Final Exams?

On November 16, 1997, nearly 2,000 people gathered outside the gates of Ft. Benning in Columbus, Georgia, to call for the closing of the School of the Americas (SOA), a U.S. Army-sponsored (and U.S. taxpayer-funded) program for Latin American soldiers. On that sunny but chilly day, assembled on the roads and lawns of the residential neighborhood that sits outside of the fort, the crowd of demonstrators watched a street theater performance, listened to speakers, sang songs of peace, and prayed. One of the speakers who addressed the protesters was Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, author of Brave New World Order and, most recently, School of Assassins.

Published by Orbis Books, School of Assassins is a short book (104 pages) written in an informal first-person format. Nelson-Pallmeyer offers the reader a quick history lesson about the SOA program, and then explains how the school illustrates the U.S. government’s seriously flawed foreign policy.

SOA, originally located in Panama, was established in 1946 as the Latin American Training Center-Ground Division. It changed its name to SOA in 1963 and moved to Georgia in 1985. Nearly 59,000 Latin American soldiers, police officers, and civilians have studied at the SOA, including some of the worst violators of human rights in the hemisphere, such as Bolivian dictator (and now president) Hugo Banzer Suarez, Salvadoran death squad leader Roberto D’Aubuisson, and former Guatemalan Defense Minister Hector Gramajo, who a U.S. court held responsible for the 1989 kidnapping and torture of Dianna Ortiz, a U.S. Ursuline sister.

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 1998
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