Education of a Lifetime Turns Man into Crusader

Article excerpt

Byline: Burt Constable

The foreign exchange students came to the United States for the learning experience.

But it was Marvin "Syke" Horcher of Wheeling who got an education.

For 25 years, Horcher and his family have befriended a parade of exchange students from all over the globe.

"I'd ask them all what they liked about the United States and they'd all say the homes or the shopping, the people or something like that," begins the 71-year-old Horcher, who was Wheeling's police chief until he retired in 1977.

"Then," he says, "I'd ask them 'What don't you like?' and they all had the same answer - 'Your country's foreign policy.'

"Our foreign policy? I didn't know anything about our foreign policy," admits Horcher. And neither did most Americans he asked about it.

As far as he knew, the United States was this benevolent, peaceful superpower, "all good and very generous."

But the foreign students blamed the U.S. for myriad atrocities such as torture, drug running, assassinations, illegal arms deals and death squads.

"Hey, that's not true. We don't do things like that," Horcher remembers saying.

Then he did some research and made a discovery of his own - we do do things like that.

Our Army's School of the Americas has taught thousands of Latin American military types how to be murderous thugs and strongmen.

Dubbed the School of the Assassins, its graduates include Panamanian dictator and drug trafficker Manuel Noriega, and Roberto D'Aubuisson, organizer of death squads in El Salvador.

Established in 1946 in Panama but now located in Ft. Benning, Ga., the School of the Americas thrived during the cold war. But evidence shows its graduates have used their training to crush democratic debate and repress the citizenry.

The United Nations, Amnesty International and even our own government at times have cited the SOA for fostering a litany of human rights violations - including civilian murders such as the massacre of six Jesuit priests and two female co-workers in El Salvador.

Last month, on the seventh anniversary of that massacre, 60 participants in a "prayerful protest" outside the school were arrested after they planted dozens of crosses on base property and marched on the school, demanding it be closed.

Horcher, a largely self-educated man who left school after eighth grade and later received a high school equivalency diploma, now knows enough to teach a class on U. …