In September 1996, under intense public pressure, the Pentagon was forced to release the school’s training manuals which were discovered to advocate torture, extortion, blackmail, assassination, and the targeting and repression of civilian populations. According to a Washington Post story at the time:
“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”.
In the 1990s, there were extensive investigations exposing the school’s practices and its connections to brutal dictators, but efforts to shut down the school have failed and it is rarely mentioned in the US today.
[Next week, Close the School of Americas, November 15-17 at Fort Benning, Georgia]
Around 2,000 students are recruited each year from the military in Latin American countries, and more than 60,000 have graduated since the school opened. The curriculum includes courses in psychological warfare, counterinsurgency, “enhanced interrogation” techniques, torture, civilian repression and assassination. Presented with the most sophisticated and up-to-date techniques by the US Army’s best instructors, these courses teach military officers and soldiers of Third World countries to subvert the truth, to silence union leaders and journalists, to terrorise the clergy, and to make war on their own people. (3)
- It prepares them to subdue the voices of dissent and to make protesters submit.
- It instructs them in techniques of marginalizing the poor, the hungry, and the dispossessed. It tells them how to stamp out freedom and terrorize their own citizens.
- It trains them to destroy their people’s hope of good government.
The impact of these graduates on Latin American freedom has been devastating. Armed with sophisticated training, modern US weapons, and up-to-date techniques of control and surveillance, graduates of the SOA have terrorized their own countries for many decades.
When they return to their home countries, these so-called graduates now consider priests, social workers, journalists and intellectuals as subversives, dangerous to the system that keeps these dictators and their US sponsors in power.
Graduates of the SOA have been among the most repressive tyrants in Latin America, and their actions have been some of the most cruel and violent. Typically, the countries with the worst human rights records send the most soldiers to this School.
In all the countries of Central and South America, the “graduates” of this US “school” have committed countless murders and massacres, especially of women and children, assassinations, deaths by torture and ‘disappearances’. Over many decades, these US-trained dictators have slaughtered their own people in a constant stream of brutal repression and civil war, all designed to acclimatise these nations to the free plundering by US multinationals.
These US-sponsored terrorist dictators were trained to overthrow the legitimate governments in their countries, were supplied with money arms and weapons to do so, and were then heavily supported by the US. The education they received was in torture and terrorising their population, and in obeying American national interests by permitting US companies to plunder their nations.
In one famous case, the so-called dirty war in Argentina, these US-trained ‘freedom-loving, democratic leaders’, arrested thousands of civilians for opposing the brutality of the Videla dictatorship. They flew the plane to 3,000 meters, and threw out of the plane the person at the end, so they would all fall into the ocean.
New York Times, March 13, 1995
All have been bitter enemies of all human rights, and many organised the famous CIA-sponsored “death squads” that roamed these nations slaughtering civilians by the tens of thousands. The picture is even worse when we consider the now widely-available information that from the time of the Vietnam war the CIA financed much of this activity by trafficking in cocaine, opium and heroin, importing much of it into the US to be sold to Mafia drug dealers.
Americans who condemn world terrorism, torture and the abuse of human rights, should be condemning their own government instead of criticising other nations. One place for them to begin is to demand the closing of this abominable School of the Americas.
But in a rather contemptible example of journalism, Newsweek Magazine published an article that contained an astonishing whitewash of this school. The article did list a few atrocities but claimed “the bad apples among the trainees haven’t spoiled the whole barrel”. According to Newsweek, these dictators are simply “soaking up American values and culture” by attending baseball games and going to Disneyland.
They are being taught to clear land mines and to resist the temptation to loot their nations’ treasuries, and are learning all about freedom, democracy and, of course, human rights. But not really. It is only the whitewashed propaganda articles that most Americans see, and in these they discount the few mentioned atrocities as aberrations by “a few bad apples”. They remember only the positive comments and continue believing their government and nation are the world’s defenders of freedom and human rights.
The US actually honors graduates from this school who have reached senior ranks in their militaries. The State Department and Pentagon each year select Latin American generals for membership in a “Hall of Fame”. There have been many cries to close this school whose programs cost almost $50 million per year, but the Pentagon apparently has no intention of ceasing operations.
As one official stated,
“If Americans want a say in how nations conduct themselves, they have to have a seat at the table. What this school does is give you a seat at the table with the armies of Latin America.”
The school does indeed give the US government “a say” in how these nations conduct themselves, since it is here that these men are not only trained in civilian repression and torture, but are taught to obey the US in all things and to give free rein to US multinationals to loot their countries – in exchange for political power and extensive high-tech military tools.
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Larry Romanoff is a frequent contributor to Global Research. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.