Title: School of Americas
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I hope you plan get both sides of the story before you make a judgement.

First, the SOA does not espouse or advocate torture, execution and assassination.  It's mentioned in the text because it's a reality in the region.  But it says this technique does not achieve any long-term goal, and is detrimental to the military and to the regime in charge.

Second, Latin America has historically been a very violent region as far as government and revolutions are concerned.  That "tradition" cannot be taken from individuals in the few months they're at Ft Benning.  If you grow up violent, there's a good chance you'll stay that way.  SOA tries to forge/improve multilateral ties.  Sometimes individuals go there, learn the tactics, and apply them incorrectly when they return.  Can you blame an individual's actions on a school they went to for a few months (about 10, but I don't recall for sure).  That's like saying your opinions today are completely the result of your 10th grade teacher.  That's like blaming Harvard for Kadaffi.  (I think it was Harvard--it was some Ivy League school.  Look it up if you're interested.)

Perhaps they should do a better job screening the candidates?  That's possible, but very difficult because of international relations are concerned.  The country's military decides which officers to send--and they usually send whoever graduated first from their academy.  They have a very strict tanda system in most LA countries.  First, the Army would need the money to do those background checks.  Second, we'd have a very difficult time forcing our system down their throats.  I heard a story at the Special Ops School one time--a country nominated the first in its class to come to the SOS at Hurlburt Fld, but he didn't speak English well enough to complete the class, so we said he couldn't come.  In America, that honor (and it's an honor and a career boon for many of these officers) would probably have gone to the second in the class.  But that would have embarassed the first graduate, so no one went.  What a waste of an opportunity, right?  That how we view it, anyway.  To them, the honor of their first graduate is more important than the opportunity.  So in many cases our choice is between contact or no contact--not between which contact we'll make.

The SOA teaches nations how to professionalize their armies.  They lead by example, and in doing so try to decrease the number of human rights violations made by these armies.  Things like a professional NCO corps, which is VERY important to a professional army and many of these countries lack.  This also helps decrease the social stratification within the military, which leads to more fair punishments and few human rights violations.  Things like proper military justice rather than summary executions.

Third, they bring together members of all nation in Latin America.  They learn together, they live together.  Some of the officers have had little or no contact with the other nations, so this deepens their understanding of their neighbors.  The SOA tries to foster teamwork among different nations' militaries.  Sometimes officers from rival countries will not talk to each other; sometimes they overcome their prejudice and become friends.  Either way, the attempt to bring nations together and teach them how to professionalize--together--only lends stability to the region.

Perhaps most importantly, the SOA teaches that it's entirely natural for the military to be subjugated to and take orders from a civilian government.  That's not the way many militaries view their role in society, although it's becoming that way partly through the efforts of programs like the SOA at Ft Benning, the USAFSOS at Hurlburt, and the Inter-American Air Force Academy in San Antonio.  That works wonders in increasing stability, which will improve the economy through foreign investment and make life better for the entire country.  A more stable, prosperous country leads to less conflict, which in turn may mean fewer human rights violations.

So please, don't automatically assume that because the word assassination is in a manual, that's what they preach and everything the school does is bad.  That manual doesn't advise assassination--I talked to the man who wrote it.  The military isn't about war-mongers trying to kill, maim, and torture.  It's a tool of foreign policy--the whole Clausewitzian thing.  The SOA has a very difficult mission to accomplish, but it's also a very important one.  If we were to shut it down, we'd lose a very lucrative forum for instructing militaries that are trying to become more stable, professional, respected members of their societies.  And that's certainly in the interest of human rights.


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