School of the Americas
|A guide to|
|Hail to the Chief?|
|Persons of interest|
The School of the Americas (now the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) *cough*euphemism*cough* is a highly controversial school located in Fort Benning, GA established by the US government for teaching law enforcement and military techniques to US allies in the rest of the Americas. It was originally at Fort Gulick, Panama and moved to Fort Benning in 1984.
The American military, funded by US taxpayer dollars, used the facility to train Latin American dictators and their militaries in various terrorist techniques to quell dissidence in their countries. Some (in)famous graduates include Panama's Manuel Noriega; Argentina's military junta members Jorge Rafael Videla, Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri and Roberto Eduardo Viola; Chile's Manuel Contreras (former chief of DINA, the secret police during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet); Bolivia's Hugo Banzer; Peru's Vladimiro Montesinos (former head of the National Intelligence Service, under Alberto Fujimori); Guatemala's Efraín Ríos Montt; and El Salvador's death squad leader Roberto D'Aubuisson (also known as "Blowtorch Bob", due to his frequent use of a blowtorch in interrogation sessions). Because of its horrendous reputation for the disregard of human rights, including the right to live, the School is also known by its informal name, the "School of the Assassins."
That is why, as one of his last acts as President, Bill Clinton allegedly revamped the school. His stated goal was to make sure that human rights and democracy were central to all studies. In recent years, the American Council on Education has rated the classes offered, finding them all academically acceptable and some even worthy of graduate credit.
The school, however, remains one of the most controversial programs of the American military and is the target of an annual protest by the group School of The Americas Watch every November. The protest is held on the anniversary of the murders of a group of Jesuit missionaries in El Salvador by a group trained by the SOA.
Graduates from the SoA have many favorite techniques they use. Varying levels of intimidation, starting at yelling and ending at severe lock-downs with rather intimidating chains and tie-downs are utilized, as are various torture methods. Favorite torture methods range from the hard to prove, such as sucker punching and slapping, to hard-core lashings with belt buckles (to the back) and drilling out the patellar tendon.
- George Monibiot. "Backyard Terrorism." Rethinking Schools. 2001 December.
- El Salvador's brutal civil war: What we still don't know, Al Jazeera.
- Most Notorious SOA Graduates
- "About SOA Watch." SOA Watch. 2012.
- Palmer Legare. "Bad education: U.S. training of Guatemalan military leaders is just one example." SOA Watch.