Sunday, August 02, 2009

Came at dawn to a warm misty place---the Keys, the SOA, Central America

So...when I was 19 I dropped out of college and moved to the lower Florida Keys, about an hour away from Key West. Previously, I had been going to a Quaker peace school in Indiana known as Earlham, a classical liberal arts program. While there I became involved in studying politics and current events. Interestingly enough, when WTO happened, I was in a radical political economy class there that was studying globalization, studying the IMF and the World Bank. We even had a guy who went out there from Indiana and came back with a nasty black eye. Even then, in the run up to WTO, I joked with a girl I knew from Eugene about the dreaded "Eugene Anarchists" coming up to Seattle to fuck shit up. My personal contribution to all of this was going down to the School of the Americas and protesting.

The SOA, for those who don't know, which has recently been renamed something that sounds better and whose acronym is WHINSEC, is an officer training school for folks from armies in Central and South America. Specifically, it trains right wing murderers on how to conduct counter-insurgency campaigns, which is a nice way of saying things like going into a village at night, killing a random person, and then nailing them to a post in the middle of the village to send a message.

A number of these officers have been implicated in war crimes and in atrocities of various kinds, but because of the largesse of the United States in offering its support to them and to the governments that they were part of they on the whole have not been brought to justice and likely will never be brought to justice, unless revolutions happen in these countries. And that's just what the School of the America's was set out to stop from happening.

In Central America in particular almost all the land in the various countries is owned by a tiny oligarchy who then employ peasant labor to farm it on behalf of U.S. companies, who then import the produce and sell it here. There's no effective democracy in many of them, and the landlords own the government, own the police, and own the military. So, sort of naturally, revolutionary movements sprung up in many of them attempting to overthrow these types of regime and put something in that was more democratic and had more of a socially just arrangement in it, particularly in land. The Sandinistas formed in Nicaragua, and after fighting a civil war actually won, and then were subjected to the wrath of the U.S. based Contras operating out of Honduras. They eventually forced the fall of the Sandinista government and the restoration of a somewhat modified business as usual state of affairs. In El Salvador the force was the FMLN, like the Sandinistas named after a famous revolutionary from earlier on in that country's history. The Sandinistas took their named from Sandino, while the FMLN, The The Farabundo Marti (movement) for National Liberation, took their name from, Farabundo Marti. Nationalization and redistribution were the common themes.

The FMLN was crushed even more severely than the Sandinistas, with atrocity topping atrocity, including the assassination of the Archbishop of El Salvador, Archbishop Romero, while he was saying mass in church and the rape of young nuns who were helping out in solidarity with the FMLN movement through liberation theology. Years later, I heard an account of some of what went on in El Salvador at an event that was a benefit for CISPES, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, which is still working for a democratic and just social state of being down there. At the event a person who was a doctor who went down there during the civil war spoke and related to us an incident where he met with one of the Contra leaders to try to reason with him. The officer chose to meet him in a room where one wall was filled with bullet holes and splashed with blood, and that had shards of glass bottles embedded in it. On the table in front of him, there while they talked, there was a large glass jar filled with alcohol that contained human ears. Which was what the U.S. was supporting, and what the School of the Americas taught people to do. Terror is an essential part of counter insurgency, where part of the point isn't just to kill people but to send a message to other people that this will happen to you if you continue to side with the rebels. Sometimes in El Salvador this took the form of the Contras finding a small village in an area where there was significant rebel support and graphically killing everyone in it, often raping women and even grandmothers before actually killing them and mutilating the bodies.

So that's what I protested. WTO happened the week after, I left for Florida and the Keys two weeks after that, and cheered on the secondary protests against the IMF, the World Bank, and the DNC and RNC while at home watching it all on C-SPAN.

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