Teaching Torture at the School of the Americas

15 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2013 Last revised: 10 Oct 2013

See all articles by Marjorie Cohn

Marjorie Cohn

Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Date Written: April 11, 2013


A few years ago, the author of this article visited the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Old women carrying large photographs of their dead children marched around the square as they have done every Thursday since April 1977. One woman told the author how her 18-year-old daughter, clad in a nightgown, was abducted in the middle of the night. She had criticized government policies at the university. Her body was found near a creek. Other women related stories of how their children were "disappeared" and tortured. These mothers continue to demand that the Argentine government and military tell them what happened to their loved ones. During the time they were kidnapped, the United States supported the Argentine military dictatorship in its "Dirty War" of the late 1970s and early 1980s. During that time, Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri led the military junta in Argentina and some 30,000 people were "disappeared" and murdered. Many of those, and many thousands of others, were also tortured. General Galtieri was a graduate of the U.S. Army School of the Americas.

The School of the Americas was established in 1946 in the Panama Canal Zone (originally called the "Latin American Training Center - Ground Division"). It was relocated in 1984 to Fort Benning, Georgia. Due to negative publicity, the School in 2001 was cosmetically renamed the "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation." Since the School first opened, it has trained more than 59,000 military, police, and civilian officials from twenty-three Latin American and Caribbean countries. Many went on to disappear, torture, and murder their people. In fact, according to a 1995 Los Angeles Times editorial, "it is hard to think of a coup or human-rights outrage that has occurred in [Latin America] in the past 40 years in which alumni of the School for the Americas were not involved." This article discusses the insidious role of the School of the Americas in the modern practice of counterinsurgency and torture.

Keywords: torture, School of the Americas, counterinsurgency, WHINSEC, Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, Sister Dianna Ortiz, Roberto D'Aubuisson, Paul Aussaresses, Battle of Algiers, extrajudicial execution, Fallujah Massacre

JEL Classification: K19, K33

Suggested Citation

Cohn, Marjorie, Teaching Torture at the School of the Americas (April 11, 2013). Thomas Jefferson Law Review, Vol. 35, No. 1, p. 1, 2012, Thomas Jefferson School of Law Research Paper No. 2246205, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2246205

Marjorie Cohn (Contact Author)

Thomas Jefferson School of Law ( email )

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Suite 110
San Diego, CA 92101
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619-961-4219 (Phone)

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