Georgia on our mind

Want to end world terrorism? Thousands of human rights activists gathering outside Fort Benning, Ga. think the terrorist training camp there would be a good place to start.

Fort Benning’s School of the Americas is the U.S. army-run combat-training school for Latin American soldiers. School of the Americas graduates are responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses and terrorist actions in Latin America over recent decades. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are union leaders, educators, religious workers, student leaders, and others working for human rights and economic justice. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced out of their countries by SOA graduates.

In response to a determined campaign to close the school, the institution was recently renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC), and placed under the Department of Defense. The changes are cosmetic; its mission remains.

The protesters in Georgia will be in the streets this weekend as tens of thousands of labor, farm and environmental activists from across the United States are in the streets of Miami wrapping up a week of protest against the FTAA.

The pro-corporate foreign policy represented by FTAA wreaks economic terrorism against workers and farmers both at home and abroad. Critics of the SOA/WHISC charge that the school’s underlying purpose is to clear the way for U.S. corporate interests. “The SOA is part of a corporate-hijacked foreign policy,” said Fr. Roy Bourgeois, founder of SOA Watch. It is fitting that protesters in the streets in Georgia are calling for the shut-down of the veritable terrorist mill being run in our country, by our own government – a mill that churns out the torturers, assassins, and anti-democratic plotters who will be called on to enforce corporate America’s policies in our hemisphere.

No more blood and bombs

As the Vietnam War came into American living rooms in the 1960s and 70s, we saw horrifying scenes of innocent women, old people, and children shot down in cold blood. Entire villages were wiped out by massive U.S. bombing raids.

Ordinary Americans, including many of the “boots on the ground” in Vietnam, were horrified by the senseless murder and destruction in the name of freedom and democracy. All the bombs, all the house-to-house raids, all the destruction, the deaths of 58,000 American soldiers and at least 3 million Vietnamese, did not succeed in stifling opposition to a U.S. imperial war.

The Associated Press announced Nov. 19 that U.S. forces had dropped 2,000- and 1,000-pound bombs on Iraqi homes and towns as part of their “Iron Hammer” operation to stamp out resistance to the U.S. occupation. In Tikrit, Americans used artillery and mortars on some sections of town. AP quoted Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack Jr.: “We are going to take the fight to the enemy using everything in our arsenal necessary to win this fight!”

The wire service had no idea of how much damage had been done, as newspersons are greatly limited in their coverage of the occupation. A Bush decree has banned photos when coffins bearing dead American soldiers arrive at U.S. bases. News coverage of the thousands of maimed and wounded Iraqis and Americans hardly exists. We won’t see the Iraqi families who were blown to bits by advanced weaponry.

Newspersons were encouraged, however, to cover George Bush and his “Mission Accomplished” banner last May. His declaration of triumph and the end of the “war” was spread across our newspapers and TV screens. But months have passed, covered with the red blood of Iraqis and Americans. Long after the declaration of success, Bush is still bombing civilians in their homes. And Americans are coming home in coffins and wheelchairs.

Let’s end this disaster. Bring the troops home!