By: Joan Roelofs/Counterpunch.org/August 19, 2012
On Saturday, August 11, The New York Times printed a front page article about the nun, Sister Megan Rice, age 82, who committed civil disobedience at the Oak Ridge Tennessee nuclear reservation in a protest against nuclear weapons. The article also informs us that she had been arrested in 1998 protesting at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. The Times then notes that some of the trainees from that school “went on to commit human rights abuses.” You might think of denials of same-sex partner medical benefits, or censorship of soldiers’ mail; in fact, the abuses were (and still are) assassination, torture, and military overthrow of elected governments.
The Times then states: “The school has since been closed.” This is not the case at all. The name has been changed to Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, with the same curriculum.
The SOA, aka WHISC, is probably the best known locale of foreign military training, because of the vigil and civil disobedience organized every November by the School of the Americas Watch organization. Some mainstream news sources note this event; The New York Timesusually ignores it. Perhaps that is why they think the school is closed; if it is not in the NYT, it can’t possibly exist.
SOA graduates include the murderers of Jesuit priests, the lay missionary and 3 nuns, Archbishop Romero, and the El Mazote massacre of 900 civilians in El Salvador; and many other victims. SOA training manuals advocate torture. The recent overthrow of Honduras government was the work of graduates of SOA. Other alumni are Manuel Noriega and Omar Torrijos of Panama, Leopoldo Galtieri and Roberto Viola of Argentina, Juan Velasco Alvarado of Peru, Guillermo Rodriguez of Ecuador, and Hugo Banzer Suarez of Bolivia.
Ecuador, Costa Rica, Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela have withdrawn participation in SOA.
“Multicultural” education doesn’t stop with the SOA. More than 200 institutions in the US train foreign military personnel, and US military sponsored training occurs all over the world, in our overseas institutions and in situ. The 571 page State Department Report on Foreign Military Training for 2010 indicates that approximately 67,100 students from 159 countries participated.
“Education” is offered through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Program, and activities funded through Defense and State Departments. All armament sales are accompanied by training. The State Department International Military Education and Training (IMET) is a major offering. The Expanded IMET (E-IMET) program (arising from criticism of our past trainees’ post-graduate projects—assassination, torture, military takeovers, etc.) is supposed to teach respect for civilian control of the military, human rights, and belief in the rule of law.
Among the DOD programs is Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET). US Special Operations Forces (SOF) train “with friendly foreign forces. . . The primary purpose of JCET is always the training of US SOF personnel, although incidental training benefits may accrue to the foreign forces.”
Programs exist for combating terrorism, counter-narcotics training, humanitarian demining, and a whole university of military and civilian subjects. Civilian government leaders of many countries are also invited and participate in the trainings.
The WHISC brags that it teaches peaceful skills such as public administration, but the purpose is clear: when the troops take over a country they have to know how to do it. Perhaps the DOD has learned from the experience of Lawrence of Arabia: his men captured Damascus, but didn’t have any public administration skills, so lost it.
Each branch of the military has its own network of schools, the military academies have exchange programs, there are regional centers, and civilian institutions have foreign military students. Even military prep schools can get into the picture; some start at pre-Kindergarten. Private contractors also perform training.
Some examples of participating institutions among the 200 are the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (In D.C., Senegal, and Ethiopia); the US Army JFK Special Warfare Center and School, Fort Bragg, NC for Special Forces training (Green Berets); and the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies (Marshall Center).
Land-grant universities were originally planned to include military training, and they are today important centers for these programs. Indonesian special forces—Kopassus—were trained at Norwich University in Vermont. When this was revealed by a reporter, a scandal ensued, the reporter was fired from her newspaper, and the program was shut down. However, the University’s president recently announced that the relationship was resuming.
Among the many countries participating in our military training are Sweden and Switzerland, sometimes thought to be neutral. They are affiliated with NATO, in a “Partnership for Peace” status. So also is Russia, and its troops joined ours in anti-terrorism training this May in Colorado. Another odd grantee is the tiny Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, as Lora Lumpe points out in her excellent 2002 Report on military training.
One goal of these programs is to enable foreign military forces to support combined operations and “interoperability” with US forces. Military hardware is also advertised and demonstrated, being an important part of US exports.
The larger picture is positioning the US as a “holding company” for all the world’s militaries. These are also being groomed to penetrate civilian governments, in some cases by the old fashioned military coup. More sinister is the influence our past trainees, now heavily represented in foreign defense ministries, exert on the temporary elected governments in countries considered democracies—especially those considered the most democratic, such as Sweden and Denmark. Currently fashionable “networking” is indeed a potent technique of US domination.
Joan Roelofs is Professor Emerita of Political Science, Keene State College, New Hampshire. She is the translator of Victor Considerant’s Principles of Socialism (Maisonneuve Press, 2006), and author of Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism (SUNY Press, 2003) and Greening Cities (Rowman and Littlefield, 1996). Web site: www.joanroelofs.wordpress.com Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org