Should the School of the Americas be shut down?

You're probably familiar with the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) by its old name, the School of the Americas (SOA).

Based at Fort Benning, Georgia, thousands of foreign troops have trained at SOA/WHINSEC on your tax dollars.

And while people like Wesley Clark vigorously defend the program as the best way to share America's martial "values," studies have shown SOA/WHINSEC graduates to be more prone to human rights violations than their fellows that didn't train in the program (PDF).

This week, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MASS) -- one of the House's true good guys -- is offering an amendment to the Foreign Operations Bill that will prohibit taxpayer funds from going to the SOA. Cindy Buhl, McGovern's Legislative Director, tells me that he tried to add a similar amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill but -- quelle surprise -- the Rules Committee didn't allow it to come up for debate.

Cutting funding for the SOA is a necessary baby step, and I support it, albeit with some hesitation. You can lend your support here.

The reason I'm a bit hesitant about just cutting the school's funding is that -- absent a more comprehensive effort to evaluate who we're teaching and what we're teaching them -- I fear that shutting down the SOA will have unintended consequences.

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