Teaching Torture Congress Keeps School of the Americas Alive

Article excerpt

The U.S. Congress recently passed a renewed appropriation to keep open the most infamous torture-teaching institution, the School of the Americas (SOA), where the teaching of Abu Ghraib-type illegal physical and psychological abuse has long been routine. The history of SOA involvement in torture has been documented in Amnesty International's 2002 report, "Unmatched Power, Unmet Principles."

In 2000, the Pentagon changed the name to the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). But, as the late GOP Senator Paul Coverdale of Georgia (where SOA-WHINSEC is located) suggests, the changes were "basically cosmetic." The lobbying campaign to close SOA-WHINSEC has been led by School of the Americas Watch, a lobbying group founded by religious activists following the 1990s murder of four U.S. nuns by Salvadoran death squads under SOA leadership.

Use of torture as imperial policy goes back at least to the days of JFK. When Kennedy entered the White House in 1961, he and his advisors looked warily at the growing nationalism among the old European colonies. Self-proclaimed communists--like Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam or Fidel Castro in Cuba--raised a red flag, while even non-communists--like Sukarno in Indonesia--threatened Western control of oil and strategic minerals.

Whether to elicit information or simply to terrorize the opposition, torture had historically played a role in holding down rebellious population. But, always in character, the New Frontier brought new thinking to bear.

The theory came initially from the CIA's Office of Science and Technology, which spent a fortune studying how to make unwilling people talk. Starting in the 1950s, the spooky scientists tested LSD and other drugs, brainwashing, hypnosis, polygraphs, electric shock and a wide range of other physical and psychological pressures.

They also borrowed from the French, who perfected their torture techniques in losing colonial wars against the Vietnamese and Algerians. No doubt, the British "cousins" also offered ideas from their equally nasty effort to hold an empire together.

The CIA summed up this macabre research in a classified manual they called "KUBARK Counter Intelligence Interrogation--July 1963. …