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Closing Down America’s School of Terrorism

 Last weekend CNN reported live from the “God Bless Fort Benning” rally in Georgia.  One of the highlights of the rah-rah, U-S-A gathering was CNN’s “Warrior One” Hummer—one that was used in Iraq and had CNN-embedded reporters on it.  It was reworked and outfitted with a DVD/stereo entertainment system and cool paint job by “Overhaulin’”, a Learning Channel show.  The Warrior One will be auctioned off on January 20, with benefits going to Fisher House, an organization that provides housing for military families while their loved ones receive medical care at military clinics and hospitals.(The CNN reporter at the rally was so psyched about the Hummer.  He had a big smile on his face about how GREAT it was to see it in person.)                                                                                           


The CNN cameras failed to show the more than 20,000 people gathered at Fort Benning for the 17th annual protest of the School of the Americas (SOA), calling for its closure.  SOA is housed at Ft. Benning, and is where thousands of Latin American military personnel have received “training” for decades.  Those responsible for the deaths of Archbishop Oscar Romero and Jean Donavan and her Catholic sister colleagues in El Salvador in 1980, Bishop Juan Gerardi in Guatemala in 1998, and an estimated 300,000 more Latin Americans that died while under brutal dictatorships supported by the U.S. are connected to SOA.  The Atlacatl Battalion that killed the entire village of El Mazote in December 1981—minus a few who hid in trees and bushes—some 700 + poor people in the highlands of El Salvador,  was led by an SOA graduate whose soldiers chopped heads off of villagers and cut fetuses from pregnant women.  Torture and terror beyond imagination has been documented and linked to SOA.The largest gathering to date of social justice seekers at Ft. Benning was reduced to the CNN-Hummer-ga-ga reporter’s comment:  “Some protesters have gathered in opposition to Iraq.  A few arrests have been made.”  (The arrests were planned by protestors.  Such actions bring attention to the cause.  Mostly, it involved crossing the “do not cross this line.”) Thousands more were also protesting SOA in Ecuador, Paraguay, El Salvador and Columbia.                                                                                                                   


A Girl Scout Troop from a local elementary school was at the “God Bless Fort Benning” rally.  Their leader Dawna Hermanson said, “These girls need to know what those people do for them.   We are trying to teach our girls how to respect authority and be part of a community.”                                                  


With the recent Democratic Party win in the elections, those calling for the closing of SOA are optimistic.  Eleven Congress-folk opposed to closing SOA lost their re-election bids.  The movement within our government to shut down one of our terror-perpetrating programs is gaining strength.  Still, more votes are needed.                              


Do you think the news is unbiased?  If a news outlet is promoting a Hummer—a big, aggressive, socially irresponsible vehicle—for an auction to assist families during a war, what does that say about an independent news media?  Why do our families need a Hummer auction to support an agency that helps those same families meet their financial difficulties while visiting their maimed loved ones?  Why does our government not pay for this?  What does it say about us, you and me, as we sit by and let our wounded military personnel struggle with dollars—thanks for making us “free,” and good luck with your mangled body? If SOA has such opposition, why do we not hear about it on the news?  How much terror has SOA been a part of?  Why was the protest not covered in the news?  Twenty thousand people protesting one military base and nothing on the 6 o’clock news, why?  Why did CNN not walk down the street a few hundred feet and give us that side of the story?What does it mean if we ask “God” to “Bless Ft. Benning?”  For millions in Latin America, SOA represents terror.  How would we respond if al-Quaeda had an “Allah Bless al-Quaeda” rally?  Does God belong in supporting troops?  In “Bless[ing] Ft. Benning?”  Isn’t God to be a peaceful entity?                                                                 


Former pro-wrestler Chris Jericho was at the “God Bless Ft. Benning” rally.  He told the troops to kick some butt, and added:  “You got M-16s and Hooters girls wearing camo.  It’s the perfect day. What more do you need?”Big guns and sex.  Violence and killing and breasts.  How did the women of El Mazote feel when they were being raped before having bullets shot through their heads?  Do you think the Girl Scouts learned anything about “respect[ing] authority,” as their leader hoped they would by being at the “God Bless Ft. Benning” rally when they saw the Hooters girls prancing around in camo and supporting violence?  What learning took place on that “Learning” Channel show?                                


To learn more about SOA, check

The Massacre at El Mazote, by Mark Danner

Empire’s Workshop, by Greg Grandin

To Be a Revolutionary, by Fr. J. Guadalupe Carney  





 (written 26 November 2006)   

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