School of the Americas

July 1, 2011

Available in Spanish

ACTION ALERT

Contact your representative and ask them to request that President Obama issue an Executive Order closing the School of the Americas.

BACKGROUND

Founded in 1946, the School of the Americas (SOA) has trained more than 64,000 soldiers and it continues to serve as a destabilizing force in Latin America. Nearly every military coup and counterinsurgency force in Latin America (including the Columban countries of Chile and Peru) since the school began operations has included former SOA students. This includes the El Mozote Massacre of 900 civilians in El Salvador and the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Former students include brutal dictators such as Panama’s Manuel Noriega.

The school was formally shut down as part of the 2001 Defense Authorization Bill. But it was replaced by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in the same location. Very little has changed, other than the name. Proponents of the school cite new courses on human rights and disaster relief training as evidence that the school has rid itself of its harsh past, but these courses are not required and are sparsely attended.  The school has not stopped teaching students the tactics that have been used for years to destabilize Latin America

SOA/WHINSEC is fiscally irresponsible as well. It costs $18 million annually to keep the school operating. This money could be put to good use increasing the prosperity of Latin America, but instead the money is used to train individuals who spread discord in the region. Even if the moral issues of the school are ignnored , it is quite simply a bad investment.

Allowing the school to continue is unacceptable on several levels. As people of faith, we should oppose any institution that spreads violence and furthers the disrespect of human dignity. As Americans, we cannot allow our country to use taxpayer money to support training that brings harm to its neighbors.

ACTION REQUESTED

Congressman Jim McGovern is circulating a letter around the House of Representatives asking the President to close the school. You can find out if your Representative has signed the letter here: http://soaw.org/take-action/legislative#signatories.

If they have not signed, contact your Representative today and ask that they do so.

You can find contact information for your representative here: https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

SAMPLE LETTER

Here is a sample letter that can be used or adapted when you contact your Representative:

Dear Representative _______,

I write to you as a person of faith regarding my concern with the continued operation of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). I ask that you sign Congressman Jim McGovern’s letter to President Obama requesting an Executive Order that would close WHINSEC.

In Psalm 82:2, 4 we are extolled: “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Through WHINSEC, our nation is ignoring this call to justice and doing the exact opposite. The school uses taxpayer dollars to teach the strong how to destroy the rights of the weak.

Originally started as the School of the Americas (SOA) in 1946 to train Latin American soldiers, SOA/WHINSEC has had 64,000 graduates, many of whom have gone on to spread injustice and decrease stability throughout Latin America. Some have claimed that WHINSEC is an improvement over SOA, but the changes of 2001 were purely “cosmetic,” as stated by the late Senator Paul Coverdell, a supporter of the school. If anything, WHINSEC has become even more clandestine than SOA by refusing to monitor recent graduates, decreasing what little accountability had previously existed.

In conclusion, I ask that you help to end this promotion of injustice by signing Congressmen McGovern’s letter and asking President Obama to close WHINSEC.

Sincerely,

xx

CONTACT INFORMATION

The Columban Center for Advocacy & Outreach
Michelle Melcher Knight
Telephone: 301.565.4547
email: mmknight@columban.org