[News] 42 House Democrats Back U.S. Terror Academy

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jun 25 11:18:45 EDT 2007

June 25, 2007

42 House Democrats Back U.S. Terror Academy

Democrats and the School of the Americas


Two San Joaquin Valley Representatives, Dennis 
Cardoza of Merced and Jim Costa of Fresno, were 
among 42 Democrats that voted to keep the world's 
foremost torture school, the School of the 
Americas, open during a House vote on June 21. 
The vote was 203 yes, 214 no, 1 voting "present" and 19 not voting.

Cardova, Costa and 40 other Democrats voted no on 
the McGovern/Lewis Amendment that would have 
finally cut off funding to the School of Americas 
(SOA), now known as Western Hemisphere Institute 
for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). Only 6 more 
votes were needed to pass it--but these Democrats 
shamefully chose to join Republican 
Representatives in voting for the school, whose 
graduates have been responsible for genocide, 
assassinations, torture and other human rights 
violations throughout Latin America for decades.

California representatives Loretta Sanchez and 
Grace Napolitano, along with Charles Rangel of 
New York, are listed among the Democrats who 
chose not to vote. (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is 
not found on any list, not even present.)

SOA Watch, a human rights advocacy group founded 
in 1990 by Maryknoll Priest Father Roy Bourgeois 
to close the "School of Death," was disappointed 
by the vote. However, SOA Watch vowed to continue 
its efforts in Congress until the school, located 
in Fort Benning, Georgia, is shut down.

"The grassroots mobilizing effort was tremendous: 
Tens of thousands of emails, faxes and calls 
flooded the halls of Congress over the past three 
days," said Joao Da Silva, SOA Watch spokesman, 
after the vote at 11:52 p.m. on Thursday. 
"Students, clergy, union members and veterans 
traveled to DC and visited with hundreds of 
Congressional offices to communicate clearly that 
there is no room for institutions like the 
SOA/WHINSEC in our future. Despite this, 214 
Members of Congress missed the chance to stand up 
for human rights, justice and democracy, and 
voted to keep the funding for the SOA/WHINSEC flowing."

The WHINSEC "PR machine" and high-ranking 
Pentagon officials used taxpayer money to put a 
lot of pressure on Members of Congress. However, 
Da Silva said this is no excuse for 
Representatives to not be accountable to their constituents.

"There were Representatives this week that 
committed to vote to cut funding for the 
SOA/WHINSEC, and then shifted their vote," said 
Da Silva. "Those people need hear from all of us, loudly and in public."

Da Silva emphasized, "While we did not get enough 
Members of Congress to vote with us, it was clear 
to us and our supporters in the House that we 
have tremendous power when we mobilize together. 
We gained the support of new Republicans and new 
members of Congress. The margin of SOA/ WHINSEC 
survival is rapidly dwindling, and this week due 
to grassroots pressure, we added several new 
cosponsors to HR 1707 bringing our total to 111. 
We have gained a lot of ground in Congress and 
our goal of closing this School of the Death is coming closer and closer."

The vote, although it failed by 6 votes, still 
came closer to ending the school's funding than 
last June's vote, when the amendment to the 
Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill by Jim 
McGovern (D-MA) calling for school's closure failed by a 15 vote margin.

The recent vote came after a series of successes 
by SOA Watch over the past two years in 
convincing Latin America leaders to remove their 
military and police officers from the school. 
Venezuela, the first country to withdraw its 
troops from the SOA in 2005, was followed by 
Argentina and Uruguay last year. After a visit to 
Bolivia by Roy Bourgeois, President Evo Morales 
said Bolivia's military will be pulling out of SOA/WHINSEC on a gradual basis

More recently, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias 
announced on May 16 that Costa Rica will stop 
sending its police to train at the school. Arias, 
a Nobel Peace Prize winner, made the decision 
after talks with a delegation of SOA Watch, 
including Bourgeois and Lisa Sullivan Rodriguez.

Costa Rica does not have an army--choosing to 
spend its tax money on education, health and 
social welfare--but has sent some 2,600 police 
officers over the years to be trained at the school.

"We agreed that when the courses end for the 
three policemen we are not going to send any more," Arias said.

