School of Assassins Survives–Barely
The campaign to close the School of the Americas/WHINSEC, the notorious “school of assassins” in Ft. Benning, GA where U.S. military and intelligence services train Latin American torturers and death squads, came closer than ever yesterday. But we still fell six votes short of success. At 11:52 p.m. (Eastern Daylight Time) Wednesday night, 206 members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of the McGovern/Lewis amendment to defund SOA/WHINSEC. One cowardly Democrat voted “present.” 12 Democrats and 7 Republicans failed to vote for one reason or another. And, alas, 214 Representatives (172 Republicans and 42 Democrats) voted against the amendment, that is, voted to continue funding SOA/WHINSEC, America’s own tax-supported “terrorist training school.” 214 elected U.S. Representatives failed America and the world, failed to stand up for human rights, justice, and democracy. 214 Congresspersons voted to keep funding our own version of state-sponsored terrorism–a hypocrisy that tells the entire world that our vaunted claims to wage “war on terrorism” and desire to spread democracy is a lie.
U.S. citizens, to see how your Congressperson voted and either thank them or rebuke them, click here. Again, I am extremely happy that my freshman Representative, John Yarmuth (D-KY) not only voted to defund the SOA/WHINSEC, but was one of 111 co-sponsors–the most the campaign to close SOA has ever had. I will email him today and thank him and encourage him to continue in this fashion. I also plan to email each of the 23 Republicans who voted to defund SOA/WHINSEC since their votes took extra courage.
Now, we need to make closing SOA/WHINSEC a test question for every presidential candidate–a test of how serious they are about defending human rights and the rule of law.
Now, we regroup and reorganize during the summer Congressional recess. We meet with Representatives and Senators at their home offices and prepare to reintroduce legislation to close the School of Assassins in the Fall. Every Fall, thousands of protesters come to Ft. Benning and protest the SOA–with hundreds of arrests for civil disobedience. But, in my view, this is not enough. The crowds outside Ft. Benning are “old news” to the media. Simultaneously, we need to have protests and civil disobedience at the offices of every Representative who voted to continue the funding–we need the issue to be LOCAL news in every Congressional district in the nation.
We WILL close the SOA–and the Guantanemo Bay Gulag, and the secret U.S. prisons scattered around Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and central Asia. We will restore Habeas corpus. We will end torture. We will reverse the “Military Commissions Act.” UPDATE: We will close the immigration “detention centers” in the U.S. (HT: Jeff Noble, who gives this link: http://subtopia.blogspot.com/2007/02/circus-of-detention.html ).
Will any of this usher in the Kingdom of God? Of course not. But these steps toward justice do bear witness to the values of God’s Rule. These penultimate goods prepare the way for the merciful coming of the Lord, as Bonhoeffer said. Failure to enact such limited, human, justice; failure to prepare the way; does not prevent the Lord’s coming–but then that coming is in judgment and not mercy. We are already reaping in terrorism and war, the seeds we have sewn of injustice and violence. The SOA is a multiplying seed of injustice, violence, and oppression. Sewing the wind, ensures reaping the whirlwind. Closing the SOA sews seeds of justice and in due season that, too, will reap its rewards.
The School of Assassins is doomed. It’s time is near. We will never give up. It stands there in Ft. Benning as the Berlin Wall stood early in 1989–unaware of how soon it was coming down brick by brick. And great will be the fall of it.
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