We’d do well to remember our history when we are fed stories about terrorist groups suddenly springing up out of nowhere in the Middle East and elsewhere.
In Columbus Georgia, there’s a military training school called The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). It used to be known as The School of the Americas when it was located in Panama. The US government were forced to relocate it back to the US in 1984 under terms of the Panama Canal Treaty.
Since the 1960s, this school has trained students in counter-insurgency and torture. Originally with an anti-communist remit, its sights shifted to Central and South America in the 1970s.
Among its graduates were many Latin American dictators and members of their military and intelligence staff. Throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s, they were deployed to stir up insurrection against any leaders in Central or South America who didn’t play ball with the US government’s economic or political policies. Those leaders were ousted or murdered, and replaced with puppet dictators who did play ball.
In the affected countries, opponents of the new dictators were rounded up and illegally imprisoned without due process, then interrogated and tortured to death. Political activists, members of opposing political parties, politicians, journalists, authors, students and poets.
In Chile and Argentina, horrified by their sons and daughters being erased from existence, their mothers came together and marched demanding to know what had happened to their children. An incredibly brave gesture given the regimes they were still under. They persisted with their weekly silent protests until said regimes ceased to exist. They became known as Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo, which came to be known in English speaking countries as The Mothers of the Disappeared.
The military has admitted that over 9,000 of those kidnapped are still unaccounted for, but the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo say that the number of missing is closer to 30,000.
U2 wrote a beautiful song about the Mothers after meeting some of them while touring the countries in question.
U2 – Mothers of the Disappeared:
And here are the lyrics:
Midnight, our sons and daughters
Were cut down and taken from us.
Hear their heartbeat
We hear their heartbeat.
In the wind we hear their laughter
In the rain we see their tears.
Hear their heartbeat, we hear their heartbeat.
Night hangs like a prisoner
Stretched over black and blue.
Hear their heartbeats
We hear their heartbeats.
In the trees our sons stand naked
Through the walls our daughter cry
See their tears in the rainfall.