Saturday, July 18, 2009

Honduras And The School Of Coups

A controversial facility at Ft. Benning, Ga., formerly known as the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas (SOA), is still training Honduran officers despite claims by the Obama administration that it cut military ties to Honduras after its democratically elected president was overthrown on June 28.

A day after an SOA trained army general ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya at gunpoint, President Barack Obama stated that "the coup was not legal" and that Zelaya remained "the democratically elected president."

The Foreign Operations Appropriations Act requires that U.S. military aid and training be suspended when a country undergoes a military coup, and the Obama administration has indicated those steps have been taken. However, Lee Rials, public affairs officer for the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, confirmed Monday that Honduran officers are still being trained at the school."Yes, they're in class now." Rials said. When asked about the Obama administration's suspension of aid and training to Honduras, Rials said, "Well, all I know is they're here, and they're in class."The decision to continue training the Hondurans is "purely government policy," he said adding that it's possible that other U.S. military schools are training them too."We're not the only place." Rials did not know exactly how many Hondurans were currently enrolled, but he said at least two officers are currently in the school's Command and General Staff course, its premier year- long program.

"I don't know the exact number because we've had some classes just completed and some more starting," he said. "There's no more plans for anybody to come. Everything that was in place already, is still in place. Nobody's directed that they go home or that anything cease."

The school trained 431 Honduran officers from 2001 to 2008, and some 88 were projected for this year, said Rials, who couldn't provide their names. Since 2005, the Department of Defense has barred the release of their names after it was revealed that the school had enrolled well- known human
rights abusers.
The general who overthrew Zelaya, Romeo Orlando Vásquez, is a two- time graduate of SOA, which critics have nicknamed the "School of Coups" because it trained so many coup leaders, including two other Honduran graduates, Gen. Juan Melgar Castro and Gen. Policarpo Paz Garcia. Vasquez is not the only SOA graduate linked to the current coup or employed by the de facto government. Others are:

* Gen. Luis Javier Prince Suazo, the head of the Honduran air force, who arranged to have Zelaya flown into exile in Costa Rica.

* Gen. Nelson Willy Mejia, the newly appointed director of immigration, who is not only an SOA graduate, but a former SOA instructor. One year after he was awarded the U.S. Meritorious Service Medal, he faced charges in connection with the infamous death squad, Battalion 3- 16, for
which he was an intelligence officer.

* Col. Herberth Bayardo Inestroza Membreño, the Honduran army's top lawyer who admitted that flying Zelaya into exile was a crime, telling the Miama Herald that ''In the moment that we took him out of the country, in the way that he was taken out, there is a crime," but it will be justified.

* Lt. Col. Ramiro Archaga Paz, the army's director of public relations, who has denied harassment of protesters and maintained that the army is not involved in internal security.

*Col. Jorge Rodas Gamero, a two- time SOA graduate, who is the minister of security, a post he also held in Zelaya's government.

The "School of Assassins" has a very impressive roster of alumni, it is a Who's Who of the most infamous dictators, death-squad directors and mass murderers in the Western Hemisphere, if not the world. Panama's Gen. Manuel Noriega, who now resides in a Florida prison for international narcotics trafficking, is an SOA alum. So was the godfather of the Salvadoran death squads, Roberto D'Aubuisson, who masterminded the 1980 murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero and hundreds of other killings. So was the violent former dictator of Bolivia Gen. Hugo Banzer. The list goes on and on.

According to the Center for International Policy, The School of the Americas had been questioned for years, as it trained many military personnel before and during the years of the dirty wars in the Southern Cone and the civil war years in Central America, in which the armed forces within several Latin American countries ruled or had disproportionate government influence and committed serious human rights violations in those countries. SOA graduates continue to surface in news reports regarding both current and new human rights violations.

On September 20th 1996 the Pentagon released seven training manuals prepared by the U.S. military and used between 1987 and 1991 in Latin America and in intelligence training courses at the U.S. School of the Americas . The manuals were based in part on lesson plans used by the school as far back as 1982. These manuals taught repressive techniques and promoted the violation of human rights throughout Latin America and around the globe. The manuals contain instructions in motivation by fear, bounties for the deaths of enemies, false imprisonment, torture, execution, and kidnapping a target's family members.These manuals taught tactics that come right out of a Soviet gulag and have no place in civilized society. The Pentagon later admitted that these manuals were a "mistake".

After an investigation the Department of Defense discontinued the use of the manuals, directed their recovery to the practical extent, and destroyed the copies in the field. U.S. Southern Command advised governments in Latin America that the manuals contained passages that did not represent U.S. government policy, and pursued recovery of the manuals from the governments and some individual students. It should be noted that David Addington and Dick Cheney retained personal copies of the training manuals.Venezuela, Argentina, Uruguay, Costa Rica and Bolivia have all come out condemning the school and its practices, refusing to send any more of their soldiers to be trained there. The fact that this school exists today defies comprehension and sets a new low for America. So much for the Obama administration's policies of transparency and upholding of democracy. Not surprisingly there are already groups that have formed to protest the continued existence of the SOA whose mission it is to see their doors closed forever. For further information on how you can help keep our tax dollars from funding this US terrorist camp click here.


Dawson said...

Holy FUCKING shit! Just when I think that I finally know most everything there is to know about the ways our nation has "inadvertantly" endangered ourselves and the world at large... you spring another elaborate, little known plan to fund, arm and especially train the crazies of the world to evolve them from bullies into terrorists and dictators!

I'm beginning to wonder if the United States doesn't have some death wish, a secret desire to bring about the demise of it's people and it's own utter ruination.

It's like "the right hand not knowing what the left is doing" and "not learning from past mistakes" have had some screwed up love child called "actively plotting to bring about your own destruction"... a foreign policy that the US apparently adopted sometime in the early to mid 20th century. Damn it!