In "School of Shame" (February 2007), the author addresses the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in a way that is deceitful and false and libels the good people who work here by suggesting that they teach illegal, immoral, and unethical things.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I challenge you to do some research about our current activities. Tell people what courses are offered here, and that members of Congress, clergymen, lawyers, and others routinely oversee our activities. You and your writers should know that there is nothing hidden here. Anyone can come, sit in our classes, talk with students and faculty, and review our instructional materials. You will find people here every bit as serious, moral, and conscientious as any of your staff.
Lee A. Rials
Public affairs officer, WHINSEC
Hendrik Voss responds:
In 2003, a School of Americas Watch activist received from Lee A. Rials a copy of the Army's Strategic communications Campaign Plan for the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). With a total budget of $246,000, including $9,000 for "media monitoring software" and $50,000 for Internet work, the plan calls for flooding the media with letters to the editor in an effort to balance the negative press the school has received with a "desired 'end state'" that the "congressional audience will not support legislation to close the WHINSEC" because "the number of letters from constituents to Congress criticizing the WHINSEC is decreased."
The fact that the Army perceives letters from constituents as a threat to the future of this school confirms that we are making a difference every time we encourage a neighbor to study the history of U.S. state support for torture and "military solutions," and to take action against it.
Support for WHINSEC (aka School of the Americas) in Congress has been eroding since it became public that the school continued to train known human rights abusers. A June 2006 amendment to cut funding for the WHINSEC fell only 15 votes short of success.
Hendrik Voss is networking coordinator for School of the Americas Watch (www.soaw.org) in Washington, D.C.