Behind the Bastards

There’s a reason the History Channel has produced hundreds of documentaries about Hitler but only a few about Dwight D. Eisenhower. Bad guys (and gals) are eternally fascinating. Behind the Bastards dives in past the Cliffs Notes of the worst humans in history and exposes the bizarre realities of their lives. Listeners will learn about the young adult novels that helped Hitler form his monstrous ideology, the founder of Blackwater’s insane quest to build his own Air Force, the bizarre lives of the sons and daughters of dictators and Saddam Hussein’s side career as a trashy romance novelist.

Part Two: The Deadliest School in History

Part Two: The Deadliest School in History

Thu, 17 Sep 2020 10:00

Part Two: The Deadliest School in History

Listen to Episode

Copyright © 2022 iHeartPodcasts

Read Episode Transcript

Hey, Robert here. It's been like two months since I had LASIK and I'm still seeing 2020. All I had to do was go in for a consultation, then go in for a maybe 10 minute procedure and then my eyes have been great ever since. You know, I healed up wonderfully. It was very simple, couldn't have been a better experience. So if you want to explore LASIK plus I can't recommend it enough. They have over 20 years experience in the industry and they performed more than two million treatments right now if you want to try getting LASIK plus you can get $1000 off of your surgery when you're treated in September, that's $500. Of per eye, just to schedule your free consultation. Hello, I'm Erica Kelly from the podcast Southern Fried true crime. And if you want to go from podcast fan to podcast host, do what I did and check out spreaker from iheart. I was working in accounting and hating it. Then after just 18 months of podcasting with Spreaker, I was able to quit my day job. Follow your podcasting dreams. Let's breaker handle the hosting, creation, distribution, and monetization of your podcast. Go to That's If you could completely remove one phrase from your vocabulary, which phrase would you choose? I don't know. Correct answer. No, I meant I don't know which phrase, and the best way to banish I don't know from your life is by cramming your brain full of stuff you should know. Join your host, Josh and Chuck on the Super Popular podcast packed with fascinating discussions on science, history, pop culture and more episodes that ask, was the lost city of Atlantis Real? I don't know. Is birth order important? I don't know. How does pizza work? Well, I do know. Bit about that see? You can know even more, because stuff you should know has over 1500 immensely interesting episodes for your brain to feast on. So what do you say? I don't want to miss the stuff you should know. Podcast you're learning already. Listen to stuff you should know on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. What's burning down my entire West Coast? I'm Robert Evans. This is behind the ********. The only podcast recorded in the midst of a haze of disaster, smoke and human misery. Talking about something that also generated a lot of horrible smoke and human misery. The School of the Americas. This is part two of our special series on the US just. Just ******* around in Latin America, getting a lot of people killed. And my guest as all well as within part one, is Joelle Monique Joel. You are a podcast producer. And you are also. The are you the President? I am not of of myself. Yes. OK. You're the president, but not of the United States. No, not thank God. No. OK. OK. This. I would. I would vote for you. This is good to know, because I was going to actually be very angry at you about the wildfire response, but apparently you had nothing to do with that. No. So I guess I'll. I guess I guess we're cool. Sorry. I forgot who the president was briefly. And since you were on my computer. That's a kind of president, in a way. Aren't we all the President of critiquing culture? Yes. Wasn't that what Gamergate was about, basically? I don't know about a lot of things, So what happened? Yeah, OK. So Joel, how are you? We're, we're doing this normally we do both parts of a two-part episode on the same day. We took a little breather, took a little breather and then the entire country caught on fire. Yes. So I don't know how are you? How are you holding up? I'm not yet on fire and counting my blessings and oh God, I'm actually really glad we took. I'm trying to encourage more people to like, allow themselves space, to breathe in a very serious way. Like, I feel like before this we had all of this culture surrounding like, self-care and also, but like guys, seriously, if there was ever a time to like, take a nap every once in a while and to like, say no, you can't do that thing, which is something I'm really trying to work on now is absolutely the it's OK. Like this is easily the most chaos most of us have ever experienced in our lives ever. You can, you can rest at Times Now, all the time you have, we have stay vigilant. There's a lot to take care of. But my God, please like just allow yourself some space. So with that, I am not crying today yet, so I feel good to keep going, keep learning, hopefully make some positive change in the near future. Well, that's a good way to look at things. Let's let's pivot directly from that to talking about unbelievable war crimes committed on behalf of US interests in parts of the world that are very close to our country. And we're and we're crying again. Yeah, let's let's do it behind the ******** does best and let everybody know that the world's. The more ****** ** than they thought it was it, it is kind of comforting. You know, I think a lot of people who I think there are a lot of people who have lived pretty comfortable existences because we've, we've, we've all sort of come up and are had our childhoods in this period of relative calm. That's unusual in human history and also was very geographically isolated. The calm was localized, right? And hearing stories like this makes you understand that, like, this chaos and like uncertainty and fear, that we're feeling this, like this, like, knawing terror. That, like death squads might start coming in the night. That, like, the state might send security forces out to murder you. This, like thing that's new to most Americans. Is what we've been doing to a bunch of people for decades and let's let's yeah, let's. So this is important to understand. So yes, yes, there's a reason we have been disturbed and disrupted, and I feel like at the very least, hopefully now we can have better empathy and better, like, thoughtful action. Yeah. And we can understand the patterns that we're about to see replicated in our own country and attempt to disrupt them perhaps. So in December of 1981, dozens of El Salvadoran graduates of the School of the Americas converged on El Mozote, a tiny village in the northern hills of the Morazan Province. Now, Morazan was a stronghold of for the pharaoh Bundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FLM, in a leftist militant group resisting El Salvador's far right government, which was of course, enthusiastically backed by the Reagan administration. Now the US had been admitting increasing numbers of El Salvadoran soldiers. Into the School of the Americas for years as this conflict heated up. So like leftist militants start gaining, you know, at power and sort of the the hill areas and like, you know, fighting the government. And we start just just taking more and more of these guys into the SOA, which is generally the strategy you see the government sees. Our government sees left wing activism sort of picking up in a country and they start propagandizing and brainwashing more of that nation's soldiers in the school of the Americas. So once Reagan took office, he started sending in special forces. Advisors to help out in that neighborly way that only special forces can. Elma Azote was one of several small villages suspected of hosting rebel fighters acting as their US trainers had taught them. The soldiers of Al Salvador's elite Alcatel Battalion started their operations by pounding the outlying portions of several towns flat with a multi hour artillery barrage. Then Grant yeah, it's just what you do. Then ground troops moved in on December 10th. Securing El Mozote and ordering all residents out into the town square by the way, is a pro tip since this might be useful for everybody if you find yourself in the middle of like a genocide. Or a government crackdown that involves death squads and somebody tells you to gather in the town square. Don't gather in the town square. It never ends well. That's like the top place for massacring people is the town square. Avoid the town square if things go real bad in your country. So anyway, the US trained soldiers of the Atla Cattle Battalion separated the men in El Mozote from the women, which is, you know, another bad sign. They also separated out all of the children and forced them into a small building next to the village church, the soldiers. With the rest of the day executing every single person in Alma Zote, they killed the children last, perhaps because they needed to psych themselves up for such a gruesome task. Rather than look at what they were doing and look into the eyes of these little kids, the soldiers just fired into the building where the town's children were held. Then they set it on fire before they left. Years later, that building was excavated, revealing the remains of at least 143 victims inside. The average age was six. After wiping ******* Christ. What the Jesus Christ. What the how? Wow, I get. Yeah. Children. Yeah, it's amazing. And this is specifically the battalion of the El Salvadoran army that was, that is trained and armed by the United States. Like these guys were all trained by active duty U.S. soldiers in how to do this. Like they were not. This isn't just some foreign country where people did a horrible thing because of some dictator. These are the guys we trained using that training to, among other things. 