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Since the senseless acts of terror of Sept. 11, I have been unable to subdue the emotions stirring my soul. Not only do I continue to struggle with how our government has condoned the acts of violence, but I see our government has sometimes failed to recognize the factors leading up to Sept. 11. It reminds my heart of daily tragedies prevalent in the nations of Latin America and other atrocities throughout the world.
I am deeply grieved by the discovery that the United States in the 1970s actually financed the early seeds of bin Laden's organization under the auspice of resisting communism. Unfortunately, it is not the first time the U.S. has been questioned on its involvement in senseless acts and tragedy. Our government continues to support the training of Latin American soldiers who are connected to tragedies such as that of Sept. 11.
The U.S. has supported such behavior for years when identifying the School of Americas.
As Nov. 16-18 approach, there is a movement being undertaken in Columbus, Ga. At the gates of Fort Benning, which property holds the School of Americas, there is a solemn and non-violent event being observed in remembrance of those whose liberties have been taken away by the soldiers who are educated there. Last year 10,000 people made their way to the base's property to question our government's involvement in some of the worst human rights abuses of Latin America.
The School of Americas (SOA) is a training school for Latin American soldiers teaching subjects on the finer points of counter-insurgency, commando operations, infantry tactics, military intelligence, and counter narcotics operations. It has trained over 60,000 soldiers since it was founded in 1946. The school continues to exist through the support of U.S. tax dollars. Since its inception, the school's graduates have been responsible for many human rights abuses including the Uraba massacre in Columbia, the El Mozote massacre in El Salvador of 900 civilians, the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero which occurred in conjunction with the Jesuit massacre in El Salvador, the La Cantuta massacre in Peru, and the torture and murder of U.N. workers in Chile. Among those responsible for these atrocities are the dictators Manuel Noriega and Omar Torrijos of Panama, Juan Velasco Alvarado of Peru, Guillermo Rodrifuez of Ecuador and many others are also responsible.
The school's graduates have been involved in some of the most heinous social justice violations of our time. Ten of the 12 individuals cited for the El Mozote Massacre were graduates of the SOA. Furthermore, two of the three cited for the assassination of the Archbishop Romero were graduates, and over 100 of the 246 cited for atrocities in Columbia were committed by SOA graduates.
The SOA was replaced by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC) on Jan. 17, 2001. Despite the cosmetic modifications to the fort, no changes in the course curriculum were implemented. The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation continues to be a source of injustice run by the United States military and supported by the tax-paying citizens. Each year people from all over the nation gather in solidarity for a nonviolent quest for peace. The mission is to unify resistance to the SOA, and to exert civil liberties while remembering the numerous victims.
As a volunteer in Alaska, I am unable to join my brothers and sisters in Columbus, Ga., this year, but I believe social justice requires action, so I have chosen to educate others. If you read this and learned something new then share it with someone else . If you read this and found my information distasteful or upsetting then I accomplished my mission and please share it with someone else.
Jackie Forster is a Jesuit volunteer living in Douglas.