WHINSEC still is a U.S. terrorist camp

The SOA Watch Web site does have links to the evidence Rials claims is missing.

Being a spin doctor for a well-funded government project is apparently an excuse for the smoke-and-mirrors defense of a military base that has both proven and alleged connections to violations of human rights, democracy and sovereignty that have occurred in the past century in the Western Hemisphere.

It’s curious to me why the School of the Americas, re-named the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation finds it necessary to reply to a piece written by a student journalist at the University of Minnesota. While we are flattered by Lee A. Rials’ attention, on behalf of the critical community here in the Twin Cities, we don’t buy what Rials is selling. What threat does SOA/WHINSEC perceive that you rush to respond with your kind offer of an “official tour” and a question and answer session with the very people who are heavily invested in protecting the image of the institution?

Could this be part of the strategy that we saw at play in January 2001 when, as the result of legislative action by Congress, the School of the Americas closed down, only to reopen the next day as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation? The participants and graduates of this school are clearly not intended to be figures in the public spotlight. This is what makes the SOA/WHINSEC’s influence particularly insidious: It serves the interests of certain foreign policy programs in the United States without explicitly being connected to (or accountable to) any official body. Rials can play with words, but eventually those who seek the truth will find it, and this is why for the past 15 years School of the Americas Watch (www.soaw.org/new) has been diligently researching and peacefully demonstrating to remove this institution from the taxpayers’ bill and create accountability for those who are trained therein.

It is true that the coup to unseat the democratically elected Hugo Chavez in Venezuela did not succeed. But this was not for lack of trying. The reason the coup did not succeed was that the soldiers in that country recognized the beauty and power of “government by and for the people” and when it comes down to it, no amount of training can unseat the desire for this in the human heart. Good prevailed in this case. However, that neither exonerates the SOA nor pardons the actions of those people who have participated in these campaigns.

We at the University can discover the truth for ourselves, without even visiting Fort Benning, though many community members will, as we have been doing for the annual vigil every November. Anthropologist Lesley Gill has written a well-researched book about SOA/WHINSEC after being granted unique access to all aspects of the institution and spent time speaking with SOA/WHINSEC representatives as well as many of the past and present students. The School of the Americas: Military Training and Political Violence in the Americas is available everywhere, and I would urge everyone to read it. The SOA Watch Web site does have links to the evidence Rials claims is missing, as well as the official rosters of your graduates as released by the institution.

Clearly, SOA/WHINSEC has an agenda to maintain, and a strategy to protect. But we shall know the truth and the truth shall set us free. Not only we, the community at the University, but those fighting for sovereignty and rights in Louisiana, Georgia, El Salvador, Venezuela, Iraq and throughout the world.

Elizabeth Nadeau is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]