> Father Roy Bourgeois
My name is Roy Bourgeois, and I’m a Maryknoll priest and the founder of School of the Americas Watch.
A lot of information about what happened at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib and other places makes it clear that these are not isolated incidents. What our experience with School of the Americas teaches us is that this is not an aberration of U.S. foreign policy, it’s actually a clear illustration of U.S. foreign policy.
At School of the Americas Watch, we hold peaceful demonstrations to protest these policies, specifically calling for the closure of the military institution that trains in torture. Our peaceful demonstrations are now being monitored by the FBI under the guise of counter terrorism. I have come to the Human Rights Committee meeting in hopes of bringing international pressure to stop this spying without cause on Americans peacefully protesting the policies of our government.
I was born in Louisiana and served as a Naval Officer for four years before entering the seminary. In 1972 I was ordained a Catholic priest and went on to work with the poor of Bolivia for five years before being arrested and forced to leave the country, then under the repressive rule of dictator and School of the Americas graduate General Hugo Banzer.
In 1980 I became involved in issues surrounding our government’s policy in El Salvador after four U.S. churchwomen — two of them friends of mine — were raped and killed by Salvadoran soldiers.
In 1990, about a dozen of us gathered at the gates of Fort Benning, home of the School of the Americas, to vigil in remembrance of those killed by graduates of the institution and to call for its closure. For over 15 years, we have come to this place in nonviolence and in peace, and in bigger and bigger numbers each year, to challenge the violence of this institution.
When the Pentagon finally admitted in 1996 that the School of the Americas had used manuals for at least 10 years that advocated torture – confirming what human rights advocates and torture survivors had claimed for years – Army officials immediately treated it as an image problem, not a criminal problem.
We must be vigilant in speaking out against this kind of abuse of power and in standing up against civil and human rights violations throughout the world.
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