The following message from Kathy Kelly is posted here, with permission.
December 3, 2003
US Senate Committee on Armed Services
In a recent article, "Hogtied and Abused at Fort Benning," I described how US Military Police treated me following an arrest for peacefully entering the Fort Benning military base. I was part of a nonviolent protest, held annually for the past 13 years, calling for an end to Fort Benning's training of Latin American soldiers at an institution called WHISC (Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation ).* The article, posted on the School of the Americas website (www.soaw.org) and on our website (www.vitw.org), tells about how US Military Police responded when I quietly refused to continue cooperating with an extremely aggressive search procedure. I was pushed to the floor, hogtied, kneed while begging for relief because I couldn't breathe, hauled while still hogtied to the next "stations," and threatened with pepper spray if I didn't cooperate when they uncuffed me for fingerprinting.
Public Relations spokespeople for the WHISC claim that the school has been reformed and now teaches Latin American soldiers the same standards of respect for human rights and civil law practiced by the US military. How can they possibly teach respect for human rights or set a good example for Latin American soldiers when, for purposes of initmidation, they themselves respond to nonviolent protest with physical abuse. If this is what US Army MPs will do, with witnesses present, to someone connected to a large body of supporters, what would they do in secret to voiceless and unknown victims?
Christian Peacemaker Team members in Iraq recently recorded testimony of a teenager in Baghdad who experienced much worse punishment than what I've described:
"At 2:30am, US troops came to our house, and ordered our entire family outside. They ransacked the house searching for something, but they didn't tell us what they wanted. They broke the locks to our cabinet [a large storage chest and display case along one wall of the front room] and threw the contents onto the floor, even though our father gave them the cabinet key so they wouldn't have to do this. They took our money and a gold wedding necklace belonging to my mother. My father, cousin, older brother, and I were tied and taken away. We were not told why we were being taken.
"We were taken to the soldiers' military base at a palace within this district and kept in a small dark room. We were tied at our wrists with plastic ties behind our backs the entire night. In the morning, we were put out into the sunlight, as a type of punishment. The soldiers were verbally abusive towards us. We asked for shade, but the soldiers refused. We were squatting in the sun all day. [Temperatures at the time were 110-120F]. When I was taken, I was only wearing my underwear because I was sleeping. I was embarrassed. These were my only clothes during the time I was in custody.
"The first day, our hands were still tied behind our back with the plastic ties. Because of this, we were unable to drink any water. We explained this to the soldiers, and they refused to re-tie us so we could drink. We asked if just one of us could be re-tied with his hands in front of him so that he could help the rest of us to drink. The soldiers refused. The soldiers re-tied us with the plastic ties in front of us on the next day."
"The water they gave us for drinking was also kept out in the sun with us. This way it was too hot to drink. Another day I asked a soldier for water, because I hadn't had anything to drink for the entire day in the sun. He beat me on my back and chest, while another soldier kicked me in the back. Both were verbally abusive towards me during the beating."
(recorded by CPT members Le Anne Clausen and David Milne, www.cpt.org)
Please also visit www.commondreams.org and read an account by Rev. John Dear, SJ, of US military harrassment outside his home in northeastern New Mexico. 75 soldiers from a nearby National Guard base assembled in front of his home shouting and screaming war slogans and chanting "Swing your guns from left to right, we can kill those guys all night." For reports about abusive treatment of FTAA protesters in Miami, FL, please visit www.democracynow.org
Now, as numerous reports are circulating about abuses of police power, the unnecessary brutality toward nonviolent protesters, and training that de-humanizes members of the US military and local law enforcement agencies, we urge you to contact your local media and elected representatives to request investigations.
Letters seeking an investigation of the tactics used by US Military Police at Fort Benning can be directed to the US Senate Committee on Armed Services. Write to the Chair of the Committee, Senator John Warner of Virginia, and the ranking democrat on the committee, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan at:
228 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
We're very grateful for the numerous letters of concern which flowed in during the past week. Many people asked what we can do. Let's act, in concert, to raise our concerns on behalf of those who are voiceless and most vulnerable to violent intimidation.
Voices in the Wilderness-- Chicago
* The WHISC, formerly called the School of the Americas, is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers. Graduates have consistently used their skills to wage war against their own people. Over its 56 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, "disappeared," massacred, and forced to seek political asylum by graduates of the SOA