243 children to death in a building outside of a Catholic Church. So after wiping all Mozote off the map, the men of the applicator battalion and their US advisers headed to the nearby town of La Jolla to repeat the process. We know what happened, thanks to the stories of a handful of lucky survivors. One of them, Rosario Lopez, was just fast enough to get out of town with her husband and three children. Rosario hit up on a hill while 24 of her family members were massacred, including her parents, two sisters, 17 nieces and nephews. So yeah. Husband Jose later recalled to a journalist. I heard the commotion, the prayers, from where I was hiding up in the mountain. It was shooting at a bunch of kids and some of them cried and others had stopped. Now Jose Rosario and their children had on that mountain for five days, until Jose finally felt brave enough to descend and check for survivors. The first body he found was one of his wife's sisters. She had clearly been raped before being executed. Further in, he saw the bodies of the town's children stacked in a pile. Their face is too damaged by fire and decay for him to recognize he and a few other days. Survivors did what they could to bury their bones altogether. The brave men of the Atla Cattle Battalion killed at least 978 people in just a couple of days. Nearly half of their victims were under the age of 12. Years later, one survivor would report hearing an officer threatened to murder 1 soldier who expressed an unwillingness to shoot children now. As far as we know, I don't believe in the US troops were present during the El Mozote massacre, but the killing was done by soldiers who had again been trained by U.S. special forces, and it was under the command of officers who all graduated from the School of the Americas. Those little boys and girls were also gunned down by US made M16 assault rifles, which had been given to El Salvador as part of the $1,000,000, a day in military aid that the Reagan administration sent into the country. When Ronald Reagan took office, Latin America was in the grip of yet another wave of revolutions. The Sandinistas had overthrown the dictator of Nicaragua. In 1979, and by the time Ronnie was sworn in on a Bible made of Jelly beans, left wing guerrilla movements in Guatemala and El Salvador looked like they might be on the verge of victory too. And I'm going to quote here from an article in The Intercept. In retrospect, it's clear that these were inevitable revolutions, the title of 1 history of the period. Tiny, cruel white oligarchs had ruled over indigenous peasants across the region for hundreds of years, and sooner or later the dam was going to break. But to the reaganites, this was all the work of the international Communist conspiracy headquartered in Moscow. And had to be crushed by any means necessary. Now, the article I just quoted from The Intercept was written by John Schwartz, a journalist I quite respect. He wrote that article this very year in partial response to some new developments in the decades old quest to hold some of the perpetrators of El Mozote accountable for their crimes. But John's greater purpose was to highlight how similar many of the tactics the Reagan administration used to cover up its complicity in foreign massacres are to tactics being used right now by the Trump administration, and considering the number of armed Trump supporters talking about mass murdering their political foes like within 5 minutes of my house. Uh, you can see why it's relevant. Uh, so that this is really important to talk about for more reasons than just understanding a historic crime. This has bearing on what's going to happen to a lot of people listening to this podcast in the future if things go as bad as they could go. So El Mozote was never supposed to become public knowledge. The Reagan administration, when this happened, the Reagan administration was in the process of trying to sell Congress on a partnership with the Salvadoran government. And one requirement that Congress had put forward was that the President would have to certify. By January 29th, 1982, that El Salvador was, quote making a concerted and significant effort to comply with internationally recognized human rights. Now, if he couldn't, all US aid to El Salvador $1,000,000 a day, and guns and other baby killing tools would be cut off. So there were high stakes here. Now, the Reagan administration was very unhappy when they started hearing the first reports from El Mozote, not because of the 1000 people who'd been killed, but because this was bad for them politically. It was going to be providing, yeah, feed. The Democrats so the first move that they took was to write off the rumors of the massacre as a trick by left wing guerrillas. But then on January 27th, 1982, two days before Congress's deadline, the New York Times and the Washington Post both published front page stories about the massacre. Writing in the Intercept, John details what happened next. Thomas Enders, a career diplomat who at the time was Assistant Secretary of State for Inter American Affairs, later said that El Mozote, if true, might have destroyed the entire effort in El Salvador. What to do? The answer had been articulated by Richard Nixon years earlier, as was borne out by Nixon's direct experience during Watergate. Few things are more dangerous to conservative priorities than good journalism. Therefore, as a top Nixon aide later recalled, Nixon believed that it was necessary to fight the press through the nut cutters, as the president called them, forcing our own news. Like a brutal, vicious attack on the opposition, that's what Nixon said. Fight the president through the nut cutters, forcing our own news. Make a brutal attack on the opposition. So the pushback began with congressional testimony by Enders. There's no reason to confirm that government forces systematically massacred civilians, he told a House subcommittee. What about the number of victims? Bonner's article had mentioned? A list of 733 compiled by villagers, as well as a tally of 926 from a human rights organization, Elliott Abrams, who just taken office as six Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian. Bears informed the Senate that the numbers, first of all, were not credible. Our information was that there were only 300 people in the Canton. This was clear, conscious deceit on part of Abrams. Both the times and post articles had written that the massacre had taken place in several locations. Then came the assault from the administration's outside allies. On February 10th the Wall Street Journal ran a lengthy editorial titled The Media's War. Americans were badly confused about the situation in El Salvador. Thanks to the US press, El Mozote was not a massacre, the general wrote, but a. Quote UN quote massacre. What? What? Yeah, it's a quote UN quote massacre. Yeah, it's not even mean. Yeah. On the one hand, the number of dead had been obviously exaggerated, and on the other, maybe the killing had been carried out by rebels dressed in government uniforms. Bonner was credulous, a reporter out on a limb and, like reporters in Vietnam, a sucker for communist sources. One of the editorials authors appeared on PBS to proclaim that obviously Ray Bonner has a political orientation. So there's a lot that's that that's going on here, but it's all very familiar. So first of all, what you see is Abrams getting up there and throwing out a bunch of lies at once. Number one. Like throwing out a sound bite like El Mozote is not a massacre, it's a quote UN quote massacre. The number of dead have been exaggerated. Ohh, and maybe they were also killed by rebels dressed as soldiers. There's no evidence for any of this. He's just throwing out a bunch of claims that then have to be dealt with and like responded to by the times and by the Washington Post. And it helps to drum up this idea that there's debate over whether or not anybody was killed and that. Allows Americans to kind of shut their ears to it and it works. This is the same thing the Trump administration does now. It it always works. It works extremely well, and of course he starts to attack. This is one of the reasons why I'm less concerned these days about pretending to not have a bias as a reporter, because Bonner here is doing as much as he possibly can. He's he's he's a very good traditional reporter doing very good traditional reporting, and he gets called a communist basically because that's what they do. It doesn't matter what you say it. Doesn't matter how biased you are or aren't, they're gonna call you a communist if you're reporting on things that are bad to them. So. Yeah, accuracy in media, which was a conservative media criticism organization, went further, declaring Bonner was raging a propaganda war favoring the Marxist guerrillas in El Salvador. So, yeah, it worked. Uh. Bonner was pulled out of Central America by the Times and sent back to New York for more training in journalism. Other reporters, I thought, yeah, yeah, yeah, the times did what they do. It's the it's the New York Times, right? They're always going to, they're always gonna publish that first good story, and they're always going to back away and run a bunch of op eds with wing nuts claiming that that story was ******** because they're scared of being seen as taking a stance on anything. That's how it's gonna be. Yeah, that's how it that's how it was in the 30s, too. Yeah. You know, that's just the way it goes. Evolved at all. Nothing ever changes papers being reliant on advertising dollars. It's really, I mean, we've already seen it destroy, like most, like solid sources of Internet journalism. And the papers have been fighting it for so long, like at the local level particularly, we've seen a lot of like good local journalism, but this idea that companies that are like. Gotta keep selling and being willing to print just the most ridiculous **** or good **** and then like retracting it and disrespecting their reporters who they must have a relationship with. They must know, like. This person's ability and their skills, like it's such a PR move and so not about, like, the core ethics of journalism. It's astounding. It's astounding that it's allowed to permeate like this. It's not great. Very good. So, yeah, the the disinformation campaign worked, at least in the immediate term. Yeah. Bonner gets pulled out, sent back to New York for training, and other reporters learned from his example it was dangerous to report on any story that might be seen as sympathetic to left wing militants in Latin America. Meanwhile, the right wing militants who controlled El Salvador continued to receive US aid. Their soldiers continued