For more than a dozen years protesters, led by Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois, have called for the closing of the School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation).
The call to close the school is symbolic. Since 1946 -- when it was sited in Panama -- the SOA has taught both methods of torture and methods of wiping out political resistance to soldiers from dictatorships throughout Latin America.
The school was moved back to Fort Benning, Georgia in 1984 and renamed in 2001. The campaign to close the SOA gradually discovered the names of graduates linked to torture, murder and massacre, and actual pamphlets printed and distributed by the school illustrating torturous tools and body positions.
So, Congress changed the school’s name and installed a board of supervisors.
The Army’s big arguments for keeping the school open are that:
- It links the Pentagon to national militaries in Latin America;
- It teaches officers -- especially captains who are on the road to generalship -- not only military strategy, but also leadership and democratic values.