Since 1990, a crowd has gathered every year in mid-November to protest against the activities of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly called the School of the Americas) and demand its closure.
Protests that Target Public Opinion
At first glance, this might appear a simple protest of minor importance. However, a careful examination of reports and thousands of pictures of these demonstrations provide elements to draw up a profile of their participants, understand their techniques and discern their ideology.1
With their unkempt appearance and bizarre dress, many participants engage in street theatre and childish outbursts of singing and chanting, reminiscent of the hippie gatherings of the sixties.
Their tactics vary. Sometimes, a sweet smile and cries for “peace” between puppet shows and rock concerts mask the violence of their language and action. At other times, a call to violence appears without disguise.
Indeed, every year the protest follows the same script. Amid a Woodstock-like atmosphere, fiery speeches and protest training workshops call for “direct action” and protesters defy authority by engaging in sit-ins, trespassing on Army property and other protests. To shock public opinion and draw sympathy, elderly Catholic nuns deliberately break the law by invading Army property, thus forcing the authorities to arrest and jail them. Suddenly, a simple protest becomes a huge media event where the military is unjustly portrayed as the cruel persecutor of poor and harmless aged nuns.
One story in The New York Times reported that Sister Dorothy Marie Hennessey (88) and Sister Gwen L. Hennessey(68) were sentenced to six months each in a federal prison for trespassing. When federal Magistrate G. Mallon Faircloth offered the elderly Sister Dorothy Marie six months’ house arrest in her convent instead of a prison term, she refused: “‘I’m not an invalid,’ she said. ‘I’d like to have the same sentence as the rest.’”2Another article published by the Florida Catholic, reported on the 2006 “show” where Humility of Mary Sister Sheila Salmon (71) left federal prison after a 100-day stay for the crime of criminal trespassing at Fort Benning.3
Leftists, Homosexuals and Dissident Catholics
This is more than a protest; it is a gathering of the religious and cultural left who come to attack more than just the former School of the Americas.
Dissident Catholics, especially elderly priests and nuns, students and teachers of Catholic (mostly Jesuit) universities are the most impassioned demonstrators.4As a rule, it is difficult to identify religious since they dress like other demonstrators. However, some clerics wear collars or habits to lend prestige to the event.
In 2002, a white-bearded man masqueraded as a traditional nun. The pro-homosexual group he represented, “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,” blasphemously satirizes Our Lord’s words to the adulterous woman, changing them from: “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11) to “Go and sin some more.”5
Another pro-homosexual organization, SoulForce, found common ground with the event’s participants. On its web site, it reports: “We were there to protest the ‘School of the Americas’… lesbians, gay, bisexual, and transgender activists marched alongside students, retirees, government officials, nuns, priests, and even a Catholic bishop…”6 Another prominent leftist Catholic, Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois, leads the event. In 1990, he founded SOA Watch to shut down the School of the Americas.
Antipathy for Military Life
However, their goal is much more radical. They oppose the role of the military in general.
Their vision of peace has nothing to do with its true Catholic meaning. In their skewed outlook, the military is a symbol of oppression that must be eliminated, forcing all States to renounce the use of force to secure their rights and maintain order.
This pacifist mentality harbors a profound dislike for the discipline, order, hierarchy, sense of duty and other values that are part and parcel of military life.
Dissident Catholics Do Not Represent Us
It is inexplicable that, in the name of religion, so many Catholics unite with socialist and homosexual groups to oppose the Armed Forces, an institution called to safeguard order and peace.
Their errors stem from the tenets of “liberation theology,” a Marxist interpretation of religion. This “theology” originated in Latin America in the late seventies and was condemned by the Church on August 6, 1984, in the Instruction on Certain Aspects of the “Theology of Liberation,” signed by the then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.7
This Vatican document shows that Marxism is an ideology based on a global vision of man and the universe. Thus, one cannot adopt part of its system without accepting its fundamental principles: atheism, materialism and class struggle.8 By accepting these principles, one falls into complete a-morality and the ends justify the means. This system adopts a social model of conflict, where the military is labeled as an instrument of oppression rather than a maintainer of order.
The Vatican document demonstrates how this false religious conception is incompatible with Catholic doctrine. For this strange religion, political struggle becomes the true “Eucharistic celebration.”9
Inconsistent Pacifist Protesters
That is why, historically, pacifist movements have never protested against the violence perpetrated by communist or leftist regimes. Throughout the decades, they have turned a blind eye to Marxist crimes in Latin America and indiscriminately have seen all military attempts to establish order as oppressive.