to attend the School of the Americas in order to learn how to be the best test squads they could be. By the time the violence was all over, they'd killed more than 75. Thousands. El Salvadorans, the per capita equivalent of five million Americans. So this is a huge chunk of the country. The government was responsible for 85% of these deaths. Now, the good news is that at present a number of culprits have finally been stripped of their immunity. There was a law for a while that basically was trying to make peace between the two sides and said that, like, nobody gets punished for their war crimes, but that got partly, at least reversed. And so some of these guys are in the process and these, these, these court cases are going on right now, right. And there's even there's been requests made. The Obama administration released some evidence and a declassified some files to allow the court cases to proceed. They've made requests of the Trump administration that obviously haven't been listened to, in part because the US military, like while some of the El Salvadoran military leaders who helped make El Mozote happen have been punished, the Americans who were responsible never did. In fact, Elliott Abrams went on to become part of George W Bush's National Security Council, and today he's Trump's. Special Representative for Venezuela. So, Speaking of nightmarish, unforgivable crimes against humanity committed at the behest of Republicans, you want to talk about Guatemala? Whoa, let's get into it. Yeah. I'm a big Guatemala fan. It's great country. Is it beautiful country? Yeah, yeah. It's been horrible to it. We've been real bad to it, real bad to it. It's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been in my life. I, I, I I ran across AT shirt over there. That was like, I think the thing written on it was something like, Guatemala is like how nature exaggerates or how nature puts in an exclamation point. And if you go to places like Lago Atitlan, you really feel that because it's this like, like, atitlan is one of the deepest lakes in Central America. And it's just surrounded by a ring of volcanoes. Like, look at look at pictures of this place. It's absolutely astonishing. And when I was there at least, like, one of the things people would tell us is that, like, the the military is not allowed in here anymore. Like, we don't let them in because of some of the things we're about to talk about. Wow. Wait, can you, how do you keep the military out? I you know, I I think it's I think it was just sort of a matter of like after a lot of the massacres they kind of pulled out of certain areas where they'd been killing the Maya and there were like there's kind of like, I don't know I got we got stopped on the road a couple of times, but just sort of groups of men with M sixteens and not wearing uniforms really, but operating what we're clearly checkpoint. I don't like it. It was very unclear to me. I'm not like Guatemalan politics is extremely complicated, but yeah. Yeah, so Robert, you want to know what isn't extremely complicated. The products and services that support this podcast word. Mint Mobile offers premium wireless starting at just 15 bucks a month. And now for the plot twist. Nope, there isn't one meant mobile just has premium wireless from 15 bucks a month. There's no trapping you into a two year contract. You're opening the bill to find all these nuts fees. There's no luring you in with free subscriptions or streaming services that you'll forget to cancel and then be charged full price for none of that. For anyone who hates their phone Bill, Mint Mobile offers premium wireless for just $15.00 a month. Mint Mobile will give you the best rate whether you're buying one or for a family and at Mint family. Start at 2 lines. All plans come with unlimited talk and text, plus high speed data delivered on the nation's largest 5G network. You can use your own phone with any mint mobile plan and keep your same phone number along with all your existing contacts. Just switch to Mint mobile and get premium wireless service starting at 15 bucks a month. Get premium wireless service from just $15.00 a month and no one expected plot twists at That's Seriously, you'll make your wallet very happy at Slash behind now a word from our sponsor. Better help. If you're having trouble stuck in your own head, focusing on problems dealing with depression, or just you know can't seem to get yourself out of a rut, you may want to try therapy, and better help makes it very easy to get therapy that works with your lifestyle and your schedule. A therapist can help you become a better problem solver, which can make it easier to accomplish your goals, no matter how big or small they happen to be. So if you're thinking of giving therapy a try, better help is a great. Option it's convenient, accessible, affordable, and it is entirely online. You can get matched with a therapist after filling out a brief survey, and if the therapist that you get matched with doesn't wind up working out, you can switch therapists at anytime. When you want to be a better problem solver, therapy can get you there. Visit behind today to get 10% off your first month. That's better So by now we imagine that you've seen the theories on Tik T.O.K. You maybe even heard the rumors, your friends and loved ones. But are any of the stories about government conspiracies and cover ups actually true? The answer is surprisingly or unsurprisingly, yes. For more than a decade, we hear at stuff they don't want you to know have been seeking answers to these questions. Sometimes there are answers that people would rather us not explore. Now we're sharing this research. With you for the first time ever in a book format, you can pre-order stuff they don't want you to know now. It's the new book from us, the creators of the podcast and video series. You can turn back now or read the stuff they don't want you to know. Available for pre-order now, it's stuff you should read or wherever you find your favorite books. Alright, we're back. So back in 1954, like, yeah, Guatemala's great hard not to love it. The problem is that in 1954, the United Fruit Company was also in love with Guatemala, particularly there they're wonderful bananas now. Unfortunately, the democratically elected leader of Guatemala in 1954 was a dude named Jacobo Arbenz who didn't like that a foreign country owned a large chunk of the Guatemalan economy because these fruit companies owned huge amounts of Guatemalan land that had been sold to them, basically. By. Corrupt, like oligarchs in Guatemala who had stolen it from indigenous people and then sold it to US corporations for a fraction of what it was actually worked, which allowed these corporations to basically enslave Guatemalan workers. And it was horrible. It definitely sounds like the typical chain of command. Yeah. Indigenous people to oligarch to United States. Sure, yeah. And so our beds comes to power and he's like, I'm gonna nationalize all this **** right? Like, I'm going to make all this ****. Everybody's like, I'm gonna take this. Plan that was sold illegally to these US corporations, and I'm going to redistribute it to the peasants and we're going to, like, try to undo the damage that the start of globalization has done to Guatemala. Beautiful dream. A beautiful dream. You may recognize this is not all that different from what was happening over in Chile with Salvadori ended at a pretty similar time. So yeah, Arbez comes to power. He promises to do this in a united fruit who owns this land, goes to the CIA and is like, guys. You got to do something about this. He's gonna take away our banana land. And so the CIA's like, don't worry, bro. We got you. And then they they pick up their US trained Guatemalan soldiers who had all, like, all these guys who've gone to the SOA and who were already inculcated. And like, yeah, I wanna, I wanna personally get wealthy by being a corrupt oligarch. And if all I have to do is murder some indigenous people and Marxists and whatnot, that sounds great to me. I hate those people anyway, because that's partly what I've been trained to do in the school of the Americas. So they overthrow you, Kobo Arbez, and this winds up sparking a civil war in Guatemala. And that happens in a lot of countries too. But in Guatemala that ******* war just does not end. It goes on for 36 *** **** years. Jesus. Yeah it is. It is. They are just. It is horrible in Guatemala. You can't exaggerate how much this completely ***** society in that country because it's just it's a generation and 1/2 of of more or less constant, sometimes low level sometimes, you know? But but but like war? Uh, yeah. And the military junta that came to power didn't just hate Marxists. They hated again the local indigenous people who were descendants of the Maya and the like. The the. These kind of local Maya groups were seen as being allies of the Marxist guerrillas in the hill. And eventually the Guatemalan state, which was overwhelmingly run by military officers trained by the US, decided the only way to fight this insurgency was to destroy the indigenous villages that gave it shelter over 36 long years of war. US trained forces killed as many as 200,000 people, many of whom were Maya. And I'm going to quote here from the Los Angeles Times reporting on sort of how this all shook out. A report by a United Nations backed Truth Commission after the 36 year Civil War formally ended in 1996 found that security forces had inflicted multiple acts of savagery and genocide against Maya communities. The campaign included bombing villages and attacking fleeing residents, impaling victims, burning people alive, severing limbs, throwing children into pits. Filled with bodies and killing them, disemboweling civilians and slashing open the wombs of pregnant women. Which let's think right now to the story that just broke today of the United States government giving forced hysterectomies to women who are in, to migrant women who are in our custody at camps on the border. It's just the fancier version of what they were doing. The goal is the same, to stop certain groups of people from having children. So the massacres, the scorched earth operations, forced disappearances and executions of Mayan authorities, leaders and spiritual guides were not only an attempt to destroy the social base of