Sunday, February 21, 2010

Justice and the School of Assassins

(the "goings on" in Eastern Europe at the time of the drawing was the overthrow of dictatorship, thus the nervousness of dictators in our lil sphere of influence)

The Salvadoran army officers who murdered Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and young daughter n 1989, were pardoned in El Salvador. In outrageous contrast the thirteen U.S. citizens who reenacted the 1989 murders, as part of a demonstration against the School of the Americas (S.O.A.) (School of the Assassins) where the officers were trained, were sentenced to prison. This has happened every year since the murders and is planned to continue until the school is closed.

The pious, if sleepy, Judge Elliot, who found the defendants guilty April 29, 1998 or thereabouts, also imposed on them a telling anecdote: if a man steals bread for his starving children he has good motives but criminal intent, has broken the law and therefore should go to prison. Apparently the learned judge has not read Les Miserable, or perhaps did read the sad tale and identified with the sociopathic prosecutor, cheering on his obsessive pursuit.

The defense took two basic strategies: to call for dismissal of the charges (engaging in banned political activity at Fort Benning where the school is located) on the grounds that only those opposing the S.O.A. were banned while those in favor were allowed to express their support; and that a higher moral law justifies the "illegal" action taken by the group. The analogy was drawn that citizens would have been breaking German law if they had stopped the death trains to Auschwitz but a higher moral law would have absolved them.

Reverend Bill Bichsel, in his eloquent pre-sentence statement, said, " We are not afraid of your jails or your police. We will be back to demonstrate on each anniversary of the murders until that school is closed. I hope one day you (Judge Elliot) will join us." Spontaneous and sustained applause erupted in the packed court room.

The S.O.A. claims that its instruction aims to instill "American" values in its students. Critics claim that the school actually teaches torture techniques (verified by the leaking of a manual). That aside, the fact is that many of its graduates have engaged in undemocratic activities, coups and assassinations, such notorious figures as Manuel Noriega and El Salvador death squad leader Roberto D'Aubuisson. It is a dubious proposition that a rigid hierarchical military is the appropriate teacher of democratic values. The school’s unspoken mission, and one of the reasons it should be closed, is to establish relationship with Latin American military officers so as to have coup-influence when leaders down there get the idea that democracy is more important than U.S. corporate interests.

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