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letters to the editor - 12/30/01 - F6

January 02, 2002

Letters to the Editor 12/30 Part 2



A terrorist camp in our back yard



To the editor:

I am writing to alert readers of a terrorist training camp in our own back yard. The School of the Americas (recently renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, or WHISC), located at Fort Benning, Ga., has been training Latin American death squads for years.

The SOA, dubbed "School of Assassins," has trained nearly 60,000 Latin American soldiers in combat skills and psychological warfare. Manuel Noriega was trained there. In 1996, the Pentagon was forced to admit that the SOA used training manuals that advocate torture, false imprisonment, execution and blackmail.

Many of the graduates return home and use these skills to murder and massacre their own people. They especially target educators and religious and labor leaders.

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Whenever a major human rights report about Latin America is published, SOA graduates are among those cited for the most horrific abuses, including the El Mozote massacre of 900 civilians in El Salvador, the assassination of the six Jesuits and their co-workers, the low-intensity warfare campaigns against the civilian indigenous people in Guatemala and Chiapas, and recent massacres in Colombia.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon changed the school's name to WHISC in order to disassociate the SOA from its murderous past. However, it is still the same military training school, responsible for current atrocities throughout Latin America. Because graduates go on to do the U.S. government's bidding in Latin America, the Pentagon is mounting a large PR campaign to keep the SOA open. Because of the documentation of atrocities by Latin American human rights groups and grassroots pressure from U.S. activists, the Pentagon had to engage in this transparent name change maneuver.

A bi-partisan bill (HR 1810) was introduced to Congress in May, calling for the closure of the SOA and the creation of a congressional task force to investigate the connections between the U.S. military training at the SOA and human rights abuses in Latin America. I strongly encourage all who read this letter to contact their representatives to urge them to support HR 1810.

For more information about the SOA (including several of the Pentagon's training manuals) and the effort to close it, visit www.soaw.org or call 202-234-3440. For photos of various SOA Watch vigils and civil resistance actions visit www.soaw-ne.org. It's time that the people of the United States held George W. Bush to his word when he claims he intends to wipe terrorism from the face of the earth.

State-sanctioned terrorism is, after all, still terrorism.

Jennifer Rowe
Hagerstown




Redistricting plan needs some work



To the editor:

When Ms. LeBlanc told reporters that some would be disappointed with the Blue Ribbon redistricting Committee's recommendations, she was speaking in great understatement. My husband and I and many other Potomac Heights parents strongly disagree that this plan is best for all children. It will certainly not benefit my child or her new classmates if she is forced to attend Fountaindale next year.

In no way is this intended to offend Fountaindale Elementary or any student there. I would feel the same way no matter where she was sent because of the process used and its invalid rationale. I've heard many positive things from Fountaindale parents and from those who've visited the school.

I have no objection to my daughter being sent to a classroom with diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds. Indeed, Potomac Heights was a Title I School when my first daughter began there in 1987. It remains a school with a diverse population, so the argument that my child will be exposed to children who are different is in error.

I object to the process because the redistricting committee said its purpose was to ease overcrowding at Eastern and Williamsport elementary schools and Williamsport and North high schools. Then they proceeded to economically balance a few choice schools based on free and reduced meal (FARM) numbers.

Yes, the law allows for socioeconomic balancing, but Dr. Yale Stenzler, director of Maryland's Interagency Committee on Public School Construction, told the committee there was no requirement to redistrict based on economic status. This tells me it became a private issue for this committee. Why only certain schools?

Potomac Heights would increase its FARM numbers with no assurance of Title I services or staffing. Most county elementary schools would see no changes in their FARM numbers. It is interesting that four School Board members have children or grandchildren at Paramount or live in that district. If balanced FARM numbers are vital, then do it county-wide.

Removing my child from her community school and placing her in another to help their FARM numbers will not help other students be more successful. Shifting Eastern students to Potomac Heights to ease overcrowding may be legitimate because Potomac Heights nurtures education and development.

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