The U.S. School that Trains Dictators and Death Squads*
Dubbed ‘The School of Dictators’ by dissidents and human rights activists the U.S. Army School of the Americas, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, has produced some of the world’s most notorious torturers, drug traffickers and war criminals. The spectre of their crimes still haunts much of Latin America—from Argentina to El Salvador.
Founder of the human rights advocacy group School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch), and Roman Catholic priest Father Roy Bourgeois described what he saw in El Salvador as beyond the pale, explaining that he was more fearful in El Salvador than he had been in Vietnam. There was no accountability that existed there, and the human rights abuses were almost indescribable. From the assassination of bishop Óscar Romero to the raping and killing of American nuns Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan. The four women had been kidnapped, brutalized and killed by right wing death squads funded by the United States.
“The guns that were killing people [were] paid for by our tax money..those that did the killing not only used our guns but they were trained in the United States at the U.S. Army School of the Americas at Fort Benning in Georgia,” Father Roy explains.
The School of the Americas was first established in 1946 and hosted in U.S.-controlled territory in Panama before re-establishing at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1984 after being expelled under the terms of the Panama Canal Treaty.
The school’s most well known graduates include Jorge Videla, the military dictator of Argentina who dominated the country from 1976 to 1981 who caused the deaths of at least 9,000 people and disappearances of an estimated 30,000 others. Another star pupil of the school was CIA agent, Vladimiro Montesinos, who went on to become Peru’s counterintelligence head. Montesino directed an anti-communist death squad called the Colina Group which committed numerous horrifying massacres of peasant farmers, trade unionists and alleged leftists.
Join Abby Martin in this week’s episode of the Empire Files as she uncovers the deeply obscured role of the United States in Latin America—from the funding of death squads to the intentional uprooting of democracy—and what role the US Army School of the Americas played in undermining justice and inducing so much bloodshed.