Saturday, November 17, 2007

Legislative push to close the SOA

A special guest today at the Ignatian Family Teach-In was Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, who has introduced the amendment to suspend funding for the SOA. He also spoke at the gates this afternoon. [Note: post updated because I could hear his story better at the gates.]

As a staff person of a Congressperson, McGovern was part of the team that investigated the killing of the Jesuit Martyrs and connected the 19 killers to the SOA. He said that one of the key parts of that investigation was that they could review the attendance records of the SOA and compare it to the list of the guilty. For the past three years, it has become more difficult for the SOA Watch to obtain these records, despite filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) petitions for the records. This prevents them from knowing what the graduates have been doing.

The amendment to cut funding lost by just six votes last summer, but McGovern introduced language into the defense appropriations bill that would require the government to release attendance records on request. Unfortunately, he announced that the Bush administration just had that language changed in negotiations between the House and Senate this past week. Its language keeps the records classified.

"We're a better country that is on display at this school," said McGovern, appealing to the patriot in his audience throughout his speech.

A reader called me after reading the U.S. Catholic story frustrated because he thought going to the protest wasn't enough. He was also upset because he said the NETWORK, the Catholic Social Justice Lobby, doesn't make the SOA a priority. (They did have a booth at the gates, and the representative said that was true as far as she knew. I hope to e-mail them and hear their official stance soon.) Students and other Catholics, he said, have to follow through after the weekend.

If the theme last year was this is the last year (many were hopeful due to the 2006 elections), this year's theme was the United States is a better country than this and we need to fix our international reputation.

Still, the action can't stop at the gates of Fort Benning. An essential part of this weekend--and especially the Teach-In--is inspiring people to take action beyond just the weekend.

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