the gorillas. But above all, to destroy the cultural values that ensured cohesion and collective action in Mayan communities, the Commission, for historical clarification, said the Guatemalan government was responsible for more than 90% of deaths, disappearances and other human rights violations during the war, the Commission said. The state deliberately exaggerated a limited insurgent threat to justify large scale repression, the Commission found. And again. What that, what that quote from the Commission for historical clarification is saying is that the Guatemalan Government with the US is backing committed genocide. That's what genocide is, an attempt to destroy a culture. So in the 1970s, which is kind of in the middle of this whole war, President Jimmy Carter attempted to put a halt to the violence. And he did this by banning all military aid to Guatemala in order to force the government to take action on its horrible human rights record. Now this was in general and other period, like I said, we're left wing insurgencies. We're starting to gain ground in Latin America. And Carter's decision infuriated the American right wing. In 1982, a three man military junta, headed by evangelical preacher and School of America's graduate General Efrain Rios Montt, took power in Guatemala. Now, Rios Montt had been one of the School of America's first students, graduating back in 1951 when the school was just three years old. And when he finally took power, the Reagan administration was happy to know they had a steadfast ally they could trust to think the right way about things. And Rios Montt is a very interesting guy because, again, he's in the military. In 1976. He comes under the influence of a bunch of American evangelical. Preachers and he converts and becomes and like takes a break from being in the military to be like a radio preacher and stuff like. He's like Jerry Falwell, but he's also a general. And he is a ******** like religious conservative, very much in line with the American right wing. So Rios Montt under his like you know again the war had been going on for a while but under Rios Montt it it it escalates to a new stage of horror and an objective terms. Yeah. Before we get on to objective terms, I wanna read a couple of different quotes from survivors of the horror that Rios Montt put out. And this is from an article in in a CLA called Rios Montt. The evangelist. So an unnamed survivor from Aqua Cotton Huehuetenango. The military came to burn whole families out, to burn their houses. And not just their houses, but the people themselves. They burned men, women and children who died in flames, incinerated. It caused us terror. It caused us a lot of fear. Another unnamed survivor from Robin Al Baja Verapaz, the military officials, raped the women, who were 12 and 13 years old. The girls couldn't do anything because there were so many soldiers lining up to take their turn. First they raped them, and then they killed them, another unnamed survivor from the same town. The children were kicked to death. The children shouted and shouted, and then they were silent. So that's Rios Montt. Whoa. Try sorry. Trying to kicking a person to death is such a laborious task, like it can't be done quickly. And as we you know, you spoke earlier about like soldiers not being allowed really to back out, otherwise potentially suffering the same fate. That's so much psychological damage done not just to the victims, but also to the people actively participating in these murders. Yeah, yeah, yeah. What are human toll? I mean, it's one of those things you actually you read about things like the the Nazi genocides and not just not like the constant. Like the one of the things people don't understand about the Holocaust is that the concentration camps were not plan a. The concentration camps were in part a result of the fact that the German high command learned during the course of executing genocides that their soldiers couldn't survive massacring civilians. There was a a particular massacre called Bobby or where they shot like 30,000. People to death in a single day, and it just destroyed a lot of these soldiers, which is not to like not saying like, these Nazis need sympathy, but like, no, human beings can't do that, most of them. And so people, men were shooting themselves and drinking themselves to death. And one of the reasons why the camps got built is because there was this understanding by the high command that like, oh **** we can't like, we're, we're going to be suffering like casualties we can't afford. In order to carry out these genocides, we need to find a way to do them while exposing the minimum number of soldiers. The savagery that's necessary in them. Anyway, Speaking of assembly, line disruption is just that's why you do it well. And it's also why you really need to have a religious justification for what you're doing, because it makes it easier to convince people that they're doing the right thing by killing these godless communists. Speaking of that, Ronald Reagan won the Presidency in 1980 by flipping the evangelical vote away from the Democrats who had helped elect Carter a little bit earlier. And two of his big backers of Reagan's big backers were, of course, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. We talked about this in our Falwell. Episode Carl Rios Montt was friends with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. They were great buddies. He considered them spiritual advisors, and Reagan developed a friendship with Rios Montt in 1982. While all of this kicking children to death thing stuff was going on. Reagan traveled to Guatemala and basically said that all of the the stories of genocide there were lies and that Rios Montt was totally dedicated to democracy in Guatemala, he said. Frankly, I'm inclined to believe that Rios Montt has been getting a bum rap. Well, yeah. Easy to do, I guess, when your agenda is being achieved. Yeah. Overlook kicking babies to death. Yeah, well, it's just some babies. Reagan also said that Rios Montt had great personal integrity. Yeah, and he blamed the media. In 1983, he lifted the arms embargo on Guatemala flooding the country with helicopter parts that the government needed to continue its genocide. During his first year in power, Rios Montt soldiers massacred more than 10,000 civilians. 400 villages were wiped off. The face of the earth. Uh, yeah, uh. Years later, a reconciliation Commission report would find that US aid during this. Had a quote significant bearing on human rights violations during the armed confrontation. Now, typing that out, excise is a major part of the story because the crimes committed by the Guatemalan government weren't just enabled by US weaponry and carried out by soldiers trained by the army. Acts of torture and even genocide were regularly carried out with the help of active duty American soldiers. And this brings me to the story of Sister Dianna Ortiz. She was a US Ursuline. Done. In 1987, she traveled to Guatemala to teach little kids how to read. Unfortunately, the Guatemalan Government was somewhat distrustful of the Catholic Church, for reasons we'll discuss a little later. The church, as part of its mission to help the poor, often wound up sending its people into the same impoverished communities that were such hotbeds from Marxist guerrillas. So the government caught Sister Ortiz as she was traveling to an isolated rural community to deliver necessary aid. She was kidnapped, repeatedly raped, and burned with cigarettes while she was tortured for information. Now thousands of other Guatemalan women found themselves in similar situations, and we didn't hear from most of them because most of them. Side or we're too terrified of the consequences of talking to ever come out. But Sister Ortiz managed to survive an escape, and she was eventually able to report on the details of her ordeal, particularly the fact that her torture sessions had been directed by an American man. He gave the orders while a knife was forced into her hand and she was made to stab another woman's body. Yeah, years later, she would write. So often it is assumed that torture is conducted for the purpose of gaining information. It is much more often intended to threaten populations into silence and submission. What I was to endure was a message, a warning to others not to oppose, to remain silent and to yield to power without question. And Guatemala, the Catholic Church, sought to walk in company with the suffering poor. I was to be a message board upon which those in power would write a warning to the church to cease its opposition. Or be prepared to face the full force of the state. Something for everybody to keep in mind as the coming months. Come. That's what torture is. That's what police violence is. It's what happens in the streets of Portland when a police officer punches a 17 year old in the face it before macing them at point blank range. It's the same idea. You force them into silence by causing them pain and terror. Cool stuff. Good, good things. Deep, deep ****. Yeah. So while we're talking about the Catholic Church and the School of America's graduates, we should return to El Salvador and the story of a brave Catholic priest named Oscar Romero. Oscar was a leftist, part of a wing of the established Catholic Church that was particularly prominent in Latin America. The Pope at the time, John Paul the 2nd and most of the leadership in Rome, were much more conservative. And Romero preached something that's called liberation theology, which is a controversial shouldn't be controversial. It is with, especially within the Catholic Church, it was a controversial interpretation of the gospel that stressed justice for the poor and freedom for the oppressed. So the the leadership actually, like in Rome, a lot of the leadership of the Catholic Church considered Romero to basically be a terrorist. But this is, you know, it's one of those things when we talk about the Catholic Church in Guatemala and there are some other places in Latin America where they they fulfill a similar role. This is kind of why our current Pope is the dude that he is. He comes from this sort of tradition. There's a lot of very leftist Catholic priests and. The nuns and stuff within Latin America and it's it. It's very tight into all of this and it's it's a Jesuit. Yeah. And