Herger responds to constituent’s plea

Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker

Photo By Tom Gascoyne

In November Chicoan Dorothy Parker was one of 37 people arrested on charges of trespassing on government property during a protest at the Ft. Benning military base in Columbus, Ga. The protest was directed at the infamous School of the Americas, long known as a training ground for some who went on to spread terror and death in Latin America dating back three decades.

On Jan. 30 Parker, 76, was sentenced to two months in a federal penitentiary after pleading not guilty in a federal court.

Back in December Parker sent a letter to Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, asking him to support legislation that would temporarily suspend operations at the school while a bipartisan congressional subcommittee reviewed the school’s records. The school is now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

“They changed their name sometime around 2001,” Parker said. “It was apparently a ploy because just before that, [congress] came within 22 votes of getting the school closed.”

On Jan 13, Herger got back to Parker and told her he appreciated her concern, but was convinced the school should continue to operate and “provide sound, doctrinal military training for the armed forces of Latin America and the Caribbean.”

He pointed out the school had changed its name and although it has recently been criticized “due mainly to the activities of some of its graduates,” it now screened prospective students for criminal records.

“While I am concerned about some of the activities of this institution and strongly support efforts to initiate greater accountability, I do not yet believe the School of the Americas should be closed.”

The school was established in Panama in 1946 and moved to Ft. Benning in 1984 as part of the Panama Canal Treaty. According to the SOA Watch, the school has trained more than 60,000 troops to make sure America’s interests are preserved in Central and South America. The school’s alumni have been accused of taking part in some of the more vicious attacks in the region over the years.

A 1993 UN report on El Salvador says of 60 Salvadorian officers identified as committing atrocities during that country’s civil war, more than two-thirds had graduated from the SOA.

Parker, who is waiting for her orders to report to prison, wrote a letter back to Herger and included an SOA Watch report documenting SOA alumni crimes of violence terror as evidence that the school is failing to properly screen its students.

“Surely, now is the time to call for that joint congressional task force study which would necessitate the opening of classified documents revealing our complicity in destabilizing the economies as well as deposing popularly elected leaders in Latin American countries,” she wrote in the letter that was hand-delivered to Herger’s office.

“I would hope he changes his vote when [the legislation] comes up again in April,” Parker said this week. “And I’m sure he’s going to get a visit from some SOA Watch people.”

Parker hopes to have her sentence served by July when she plans to travel with Habitat for Humanity for two weeks to help build 35 of 180 houses planned for a small community north of Managua.

She said it is important that people who support her cause contact Herger to let him know how they feel.

“I have so many people tell me they are praying or thinking about this and when I tell them I wish they would contact Herger, they say, ‘Oh that won’t do any good.’

“I also want to jog people’s sensibilities about things going on in the world about which we know zilch.”