By Deeptanshu Singhvi
The developed world has sought many methods to locate and punish human rights violators – but few of these plans have targeted the root cause. Little do these officials know that the cause of this international problem is rooted in the very nation that preached human rights from its early stages. Located in Fort Benning, Georgia is a training camp called “The School of Americas,” in which graduates have learned how to gain military strength and how to use such power against enemies. Originally located in Panama, after a series of bureaucratic interventions, the school was relocated to Georgia.
Had it not been for the fact that many of these graduates went to become dictators of corrupt regimes, the amount of real world success The School of Americas has had would be astonishing. In reality though, from its infamous alumni, 11 have become Latin American Dictators known to stir up unnecessary violence. Some include Argentina’s Leopoldo Galtieri, Rios Montt of Guatemala and Raoul Cédras of Haiti. Frightened of future consequences six countries have withdrawn their troops from the school; these countries include Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Ecuador.
To be specific, the school’s impact is still sending shocks throughout the world today: four of its graduates helped orchestrate the 2009 coup in Honduras. Many of the immoral and forceful strategies used by these were derived from their handbook, which advocated “the use of fear, payments of bounties for enemy dead, extortion, beatings and false imprisonment, as well as the use of truth serum.”
In light of recent events, many dissenters of The School of Americas have gathered outside the fences protesting the continuation of such a military program. 17,000 individuals have gathered and streamed into the town; while this has not been positive for the school it has attracted business in Georgia. With food stands overflowing with lines, the town has earned approximately 2.2 million dollars. Disappointing for the protesters, the committee didn’t acquiesce to any of their demands. In fact, to the further the aggravation many of these demonstrators were arrested.
Theoretically, the school curriculum is taught by the US Army’s most accomplished generals and should give third world leaders a chance to advance their own countries. In actuality, when real life events are factored in, many of these graduates use the techniques to subvert the truth, to muzzle union leaders, activist clergy, and journalists, and to make war on their own people. Clearly, immorality on the part of these graduates can distort the intention of The School of Americas.
Furthermore, the actions of the graduates are not limited within the boundaries of the United States. Rather, after graduation many of these graduates return to their home countries and function as a part of that country. Just recently, In Honduras, General Humberto Ragalado Hernandez, was trained at the SOA at the same time that he was linked to Columbian drug cartels, and the highest ranking officers in the Honduran Death Squad were trained at SOA as well. While the havoc wrecked by the graduates of the school may evidence the effectiveness of the curriculum, it doesn’t justify the damage done. With that said, there should be reasonable causality for the general public to protest the institution. Ultimately, the impact of SOA graduates on Latin American freedom has been devastating. Armed with sophisticated training, modern weapons, and up-to-date techniques of control and surveillance, graduates of the SOA have terrorized their own countrymen for a generation. In fact, many of the protesters edited the true title for the school, referencing it as The School of Assassins.
In terms of sustainability of the school, funding must be considered; as of 2012 the school functions with 246,000 dollars in public funds. More astounding, the school spent more than 9,000 dollars on media monitoring software and 50,000 dollars on access to internet to try and lobby for a bill in congress. This bill, very extraneous to the school’s mission, attempted to divide the church and army even more. Slowly as the school has gained in funding it has been squandering sums of money to useless goals.
Most importantly, the constituents of the United States must learn that their own country has indirectly propagated the rise in human rights abuses. Although the school began with noble intentions, its continuation has been plagued with corruption. It is time that a national movement to restrict the actions of the graduates triumph against the government bureaucracy.