November 2000

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Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.

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US Military Training: Exporting Democracy?

Frida Berrigan is a Research Associate with the Arms Trade Resource Center the World Policy Institute.This article is drawn from a World Policy Institute Issue Brief, Beyond the SOA, available at <>

Congress voted this spring to change the name of the School of the Americas to the United States Defense Institute for Hemispheric Security Cooperation, or USDIHSC. The SOA, based in Fort Benning, GA, has been the target of a 10-year campaign against training of Latin American soldiers in combat, counter-insurgency, and counter-narcotics. More than 10,000 gathered at the gates of the School last year to commemorate the assassinations by Salvadoran SOA graduates of six Jesuit priests, their co-worker, and her daughter. Perhaps the authors of the legislation thought that if the name of the School no longer fit on a banner or in the rhythm of a chant, all those protestors wouldn't show up this year.

  SOA Watch graphic
Graphic design for SOA Watch by Anna White
Close the School of the Americas, 11/17-19, Fort Benning GA; honor the memory of those who have died at the hands of SOA graduates; vigil at the gate 11/18, 11 am-5 pm; vigil & nonviolent civil disobedience 11/19, 9 am-5 pm; all planning CD should attend a logistics & orientation session (several are scheduled); all events ASL interpreted; contact SOA Watch, POB 4566, Washington DC 20017; 202/234-3440;
The change has been labeled "New Name, Same Shame" by the School of the Americas Watch and heralded as substantial victory and acknowledgement of the power of the movement to close the School. The strength and longevity of the movement rests in large part on its continuing ability to make the connections "Beyond the SOA," arguing for a reevaluation of the US military's role in training thugs and murderers from around the world. President Clinton extols US training of foreign militaries as "exporting democracy" and the Pentagon asserts that the "new, improved" training programs of the post-Cold War era are geared towards promoting peacekeeping, efficient management of military resources, and respect for human rights. I offer these snapshots which tell a different story.

Snapshot One:

The day before Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in 1998, while President Clinton was trying to convince Islamabad that an atomic test would bring worldwide isolation, 200 Pakistani special operations forces were literally shoulder to shoulder with 60 American soldiers in exercise Inspired Venture, where they were practicing small unit exercises and scuba attacks on mock targets.

Snapshot Two:

"US Steps Up Military Links With Sri Lanka" was the headline of an article in The Sunday Times, a Sri Lankan newspaper, on January 30, 1999. The Sri Lankan government, known for its brutality and repression, has been at war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) since 1983. The article, which goes on to describe the joint military operations, is checkerboarded with blank spaces stamped "CENSORED." Lt. Col. Frank Rindone, Defense Attaché at the US Embassy in Colombo, is quoted as saying military training with Sri Lanka is "founded on our shared interests in democracy, peace keeping, human rights and regional stability."

Snapshot Three:

Admiral Denis Blair, Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific, was ordered to bring a message to Indonesian General Wiranto, in the midst of the violence following the UN-sponsored referendum for East Timorese independence, expressing US dissatisfaction with Indonesia's handling of the crisis and calling on Wiranto to shut down the militias. Not only did Blair not deliver the message, he went so far as to tell Wiranto that he looked forward to the time when the army could "resume its proper role as a leader in the region" and offered new riot control and military training.

Beyond SOA: Making the Connections

These are not isolated incidents. The scope of US military training programs is extensive--as many as 100,000 foreign police and soldiers receive training from the US government each year. There are more than 150 military institutions in the United States that train foreign officers. In addition, US military officers lead countless training programs in other countries--training Turkish commandos in mountain operations and Kenyan paratroopers in infiltration techniques. The Philippines, Thailand, Jordan, and Mexico are leading recipients of military training. Six of the seven countries with troops involved in the Congolese war have been recipients of US military training. And in Sub-Saharan Africa, US troops trained with the militaries of 22 countries between 1996 and 1998. Seventeen of those countries are under US-imposed sanctions because of coups, human rights violations, political unrest, or failure to repay US loans.

The three main forms of military training are the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, Expanded IMET (E-IMET), and the Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) program. Additionally, a growing number of foreign military personnel are being trained as part of the Pentagon's counter-narcotics program, through the Section 1004 provision of the Defense Authorization Act.

IMET funds training for foreign military personnel, as well as a limited number of civilians, in a wide range of topics, from counter-intelligence to helicopter repair to the administration of military justice. IMET is funded through the foreign appropriations process, and is overseen by the State Department, but it is implemented by the Defense Department. In 1999, Congress allocated $50 million to train 8000 students from 124 countries. A similar amount is budgeted for Fiscal Year 2000.

The E-IMET program was created in 1991 in response to criticism that IMET was teaching only lethal skills. E-IMET imparts non-combat skills like defense management, civil-military relations, law enforcement cooperation, and military justice. E-IMET is open to controversial countries like Guatemala and Indonesia which at times have been ineligible for military-to-military training. E-IMET accounts for about 30% of IMET funding, or $15 million in 1999.

The House and Senate foreign operations sub-committees oversee IMET and E-IMET and are able to place restrictions on those programs prohibiting countries that abuse human rights from receiving training. Other programs, like JCET and the use of Section 1004 to finance training of military counter-narcotics units, have been used to circumvent Congressional oversight and create a new loophole for providing US training to military forces with records of human rights violations.

The Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) has received the most criticism in recent years. Under this program, regional military commanders and US ambassadors are able to send small teams of Special Operations Forces to work with or train foreign militaries without Congressional or Administration approval. In 1999, with a budget of roughly $15 million, US Special Forces performed 124 JCET exercises with 17,000 foreign troops. This is just an estimate, however, as a June 1999 Government Accounting Office (GAO) report concluded that it "was not able to determine how many JCETs occurred."

Section 1004 funded training is equally hard to track and control. It was added to the Defense Department's budget authorization in 1991 and allows the Pentagon to fund training and the transfer of non-lethal military equipment to foreign militaries and police. As long as the aid and training are part of counter-narcotics efforts, the Pentagon has complete discretion in who and what it funds. In some countries, Section 1004 money now dwarfs that of other US military training programs. Mexico, for example, receives ten times more out of Section 1004 money than from the more restrictive IMET funds.

The fact that the SOA had to change its name should be seen as a considerable victory but the movement should not be satisfied by closing the SOA alone. As Adam Isacson, analyst with Center for International Policy, has said, curbing US training of foreign militaries is like "trying to squeeze a balloon, it always pops up somewhere else." Thus a concerted effort to make the connections between the SOA and less visible forms of military training becomes increasingly important.

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