Recent reports of the torture of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib military prison near Baghdad are part of a larger pattern of abuse and torture at the hands of U.S. soldiers, U.S.-trained soliders, "independent contractors" and intelligence agents around the world. In fact, U.S. Army intelligence manuals advocating torture techniques and how to circumvent laws on due process, arrest and detention were used for at least a decade to train Latin American soldiers at the U.S. Army's School of the Americas, renamed in 2001 the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation or WHINSEC.
"We see a consistent pattern of the Pentagon claiming to work for democracy," says Fr. Roy Bourgeois, founder of SOA Watch, "while in their prisons and training centers, reports of torture and human rights abuses continue to surface."
Over 64,000 Latin American soldiers have been trained in combat skills and psychological warfare at the SOA/WHINSEC. Graduates of the school are consistently involved in human rights abuses and atrocities in Latin America.
In September of 1996, the Pentagon, under intense public pressure, released the classified training manuals used at the SOA. The Washington Post reported that the manuals promoted executions, torture, blackmail and other forms of coercion ("U.S. Instructed Latins on Executions, Torture," 9/21/96). The manuals recommended the imprisonment of family members of those who support "union organizing or recruiting," those who distribute "propaganda in favor of the interest of workers," those who "sympathize with demonstrations or strikes," and those who make "accusations that the government has failed to meet the basic needs of the people." The training manuals are available on the SOA Watch website at http://www.soaw.org/new/article.php?id=98.
"Why the great surprise over Abu Ghraib?" asked Jennifer Harbury, a human rights lawyer whose husband, Efrain Bamaca Velasquez, was tortured for two years and then either dismembered or thrown from a helicopter by Guatemalan military officials receiving generous CIA payments. "This has been standard operating procedure for years."
Reports of torture and abuse at the hands of U.S. and U.S.-trainied soldiers, from Latin America to Guantanamo Bay to Abu Gharib, continue to surface, and the Pentagon continues to distance itself from the abuses.
"As in Latin America, officials claim the soldiers involved in torture in Iraq are 'just a few bad apples,'" Bourgeois continued, "but as instances of human rights violations continue to grow around the world, a much larger picture of systematic abuse becomes clear."
<b>For more information, check out the following articles:</b>
CIA connections from Iraq to Latin America:
"Inside the Cells of Abu Ghraib" by Kurt Nimmo
This Guardian article mentions the training manuals used at the SOA:
"Torture by the Book" by Vikram Dodd
The Blue Triangle Network, a coalition formed after 9-11 that works against the deportation, racial profiling and repression of Muslim, Arab and South Asian immigrants, released a statement that mentions the training at the SOA. Read it here: http://www.soaw.org/new/article.php?id=771