Close the School of the Americas

Click for more pictures on SOA press conferenceDennis Apuan and Genie and Bill Durland, pictured at right, head to Fort Benning Georgia to make an annual plea to close the S. O. A. aka School of Assassins, where Central and South American military death squads are known to receive their training.

Here is the address which Dennis Apuan delivered:

Friends in the struggle,
For almost 60 years, the School of the Americas has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in tactics that are used to wage war against their own people. Courses taught at the school include counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for human rights.

Despite this targeting, large social movements throughout Latin America fight for justice and have successfully brought popular change to their countries. For 15 years, tens of thousands of people in the United States have worked in solidarity to close the SOA through a variety of means.

On November 17-19, 2006, at least three Colorado Springs residents will converge with tens of thousands on Fort Benning – one of the largest military bases in the world and home to the notorious School of the Americas – to confront injustice, to speak out for peace and to change oppressive U.S. foreign policy. This is a time of great change in our world, and justice is within our reach when we stand up in numbers too big to be ignored.

We will close this school that has created so much death and suffering.

History is made by movements – mass movements of people who organize themselves to struggle collectively for a better world. An increasing number of people have realized that U.S. government policy is out of alignment with their values. The movement for justice and against war and exploitation is growing stronger.

So many around the world continue the struggles for justice and human rights: peasants, indigenous and black communities, trade unionists and students are taking to the streets. By standing up and standing together, we can overturn any injustice. By standing up and standing together, we can change the world.

The movement to close the School of the Americas is a nonviolent force to change oppressive U.S. foreign policy as represented by institutions like the SOA. It is made up of people from many backgrounds who work towards a positive and fundamentally different alternative to the racist system of violence and domination.

We at the peace movement have been tremendously successful. The SOA issue has educated thousands about the reality of U.S. intervention in Latin America and U.S. foreign policy in general. Thousands have mobilized and engaged in nonviolent direct action. Because, as Arundhati Roy writes, “the trouble is that once you see it, you cannot unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There’s no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.”

SOA Watch made history on June 9, 2006 when the House of Representatives voted on our amendment to cut funding for the SOA. Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and Rep. John Lewis of Georgia introduced an amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill that would have cut funding for the notorious school.

While the amendment failed by a vote of 188 to 218, this vote was a major victory for our movement. After 6 years without a vote in Congress, we gained ground with bipartisan support for opposing the school despite the vote occurring in one of the most conservative Congresses in recent memories. Some more of our victories include:

Securing support of 29 Republican Members of Congress.

Attracting the interest of powerful members of Congress to speak in favor of our amendment including Rep. Lee (CA), Meehan (MA), Lowey (NY), Kucinich (OH), and Schakowsky (IL).

Forcing the opposition to win by only 218 votes; the bare minimum to win the majority of the House.

Gaining the support of many new members of the House, as well as retaining previous supporters.

Surprising the opposition with the amendment, and forcing them to concede time in the House floor debate due to a lack of support on their side

These victories have undoubtedly energized our movement. We are grateful to our sisters and brothers in Latin America for their inspiration and the invitation to join them in their struggle for justice. The Americas have a strong legacy of resistance. As activists and organizers in North America, we have a lot to learn from our companeras in Latin America who have been fighting oppression for the past 514 years. To do so, we must come to grips with our own privilege and recognize how it shapes our assumptions about struggle and the future.

-Dennis Apuan, Colorado Springs, November 14, 2006

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