A military academy, based first in Panama and now at Fort Benning (in Columbus, Georgia), where the United States trains officers for Latin American armies. It was meant to combat Soviet/Cuban influence in the Western Hemisphere; in practice, it trained the thugs who provided the muscle that kept despots in power; today, the motivations are, arguably, more noble - recent regimes have taken steps to arrest some SOA grads on human rights charges. Famous alumni include Manuel Noriega.

Osama Bin Laden allegedly was the mastermind behind the 1998 bombings of American Embassies in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. Also, in November of 1998, a U.S. grand jury indicted Bin-Laden for a series of terrorist attacks against the U.S., including the embassy bombings.

Alright, sure, most of us know about Bin-Laden and his escapades with explosives, but what most of us don’t know is that he was trained to be a terroristin the United States. Surprise.

The U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA) is located in Fort Benning, Georgia, and was established in Panama in the year 1946. Supposedly, it was set up to promote stability in the region, but the school’s reputation for graduating despots earned it the fitting nickname of “School of the Assassins.”

Some Neat Facts About the SOA:

1) The SOA trains 900-2,000 people a year from Latin America.

2) The SOA teaches combat skills, counterinsurgency operations sniper fire, military intelligence, commando tactics and psychological operations.

3) The SOA used training manuals that advocated torture techniques, assassinations, and blackmail.

4) Latin American soldiers in the SOA are not taught to defend their borders from invasion, but instead, are taught to make war on their own people.

5) The SOA teaches specifically against religious leaders, labor organizers, educators, student groups, and others working for the rights of the poor.

6) The SOA is connected to the growing human rights abuse problem in Mexico.

Over the last 50 years, the government has trained foreigners to do their dirty work. Billions of dollars were spent in the training of these terrorists. Yet, after the government used them, their faces and names appear on the U.S.’s most wanted lists. The government calls this “blowback." Ironic, yes?

This information was obtained from:

Blowback” by Marc Cooper
Mexico and the U.S. Army School of the Americas: What is the ‘School of Assassins?’”

For more information, see:

Close the School of Assassins: http://www.webcom.com/peaceact/soafs.html
The US Army School of Assassins: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~lormand/soa/
Fort Benning, Georgia Home of the Infantry USAIC USAIS ARMY Ranger Airborne Basic Training: http://www.benning.army.mil/fbhome/
While I don't doubt that many unsavory individuals have been trained at the School of the Americas, one thing depserately needs saying here:

Osama bin Laden was not trained at the School of the Americas.

In fact, bin Laden himself has said in interviews that he never received American training, in the US or otherwise. The anti-Soviet mujahedin forces were indeed heavily encouraged and armed by the United States, but the vast majority of Muslim fighters never saw this support firsthand. "Neither I nor my brothers saw evidence of American help," Osama said in 1993.

Moreover, I have not been able to find any trustworthy evidence that Osama bin Laden has ever been to the United States at all, even as a child. Perhaps it would nicely fit some people's agendas if bin Laden were trained at Fort Benning, but once again that pesky thing called the truth gets in the way, spoiling the ironic fun for all.

"Neither I nor my brothers saw evidence of American help." A very interesting statement - just where did Osama bin Laden think all those Stinger missiles came from?

It is highly doubtful that Osama bin Laden attended the School of the Americas, which has since changed its name to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. It is, afterall, a school for training Latin and Central American soldiers; i.e., the Americas.

But whether Osama bin Laden wants to admit it or not, the American government, through the CIA, played an integral role in building and training the mujahideen. The USA, along with Pakistan, supplied funding for the building of training bases, for weapons, and even the madrassas that schooled the fanatical freedom fighters we now call terrorists.

Everyone that has looked at the mujahideen training regimen recognizes immediately the similarities with the training given at the School of the Americas. Few believe this is a coincidence.

William Casey wasn't about to try and bring thousands of Arab fanatics into the US for training at the SOA; instead, he brought the SOA to them. You might say it was the School of the Americas - Afghanistan campus.

The School of the Americas, based in Fort Benning, Georgia was founded on United States' landholdings in Panama in 1946. At the time, the United States governed the territory surrounding the Panama Canal and used this land for many purposes - including the School of the Americas, a training camp for South and Latin American geurilla fighters and dictators' officers.

In 1984 it was relocated to its present location due to the Panama Canal Treaty, a tenet of which states that all U.S. landholdings in Panama would be forfeited at this time. Today, it is called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation though its function remains the same.

"Over its 56 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, 'disappeared', massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins". (http://www.soaw.org)

There are many reasons that the U.S. would choose to operate such an institution. Firstly, it keeps South and Latin America relatively unstable. This is in U.S. interest because major corporations based in the U.S. use large amounts of cheaper foreign labor in South and Latin America to cut production costs. In the same vein, an unstable South and Latin America is one indebted to the U.S. or, more abstractly, to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which the U.S. has a large stake in. This indebtedness keeps these countries undeveloped and rich in cheap labor for American corporations.

Secondly, an unstable South and Latin America is one that can not challenge the United States' power. If Mexico or Columbia or Peru became a formidable military or economic force, it would create a competitor to the United States in close proximity.

Thirdly, the United States likes a say in foreign governments - especially those close to it. By training resistance fighters and releasing them into a country, the United States can effectively topple a government they have a problem with and instate a new one that agrees with them more.

There are a multitude of other reasons the United States has for the School of the Americas, but these are some of the most important ones. Essentially, its purpose is to help the United States maintain its superpower status, leeching off of weaker nations and keeping them in a state of poverty so that they rely on the United States, thus ensuring their loyalty.

Some additional information on the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly School of the Americas):

The WHISC serves the specific purpose of training paramilitary forces from Latin American countries; this is apparent. The trainees are taught in counterinsurgency, low-intensity warfare, and psychological warfare. These are topics that are also taught to American Special Forces, yet, incidentally, there are few to no complaints about this. Regardless, these topics are taught in a context preparing them for use against leftist- specifically, Marxist- uprisings.

It has been asserted above that this furthers American interests by maintaining instability in such potential international powerhouses as Mexico, Columbia, and Peru. It is curious, then, that these countries, who must obviously be suffering from the turmoil caused by these soldiers, continue to send their soldiers to Fort Benning for training. After all, if it is so apparent that near-rebellion is the American goal, then these countries must be aware. In addition, the soldiers are used in such a manner by their parent nations as to prevent the very turmoil mentioned above; in fact, the soldiers are used to suppress the rebellions that would further the dissatisfaction of the natives.

It is true that some of the methods used by the graduates of the WHISC are somewhat less then beatific. Yet, it is important to note that these methods are, in fact, quite effective at combating the left-wing insurgencies they're trained to suppress. Also, a quick look at the War in Vietnam and its aftermath, especially on the intellectual elite (read: intelligent), shows that the results of a successful rebellion of this type are terrible to behold. Given this data, it is easily acknowledged that the actually fairly sparse crimes of the SoA graduates are a lesser evil then the ones against whom the crimes are committed.

As mentioned above, the crimes committed by SoA graduates are, in fact, rather low in number, especially when compared to the number of graduates. As mentioned above, some 60,000 persons have graduated from the WHISC; yet, less then 1000 of them have even been accused of crimes. Some quick math shows that less then 2% of the graduates have even been alleged to have been involved in the unsavory activities so often used to justify the school's closing.

That said, the activities of that minority cannot be condoned. However, it is not fair to condemn the entire program because of the indelicacies of a select few.

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