American taxpayers shouldn't have to support `School of Assassins'
Last night, Father Roy Bourgeois spoke in Little Theater in Moreau about the School of the Americas. But yesterday morning, I got a preview of his talk so for those of you who didn't get to hear it last night, this is for you.
Father Bourgeois raises important points about U.S. foreign policy and how we abuse our power in the world when we have institutions like the School of the Americas.
First, let me explain what the School of Americas is. Located in Fort Benning, Ga., this school trains Latin American soldiers to torture, kill and keep the status quo in countries like Guatemala and El Salvador. These "men with guns" help to maintain the status quo and keep our economic interests from going down the tubes.
Father Bourgeois is a man who has dedicated the past nine years researching the School of the Americas with his group, SOA Watch. The group researches into the actions of this school and tries to raise awareness and organize vigils to close down the school.
The School of Americas is well-known in South America and is called the "La Escuela de Assassinos" or "The School of Assassins." What does it do? It brings soldiers from South America and teaches them how to torture, how to kill, how to maim. The pretext for this school is that it "protects U.S. economic interests." After all, we have to protect those grand multinationals from those pesky peasants, do we not? In fact, the school's manuals literally describe how to torture people who may be "subversive," and how to infiltrate labor unions and universities. These soldiers are the ones with the real power in Latin America. They are responsible for the suffering and bloodshed in these countries. And these schools, run by the CIA and the Pentagon, are completely funded through taxpayers' money. Moreover, according to Father Bourgeois, in the peak of the military "aid" to the soldiers, we were giving them one million dollars a day to support the bloodshed in El Salvador and other countries.
Thus, SOA Watch has been leading a nine-year effort to close funding of the School of Americas. This July, the House passed a bill that would cut funding for the school, and the bill will be in the Senate this month. It may turn out that Father Bourgeois and his group will win this battle.
However, as Father Bourgeois says himself, this is "bigger than the School of the Americas... It's about how we relate to the Third World." We have a foreign policy "based on greed and selfishness" when we allow suffering to go on in the name of protecting our economic interests.
The suffering of others should be important to us, even if it doesn't touch us. Too often, we only care about people when they are our "own." Thus, we bomb Iraq and Sudan, and train soldiers to kill others in Latin America. The School of the Americas isn't an isolated blot in the history of American foreign policy. Our entire foreign policy is a series of blots because we don't care about the suffering of other people or the justice of our actions. Economic interests and military might and American hegemony should never take precedence over the suffering and oppression of other people no matter what race, nationality or class they are. The U.S. supposedly lives by the principles of freedom, democracy equality, and "justice for all." When we publicly fund institutions like the School of the Americas, we are not funding justice. We are funding oppression and suffering.
As Bourgeois said, "This is about real people. This is about sisters and brothers. This is about suffering. This is about death. This is about justice."
Nakasha Ahmad is a senior philosophy, English and political science major at Saint Mary's. You can e-mail her at email@example.com. Her column appears every other Thursday.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Thursday, September 9, 1999