The SOA/WHINSEC has graduated at least 11 
military dictators and over 60,000 soldiers, many 
of which have been linked to some of the worst 
human rights abuses committed in the Americas.

"The school made headlines in 1996 when the 
Pentagon released training manuals used at the 
school that advocated torture, extortion and 
execution," said Da Silva. "Despite this 
admission and hundreds of documented human rights 
abuses committed by soldiers trained at the 
school, no independent investigation into the facility has ever taken place."

SOA Graduates include Hugo Banzer Suarez, the 
former dictator of Bolivia, and Guatemalan 
Dictator Efren Rios Montt, who was responsible 
for a war of genocide against the Mayan people 
that resulted in the elimination of 626 Mayan 
villages from the face of the earth. Notorious 
human rights abusers such General Hector Gramajo 
of Guatemala, Leopoldo Galtieri of Argentina, and 
Guillermo Rodriguez of Ecuador were also graduates.

Lower-level SOA graduates have been involved in 
many atrocities including the massacre of 900 
people at the village of El Mozote in El Salvador 
in the early 1980s and the massacre of four 
Jesuit priests and the housekeeper at in San Salvador in 1989.

Bourgeois in his talks around the country always 
emphasizes the role that the school plays in 
providing the shock troops and enforcers for 
corporate globalization throughout Latin America.

"The SOA continues to provide the muscle for U.S. 
foreign policy. It keeps the rich rich and the 
poor poor," said Bourgeois at a talk in Sacramento this February.

Protests calling for the closure of the School of 
the Americas/WHINSEC have taken place every year 
around the November 16 anniversary of the 
assassination of six Jesuit priests and two 
Salvadoran women at the hands of SOA graduates.

Every year, brave activists "trespass" onto army 
property during the protest at Fort Benning, 
facing arrest and time in federal prison. Since 
1990, 211 SOA Watch human rights defenders have 
collectively spent over 92 years in prison, while 
over 50 people have served probation sentences.

Vote in Congress ­ Visit to check the roll call 
to see how your Representative voted. Call the 
Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 to thank your 
Representative or to express your displeasure.

For more information, visit the 
<http://www.soaw.org/>SOA Watch website and the Legislative Action Index.

List of Democrats Voting No for Closure of the SOA:

Abercrombie, Neil, Hawaii

Barrow, John, Georgia

Bishop, Sanford D. Georgia

Boren, Dan, Oklahoma

Cardoza, Dennis, California

Carney, Christopher, Pennsylvania

Castor, Kathy, Florida

Clyburn, James, South Carolina

Cooper, James, Tennessee

Costa, James, California

Cuellar, Henry, Texas

Dingell, John, Michigan

Edwards, Chet, Texas

Gonzalez, Charles, Texas

Gordon, Bart, Tennessee

Herseth Sandlin, Stephanie, South Dakota

Jefferson, William, Louisiana

Johnson, E.B., Texas

Klein, Ron, Florida

Lampson, Nick, Texas

Mahoney, Tim, Florida

Marshall, James, Georgia

Matheson, James, Utah

McIntyre, Michael, North Carolina

Meek, Kendrick, Florida

Miller., Brad, North Carolina

Murphy, Patrick, Pennsylvania

Murtha, John, Pennsylvania

Perlmutter, Ed, Colorado

Peterson, Colin, Minnesota

Reyes, Silvestre, Teaxs

Rodriguez, Ciro, Texas

Ross, Michael, Arkansas

Ruppersberger, Dutch, Maryland

Sestak, Joseph, Pennsylvania

Skelton, Ike, Missouri

Space, Zachary, Ohio

Spratt, John, South Carolina

Tanner, John, Tennessee

Taylor, Gene, Mississippi


Christensen, Donna, US Virgin Islands

Not Voting:

Bordallo, Madeline, Guam

Costello, Jerry, Illinois

Cramer, Robert, Alabama

Johnson, Henry, Georgia

Meehan, Marty, Massachusetts

Melancon, Charles, Louisiana

Napolitano, Grace, California

Ortiz, Solomon, Texas

Rangel, Charles, New York

Sanchez, Loretta, California

Scott, David, Georgia

Weiner, Anthony, New York

Dan Bacher can be reached at: 
<mailto:danielbacher at hotmail.com>danielbacher at hotmail.com

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