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Commentary :: Human Rights
BTL:Pentagon's Legacy of Training Latin American Soldiers in...
22 May 2004
Modified: 07:03:42 AM
...Torture Techniques Haunts Probe Into Iraqi Prisoner Abuse Scandal ~ Interview with Eric LeCompte, organizing coordinator, School of the Americas Watch, conducted by Between the Lines' Scott Harris
Pentagon's Legacy of Training Latin American Soldiers in Torture Techniques Haunts Probe Into Iraqi Prisoner Abuse Scandal

Interview with Eric LeCompte, organizing coordinator, School of the Americas Watch, conducted by Scott Harris

While Congress viewed thousands of photographs of U.S. military personnel abusing and sexually humiliating Iraqi detainees in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, the nation was horrified by the video taped beheading of American businessman Nicholas Berg. Confirming the fears of violent repercussions resulting from the torture allegations in Iraq and beyond, the masked insurgents in the video tape stated they had executed Berg in retaliation for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. Thus far, the Pentagon has filed criminal charges against seven U.S. soldiers for their alleged mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners. Public court martials were convened in Iraq on May 19.

Although Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld denied in public testimony before Congress that the Pentagon had authorized the abusive interrogation techniques employed at Abu Ghraib prison, a recent article by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker magazine claims that Secretary Rumsfeld had authorized a secret operation that "encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq."

While the White House and Pentagon maintain that the abuse of prisoners in Iraq is an aberration, the history of the U.S. Army's training School for Latin American soldiers tells a different story. The School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga., now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, has for over a decade trained thousands of soldiers and officers from nations across Latin America in torture techniques and psychological warfare. Between the Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Eric LeCompte, organizing coordinator with the group School of the Americas Watch, who looks into the connections between the alleged abuse of Iraqi detainees in U.S. custody and the Pentagon training of Latin American soldiers who have been complicit in widespread human rights abuses and atrocities.

Call School of the Americas Watch (202) 234-3440 or visit their website at

Related links:

"US forces were taught torture techniques," by Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian U.K, May 14, 2004

"Army training memo reveals neglect for human-rights law," by Paul Sperry,, May 12, 2004

"Chain Of Command: How the Defense Dept. Mishandled The Abu Ghraib Disaster," by Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker, May 17, 2004

LISTEN to this week's half-hour program of Between The Lines by clicking on one of the links below:
"Between The Lines" is a half-hour syndicated radio news magazine that each week features a summary of under-reported news stories and interviews with activists and journalists who offer progressive perspectives on international, national and regional political, economic and social issues. Because "Between The Lines" is independent of all publications, media networks or political parties, we are able to bring a diversity of voices to the airwaves generally ignored or marginalized by the major media. For more information on this week's topics and to check out our text archive listing topics and guests presented in previous programs visit: httC://
"Between the Lines," WPKN 89.5 FM's weekly radio news magazine can be heard Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. ET; Wednesdays at 8 a.m. ET and Saturdays at 2 p.m. ET (Wednesday's show airs at 7:30 a.m. ET during fundraising months of April and October).
For an email subscription of "Between The Lines Weekly Summary" which features a RealAudio link to the week's program for Between The Lines, send an email to btlsummary-subscribe (at)
For an email subscription of "Between The Lines Q&A" which features a RealAudio link and weekly transcript to one of the interviews featured on Between The Lines, send an email to btlqa-subscribe (at)
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