Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

U.S. Still Haunted by a Dark Past

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

U.S. Still Haunted by a Dark Past

Article excerpt

It was a fortuitous if telling convergence of events: the vote by the U.S. House June 24 to require the release of name, rank, country of origin, courses taken and dates of attendance of School of the Americas graduates and the coup five days later in Honduras, led by a general who is a two-time graduate of the school.

It would become especially clear that overthrowing governments was a not-unfamiliar entry on the resumes of quite a few graduates, were the full-disclosure intent of the House to survive the joint House-Senate conference committee in the coming weeks.

The SOA, as it is familiarly known, was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in 2000 after enough attention had been called to the roster of names and the curriculum of the old school. But the institution, headquartered at Fort Benning, Ga., has had little success obfuscating its past with the gibberish of its new name.

The reality is that the school trained some of the worst actors in the hemisphere during the past half century, military leaders who did the bidding of dictators and oligarchies and who oversaw torture, massacres, genocide of indigenous populations, much of it done under the smokescreen of fighting communism. Those who experienced the brutal repression of U.S.-backed dictators could only have wondered from what ills we were saving them.

After President Manuel Zelaya was escorted from his bedroom in a predawn coup, President Obama is said to have declared: "We do not want to go back to a dark past," apparently referring to those decades when coups occurred with some regularity and the United States was left propping up some of the most sinister and bloody characters in the hemisphere. …

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