he's also a Jesuit, and that is not to like. It's one of those things we should like the Catholic Church's horrible organization, and I think is broadly, the leadership is broadly on the wrong side of this at the time. But you also have to acknowledge that, like a lot of the great heroes in this. Were Catholic clergy who were put their bodies on the line because they knew that if they were killed, people would pay attention. It's wait, so they thought that he was a terrorist because he wanted. Justice for the poor, yeah. He wanted actual justice for the poor, and not just alms for the poor, like liberation theologians were more on the side of like, well, the poor need to take back their ******* land that's been stolen from them. Like breaking. OK, listen, the only way that's gonna happen if they start breaking some commandments y'all, and I know for a fact you don't like that you get really testy when people get out here and start killing. So, I mean, you know, the one time Jesus was physically aggressive in the entire Bible is when he needed to **** ** some rich bankers. So I think, I think people like Oscar Romero might say that Jesus is lesson for us is to **** ** some rich bankers. Yes, Jesus. Where was this Jesus in my Catholic Sunday schools? Not present. Let me get that we we I don't want to. You have to. When you talk about like, the church and this you have to #1 give proper credit to heroes like Oscar Romero without pretending that, like, the broad swath of the Catholic Church supported what he was doing. But what he was doing was very heroic. So he goes into these places and he's he's preaching actively against these death squads that are killing the **** out of people. So he's he starts to he's speaking up. Like, at this time in 1979, the government of El Salvador is like, kind of broadly left wing. But there's this because of how the most recent election went. Like 1979, this government comes to power and the right wing gets furious. And it's sort of coalesces behind this graduate of the School of the Americas named Roberto Dobison. And Dobison starts organizing death squads with the funding of a bunch of rich, like land owners and and like corporate magnates, and they start murdering. Left wing activists and basically anybody who speaks up on the left is a way to kind of pave the road for the return to power of the right in El Salvador. So in the wake of a bunch of executions, Oscar Romero, this Catholic priest, takes to the radio and delivers a speech where he begs El Salvadoran soldiers to refuse orders to kill. He tells them in the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you. In the name of God. Stop the repression. So the very next day, while he gave another speech, gunmen under the command of Roberto Dawson entered his church and shot him dead. And the the whole assassination was caught on tape. And I'm going to play an excerpt from that now because I I really do think that Americans ought to hear it because we paid for it, right? All the guns, the guns these guys had, we gave them the training that that Davison had we provided. So people should hear what it sounded like when it was used. That's important. The the sound that the people make in the wake of that, the screaming from inside the church is. Like that's that's the sound of imperialism, and it's distilled into its purest form. Like that's the sound of the American Empire and and what it does to the human soul. Like that, screaming the distortion. And like the fear and the and the and the the pain. It's important to listen to that, I think. As I can listen, I don't know if you've ever listened to the slave tape narratives. You know what those are. So in the 1930s, late 20s, as we were able to start recording like audio, a group of folks decided that they needed to record all of the last. Like living slaves in America. Oh, God, yes. He hears stories. Yeah. This is part of that. Yeah. Yeah. And, like, ever since, like, I listened to most of them. There aren't that many because the quality of audio equipment and recording at the time wasn't great. So we lost a couple of the tapes, and they've preserved and digitized what they can, but, like, ever since, like, really taking a listen to those and understanding not just the connection to the past, but to the present. Like in the way words are formed and the way certain sounds hit our ears. Like, I. I believe firmly in the preservation of atrocity in the hopes people actually listen to it and take that in and you can't hear. Anguished screams like that understand the similarities between what happened there and what's currently happening in our own backyards and not immediately feel called to action. They yeah, Yep, yeah. So Dobison who, again, is the the guy who's organizing these death squads, the ones that kill Romero and several supporters were caught on a farm shortly thereafter with a cache of guns and other equipment that tied them to the killing. But authorities? Received so many death threats from Davison's far right supporters that he was released very quickly. His political allies took power soon after. Dobison became a celebrated figure among the global right wing and even in the United States. In 1984, several US Republican political advocacy organizations invited Dobison to Washington DC to attend a dinner held in his honor. He was praised for his continuing efforts for freedom in the face of communist aggression, which is an inspiration to freedom loving people everywhere. No one has ever been brought to justice for Romero's murder. This is largely due to the fact that Dobison died early. I mean, that's one of the reasons he didn't. He didn't live very long. He got like cancer or some ****. The Catholic Church did, however, canonize Oscar Romero in 2018, turning him into a proper St so you know. That's good he'd been. He had been treated as a St and considered a St by people in El Salvador for decades by this point. By the way, like he was, he was immediately canonized by the people who lived there. But it took the church some time to catch up. So Sister Ortiz, who did survive her ordeal, is not a St yet. But more progress has been made in bringing her assailants to justice. The man who orchestrated Guatemala's torture program in the late 1980s was Defense Minister General Hector Gramajo. He was trained, of course, at the School of the Americas. I feel like I'm becoming a bit of a broken record, but all of these guys went there. In 1981, a U.S. court found Gramajo responsible for the rape and torture of Sister Diana and ordered him to pay $47.5 million in damages. Now that's interesting, and it may seem wild that like you could, a government employee and a government salary might have forty, $748,000,000 to hand over. This was not so unusual for ambitious graduates of the School of the Americans, that was. Part of the point of going to the School of the Americas, and I'm gonna quote now from Leslie Gill's book in Guatemala. For example, the outcome of the 35 year old civil war was a shift in the balance of power that created a new landowning elite among military officers. Income polarization increased in the 1980s. The portion of national wealth controlled by the poorest 10% of the population dropped from 2.4% to .5%, while the richest 10% expanded their share from 40.8% to 46.6%. Ohh, that sounds super familiar. That does sound super familiar, and it ties into a number of things. This is just always the truth. With state, with state security forces, people ask like why the police are being so unbelievably violent to just like random reporters filming them and stuff people not breaking any law. It's because more than anything, their ability to continue to have a comfortable income, they make a ton of money. Cops make way so much ******* money. Far too much money. Yeah, they're they're and they're they're only making more and more. They keep getting raises, their ability to like. It's what they found with the guy who killed George Floyd, that he had like this whole 2nd house that he was not paying taxes legally on in Florida. Like, this is what happens. This is how security for why they do what they do. It's because they get paid to do it. It's because they're elevated. Yeah, they're elevated into the oligarchic class in order to maintain and preserve it. And this happens very nakedly in Guatemala. That's what the School of Americas is for. You have enjoy. It happens very nakedly here. Yeah, it's very nice. I am Lord well, and it's like, I think what's most frustrating is the fact that like. It's partially it's just the blatancy this idea that, like, we see all these cops who are clearly just not of the neighborhood. In literally invading it, destroying not just, you know, innocent people, ton of children along the way, wrecking their entire lives. It's like. Yeah, I I just commend and applaud, like specifically like that. None to be able to voice what happened to her, like. I can't imagine the challenge of sharing. That's not just sharing that story. But then of course those people are looking at ways that they can get to you. Like of course her life is still in danger. I can't. Yeah. It's it's overwhelming, Robert, but it's necessary. So like, yeah, trying to process all of it, trying to understand, you know, Tony Morrison has this really great quote that I feel like I've used in like just everything, but it's been just at the forefront of my mind, which is like in times of crisis, like lean into what you do right. Lean like, whatever it is. Don't let yourself be distracted by outside things because your way through it's through like your talent and it's. I have been trying to figure out how to use my talents in what is clearly a time that requires everyone to use their voice articulately, to be very practiced and specific in our actions, so that we don't, like falter further into that reality. Because that **** is just. That is crazy. Yeah. It's not killing somebody preaching mass like how low, like, especially if their whole, you know, motivation is like they're godless. You walk into a godless peoples church and kill their spiritual leader, like. I don't, I don't I I, but I also know that it's not impossible. I know that it's happened so so many times that's touched every continent at some point. So as far removed as I am from and I'm aware of how present