Located at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia, the School of the Americas (soa) is a U.S. Army center that has trained more than sixty thousand soldiers and police, mostly from Latin America, in counterinsurgency and combat-related skills since it was founded in 1946. So widely documented is the participation of the School’s graduates in torture, murder, and political repression throughout Latin America that in 2001 the School officially changed its name to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Lesley Gill goes behind the façade and presents a comprehensive portrait of the School of the Americas. Talking to a retired Colombian general accused by international human rights organizations of terrible crimes, sitting in on classes, accompanying soa students and their families to an upscale local mall, listening to coca farmers in Colombia and Bolivia, conversing with anti-soa activists in the cramped office of the School of the Americas Watch—Gill exposes the School’s institutionalization of state-sponsored violence, the havoc it has wrought in Latin America, and the strategies used by activists seeking to curtail it.
Based on her unprecedented level of access to the School of the Americas, Gill describes the School’s mission and training methods and reveals how its students, alumni, and officers perceive themselves in relation to the dirty wars that have raged across Latin America. Assessing the School’s role in U.S. empire-building, she shows how Latin America’s brightest and most ambitious military officers are indoctrinated into a stark good-versus-evil worldview, seduced by consumer society and the “American dream,” and enlisted as proxies in Washington’s war against drugs and “subversion.”
List of Illustrations vii
Prologue: The Teflon Assassin xiii
Introduction: The Military, Political Violence, and Impunity 1
1. Georgia Not on Their Minds 23
2. De-Mining Humanitarianism 43
3. Foot Soldiers of the U.S. Empire 59
4. Pathways to Power 90
5. Strategic Alliances 110
6. Human Wrongs and Rights 137
7. Disordering the Andes 163
8. Targeting the " School of Assassins" 198
Conclusion: The School of the Americas 233
References Cited 259
“Lesley Gill has produced an in-depth exposé of the militaristic mentality, socioethnic tensions, and outrageous atrocities of the empire’s Praetorian Guard. Insightful and richly researched, a work of superior quality.”—Michael Parenti, author of The Terrorism Trap and The Assassination of Julius Caesar
“Lesley Gill’s study of the premier military training operation in the Americas is a treasure trove of histories that will provoke a long overdue debate about the values and limits of U.S. engagement in the region.”—Robin Kirk, author of More Terrible Than Death: Massacres, Drugs, and America’s War in Colombia
"[I]n the wake of recent revelations that suspected terrorists captured by CIA and U.S. special forces in Afghanistan and Iraq have been deliberately hidden from the Red Cross, severely tortured and in some cases abused to death, this book remains immediately relevant. The questions at the heart of the controversy over the school -- is the U.S. military teaching the art of atrocity to Latin American soldiers, and do Americans bear responsibility for the horrors that many of the supposedly 'professionalized' graduates of the school have committed? -- take on new meaning as the United States engages in actions that bear a damning resemblance to the dirty wars fought in years past in Central and South America."
Washington Post Book World
“This book is a hugely impressive, detailed, and fascinating cultural history of jazz in Britain and should be recommended not only to cultural historians but also to historians of the Cold War, the British Left, and those interested in race relations and national identity in twentieth-century Britain.”
James J. Nott
American Historical Review
"Gill was able to examine the school's folkways and rhetoric, thanks to glasnost-like levels of administrative cooperation. Lessons in thinking in terms of how to 'kill and maim' opposition and to 'dehumanize' those who persist. Gill then traces the paths of various graduates of the school and links their activities directly to the torture and death of 'Latin American peasants, workers, students [and] human rights activists'--i.e., 'opposition.' "
“The notion of impunity which Lesley Gill develops with many insights has far-reaching ramifications and consequences. . . . Gill’s clarity appeals to our reason, love of truth, and common human decency. . .”
“Lesley Gill’s The School of the Americas is an ambitious book that provides the reader with a thorough analysis of the School of the Americas (SOA), and the effects of the SOA’s training on the trainees and on two Andean Communities.”
Latin American Research Review
"[B]reathtaking. . . . This book should make one proud to be in the same profession as its author and appalled at the implications of having a U.S. citizenship."
Journal of Latin American Anthropology