America’s ‘Wretched Record’ of Military Proxies

Training at the School of the Americas
Training at the School of the Americas

In a discussion at The New York Times, Kate Doyle, a senior analyst of U.S. policy in Latin America at the National Security Archive, delivers a strong critique of one of America’s greatest pastimes: arming and training foreign militias, often to bolster brutal authoritarian governments.

Her particular focus is Latin America. It is worth quoting at length:

During the cold war, the United States poured millions of dollars into arming and training militaries in Central America to serve U.S. strategic goals – in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua before the 1979 Sandinista revolution. Washington wanted to stop what it perceived to be the threat of communist domination in its own “backyard.” As a result, the United States supported the armed forces of brutal authoritarian governments that shared the same vehement anti-communist ideology.

But the policy ignored the regimes’ complicity in murdering tens of thousands of their own citizens.The most infamous among the training centers was the School of the Americas (created in Panama and moved in 1984 to Fort Benning, Ga.), which graduated hundreds of officers who went on to become documented human rights abusers. But visiting officers attended dozens of other institutions as well, including the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, N.C., and the intelligence school at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

The courses they took were not directed toward protecting national borders but crushing an “internal enemy” that sought to compel political and economic change through armed revolution.

The concept of “internal enemy,” as defined in U.S. doctrine and training manuals from the era, included civilian political opponents as well as armed guerrilla forces. Politicians, indigenous farmers, labor leaders, lawyers, students and human rights activists were considered equally legitimate targets by U.S. military allies. The death tolls were staggering. In El Salvador, the army killed an estimated 75,000 unarmed civilians during its 12-year civil war. Guatemala’s security forces were responsible for 93 percent of more than 200,000 civilians murdered between 1960 and 1996, according to a United Nations truth commission.

Instead of helping secure just democratic institutions, U.S. aid left countries with a legacy of repression and violence that the region still struggles to overcome today.

So much for exporting democracy.

Washington has had a voracious appetite for fueling proxy wars and aiding state militias all over the world. Sadly, the region in which these policies have cropped up most often, Latin America, is also one in which the history has been virtually erased from Americans’ minds.

Also largely unknown to the public, is that these policies are continuing to a lesser extent today in virtually all the same countries. Most notably is Honduras, where the drug war is used to justify deploying commando-style DEA warriors and training “death squads” that are abusing the citizenry.

See some recent coverage of US support for death squads in Honduras here, here, and here.

23 thoughts on “America’s ‘Wretched Record’ of Military Proxies”

  1. Fear of communism, or the domino effect, was just a cover for traditional imperialism, as evidenced, for example, by US policies remaining exactly the same after the fall of the soviet union, and the US claiming that "our problems could not have been laid at the Kremlin's doorstep" when they needed a new cover for their imperialism, namely the 1980s wars on terror and drugs.

    1. Pash my friend, I´m afraid that US policies have gotten terribly worse since the fall of the Soviet Union, indeed we´ve adapted the very worse of our ex-enemy´s tactics which we loved to publically condemn. We´ve adapted the policies of the Devil.

  2. Its been the USA only alternative to prove to the world that USA is about a falsified democracy, creating proxy wars, orchestrating and planing wars in old and present time. The question is.., is anyone would put stop to it by prosecuting those who starts wars, funding terrorism for their illegitimate and illegal acts as in Syria.., willing to prosecute Henry Kissinger or Bill Clinton, George w. Bush and those who still act and support terrorism.., if that is going to happen then they have to close the democratic part so as the Republican Party which non of them is by the people nor working for the people..,

  3. I understand Malaysia found George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, William Haynes, Jay Bybee, and John Yoo, and also Tony Blair guilty of war crimes for plotting and carrying out an aggressive war against Iraq. Anybody ready to capture these war criminals and bring them to Justice?

  4. More of the same…..

    Export democracy..?? But of course!! The rub is our corrupt amoral democracy………

    William S Lind:

    ” All this election stuff is just kabuki for the rubes in fly over land. There is one party and it’s the establishment party. [It] Doesn’t matter which party wins the election. What you’re going to get is more of the same because they’re both part of the same crew. Because if you are a member of the establishment and you propose anything more than five degrees rudder change from current policy, you instantly cease to be a member of the establishment.

    Regardless of who’s in, regardless of what power, what party, all the rest of it. You are going to get more of the same because thats all the establishment is capable of doing. They insulate themselves from, reality by making sure that no one is ever heard who has a contrary opinion”

    All this hardball policy has been, in the past, kept hush hush, but with the net and wiki… it’s more out and in our faces.

    When the Bush crew signed onto the Third Reich Playbook to get Iraq’s oil, Afghan/Pak pipeline right of ways and Israeli’s clean break, things here in America headed South here too, especially in the area of brutal repression and extrajudicial approaches……. murder, torture and much of what we have been sending sent South since President Monroe, and most likely before.

    Go to youtube and type in cop tasers child. or TSA buys billions of bullets……..

  5. I'am not convinced that it still goes on at a lesser scale today . I believe we are still intervining still today . and almost exclusively on the wrong side of peace and justice too .

  6. TThey can't stop cause Jesus was more of a socialist than a capitalist…so as it was 2000 years ago they are still persecuting his socialist message….think about it….just as Herod pretended to the three kings he.wanted to meet Jesus to make him King but as we know he had other motives…so was back then it is now….They are still the enemies of Jesus masquerading as doing his work

  7. I'am not convinced that it still goes on at a lesser scale today . I believe we are still intervining still today . and almost exclusively on the wrong side of peace and justice too .

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