I was on the outside, being brought to the inside.
In the midst of my Becoming,
We went outside where I re-entered the old, yet new.
Passing through the collective Conscious
A new awareness formed:
Not everyone thinks that I am on the side of Right.
I must question what is right. I must know what is right.
Which exactor of violence is righteous?
© G.B. Swann
On a scorching, suffocating summer day in Georgia, I was crammed, compacted, and crowded, chest to back with other soldiers, locked inside of a cattle trailer. This is how the U.S. Army has decided is the most efficient way to transport soldier’s long distances, on base and in between training events. If it is further than a few miles and does not fit into a pre-scheduled ruck march, a bus or cattle truck shows up to give us a ride. Morale had been low, so as the platoon “radio”, I had been leading a chorus of sardines in uniform. Just before we left the gates of Sand Hill, the bus stopped. A drill sergeant beat on the wall of the cattle trailer, reverberating a loud metallic noise while yelling, “SHUT UP IN THERE! SHUT THE F___ UP IN THERE, AND LISTEN UP, BEFORE I SMOKE YOU’RE A__!” Before the drill sergeant was halfway through his command, we were already quiet.
“LISTEN UP, DICKS. and remember, privates, this is the new army. We can’t call you names or talk about your mama’s, anymore. We call you DICKS, BECAUSE YOU ARE DEDICATED INFANTRY COMBAT KILLERS, HOOAH!??”, Said the drill sergeant.
“HOO-UH!” We routinely yelled back without emotion.
“Alright Privates, listen here: We are about to leave Sand Hill, drive out into the world of civilians, and then back into the world of the UNITED STATES ARMY, HOOOOAAAAH????? As we re-enter the Main Gate of Ft. Benning, there will be a large group of dirty, nasty civilians, who eat McDonalds and Taco Bell every day. They will yell at you. They may even throw things at the bus. We are BETTER THAN THAT, PRIVATES! YOU WILL NOT ACKNOWLEDGE THEM. YOU WILL MAINTAIN STRICT MILITARY BEARING AND IGNORE THE DIRTY, NASTY CIVILIANS? HOOAH? IT IS THEIR RIGHT TO STAND THERE AND PROTEST. IT IS THEIR RIGHT BECAUSE OF YOU, PRIVATES! THIS IS THE OATH YOU SWORE, TO SUPPORT AND DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION. THE CONSTITUTION THAT GIVES THEM THE RIGHTS TO DO THIS. SO SUCK IT UP AND GET USED TO IT, PRIVATES!”, Barked the drill sergeant.
“What are they protesting, drill sergeant?”, a nameless recruit known as, “Private” questioned.
“WHO F____NG SAID THAT?!!! WHO THE ________ ……OK YOU WANNA KNOW WHY?? There is a school here known as the School of Americas. At this school, we bring people from Latin America up here to teach them how to be real soldiers like you and then send them back to their home countries to fight the narco-guerillas! The protestors do not see it that way. They are usually peaceful and the worst thing they normally do is climb the gate to get themselves arrested. Now lock it up.”, He calmly said as he walked away.
We began moving again and slowly came to the Main Gate. Protestors lined each side of the street. No one accosted us, shot us a bird, or anything. They just held their signs. We pulled through the gate and drove to our destination in the middle of a stretch of woods with ravines and gullies like the mountains, but we were just in the rolling hills of Middle Georgia. As we dismounted, I heard jokes being made about showing us Privates how to bust South American coke labs. This was the war game we played. It was fun. I went through another couple of months of training before I graduated as a U.S. Army Infantryman. Eventually, I was stationed in Alaska. One boring and cold day in the Tundra, I looked up what the School of Americas is and was. This is what I learned:
(6 Jesuit priests were murdered by Salvadoran military officials who attended the School of Americas. I took this photo from a WordPress article I found: (https://unredacted.com/2011/05/05/salvadoran-military-official-accused-of-ordering-jesuit-massacre-dies-at-64/)
From an address to Congress about Human Rights Violations:
As reflected in the 1993 debate, most concerns about the School have centered on graduates who have been implicated in–or are alleged to be responsible for-human rights violations in their countries. According to critics, the School has a history and tradition of abusive graduates who violate human rights. Observers point out that School alumni include: 48 out of 69 Salvadoran military members cited in the U.N. Truth Commission’s report on El Salvador for involvement in human rights violations (including 19 of 27 military members implicated in the 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests), and more than 100 Colombian military officers alleged to be responsible for human rights violations human rights organizations Press reports have also alleged that school graduates have included several Peruvian military officers linked to the July 1992 killings of nine students and a professor from La Cantuta University, and included several Honduran officers linked to a clandestine military force known as Battalion 316 responsible for disappearances in the early 1980s. 4 Critics of the School maintain that soldiers who are chosen to attend are not properly screened, with the result that some students and instructors have attended the School after being implicated in human rights violations.
Supporters of the School maintain that those graduates who have committed human rights violations did not commit the violence because of their training at Fort Benning, but rather in spite of it. They maintain that only a small number out of a total of almost 58,000 School graduates have been accused of human rights violations. In many Latin American countries, military service is traditionally an avenue to political and economic leadership and supporters of the School contend that the opportunity to train thousands of Latin American military officials on U.S. human rights processes and international human rights has a significant potential for bringing about greater respect for human rights in Latin America. Acknowledging the past abuses of some graduates, some School supporters have recommended a stricter set of criteria for student selection along with restrictions for countries with a high percentage of students later convicted of human rights violations. The Department of the Army maintains that the United States–through the Department of State–actively and continuously screens potential candidates for training for any record of human rights abuse, criminal activity, or corruption. ( Sourced from https://fas.org/irp/crs/soa.htm)
The issue that I have with the statement from the supporters is that I have read the counter-intelligence training manual, which describes torture tactics. You can read it for yourself by looking at the SOA Watch website that is linked below. If we are training these military officials in torture tactics along side of human rights theory, what does it matter? It seems that the human rights training is being cancelled out. Also, I believe for so many people to be involved in such atrocities, that a culture of apathy to human rights has developed.
SOA Watch (https://soaw.org/about/)
SOA Watch began in 1990 to denounce the 1989 School of the Americas (SOA) graduate-led massacre at the University of Central America (UCA) in El Salvador. The SOA, renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in 2001, is a US military training school based in Fort Benning, Georgia. The school made headlines in 1996 when the Pentagon released training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. Despite this admission and hundreds of documented human rights abuses connected to soldiers trained at the school, no independent investigation into the facility has ever taken place.
Over the past 27 years, SOA Watch has grown to become the largest grassroots Latin America solidarity organization in the United States. In 2016 SOA Watch moved to Nogales Arizona/Sonora to call attention to militarized US foreign policy as a principal root cause of migration, as well as the devastating impact US security and immigration policy has on refugees, asylum seekers and immigrant families all over the continent.
SOA Watch is a nonviolent grassroots movement working to close the SOA / WHINSEC and similar centers that train state actors such as military, law enforcement and border patrol. We strive to expose, denounce, and end US militarization, oppressive US policies and other forms of state violence in the Americas. We act in solidarity with organizations and movements working for justice and peace throughout the Americas.
See Noam Chomsky and others speak about Pedagogy of the Oppressed. This is so relevant because Noam speaks about the brutal war the U.S. carried out against the Catholic Church priests who were using Critical Pedagogy. These priests were murdered by right wing militants who were trained at SOA/WHINSEC