that action is that that. Reaching that level is not it's not impossible. There's so much. In 1984, the School of the Americas left Panama. It was reestablished in Columbus at a Fort Benning in Columbus, GA and I think I said Columbus, OH in the first episode will will fix that. But it was Columbus, GA, there's two Columbia. So yeah, they move it to Georgia outside of or in Fort Benning, which is a location that like not only, you know, like like one of the things that this did that actually moving the school of the Americas to the United States did. Was it allowed it to provide its foreign students with an even deeper appreciation and understanding of US culture? We talked about in the last episode how new School of the Americas students who were generally there for about a year, if they were taking the full course, like one of the first things they all try to do is go buy American trucks so that they could take them back home with them as like a status symbol. Now in I, I find I, I told you, we're going to hear from a a student who went there. And this this is a guy, a Bolivian named Juan Ricardo, who was interviewed by Leslie Gill, and he's a retired Lieutenant Colonel. In the Bolivian army. And he wound up being a major source for Leslie's book, in part due to the fact that by more or less accident he wound up being kind of a pretty left wing dude who still went through all of this like far right Pro USA indoctrination. So he he understood what was happening to his fellow soldiers like, and he's he's able to kind of speak very lucidly on it, which I, I, I appreciate quite a lot. Now, his introduction to American military culture came before he ever traveled to the United States through the School of the Americas. When he was new to the military, he was taught by a number of instructors who themselves had been trained at the School of the Americas. And they came back with the lessons they've learned and even came back with printed teaching materials from the US military. And a lot of those lessons that these guys who just been trained by the US brought back to Bolivia to give to their fellow soldiers involved torturing the **** out of people. One Ricardo later claimed that he was taught quote, how to tie up prisoners of war and how to torture them, techniques that you have to utilize in order to get them to make declarations. For example, you don't let them sleep and then you get results. Other knowledge that they brought from the school of the Americas, I remember very well. It was axiomatic among the Rangers, the US Army Rangers. That taught the soldiers who were teaching him that a dead subversive was better than a prisoner. Having a prisoner interfered with the subsequent operations. Thus, it's better that he is 4 meters underground than to have him alive. Yeah. I was trying to picture, like, between when we last spoke and today, like, what are these classes like? And silly me, I was envisioning, like, very subtly, like, I'm like, oh, you know, this is how you would maybe have to tie as somebody who like, you know. And the same way that I feel like often, like we've seen with COP training courses, the more we learn about those, the more it's it doesn't seem so insidious, right? It's not so direct. It's like, oh, this is how you pull your gun and it's like a two second course, you're like, well, that's not enough information. Well, of course we have like a lot of you know, misfires and people that actually accidentally shooting other police officers and things like that. It sounds like this was like torture 101. Welcome. Here we go. Getting started, by the way. Shoot your prisoners. Yeah. Yeah. Makes if they're dead even better. No problem. Yeah. Alright. So while you think about. Executing prisoners in violation of international law you think about something else that violates international law. The products and services that support this podcast. Mint Mobile offers premium wireless starting at just 15 bucks a month. And now for the plot twist. Nope, there isn't one. Mint Mobile just has premium wireless from 15 bucks a month. There's no trapping you into a two year contract. You're opening the bill to find all these nuts fees. There's no luring you in with free subscriptions or streaming services that you'll forget to cancel and then be charged full price for. None of that. For anyone who hates their phone Bill, Mint Mobile offers premium wireless for just $15.00 a month. Mint Mobile will give you the best rate whether you're buying one or for a family and. That meant family start at 2 lines. All plans come with unlimited talk and text, plus high speed data delivered on the nation's largest 5G network. You can use your own phone with any mint mobile plan and keep your same phone number along with all your existing contacts. Just switch to Mint mobile and get premium wireless service starting at 15 bucks a month. Get premium wireless service from just $15.00 a month and no one expected plot twists at That's Seriously, you'll make your wallet very happy. At Mint mobilcom slash behind now a word from our sponsor better help. If you're having trouble stuck in your own head, focusing on problems dealing with depression, or just you know can't seem to get yourself out of a rut, you may want to try therapy. And better help makes it very easy to get therapy that works with your lifestyle and your schedule. A therapist can help you become a better problem solver, which can make it easier to accomplish your goals, no matter how big or small they happen to be. So if you're thinking of giving therapy a try. Better help is a great option. It's convenient, accessible, affordable, and it is entirely online. You can get matched with a therapist after filling out a brief survey. And if the therapist that you get matched with doesn't wind up working out, you can switch therapists at any time when you want to be a better problem solver therapy can get you there. Visit behind today to get 10% off your first month. That's better Com behind. So by now we imagine that you've seen the theories on Tik T.O.K. You maybe even heard the rumors, your friends and loved ones. But are any of the stories about government conspiracies and cover ups actually true? The answer is surprisingly or unsurprisingly, yes. For more than a decade, we hear at stuff they don't want you to know have been seeking answers to these questions, sometimes their answers that people would rather us not explore. Now we're sharing this research. With you for the first time ever in a book format, you can pre-order stuff they don't want you to know now. It's the new book from us, the creators of the podcast and video series. You can turn back now or read the stuff they don't want you to know. Available for pre-order now, it's stuff you should read or wherever you find your favorite books. We're back and I've been informed by a corporate that our our, our sponsors do not violate international law. They in fact comply with international law. I apologize for the for the error. It's a you can see how the mistake it's a binary so it's easy to make you know get the wrong one of those two. You know, we we do apologize here. So, yeah, in case you weren't a big war crimes buff, it is a war crime to execute prisoners. In fact, everything one Ricardo says about what they thought about counter insurgency, these US trained officers who trained him is war crimes, are war crimes would would be war crimes where they done and in fact they were. Now you might question how reliable a source Juan Ricardo is and whether or not we can trust him because he's one guy, you know, with the, with the clear political ideology. Making very bold claims about things the United States did. And there's a number of ways I could back up his his stories. Number one would be just reciting dozens of other anecdotes of people who were tortured and said U.S. soldiers were there or who were tortured by soldiers trained by America. But the fastest way to back up what Juan told Leslie Gill is just to cite the Pentagon's own published teaching materials. See, in 1996, the Clinton administration ordered the declassification of a number of training materials used at the School of the Americas this tranche of documents. Included a Pentagon memo from 1992 addressed to the Secretary of Defense. It's written by Verner Michael, who is the intelligence oversight assistant to the SEC DEF and. Michael, was I, you know, I think assigned to look into this problem once they're started to be like Americans started to, you know, complain about how the school of Americas was a terrible thing. And he was basically sent to, like, look into the training material these guys were being given. And from what I can tell reading this memo, he seems to be, it seems like he's kind of a deep, a relatively decent person who wound up in this position of like having to analyze a horrific war crime being committed by his colleagues. And it's it's. It's a really interesting read for that reason. Now, one of the things he notes is that the manuals that he was reviewing, which are like broadly referred to as the torture manuals, which were like the the training document starting in like 1989, that they were not. They were all out of compliance with U.S. law and with international law. But the reason nobody found out about it for years is that they were only written in Spanish, so nobody reviewed them in the entire Department of Defense. Yeah, it's the second most. Spoken language in the country that is baffling. Yeah. But why would we have anybody look into that ****? Yeah, it's amazing. So ignorance is a sound. Yeah. And I'm going to quote from his review now, an army review dated 21 February 1992, conducted at our request. Uh concluded that five of the seven manuals contained language and statements and violation of legal, regulatory or policy prohibitions. These manuals are handling of sources, Revolutionary War and communist ideology, terrorism in the urban guerrilla. Interrogation and combat intelligence to illustrate the manual handling of sources in depicting the recruitment and control of human intelligence sources refers to motivation by fear, payment of bounties for enemy dead, beatings, false imprisonment, executions, and the use of truth serum. The manual also discloses claylike. OK, so it's either a like, it sounds like a