Army's School of the Americas

* Colman McCarthy's attack against the U.S. Army School of the Americas (Column Left, May 3) is so one-sided it cannot be justified. McCarthy presumes that, because a handful of SOA's 58,000 graduates are accused of ignoring civil rights, SOA and its thousands of outstanding graduates deserve condemnation.

His attack ignores basic facts about Latin America and the Caribbean. The military forces in most of those countries have had--and undoubtedly will continue to have--an influential role in the stability of emerging democratic governments. In 1946, 13 of those countries were dictatorships. Now only two are not democracies: Cuba and Haiti (neither has sent students to SOA since the early 1960s). President Kennedy's reorganization of SOA under the Alliance for Progress helped make this possible.

Nowhere does McCarthy mention the positive role so many SOA graduates have played in this transition to democracy. Nor does he mention that every SOA attendee today is selected at the specific request of a democratically elected Latin America government. Consistent with SOA's basic ethic, militaries in Guatemala, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and Paraguay, instead of assuming power, recently supported democratic civilian leadership in times of crisis.

Only by focusing on less than half a percent of SOA graduates can McCarthy ignore the overwhelming number of outstanding SOA graduates. And, even as to this one-half percent, he fails to factually link SOA or its curriculum to what he must admit are aberrational acts. As he can confirm by visiting the school, to imply that SOA, with 268 U.S. instructors, including U.S. Army, Air Force and Marines, teaches or encourages non-democratic values is unconscionable.

McCarthy fails to mention the countless SOA graduates who have been instrumental in bringing to justice fellow countrymen who failed to respect human rights and democratic values. Nor does he note SOA's integration of democratic values and respect for human rights in all its courses, unique among military schools.

The School of the Americas deserves recognition and support as an invaluable contributor to human rights and democracy in this hemisphere. I am confident McCarthy will confirm this if and when he visits the school, reviews its curriculum, or speaks with its instructors and students.


Undersecretary of the Army


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