By Joseph Moakley, 10/09/99
Ten years ago I was asked by House Speaker
Tom Foley to go to El Salvador and head the congressional investigation
into the murders of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her 15-year-old daughter. Until that time I had never
heard of the US Army School of the Americas.
Supporters of the school claim there is no evidence connecting
atrocities in Latin America to the School of the Americas. I
strongly disagree. During my investigation, Jim McGovern, then a congressional aide, and I discovered that the Jesuit
massacre was committed by Salvadoran soldiers who were ordered to do so by people at the highest levels of military
command. And 19 of the 26 people implicated in those murders were graduates of the School of the Americas.
And the list of horrors committed by the school's graduates goes on and on.
Several years before the Jesuit murders, four American churchwomen
were tortured, raped, and murdered in El Salvador by
School of the Americas graduates. Their families are still searching for the truth about their daughters' murders.
It gets worse. Some 900 innocent civilians were brutally massacred
in El Mozote in El Salvador by School of the Americas
graduates. I've seen the names of these men, women, and children killed by those trained at the school. Panamanian drug
dealer and dictator Manuel Noriega is a graduate. Salvadoran death squad leader Roberto D'Aubuisson is a graduate. How can
anyone question the need to close this so-called ''school'' when these atrocities happen over and over again?
And they still haven't stopped today. Our own State Department's
human rights report details Colombian Major Hernan
Castro's involvement in the massacre of 30 civilian peasants in the village of Mapiripan. He too went to the School of the
Americas. So did General Rito Del Rijo, who was released from service in the Colombian Army for his participation in
human rights abuses earlier this year.
Defenders of the school say these are ''a few bad apples.'' As
far as I'm concerned, when it comes to matters of life and death,
one bad apple is enough.
The School of the Americas teaches Latin American soldiers how
to wage war. Historically, the conflicts in that region are
civil wars, not wars against other countries. The United States does not need to be teaching soldiers how to wage war against
their own people. And, as long as we teach them how to wage war, we are complicit in these deaths.
Proponents of the school claim it no longer teaches torture, that
the manuals are no longer being distributed; in fact, some of
them even imply the allegations that the school once taught torture are unfounded.
That is most definitely not the case. Major Joseph Blair, who
served as an instructor at the school from 1986 to 1989 has
publicly stated that torture techniques were taught at the school at US taxpayer expense. Although, the Army did not call it
''torture'' but ''military interrogation.'' Blair says the infamous interrogation manuals, which recommend arresting people's
family members to get them to talk, were part of the standard package of materials distributed to Latin American soldiers in
the military interrogation course and the general command course.
When the manuals became public, even the assistant to the secretary
of defense, Werner E. Michel, said the manuals
contained objectionable material. I am told the manuals are gone. The School of the Americas should follow suit.
I am a veteran of World War II and hold the United States Armed
Services in highest esteem. My own military service is the
very reason I question the US policy supporting the School of the Americas.
Instead of this misguided policy, we should shift our resources
and ideas toward truly solving the problems of our neighbors
to the south. What Latin America does not need is more military training. Weapons and wars do not maintain democratic
societies, democratic institutions do.
Latin America countries need to reform their corrupt judicial
systems and their electoral systems, strengthen their economies,
and build civilian police forces that work for the people, not against them.
Until then, the excuse that these atrocities are committed by
a few bad apples is not good enough for the families of the
victims, and it shouldn't be good enough for anyone else.
Joseph Moakley is US representative from the 9th District.
This story ran on page A23 of the Boston Globe on 10/09/99.