manual for the mob or a super villain. Yes, yes. But it was the Army's Department of the Army's manual. That was, yeah, giving explicit illegal advice to foreign soldiers. Now, this memo is the closest you're going to get to an explicit condemnation by a member of the Department of Defense of All of the genocide and rape and Child murder they willfully trained and allowed soldiers to commit. It's it's interesting reading, not just as a historic document. That is kind of a sociological text because you can see, and the guy writing this, like someone who appears to be a broadly honorable person, starting to realize that the organization he built his life around has done something unforgivable. This passage, I think, is particularly enlightening. In theory, the offending and improper material in the manuals should have been discovered during the Army's existing review and approval process. It is incredible that the use of the Lesson plan since 1982 and the manual since 1987. Evaded the established system of doctrinal controls. Nevertheless, we could find no evidence that this was a deliberate and orchestrated attempt to violate DoD and Army policies. Violates DOJ. But then how did it happen? Yeah, yeah, it is incredible. Like, that's the closest you're gonna get from an actual, like company, man, to being like something ****** happened here in my. Sounds like, well, it was written in Spanish, so we can't prove it. Yeah, who could? Who could? Nobody can read Spanish in America, in the army. Ohh my word. Yeah, so there are. One of the difficulties in kind of putting this together for you is that there's just so many different war crimes and war criminals you can tie to the school of the Americas. We could have done, like four straight episodes or more just laying out Guatemala, right, and what was done in Guatemala, and not even the broader story of the Guatemalan Civil War, but like, just what school of America's graduates got up to in Guatemala. We could have done the same thing, probably with El Salvador. We're not even going to talk about Operation Condor in this episode, which was like. It was a it was an agreement between a bunch of Latin American governments. The best way I could describe it is like if the EU was just about killing left wing, uh, political organizers that that was kind of Operation Condor. We're not even going to get into it because there's, there's, there's. I mean we've already, this has been a very full set of episodes already, and some of the stuff I want to like cover at a later date. There's a lot to go into because the the amount of ******* that was perpetrated by the United States in Latin America for forever is just such a deep. And complicated in a horrible story. But I think given the limited time we have, what's important to focus on next is the kind of men who were educated by the School of Americas, and how how the school changed them, and how the presence of putting such men back in their home countries could fundamentally do fundamental changes in the character of a nation. So more Bolivian soldiers were trained at the School of the Americas than were trained by any other foreign military establishment. As one of the poorest nations in Latin America, it was particularly at risk for a Marxist uprising. And so the US took precautions. Like I said, they would get worried about a country and they would start increasing the number of soldiers that they would invite to the School of the Americas. So they trained huge numbers of Bolivian officers and kind of introduced them to this cult of Americanism that they were. That's like what they did to everyone. They invited in. And Leslie Gill writes, based on her interviews with Juan Ricardo, who's that Bolivian soldier who went to the School of the Americas? Quote, The North Americans had everything, or so it seemed to the Bolivians. They enjoyed a level of comfort. I heard of in Bolivia, if a soldier tore his uniform, the army provided him with a new one, and the amount of food served in the School of America's mess Hall made the Bolivians eyes bulge. The returning soldiers told us that you could eat like a beast at the school of the Americas, laughed Juan Ricardo. the US Army's High degree of specialization also impressed the Bolivians, whose military was not nearly as differentiated in terms of knowledge and skills of its members. To be a specialist implied that one was special, and the ability to work with high tech weaponry or just modern weaponry set the North Americans apart from their Latin American peers and students. Technology, especially the esoteric knowledge that unlocked its power, had a quasi magical appeal for the Bolivians and for many of these Latin Americans. U.S. Army officers seem to go everywhere in helicopters, a symbol of their power and superiority. The conclusion that they drew, according to Juan Ricardo, was that the gringos made good allies. It was good to be on their side, and they would provide all the necessary support for the struggle against subversion. He paused and then added. It's also better to have them as allies because they have a good intelligence system. So. You can see part of what's happening. Like, right, one of the reasons, one of the things that's that's a real hallmark of this. In right wing repression over the left is Pinochet throwing left wing militants from helicopters, helicopters, which are the symbol of the United States, which are the symbol of modernity, which are the symbol of power. Right. These things aren't happening for for no reason, like it's all it all ties in together. Yeah, but also I don't like about the idea of like, just abundance. Again, it's just, it's it's very cruel to offer people who have very little everything and then like expect them not to like, fall in love with that. Comfort is so addicting and the only and there can be like you have to you have to convince these people what the school one of the things the School of America is doing is it's drawing a border in the minds of these men between themselves and the rest of the country that they live in and it's making their other their fellow countrymen. And these indigenous people, these these left wing, you know, political organizers, it's making them into the other and again and into the thing that's that's separating you from abundance, right? You introduce these people to abundance and then you tell them these are the people who are stopping your country from being like this and yeah. And then you turn them into the people who stopped them from their countrymen, from having any kind of abundance. Yeah. Who kicked children to death? Yeah. But some of them get rich, so that's good. So one of the things I found really interesting in reading Leslie Gill's book about this is that the kind of training the school of the Americas cultivated in its students this like training them to be American. It extended to what you might call the United States of America's number one pastime, which is unfortunately the commodification of black bodies. And this is not going to be a super fun chunk to read. But let's do it. Here we go. SOA graduates cultivated images of themselves as manly. Then, upon their return to Bolivia by regaling peers and Academy students with accounts of their sexual exploits, like a majority of their counterparts in the various armies of the Americas, many believe that access to the sexual services of local women was a basic right, and the Panama Canal Zone was presented as a place where men could indulge their sexual fantasies and escape into illusions of men as men. Pantoea, which is one of the other men that Leslie Gill interviews one of the other guys who went to the school, recalled that his instructors usually moved quickly from accounts of their professional experiences at the SOA to anecdotes about North American. Comfort the prostitutes and how much they cost. Because of the enormous U.S. military presence, sex workers from a variety of countries congregated in Panamanian cities, the brothels explained. Pantoea complemented other aspects of life at the SOA. Cadets trained from Monday to Friday and Saturday and Sunday. They were free, they had money, so they went to the brothels that had black women. N Americans were there too, and everyone was equal. The Bolivians were fascinated with black women. There are none in Bolivia. And to Make Love with a black woman was supposedly an unforgettable experience, very exotic. It was the moment. In the Bolivian military, man had international contact, the aura of almost mystical transcendentalism that surrounded the Bolivians accounts of sexual encounters with black women emerged from a belief that you could do things with foreigners, particularly members of subordinate racial groups, that you could not do at home. Part of the allure of going abroad was the opportunity to play out sexist and racist stereotypes away from the constraints of their own society and Panama. Single men had disposable income that was unencumbered by alternative claims that would shape its use in Bolivia. And this money gave them a feeling of power and strength. It also enabled them to enter a transnational world of power and pleasure that no one at home, except for a select few, knew. As these men lived the excitement of going abroad and took part in daily training exercises at the SOA, the began to reflect on their own country in different ways. The SOA experience aggravated longstanding domestic hatreds of Indians and Communists as officers struggled to separate themselves from their own modest origins and to explain the roots of Bolivian underdevelopment. For themselves. I will never understand why some people think that black bodies are inherently magic beyond like the black culture is. Really. Black women have coopted that to mean like, you have value essentially beyond what the world gives you in in the phrase quote UN quote black girl. Magic is the idea that like, we are transcendent and beautiful and worthwhile because our community has to do those things because very clearly no one else is going to, and the idea that. As we were. We as Americans are going into other countries and basically disrupting an entire culture, then bring those people back to America and further degrade black bodies. It is not surprising and yet still still frustrating. Still maddeningly