|SCHOOL OF THE AMERICAS|
September 21, 1999
MARGARET WARNER: That House-Senate Conference Committee is scheduled to take up the School of the Americas funding issue tomorrow. We take up the debate tonight with Democratic Congressman Joe Moakley of Massachusetts, who sponsored the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill Amendment that cuts off nearly $2 million used to support the trainees, and the Secretary of the Army, Louis Caldera.
MARGARET WARNER: Welcome, gentlemen. Mr. Secretary, what is the purpose
of this school now?
LOUIS CALDERA: Well, strategically, it is very important for the United States. First of all we can be thankful because of efforts of the United States that all of the countries in Latin America, with the exception of Cuba, are today democracies. But there are still very legitimate security interests and, after all, they are right in our own backyard, in our hemisphere, so we're very much interested in how they do, economically, politically and in terms of protecting their own borders against incursion from drug traffickers, from organized crime, in being able to respond to the needs of their people in terms of providing humanitarian assistance, a de-mining of areas that were mined at the time that the civil wars were occurring. Those are just some of the things that we try to emphasize at the School of the Americas. The threats are very real. They have a legitimate security interest, just as our country does, to have a strong military. That military is going to be there and it's going to play a role in our society. And it can either be a positive construct role, where they support democracy, where they support a proper relationship of a military subordinate to civilian leadership or not. Those are the kinds of things that we teach and why this is important to United States's engagement strategy in Latin America.
MARGARET WARNER: Congressman Joe Moakley, but you are not convinced at all?
REP. JOE MOAKLEY: No, I'm not convinced at all. When I was assigned to chair the commission investigating the killing of the six Jesuits and the housekeeper and the daughter in El Salvador I was shocked to find out that 19 of the 26 soldiers indicted were graduates of the School of the Americas. Then I find that people that suspected of killing the Bishop while saying mass -- were graduates of school of the America. Four church women raped, sodomized, killed, connected to graduates of School of the Americas. The graduates, some graduates of the School of Americas have committed the most heinous crimes, the worst atrocities in Central and South America and I just think it's gone too far and it should be closed.
|Brutality on all sides|
| MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Secretary, how do you live down that past? How
do you answer that?
LOUIS CALDERA: Well, first of all, of course, there was a lot of brutality in the civil war that is occurred in Latin America and it was conducted by all sides. It was conducted by guerrilla, it was conducted by right wing paramilitary death squads, it was in some cases conducted by militaries. Where it was, we cut them off. We made it very clear in order to get U.S. assistance, they have to protect human rights. Now it's in our interest to make sure that there is a strong military that respects human rights. Take the situation in Colombia alone where there it is an insurgency, where they are right wing death squads; unless you have a strong military you're not going to be able to affect the peace process that brings the guerrillas who have now become involved in drug trafficking, you're not going to get them to be able to participate in that peace process. You are not going to be able to stand up to the right wing paramilitary groups. You have got to have a strong military. It is the only people who can be held accountable and the only ones that we can influence by withholding assistance if they don't protect human rights.
MARGARET WARNER: Congressman Joe Moakley, do you object to the school primary because of its past or do reject the whole notion there is a mission here for the U.S. military to be training Latin American officer corps in a lot of the different missions that the Secretary just sketched out?
JOE MOAKLEY: I reject that on both counts. First I reject it because
of its past, of all the killings and brutalities that I came across
in my investigation. And I also find that it's changed its focus now.
Originally the School of the Americas was to keep communism out of Central
and South America.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you have an answer for that, do you have an answer for that, Mr. Secretary, that even in Latin America the school doesn't have the best reputations at least in some quarters.
