Veterans For Peace

    And The US ARMY

    Norman Balabanian

    What was re-energized during the Kennedy Administration and renamed the United States (US) Army School of the Americas (SoA) in July 1963, with Spanish as the official language, had been established in 1946 and located in the Panama Canal Zone. (That was a year after the end of WWII and a year before the National Security Act that created the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).)

    It was moved to Fort Benning, Georgia in 1984 in compliance with the agreement between the US and Panama ceding sovereignty over the Panama Canal Zone to Panama effective /in 1999. From its inception to 1997, some 60,000 individuals, mainly military but some police officers from 23 nations in Central and South America and some Caribbean Islands (Latin America), have passed through its training programs. The intention here is to describe the nature of SoA as an instrument of brutal US policies toward Latin America and to help put SoA out of existence.
    More than that, it is to link American ideology to the crimes committed in our name by those trained at the SoA, by those who approved and carried out the training, and by American leaders who concocted the policies that led to such crimes.
    The School of the Americas, though, is not an independent organization pursuing its own private goals, but a component of the military forces of the US, answerable to American elected officials. The military, including SoA, carry out policies laid down by these officials...
    Democracy and the rule of law made an appearance only fitfully throughout Latin America from the time Simon Bolívar fought for independence from Spain in the early 19th century.
    (Besides being a fighter for freedom, Bolívar showed a profound understanding of the US when he observed: "the United States seems destined by Providence to plague the continent with misery in the name of freedom.")
    Nevertheless, within this century, besides Costa Rica and Chile, democracies arose from time to time in such countries as Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Dominican Republic, Guatemala. But with the help of many graduates of SoA, all of those countries (plus Chile) became bloody dictatorships at some time during the 1970s and 1980s.
    Is there a connection? The connection becomes evident from declassified documents of the National Security Agency and others that clearly describe the US position. NSC 5432, (US Policy Toward Latin America August 18, 1954), for example, explains that the threat to US interests is "the trend in Latin America toward nationalistic regimes" that respond to "popular demands for immediate improvements in the low living standard of the masses" and for production geared to domestic needs.

    This is not tolerable because the US is committed to a "climate conducive to private investment." The US must "encourage" Latin American countries "to base their economies on a system of private enterprise" and "to create a political and economic climate conducive to both domestic and foreign private investment" including guarantees for the "opportunity to earn . . . and to repatriate a reasonable return." (Most of the time, "repatriate" to the US, of course.)

    This being the case, the US would not tolerate any Latin American government that tried to make social investments for the benefit of the vast majority of its people: investments in schools, roads, infrastructure, health care, agriculture for local consumption, or any other enterprise that would benefit its people.

    Rather, the US would help to put - and maintain in power - any government, no matter how repressive, that would give a free hand to American corporate interests in bleeding the resources of the country for their own profits. Aside from the support of local elites, the US would need to have some kind of control over their armed forces. What better way than to train the officers of those militaries? From such calculations was the School of the Americas born.

    Noam Chomsky describes it as follows: "U.S. foreign policy is designed to create and maintain an international order in which U.S.-based business can prosper, a world of "open societies," meaning societies that are open to profitable investment, to expansion of export markets and transfer of capital, and to exploitation of human and natural resources on the part of US corporations and their local affiliates.

    "Open societies," in the true meaning of the term, are societies that are open to U.S. economic penetration and political control. . . . The major enemy, however, is always the indigenous population, which has an unfortunate tendency to succumb to strange and unacceptable ideas about using their resources for their own purposes."

    The facts about SoA have gradually come to light. The evidence now is overwhelming that the US Army School of the Americas for decades has been turning out assassins, torturers, and rapists on a gigantic scale that should revolt the sensibilities of all Americans.

    These graduates have been used as tools of American corporate interests and local elites for suppressing the aspirations of the populace for freedom and for a better standard of life.
    Furthermore, this has been known, not only by those administering SoA, but by the highest levels of the American government. People in the US State Department, after all, do read cables from ambassadors well informed of the daily goings on in their host countries down to the minutest detail. They didn't really have to be informed by reading cables; after all, the State Department had a large hand in setting the overall policies in the first place.

    For example: "We should cease to talk about vague and . . . unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts." Of course, not talking about these vague things would not satisfy propaganda needs; so, that part of the policy was slightly revised. The US continued to talk about democracy and human rights, but what it practiced in the real world was carried out in the language of straight power.

    The School of the Americas Watch, established by Maryknoll priest Roy Bourgeois, with offices right outside the gate at Fort Benning, is one of the organizations monitoring the activities of SoA graduates. They didn't really need to read the cables since they already knew what was happening in different countries in Latin America from first-hand experience there.
    What has been learned includes the following. Graduates of SoA constituted the majority of all those military and police officers implicated in documented atrocities of the most shocking character (assassinations, rapes, murders, blackmail, torture, disappearances, false imprisonment).
    Graduates include 10 officers who became presidents of their countries: e.g. Banzer of Bolivia, Noriega of Panama, Galtieri of Argentina, Regalado of Honduras. None of them were elected; all took power by illegal means. They also include 23 ministers of defense and such others as the late bloodthirsty Salvadoran death-squad leader, Roberto d'Aubuisson.
    Those Latin American countries with the worst record of human-rights abuses have sent the most candidates for training at SoA, including Nicaragua during the Somoza dictatorship. (Many Contras that conducted atrocities in Nicaragua during the Sandinista period, using CIA training manuals under the guidance of CIA Director William Casey and Oliver North, were SoA graduates.) ...

    [Much is deleted, read the link for the rest of the story]

    ...From Combat Intelligence (After sections that list "Indications of an Imminent Guerilla attack" and "Indicators of Control [of the Population] by the Guerilla Forces" comes the following section.): "II Are the insurgents carrying out psychological operations? a. Propaganda (indicator)
    1. Accusations of government corruption."
    (1) In the US (said to be a democratic country) Republicans accuse Democrats of corruption in the raising of money; and Democrats accuse Republicans of similar corruption! Is this "psychological propaganda" or what passes here as normal poitics
    (2) "Circulation of petitions that embrace the insurgents' demands.
    (3) Attempts to discredit or ridicule government or military officials.
    (4) Characterization of government and political leaders as U.S. puppets.
    (5) Promotion of a popular front government. There are 9 more similar items on the list. All of these are normal processes in a democratic society but the authors of the manuals call them indications of propaganda! b. Promotion of popular discontent (indicator) (1) Labor discontent (a) Energetic campaigns of union organizing or recruiting.
    (b) Extremist propaganda in favor of the interests of workers . . . This list extends for another 10 similar items. (1) Rural discontent (a) Demonstrations to demand agrarian reform. . . .
    The list goes on with similar items. (2) Economic discontent. (a) Peasants refuse to pay taxes or rents.
    (b) Protests against high unemployment, low salaries, or against the national economic plan. (3) Religious discontent (a) Clergy embracing liberation theology.
    (b) Clergy involved in activities concerning political, rural, or labor discontent." (pp 167-169) Liberation theology subversive?!