Friday, November 16, 2007

In the Spirit of Hemispheric Co-operation

What the world expects of Christians is that Christians should speak out, loud and clear, and that they should voice their condemnation in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could rise in the heart of the simplest man. That they should get away from the abstraction and confront the blood-stained face history has taken on today. -- Albert Camus
  • Eighteen years ago, today, 16 November 1989, six priests and two women were martyred by the governments of El Salvador and the United States. The Jesuits were subversively and stubbornly interested in the poor. They knew the rules.
  • The Salvadoran military on 11 December 1981 tortured, raped, massacred and burned 900 campesinos in the remote village of El Mozote.
  • The National Guard on 2 December 1980 raped and murdered four US churchwomen.
  • The Archbishop of San Salvador, Óscar Romero*, was assassinated 24 March 1980 while celebrating mass. He had spoke against the U.S. government support of the military dictatorship and he spoke for the poor. He knew his fate.
All these actions were orchestrated and performed by graduates of the School of the Americas, now of Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. Originally begun in 1946 in Panama, its focus changed with the US government's anger and paranoia after Fidel Castro's take over of Cuba. It would now specialize in counterinsurgency. All military and governmental critics were to be considered communists and treated with extreme prejudice.

One member of the class of 1972 was Roberto D'Aubuisson. During the El Salvadoran civil was he founded the ARENA political party.He was considered a colorful, spirited and effective speaker. He was lauded by Reaganites. Shortly after the end of the war D'Aubuisson's life ended with throat cancer.

D'Aubuisson picked up a few epithets, one being "Blowtorch Bob". Perhaps his most significant accomplishment was the execution of Óscar Romero and the additional assassinations of forty-two in the funeral procession. D'Aubuisson had panache. The current president of El Salvador publicly mourned him this year.

The School of the Assassins is in operation still, with a different name ... windsock, whinesoc ...SOA/WHISC... something. Well, just like the KGB kept changing its name, history and people will recall it by its most memorable name.

D'Aubuisson was not the only stellar alumnus. There was Efraín Ríos Montt of Guatemala, Leopoldo Galtieri of Argentina, Manuel Noriega of Panama and a lineup of many others that would make a hellacious murderers' row.

Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois started School of the Americas Watch after the murders of '89. In 1996 because of this pressure the Pentagon released their spanish language torture manuals. This weekend perhaps 20,000 will rally and vigil outside Fort Benning for the 18th annual, some will be arrested and very little corporate press notice will be given.
* There is a wonderful film, Romero (1989). Saint Óscar Romero has not yet been canonized, unfortunately besides the lead feet of bureaucracy, there is political pressure adding delay. It took 500 years for Jeanne d'Arc and 400 for Thomas More, but the faithful of their land knew without the formal certifications.

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