Volume , Number
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
The fight to close the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly known as the School of the Americas or SOA) at Ft. Benning in Georgia has been an uphill battle. But the dramatic leftward political shift in Latin America might be giving the activist group SOA Watch something to be optimistic about.
The School of the Americas, founded in 1946 in Panama and relocated to Georgia in 1984, has trained soldiers from Latin American countries for more than half a century in the arts of psychological warfare and counter-insurgency. An integral institution during the Cold War, when Washington supported the brutal measures of anti-communist regimes in Latin America, it now focuses on the campaigns to fight drug trafficking and production. Many of its graduates have gone on to commit atrocities throughout South and Central America, including acts of torture and extrajudicial killings of innocent civilians. Its graduates include death squad leaders in various countries. It is believed the assassin who killed Oscar Romero, a Salvadorian monsignor known for aiding the poor who pleaded for peace in his country, was an SOA graduate. General Manuel Noriega of Panama studied there. The list goes on.
A delegation from SOA Watch, a group dedicated to closing the school and known for holding large annual protests outside Ft. Benning that include acts of civil disobedience, recently visited 12 countries in Latin America. They met government officials and activists in an effort to convince leaders to stop sending soldiers to Ft. Benning. Its amazing how many people will listen to us, says Lisa Sul- livan, a member of the delegation.
Venezuela was the first country to pull its students out of the school, followed by Argentina and Uruguay. Bolivia has indicated that it will dramatically decrease the number of students it will send over time. SOA Watch expects Nicaragua, now under the Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega, to soon announce the same.
However, according to Sullivan, even in countries such as Chile and Ecuador where left-leaning political leaders have taken control of the government, it is still difficult for these civilian leaders to force the military to stop interacting with the school, as the military has sizable economic and political power.
The group is gearing up for a delegation to Mexico. While President Felipe Calderon, a conservative, will not pull students out, SOA Watch believes reaching out to him and his Administration may not be in vain.
The big fish SOA Watch has yet to catch is Colombia. None of its government officials agreed to meet with the delegation on its recent tour, says Father Roy Bourgeois, SOA Watchs founder. Colombia accounts for 50 percent of the schools student body. The Central Intelligence Agency estimates that there are between 1.8 and 3.8 million internally displaced peoples in Colombia as a result of the conflict involving right-wing paramilitaries, left-wing insurgents and drug traffickers. At the SOA, the student body reflects where there is the most conflict, says Sullivan.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) has introduced a bill in the House Armed Services Committee to cut funding to the school while Congress investigates it. SOA Watchs legislative director Pam Bowman has hope for the bill. The way she describes it, the last time the House voted to cut funding to the school it lost by 15 votes. Since then 35 Republicans who voted in favor of funding the school were replaced by Democrats in the last midterm election. Since February, SOA Watch has engaged in lobbying efforts to persuade the new members of Congress to vote in favor of the McGovern bill. SOA Watch representatives have visited more than 200 Congressional offices, Bow- man says. SOA Watch also organized nearly 60 groups to hold public fasts around the country in April to highlight the McGovern bill and the movement to close the school in general.
The schools advocates say that the dirtiness of the past is over and that the school, with a reformed curriculum, one that teaches democracy, is necessary for security cooperation. But Bourgeois, a Vietnam veteran, isnt buying it. Can a militaryan inherently hierarchical, authoritarian machineinstall democracy? Moreover, a school training combat soldiers with a long history of producing human rights violators cannot address the real needs of much of the Latin American people, who lack proper education and medical care, he insists. Its an obstacle to democracy, he says of the school. Its an obstacle to their liberation process.
Ari Paul is a contributor to Citizen Culture, Z, and Time Out Chicago.
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; email@example.com; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; email@example.com; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: email@example.com; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.