Schooling the Americas

18th December 2011

Central and South America are two of the main regions of the world in which guerrilla warfare and terrorism have played a major role.  According to the Global Terrorism Data Rivers (here), between 1970 and 2008 the country that suffered the most from terrorist attacks was Colombia.  Peru, El Salvador, Chile, Guatemala and Nicaragua also rank very highly.  A look at the graphs of attacks over time shows a distinct pattern.  First, Colombia:

Colombia terror over time
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Now Peru.

Peru terror over time
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El Salvador.

El Salvador terror over time
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Chile.

Chile terror over time
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Guatemala.

Guatemala terror over time
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And Nicaragua.

Nicaragua terror over time
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The pattern is that through the 1970s every single one of these countries had very little terrorism, but every country saw a massive upsurge in terrorist violence in the 1980s.  With the exception of Colombia, all of these countries became much more peaceful once the 80s were over.  Of course, terrorism statistics are a hotly-contested subject, and you will find numbers that vary considerably from those represented in these graphs.  Nonetheless we must ask: why is it that the Central and South American nations have suffered so much terrorism, and why so much during the 1980s? 

One answer to this question is that these countries are the part of the world where revolutionary philosophies such as Bolivarianism and other adaptations of Marxism-Leninism have taken hold, and been most successful.  To counter this, Western countries, especially the United States, have engaged in a near-continuous program of destabilisation, including coup d'etats and other forms of terrorism.  Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the threat of Marxist or Marxist-inspired revolts is seen to have diminished, and the focus has shifted to Islamism and the Middle East. 

A reasonable summary of this program is provided by the CNN Cold War series in an episode called 'Backyard'.

For a harder-hitting account of some of this history I recommend John Pilger's The War on Democracy.

One aspect of this destabilisation program momentarily touched upon in the CNN documentary, but studied closely in Pilger's film is the School of the Americas. It started life as the Latin American Training Center - US Ground Forces in 1946, immediately following the end of World War Two. It then became the US Army Caribbean Training Center in 1949, then the US Army School of the Americas in 1963.  Initially it was based in Fort Amador but was expanded and relocated to Fort Gulick, both in the Panama Canal Zone.  Following the signing of the Panama Canal Treaty it was moved to Fort Benning in Georgia. It has been renamed once again and given the Orwellian title of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation

Melia hotel
Former site of the School, now the Melia Hotel
School of the Americas
Present site of the School at Fort Benning

The School of the Americas has been criticised for being a production line of terrorists and dictators.  A review of their training manuals, available in the Training the Terror section of the document archive, shows that these were very much the intended results.  Perhaps the most explicit of these documents is the CIA's Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare, which is nothing short of a state-authored terrorism training manual.   In a section titled Selective Use of Violence for Propagandistic Effects it explicitly advocated political assassinations, saying:

It is possible to neutralize carefully selected and planned targets, such ascourt judges, mesta judges, police and State Security officials, CDS chiefs,etc. For psychological purposes it is necessary to gather together the population affected, so that they will be present, take part in the act, and formulate accusations against the oppressor.

The target or person should be chosen on the basis of:
* The spontaneous hostility that the majority of the population feels toward the target.
* Use rejection or potential hatred by the majority of the population affected toward the target, stirring up the population and making them see all the negative and hostile actions of the individual against the people.
* If the majority of the people give their support or backing to the target or subject, do not try to change these sentiments through provocation.
* Relative difficulty of controlling the person who will replace the target.
- CIA, Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare

It also advocated the provocation and creation of martyrs, describing how:

Specific tasks will be assigned to others, in order to create a "martyr" for the cause, taking the demonstrators to a confrontation with the authorities, in order to bring about uprisings or shootings, which will cause the death of one or more persons, who would become the martyrs, a situation that should be made use of immediately against the regime, in order to create greater conflicts.
- CIA, Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare

In short, both the public and the politicians were seen as expendable.  This is a key distinction to make, particularly in light of the fact that the US authorities were not the only providers of terrorism training literature.  The Mini-Manual of the Urban Guerrilla was written by Marxist revolutionary Carlos Marighella in 1969, though he made it clear that the public were not in any way a legitimate target for the Urban Guerrilla, i.e. the revolutionary terrorist.  He wrote:

The urban guerrilla, however, differs radically from the criminal. The criminal benefits personally from his actions, and attacks indiscriminately without distinguishing between the exploiters and the exploited, which is why there are so many ordinary people among his victims. The urban guerrilla follows a political goal, and only attacks the government, the big businesses and the foreign imperialists.
- Marighella, Mini-Manual of the Urban Guerrilla

Thus, whatever the provocation, instigation and violence of the local Marxists and other revolutionaries, they at least did not target the public.  For the CIA et al, the distinction was morally irrelevant. 

But, you might say, what is the present day importance of all this?  The school itself has been booted out of Panama, and the focus for systemic destabilisation has shifted away from Central and South America to the Middle East and Asia.  Well, for one thing the School still exists, though they now give their trainees a whole eight hours of training in Human Rights. The man responsible for the Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare document, Duane Clarridge, was interviewed by Pilger for his 2007 film, and Clarridge wasn't exactly remorseful when it came to the question of civilians being killed.

For another, many of the tens of thousands of trainees of the School are still roaming the planet, including being employed by Blackwater.  The focus may have shifted, but the same methods and in some cases the same people are still being employed.  I refer you back to US Army Field Manual 3-05.130 Unconventional Warfare, which outlines those groups that are used in proxy warfare operations:

Irregulars, or irregular forces, are individuals or groups of individuals who are not members of a regular armed force, police, or other internal security force. They are usually nonstate-sponsored and unconstrained by sovereign nation legalities and boundaries. These forces may include, but are not limited to, specific paramilitary forces, contractors, individuals, businesses, foreign political organizations, resistance or insurgent organizations, expatriates, transnational terrorism adversaries, disillusioned transnational terrorism members, black marketers, and other social or political undesirables.
- FM 3-05.130

Contractors being used as proxies is, of course, only a step from contractors being used as terrorists.  Given that this manual, published in 2008, lists contractors (mercenaries) next to terrorists as coming under the heading of 'irregular forces', that step does not require an olympic leap to traverse. 

The struggle to shut down the School goes on and unsurprisingly has met with hostility and repression from the US authorities.  As one RussiaToday reporter found out, the US government are not interested in closing down the School or taking any actions to remedy the brutality that has resulted from its use.  While reporting on a School of the Americas Watch rally outside the School, Kaelyn Forde was arrested by local police. 

RT exploited this story for all it was worth, including the following episode of CrossTalk, RT's discussion panel/debate show.

And Hillary Clinton wonders why the likes of RT are winning the propaganda war...