WASHINGTON-- U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II (D-Mass), citing new documents linking the U.S. Army School of the Americas to training in murder and torture, today renewed calls on the Clinton Administration to shut down the facility.
The 8th District Representative also urged the release of three protesters imprisoned for demonstrating at the school.
"Fifty years ago this month, the U.S. Army School of the Americas opened its doors in Panama," said Congressman Kennedy during a press conference on Capitol Hill. "I come here today, a half century later, to say it's time to shut the school down."
Congressman Kennedy, joined by Reps. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Sam Farr (D-Calif.) said recent revelations by the Pentagon that torture manuals were used in the school's curriculum were the "smoking gun" justifying closure of the facility located in Ft. Benning, Georgia.
According to excerpts released by the Pentagon, School of the Americas students were advised to handle intelligence sources by imprisoning them or jailing their parents. The manuals instructed students in the use of "motivation by fear," paying bounties for enemy dead, executing opponents, subverting the press and using torture, blackmail and even injections of truth serum to obtain information.
"These tactics come right out of an SS manual and have no place in a civilized society. They certainly have no place in any course taught with taxpayer dollars on U.S. soil by members of our own military," said Congressman Kennedy.
The Members of Congress also called on President Clinton to commute the sentences of Father Roy Bourgeois, Father Bill Bichsel and Louis DiBenedetti, currently serving federal prison sentences after being convicted for trespassing on the grounds of Ft. Benning during a protest.
The three were among 13 defendants convicted in federal court for going on the grounds of Ft. Benning to re-enact the 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter by El Salvadoran soldiers operating under the command of School of the Americas graduates. The protesters had consistently maintained, despite Pentagon denials, that the School of the Americas taught techniques of illegal warfare of its students.
We will ask President Clinton to commute the sentences of these men, who are still in federal custody for doing nothing more than speaking the truth," said Congressman Kennedy.
The Members of Congress called on the House of Representatives to hold a hearing on the abuses revealed in the manuals and vowed to convene a forum if the Republican leadership refused to grant their request.
"I think we can all agree that these manuals and the school's reputation are a blight on the Pentagon's record," said Congressman Meehan.
"That is why I am here today to continue my efforts to support closing the School of the Americas. We do disservice to our nation and all nations when we use our military know how to train soldiers from other countries to intimidate, torture, and kill. Our country and our military deserve better than to be known as teachers in a 'School of Assassins.'"
"There is simply no excuse for a federally subsidized school for murderers," said Congressman Farr. "I can think of no earthly reason why our government should be using taxpayers' money to support killing and human torture, for whatever the cause."
Congressman Kennedy added that he was disappointed by the Pentagon's failure to apologize in its statements for the horrific misdeeds tied to the training manuals.
"Nor was there any mention of the victims, any mention of the voiceless, any mention of the poor--any mention of all those who have suffered so much at the hands of those who were taught to torture and murder by elements within our own government," he said.
"What about Archbishop Oscar Romero, gunned down in cold blood by School of the Americas graduates because he stood up for the powerless against the powerful? What about the Jesuit priests and their housekeeper and their daughter, murdered in El Salvador because their vision of hope for the poor clashed with the interests of the dictators? What about the four Ursuline nuns, ravaged and mutilated and thrown into a ditch for the crime of teaching children to read? What about the children of El Mozote, machine-gunned to death by School of the Americas graduates for the sin of living in the wrong place at the wrong time?
"IT'S TIME," CONCLUDED CONGRESSMAN KENNEDY, "TO CLOSE DOWN THE SCHOOL OF THE AMERICAS."