If today’s pacifist protesters were consistent, they would protest against the bloody crimes of Latin America’s last vintage dictator, Fidel Castro, who spread his shameful Communist revolution not only throughout South America, but also Africa. They would take off the silhouettes of Che Guevara from their t-shirts, because his cruel killings are a matter of public record.
If they were consistent, SOA Watch would not open a branch office in Venezuela, while that country slides toward a dictatorship of Fidel Castro’s disciple, Col. Hugo Chavez.10 If they were consistent, they would not show support for Colombia’sFARC guerillas who for decades have hamstrung that nation with their bloodlust and cruelty. These guerrillas kidnap innocent civilians and hold them for ransom. They have also forced children to fight as guerrillas. Yet a report by SOA Watch not only refuses to criticize these blatant human rights violations but accuses the Colombian State of being terrorist!11
If they were consistent, they would not have invited leading pacifist Medea Benjamin, founder of GlobalExchange and CodePink, “a long time supporter of the SOA Watch movement,” to speak at their 2006 protest.12 Ms. Benjamin recently returned to the Cuban prison-island with a pacifist delegation, to protest against the American prison at Guantanamo. However, she refused to contact the Damas de Blanco – Ladies in White – spouses and relatives of Cuban political prisoners. She merely stated: “We are not here to look at the problems inside Cuba but to protest the abuses being committed at Guantanamo, though we defend respect for human rights throughout the world.”13
The Military Guarantee: True Peace
If today’s pacifist protesters were consistent, they would justly condemn all abuses – on any side. However, they would also applaud the efforts of those who honorably fight against the Marxist Latin American revolutionaries, who have wrought so much misery. They would not malign those heroic soldiers who risk their lives to save their countries from the Marxist threat.
True peace is not simply the absence of war but, according to the traditional definition of Saint Augustine, it is the tranquility that results from good order in society. The existence of true order is a necessary condition for true peace.
As Saint Augustine explains, the goal of war, and therefore of military life, is not to wage war for the sake of war, but to obtain through war the restoration of peace.
We Are Proud of Our Troops
In contrast with hippie and revolutionary protesters, there are patriotic Americans who are counter-demonstrating to show their support for the officers and soldiers who volunteered to live a life of order, discipline and duty, and who heroically place their lives at risk in order to maintain peace.
The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) joins all those patriotic Americans who support our troops. We admire “our boys” whose sense of honor, discipline and duty is so well represented by our military and has so endeared them to our citizens. We resist those who would vilify, not just the soldiers, but the military in general in the name of an outdated and iniquitous political ideology.
As Americans, we are justly proud of these young troops who symbolize the best America has to offer. While we censure any abuses, we are proud of those who helped others fight against the enemies of Western Christian civilization.
May God protect them in their daily battles around the world as they defend us and our nation.
- A collection of photos on demonstrations ofA collection of photos on demonstrations of
SOA Watch at Fort Benning
(1,454 photos) can be seen at:
=24. Then, the collections by photographer Linda Panetta,
connected with SOA Watch:
Others can be seen at:
The sites of women religious orders and the Catholic universities
we refer to are too numerous to fit into a footnote.
Among the news reports, see:
The most important material is
on the site of SOA Watch itself: http://www.soaw.org.
- Laurie Goodstein, “Sibling Nuns Will Go to Prison for Protesting at U.S. Military School,” The New York Times, 06/24/01.
- Judith Ward Gross, “School of the Americas Protest:
Nun who trespassed released from prison,” Florida Catholic, 08/03/07.
- Here the list of women religious congregations or
- Cf. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations
- Ibid., no.VII – Marxist Analysis.
- We read in the Vatican document:
“IX. THE THEOLOGICAL APPLICATION OF THIS CORE
The positions here in question are often brought out
explicitly in certain of the writings of ‘theologians of liberation.’ … In addition,
they are presupposed in certain liturgical
practices, as for example a ‘Eucharist’ transformed into a
celebration of the people in struggle, even though the
persons who participate in these practices may not be
fully conscious of it.”(Ibid., no. IX). Fr. Bourgeois is a
member of the Maryknoll Congregation. That Congregation’s
publishing house, Orbis Books, carries books on Liberation Theology.
- Cf. http://:www.soawne.org/+linda+panetta+colombia&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=&gl=us&client=firefox-a;
- Cf. http://www.soaw.org/newswire_detail.php?id=1010.
- Cf. http://www.cubaencuentro.com/es/encuentro-
On the horrors of Castro’s prisons, see: Armando
Valladares, Against All Hope: A Memoir of Life in Castro’s
Gulag, (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2001).