Resolution to Support Legislation to Close the School of the Americas

Adopted by the Executive Board of the NC Council of Churches, December 2, 1998

Whereas the U.S. Army School of the Americas has trained 60,000 Latin American soldiers who have consistently returned to their countries to murder, torture, rape, and intimidate the poor and those who work for the rights of the poor, the Executive Board of the NC Council of Churches supports the closing of the US Army School of the Americas.

Background

The US Army School of the Americas was established in 1946 at Fort Amador, Panama Canal Zone, and relocated to Fort Benning, GA, in 1984.  Two close votes in the US House of Representatives have tried to defund the SOA, and supporters of its closing will reintroduce a similar bill in January 1999.  The following is a summary of reasons to close SOA prepared by Representative Mel Watt’s office.

  • Graduates of the SOA include some of the worst human rights abusers in our hemisphere such as Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and Haitian Coup Leader Raoul Cedras.  Other human rights abusers who attended the SOA include: Robert D’Abuisson, El Salvador death squad leader; 19 Salvadoran soldiers linked to the 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter; two of the three killers of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, Champion of the rights of the poor; and ten of the 12 officers responsible for the murder of 900 civilians in the village of El Mozote, El Salvador.
  • The SOA has failed to teach respect for human rights and has fostered an environment where human rights brutalities were encouraged and foreseeable yet tolerated.  Proponents of the closing argued that recently declassified DOD training manuals, which were given to trainees at the SOA advocated physical abuse, “neutralization” of targets, blackmail, false imprisonment, use of truth serum, illegal detention and spying on civilian groups and opposition political parties.
  • The SOA is a Cold War relic that no longer serves US national security interests.  The DOD has acknowledged that the SOA’s purpose was to support hard-line anti-Communist governments fight Marxist rebels.  The effect of the policy was to destabilize Latin and Central American countries by prolonging civil wars, thereby disproportionately harming the poor while benefiting government leaders and a few wealthy landowners.
  • The SOA is inconsistent with American values, with democratization efforts of Latin and Central American countries, with the transition to market economies, and with the maintenance of peace agreements in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.  US funds can be more effectively used to improve conditions in Latin and Central America by strengthening democratic and economic institutions rather than the military.
  • The SOA is the only large US training facility in which foreign military personnel are not integrated into regular US military training courses.  SOA classes are taught in Spanish and trainees are segregated from other military personnel.
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