Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

Close the SOA?

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Oct 11, 2005

The Catholic Left's annual protest against the School of the Americas has taken on a quasi-liturgical formality, with amply-photographed pilgrimages of students and clergy assembled outside Fort Benning featured in nearly every Catholic school alumni magazine. The reason the closure is imperative, activists say, is that the SOA provides a school for torture and political subversion. Even allowing for partisan exaggeration, my hunch was there had to be some basis in fact for the complaints; after all, the rebaptism of the SOA with the curiously Soviet-sounding name of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation suggests we're not meant to know -- or ask -- what really goes on inside. Yet the Close the SOA crowd are extraordinarily reticent about providing hard evidence, or even soft evidence, regarding the atrocities plotted or abetted behind the barbed wire. If the SOA/WHISC is an Abu Ghraib finishing school, why not show us the jpegs?

Recently it was announced that Madison Bishop Robert Morlino has been named to the WHISC board of visitors, and Bill Cork has some timely remarks ad rem:

The current school's Board of Visitors includes political and religious advisors, including a priest who was a missionary in Central America in the 70s and 80s. This board helps to ensure that the school doesn't lose sight of its mission to inculcate respect for democracy and human rights. I would have thought the critics would applaud this, but they don't. Each year the school has an open house, but the critics prefer to get themselves arrested by making a scene on the outside of the base instead of coming in peacefully and engaging in dialogue during the open house. The critics attack a 25 year old history instead of getting to know the current faculty and students and sitting in on lectures and lessons (as the school invites them to throughout the year). The critics don't want facts to get in the way of their crusade).

So here's the rub. If the SOA were what its opponents say it is, even anti-Communist conservative Catholics, in the main, would agree it should be purged or shut down. But is it? Asked what really goes on in an abortion clinic, pro-lifers have a super-abundance of data, almost all provided by abortionists themselves. Asked what really goes on in SOA, its opponents talk about the death squads of Duarte's El Salvador: a grim history, true, but dating from the 1980s. More telling, the SOA survived all through the Clinton era, when the Left had excellent access to Washington policy makers. More telling still, it's hard to find at present any serious drive to enlist U.S. senators in the cause. Were there smoking guns to display, could it really be the case that no Democrat would take the opportunity to embarrass the current administration?

You have to wonder whether, at bottom, the annual SOA rally is meant to compensate for the bad conscience progressive Catholics have about their complete inability to face up to abortion. Their own rhetoric of concern for the defenseless points them inescapably toward the radical pro-life camp, and they can't help but feel a twinge of guilt in their helping -- if only by silence -- the abortionist cause. Nor can they be unaware of the paradox that the wealthiest and glitziest elements of U.S. society are overwhelmingly pro-abortion: there are no celebrity gallery openings or opera benefits or Broadway galas organized to support Operation Rescue.

Hence the crusade to close the SOA might seem to promise progressives the moral ascendancy -- Gott mit uns! -- of the 1960s Civil Rights movement. The taunting directed at the bored Fort Benning sentries by the protesters has all the old revolutionary timbre. The question is: do they believe it themselves?

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