This past weekend in resistance and memory, we returned to the gates of Ft. Benning, where the infamous SOA/WHINSEC is located. We remembered and upheld Celina Ramos, Elba Ramos, Ignacio Ellacuría, Ignacio Martín-Baró, Segundo Montes, Juan Ramón Moreno, Joaquín López y López, and Armando López who were massacred at the hands of SOA graduates that formed part of the Salvadoran Army’s Atlacatl Battalion. The SOA Watch movement initially formed to denounce this massacre. Now, 30 years later, we continue to work to close the SOA/WHINSEC (Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) and to dismantle the structures of oppression on which it is based.
In an article published last week with ABC-affiliated WTVM, WHINSEC’s new Commandant, Colonel John Suggs, said “change occurred” when the SOA became WHINSEC in 2001. He went on to say that “the guys who graduate here are going to go on to be the heads of their militaries,” and that “the relationships they built here…it fosters peace throughout the whole region, it helps them get things done.” Make no mistake, the purpose and the results of the SOA and WHINSEC are the same – training state agents in civilian-targeted warfare that results in violent repression, torture, forced disappearances, massacres, forced migration, the criminalization of dissent, and imperialist coups to impose right-wing neo-liberal agendas. The idea that this training “fosters peace” throughout the Americas is absurd and extremely dangerous.
Over the weekend we learned that in September 2019, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) shared that Fort Benning, GA, home of SOA/WHINSEC will be the new location of an “urban warfare” training facility for skills to be used on communities within the United States.
Sisters Kathy Broussard and Suzanne Brauer and Associates Joanna Magee, Chris Cahalan and Kevin Cahalan and a number of our New Orleans friends along with Dominican Sisters from Springfield, Sinsinawa and Adrian and Mercy Sisters, joined in the SOA Watch. On Saturday we heard motivating speeches and on Sunday we participated in the solemn commemorative Funeral Procession, during which there was a litany of hundreds of names of persons who had been killed by SOA trained military. After so many years of protesting we still sing “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize. Hold On.”