Organizational Sign On Letter to Congress: Eliminate Funding for SOA/WHINSEC
Add your organization to this letter urging Congress to eliminate funding for the SOA/WHINSEC as part of the budget cuts as part of the upcoming defense sequestration mandates. This letter will be delivered to every Member of Congress on Tuesday, December 11, 2012. Let's show Congress the broad range of organizations, national and local, representing immigrants, labor, religious, veterans, and other constituencies, that support closing this institution.
Dear Member of Congress,
We, the undersigned, represent a wide range of religious, labor, and civil organizations seeking to promote justice and human rights for all. We write to you because we are concerned about how our tax dollars are spent, and like you, we are aware of the upcoming defense sequestration that would mandate cuts to the budget of the Department of Defense. While Congress continues to consider alternatives to defense sequestration, as decisions are made about the most appropriate ways of allocating funds to government programs, we urge you to eliminate funding for the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC.)
More than $180 million U.S. tax dollars have been poured into WHINSEC over the past ten years, in addition to an unknown amount of funds from undisclosed portions of the Department of Defense budget. The United States' federal budget deficit could be cut by $18 million this coming year alone merely by closing this institution.
At a time when every dollar of savings serves to reduce the deficit or be redirected towards priorities that have a positive impact on our society, ending the funding of ineffective institutions that perpetuate a negative image of the United States and fail to demonstrate the fulfillment of their mission is a simple solution.
WHINSEC, formerly named the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA), stands out as a program that could be cut without harming the national security of the United States, saving millions of tax dollars each year. For more than sixty years, the United States has trained Latin American military personnel in the tactics of warfare at U.S. taxpayer expense. Graduates of the SOA/WHINSEC have left a bloody trail of victims throughout Latin America, undermining the credibility of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America and generating distrust among our Latin American neighbors. The legacy of those graduates makes a mockery of the sense of justice that citizens of the United States hold so near and dear.
The history of SOA/WHINSEC is a sad story of corruption, torture and killing. More than 600 crimes by graduates were documented before the Department of Defense stopped revealing the names of the school’s graduates in 2006. Graduates of the school have been implicated in massacres in numerous countries including El Salvador, where SOA-trained troops murdered over 800 women, children, and men in El Mozote. Also in El Salvador, SOA graduates raped and murdered four U.S. church women who worked with the poor, killed six Jesuit priests, and assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero as he delivered Mass. Graduates’ names continue to surface frequently and are linked to crimes of torture and killing in Chile, Argentina, and Guatemala, as well as to drug trafficking cases in Colombia and Mexico. In Honduras, SOA/WHINSEC graduates led the coup against the democratically-elected government in 2009.
In 1999, in response to concerns about the school’s record, the U.S. House of Representatives voted by a bipartisan majority to close it. However, rather than address these concerns, the Department of Defense acted the following year to close the SOA and within weeks open the WHINSEC, on the same site, and with the same instructors, students, and curriculum, in essence merely renaming the institution. Then-Senator and SOA-supporter, the late Paul Coverdell (R-GA) characterized the changes as “cosmetic” and said they would ensure that the SOA could continue its mission and operation.
There are alternatives to squandering millions of dollars of Defense Department funds for such a notorious institution – alternatives that would better accomplish the currently unfulfilled mission of the SOA/WHINSEC. In a region already struggling with a violent history, the destabilizing influence of reinforcing a methodology of warfare as a viable solution, which frequently results in military resources being used against innocent civilians, does not serve the interests of the United States or promote security of stability in the hemisphere. Funding education programs, building roads and schools, investing in health care and bolstering judicial systems are just a few of the truly productive uses of U.S. tax dollars in Latin America. All of these options are available through existing programs funded by the Foreign Operations appropriations bill.
We hope you will agree that a just budget is of grave importance, and we strongly encourage you to join with other elected representatives in eliminating funding for WHINSEC. Please know that we look forward to working with you towards our common long-term goals of supporting the common good of the Americas through education, health care improvements and infrastructure improvements.