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Indonesia and the School of the Americas

November 19, 2013

By Andrew de Sousa, Bangkok *
November 15, 2013

This November 22-24, thousands of people from across the United States and Latin America will converge upon Fort Benning (Georgia, USA) to demand a closure to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as the School of the Americas (SOA). In what has become an annual ritual for more than 20 years, activists will employ civil disobedience in attempts to enter the SOA, facing arrest rather than accept the continued injustices embodied by the institute.

The activists have good reason to protest. The military institute is notorious for training over 64,000 foreign soldiers in subjects such as counterinsurgency, military intelligence, interrogations and psychological warfare. Many of the military officials responsible for some of the worst atrocities committed in Latin America were trained there, and some have even served as guest instructors.

Since 2004, six Latin American countries have now pulled out of the school, and each year opponents come closer to finally closing the school down. Over the years, the U.S. has provided similar training to Indonesia. The U.S. government was a chief backer of the New Order regime, and supplied the Indonesian military with the intelligence, equipment and training used for some of the worst human rights atrocities of the last century. Indonesian military officers are among the graduates of Fort Benning are Gen. Prabowo Subianto, who was behind some of the worst atrocities in Timor-Leste and kidnapped democracy activists in 1998. His troops were implicated in atrocities in West Papua and elsewhere during his command of the feared Kopassus special forces. Other Indonesians trained in the U.S. include Gen. Sjafrie Syamsuddin and Gen. Johny Lumintang, who both played prominent roles in orchestrating the violence around the 1999 referendum in Timor-Leste.

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