LOUIS CALDERA: In some quarters and there are others where it does have a very good reputation because, in fact, we're helping them professionalize their military because they want very much to become more like the United States both in having a market economy, in having a military that plays an appropriate role in supporting a democracy and they're eager to learn about those things. One of the greatest things about School the Americas is it is here in the United States and they get to experience U.S. life and they get to see what they would hope their country would become if they can support democracy. Now the School of the Americas, I think, has been really unfairly characterized. It does not teach torture - and we don't teach that to U.S. soldiers; we don't teach that to foreign soldiers. And the claims against the school have been greatly exaggerated based on emotional charges of the past. Yes, there was brutality there. It was very regrettable but I think that attacking the institution for the actions of certain limited number of soldiers is a connection that really stretches the logic. I think it is an important school and that we need to keep it performing the mission that it does to make sure we can deal with very real security threats in our own hemisphere.
MARGARET WARNER: Congressman, would you have the U.S. military then have no role in this kind of training?
REP. JOE MOAKLEY: No. I think the military has got a role to play but I think we should spend more time trying to make democracies out of these countries; reform their judicial system; beef up their police department. Let's fight drugs with police officers and narcotics squads. As I said only 8 percent of the people that go to the school take drug training. They're really not making a dent in it. In fact, even though most of those atrocities happened in the past, just last year we have got two officers in Colombia, one was removed from duty because of human rights abuses. Another one is being suspected of killing 30 Colombians. I mean, some of these graduates that took the training while torture was being taught there are still around, still in charge. And that is the problem. The reputation of the School of the Americas is so bad in parts of El Salvador that I was in and parts of Mexico that the only way to remedy it is to close it. I think that we should teach them diplomacy. I think we should reform their judicial system, their electoral system, their police system. When I was in El Salvador, the police in El Salvador couldn't even deal with street crime. I brought ten of them back to Boston for a crash course just in teaching them how to patrol their streets. That's where the emphasis from this country should come - not teaching combat.
|Close down the school?|
MARGARET WARNER: Congressman, staying with you, the money that your amendment would delete from this Foreign Operations Appropriates Bill is only about $2 million, which I gather is just really a fraction of the cost of the school. Do you think if this were to be adopted it would actually close down the school?
REP. JOE MOAKLEY: Well, this is the money that they used to bring the recruits from Central and South America so it's a very important part of the money. And the reason it was so small because of the way the School of the Americas funded out of so many pockets that this was the only matter before the Appropriations Committee that we could get an amendment so.
MARGARET WARNER: You mean because most of it is in the Pentagon budget.
REP. JOE MOAKLEY: The Pentagon I think supplies something like $18 million but I would think that if the Conference Committee does what the House does and passes it, it sends a strong signal to the Secretary and to the military that Congress wants the school closed.
MARGARET WARNER: If this amendment passes Mr. Secretary, are you going to take it as that kind of a message or are you going to find another way to make up that extra $2 million?
LOUIS CALDERA: Well the theater commander, four star Marine Corps General Charlie Wilhelm, who heads SOUTHCOM, who's responsible for that part of the world, has said if you close the School of the Americas, he is going to open it up somewhere else the next day because it's that important to our engagement strategy to send a message to the leaders of Latin America that we're not turning our backs on them and to continue this school.
MARGARET WARNER: But are you saying then that if this 2 million for bringing these trainees up here is eliminated, that would be the next step, to open one up down there?
LOUIS CALDERA: If you eliminated the funding it would effectively close the school but I don't think we're going to eliminate the funding; I think Senate position is going to hold on this issue. I've been talking to both supporters and critics of the School of the Americas. Clearly the vote in the House signals that the House wants us to do more than we've already done in terms of reforming the School of the Americas. We've done very much already, including appointing a board of outside visitors and in many of the other courses there have been other suggestions about what we might do that will help gain our supporters the ability to continue to support us.
MARGARET WARNER: Congressman before we go, your prediction I assume you've been looking at the Conference Committee too.
REP. JOE MOAKLEY: Well, the Secretary is right. They've done a great job in lobbying this. It is an uphill fight. It was an uphill fight when they took it on in the House. It's still an uphill fight. I've contacted members of the Conference Committee, and it is a tough fight but I just hope that the people make themselves aware of what has transpired, what is going on now and I hope they vote to support the House's position.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Well, thank you Congressman and Secretary Caldera.
REP. JOE MOAKLEY: Thank you, Margaret.
MARGARET WARNER: Thanks for being with us.