led him to choose a path of radical commitment to the poor. In addition, we will visit the U.S. military base at Palmerola which played a role in the 2009 coup and is receiving more US funds, troops and drones.
+++++++Roy Bourgeois is an American activist. He was ordained a priest in the Maryknoll order of the Roman Catholic Church and is founder of the human rights group SOA Watch.Father Bourgeois was excommunicated latae sententiae for his participation in a women's ordination ceremony in August 2008.In July 2010, feeling it necessary to avoid any appearance of endorsing his views on women's ordination, his order revoked its $17,500-a-year funding support for School of the Americas WatchBourgeois was born in Lutcher, Louisiana in 1938. He attended the University of Southwestern Louisiana and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in geology.
After graduation, Bourgeois entered the United States Navy and served as an officer for four years. He spent two years at sea, one year at a station in Europe, and one year in Vietnam. He received the Purple Heart during a tour of duty in Vietnam.
After military service, he entered the seminary of the Catholic religious order|Maryknoll Missionary Order. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1972 and sent to Bolivia.
1972-1975 Fr. Bourgeois spent five years in Bolivia aiding the poor before being arrested and deported for attempting to overthrow Bolivian dictator General Hugo Banzer.
1980 Fr. Bourgeois became an outspoken critic of US foreign policy in Latin America after four American churchwomen, Sister Maura Clarke, Jean Donovan, Sister Ita Ford, and Sister Dorothy Kazel, were raped and killed by a death squad consisting of soldiers from the Salvadoran National Guard.
1990 Fr. Bourgeois founded the School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch), an organization that seeks to close the School of the Americas, renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in 2001, through nonviolent protest.
1998 Fr. Bourgeois testified before a Spanish judge seeking the extradition of Chile's ex-dictator General Augusto Pinochet.
2008 In August 2008, Fr. Bourgeois participated in and delivered the homily at the ordination ceremony of Janice Sevre-Duszynska, a member of Womenpriests, at a Unitarian Universalist church in Lexington, Kentucky. Fr. Bourgeois received a 30 days' notice as of October 21, 2008 regarding possible excommunication for this action. He was later fully excommunicated.
* Pax Christi USA Pope Paul VI Teacher of Peace Award (1997)