Colombia Solidarity Campaign

- Fighting for Peace with Justice -


Review: Unmatched Power, Unmet Principles *, Amnesty International USA Print
Bulletin archive - Bulletin Issue9 - January?March 2003
Wednesday, 27 August 2008 01:11
According to this report by Amnesty International USA, the US trains more than 100,000 foreign police and soldiers from over 150 countries each year, but fails to provide sufficient oversight or emphasis on humanitarian law to prevent serious abuses of human rights

The report contains a detailed breakdown of current US military training programs, paying special attention to the notorious School of the Americas (now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation or WHINSEC), highlighting the role of 19 of its graduates in the 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador, as well as providing a list of other criminal alumni, including 123 Colombian army officers. The report also provides details of seven training manuals used by SOA during the 80s, which advocated the use or torture, summary execution, and kidnap. Finally, the report offers a series of recommendations that includes suspending the School of the Americas pending an independent enquiry into its activities.

The report’s weakness is that it does not question the assumption that violations perpetrated by recipients of US training can be attributed to a lack of proper oversight and vetting. At times, the reluctance to consider whether these violations are the intended result of US training reaches the level of farce. The report argues that phrases such as ‘politically neutralizing targets’ and ‘reduction or elimination of sources of support’ might be misinterpreted by foreign soldiers to mean assassinations, when in reality they merely refer to radio jamming!

Human rights violations by US-trained armies are entirely consistent with broad policy objectives and need to be seen as the systematic result of military aid. Far from simply increasing accountability, it is high time that the system of US military assistance is itself dismantled and that those who have been complicit with rights violations are indited as the war criminals they are.

Max Fuller

* the report can be viewed at



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