The Common Good

Protesting Injustice and Celebrating Memories at the Gates of the SOA

This past weekend I road-tripped with my housemates, the Sojourners interns, from Washington, D.C., to the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia. Being a West-Coaster, we drove through states I'd never seen. I saw the forests of the Carolinas and the cotton fields of Georgia, beauties of my country previously unknown to me. And our destination was a protest to close the School of the Americas, a blemish of my country also unknown to me before this year. There comes a point in life when the pretty façade of history and so-called reality breaks down -- when the underbelly of a country's foreign policy is unveiled and found, at times, to place national economic and political gain above basic human rights.

The SOA (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in 2001) is a U.S. Army combat-training facility for Latin American soldiers connected to numerous human rights atrocities. The school moved to Georgia from its home in Panama in 1984 when the government deemed it a destabilizing presence in Latin America and a Panamanian newspaper referred to it as the "School of the Assassins." Nineteen of the 26 soldiers involved in the 1981 El Mozote massacre of more than 1,000 Salvadoran villagers were trained at the SOA. Twelve soldiers carried out the 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter at a university in San Salvador; 10 learned their trade at the SOA. In 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador had implored the military to stop murdering its own people. "If they kill me," he said, "I will be resurrected in the Salvadoran people." The next day he was assassinated. Two of the three responsible were SOA graduates.

The vigil and protest to close the school began 18 years ago with just 13 people, days after the murder of the Jesuit priests

Sojourners relies on the support of readers like you to sustain our message and ministry.

Related Stories

Resources

Like what you're reading? Get Sojourners E-Mail updates!

Sojourners Comment Community Covenant

I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the Sojourners online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree, even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I will express my disagreements with other community members' ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I will not exaggerate others' beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

I will hold others accountable by clicking "report" on comments that violate these principles, based not on what ideas are expressed but on how they're expressed. (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15)

I understand that comments reported as abusive are reviewed by Sojourners staff and are subject to removal. Repeat offenders will be blocked from making further comments. (Proverbs 18:7)