U.S. House refinances School of Americas

While nobody was paying attention last July, the U.S. House quietly passed an appropriations bill that allows the military to continue to operate America’s most infamous torture academy, known as the School of the Americas (SOA).

The school, for years, has routinely taught the kind of physical and psychological abuse of prisoners so roundly condemned by Congress and a score of world leaders over the revelations from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

SOA is a relic of the Cold War, established to train military, police and intelligence officers of U.S. allies in Latin countries to battle opponents that Washington termed “Communist.” In actual practice, SOA-trained military have been the tools of political repression, bolstering a string of tinhorn dictators and other fascist regimes favored by the Pentagon.

The National Security Archive (NSA) last May released the interrogation manuals in long time use at the school. The manuals’ texts were posted on the group’s Web site after they were declassified, following Freedom of Information requests from the Baltimore Sun and others. The NSA, in releasing the documents, said they “describe coercive techniques” such as those used to mistreat the detainees at Abu Ghraib.”

Those techniques have had practical application in the field by SOA graduates. Seven of the U.S. Army interrogation manuals were translated into Spanish, used at training sessions and distributed to our allies. They offered instructions on torture, beatings and assassination.

Dr. Miles Schuman, a doctor with the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, who has documented many torture cases and counseled the victims, wrote in the Toronto Globe last May 14, beneath a headline reading “Abu Ghraib; the Rule, Not the Exception”:

“The black hood covering the faces of naked prisoners in Abu Ghraib was known as ‘la capuchi’ in Guatemalan and Salvadoran torture chambers. The metal bed frame to which the naked and hooded detainee was bound in a crucifix position in Abu Ghraib was ‘la cama,’ named for a former Chilean prisoner who survived the U.S.-installed regime of General Augusto Pinochet,” he wrote.

Schuman said electrodes were attached to the woman’s arms, legs and genitalia, just as they were to the Iraqi prisoner shown standing on a box.

“The Iraqi man bound naked on the ground with a leash attached to his neck, held by a smiling young (female) American recruit, reminds me of the son of peasant organizers who recounted his agonizing torture at the hands of the Tonton Macoutes, U.S.-backed dictator John-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier’s right-wing thugs in Port-au-Prince in 1984.

“The very act of photographing those tortured in Abu Ghraib to humiliate and silence them, parallels the experience of an American missionary, Sister Diana Ortiz,” who was tortured and repeatedly gang-raped under the supervision of an American in 1989, according to her testimony to the Congressional Human Rights Caucus.

The lengthy history of torture in Latin and Central America by U.S.-trained thugs under the command of SOA graduates has been thoroughly documented by groups like Amnesty International, and in books like Hidden Terrors by A.J. Langguth and William Blum’s Rogue State.

Every report on human rights abuses from Latin America shows SOA graduates as prominent in these abuses. A U.N. Truth Commission report said more than two-thirds of the Salvadoran officers it cited for abuses are SOA graduates.

Forty percent of the cabinet members under three bloody Guatemalan dictatorships were graduates of the school.

In 2000, the Pentagon tried to improve the image of the school by changing its name to the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). But, as the late Republican Senator Paul Cloverdale of Georgia, where the school is located, said then, the changes were “basically cosmetic.”

The campaign to close the facility has been led by School of the Americas Watch, which was founded by religious activists after the 1990s murder of four U.S. nuns by Salvadoran death squads. The killers were commanded by Col. Roberto D’Aubuisson, one of the most infamous SOA graduates.

The scandals did not end back then, but have continued into recent times. Col. Francisco del Cid Diaz of El Salvador was a student at the school last year. But in 1983, he was commander of a unit that shot 16 residents of the Los Hojas cooperative of the Asociacion Nacional de Indigenas and tossed their bodies into a river. In 1992, the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recommended Col. Cid Diaz be prosecuted for the murders.

A mass vigil and protest is planned at the school for Nov. 19-21 at Ft. Benning, Ga. It is expected the protest will be led by Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon and Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking.

In recent years, a delegation from Rockford Peace and Justice, led by Stanley Campbell, have participated in these annual protests. Articles and photos chronicling the protest by Jon McGinty have appeared in The Rock River Times.

Source: Col. Fletcher Prouty, blackopradio.com

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