still. Again, just confusing our ability to just shrug at human life and just be like, yeah, my life has more value than yours. I can't. I have such a hard time processing it. Yep, yeah, I I know there's a lot going on there. Yeah, there's a lot going on there. I I find it interesting. This, this. The way in which these guys are kind of being. The the way in which they're being trained with abundance, right. And and how dangerous that is. Because when you read about, when you read like you'll hear a lot about the school of the Americas on Twitter and it'll usually be because it's Twitter, you know nobody people don't have time for super detailed explorations of things. But it will generally be something like, oh, the America the United States has the school where it trained assassins and and murderers and stuff. And it was the school of the Americas and it, you know, it it it led to all these revolutions and that's bad. And I think the reality like I think the focus actually on. The torture curriculum and stuff is kind of a mistake because I don't think that's the most insidious and dangerous thing that the school did. What, what what we just talked about in that last passage, this bringing bringing the men from these countries, these military officers into the world of of white men in the United States and what that means and the accumulation of, of, of not just the accumulation of, like physical goods, but the domination of the bodies of people who are, are sort of of a lower racial. Ask the new or whatever. Like all of this stuff, they were brought into whiteness in a real way, and that's a huge part of what led to the massacres. I think that's fascinating. Yeah. I think, I mean there's this super good documentary on Netflix right now, which sort of attempts, and I say attempts because it's coming from a tech company that like produces the same standards of being as the tech companies the documentary is meant to produce. Like critique. But it's the idea essentially is that like tech companies have designed themselves based off of. Your existence. Essentially you become the product or your ability to change and adhere to a corporations need to use your dollars. Like it? Hold on. I can explain this better. Give me a second. It's the idea that you are the product, right? Like, because the Internet is free, someone has to pay in order to keep these tech companies running. And so they run on ad revenue and adds. The goal of an ad is to get you to change your behavior so you use the product the ad is advertising. And what a lot of the documentary has done just with interviews of people who created. It's like the guy who created the endless scroll on Twitter is one of the interviewees. And there's like at one point the producers ask all these interviewees. Like, do you let your children use social media and all of them across the border? Like, well, no. Because yeah, I can't stop myself from using this tool I created because it's based off of human behavior, and human behavior cannot change as fast as computer technology changes. Pure technology, it crazy rate. It's like exponentially faster than any other thing that exists. It's just constantly changing. So it can learn us faster than we can learn and adapt to it. And I think probably the same thing is that play here, this idea of once you understand. Humans and their desires, and you find small ways to manipulate that it. Most people can't help but fall in line because that's just their human. Like, yeah, we're supposed to be out picking ******* berries. And if you can replicate that Berry picking thing like you can, you can make us do anything because we really want them ************* berries. It's just that, you know, now, now the berries are Ford trucks and prostitutes. But you know it's about accumulation, right? It's this, this thing in our animal brains that we feel compelled to do for reasons that are were at one point necessary and aren't anymore. But if you can, if you can trick that part of the brain, we'll keep looking for those *** **** berries. I don't know. I don't know how much that ties into to this, but yeah, later into it because you have all these entire group of people who are willing to do like commit human atrocities, but for like. The like and. And then the question becomes like, obviously, like, people have free will and I don't want to say like, oh, America came in and changed these people and, you know, they were something unable to do anything about it. That's not, you know, the intention of the conversation, but it's like how how I guess I'm always trying to put myself in a situation of, like, how would I react to a similar set of circumstances and the ease with which I could picture myself loved ones falling into these headspaces of like, how dare these people keep me from the. Never I've experienced here and I don't want to go backwards. Yeah, that fear constantly going backwards. It just, it seems so easy. So just far too easy to trip into that land. Yeah, yeah. So this guy we've been talking about, Juan Ricardo later in his career, you know, he was initially trained by soldiers, had been trained at the SOA, but eventually he had the fortune to travel to Columbus and attend the School of the Americas. And in this next passage he recalls kind of the political education that he received when he got there. The Sergeant said that all the communists in Latin America were trained in Cuba and that they hated their countries. Those of us who were at Fort Benning were going to become the leaders of our countries. We all had to unite against Communism. I questioned the simplicity of all this. I was very imprudent. The sergeants just repeated what they learned from their own instructors. When I asked him to describe the course in more detail, this is Leslie Gill writing, he continued. For example, there was a section of the course called Civic Action. It was one of the moments when the anti Communist. Doctrine really came out. They taught you that when you enter a village and make contact with the population, you have to make sure there are no communists. They never said you never trust anybody. You never enter a home and accept a plate of food because a communist might have poisoned it. These people are not going to be free because of their Marxist indoctrination. I had an argument with one of the sergeants. I asked him to explain Marxist doctrine, but he couldn't, so I explained it to him. It was great. I had already taken a year of social science classes at the university in La Paz. The sergeants know only formulas. The objective is to homogenize the education of the School of the Americas. Students. I mean, it's the same thing going on in a lot of ways in the heads of some of these people ******* setting up roadblocks near where I live because they're scared of Antifa lighting forest fires because they believe BLM. You know, they heard they heard someone talk about the Bureau of Land Management on a radio and they believe that BLM is a Marxist organization. And what do Marxists seek? The destruction of their own countries? Because that's what these people that's that's the propaganda. It's not, it hasn't changed. It's just distributed differently, like you had to have Once Upon a time, you needed this. School to inculcate people you know and you had to do it in a very deliberate way. Now they get taught on Facebook and Twitter and it it it, it will lead to the same thing. It's like led to the same thing, I think. Yeah, it's starting to. I think it's starting to. You have a lot of Americans who are willing to murder large groups of other people because they vaguely think that they're Marxists. I mean, was it two years ago we had that kid walk right into a church and just assassinate people he just prayed with? I mean, it's. Oh no, that was years. That was a 2015 Dylan roof. Yeah. Time is weird time. Yeah. Yeah. Feels like. So, yeah. Hearing all this, you won't be surprised that between 1978 and 1980. Olivia held two general elections and went through 5 presidents, none of whom won an electoral victory. They endured 4 military coups, three of which succeeded, and it looks as if the nation is actually going through another one right now. With the overthrow of left wing President Evo Morales by the Bolivian military. It will not surprise you to know that a lot of the officers responsible for the the coup in Bolivia that happened started happening late last year, is still kind of going on our school of the Americas graduates now. By the later 1980s the Department of Defense was beginning to receive a lot of complaints about all the horrible. Crimes committed by SOA graduates in 19 yeah. In 1989, they started mandating that all school instructors take 16 whole hours of human rights training. Which didn't solve the problem, oddly enough. When the Cold War ended, the Pentagon rather seamlessly switched from funding anti communist death squads to funding antinarcotics efforts in places like Colombia. The people SOA graduates murdered remain the same. They were still mostly left wing activists, indigenous people, you know, Marxist guerrillas, but like a lot of just like indigenous people, more innocent local people who just might be sympathetic with a group of guerrillas who were fighting the soldiers who kept murdering their family members than anybody else, that's who. Speak groups were always killing, but the way they the the victims were referred to changed. Now they weren't communists, they were narco guerrillas and after narco guerrillas. When the War on Terror started off, the victims started being called terrorists. Now, in response to a sizable protest movement based near Fort Benning in 2000, President Clinton made a big show of closing the school of the Americas. It was reopened almost immediately under a new name, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation Wine SEC. Now? Yeah, they're like, well, we ran out of America. It's different now, guys. We fixed it. They did rejigger the her name is wine sex. That's the acronym wine SEC. Yeah. I'm gonna call them SEC. Yeah. So they did have their curriculum rejiggered a bit to appease the bleeding Heart Democrats who were angry at all the murder. There were new courses added in demining and, like, the removal of mines and, like, in human rights. And Leslie Gill notes that, like, these were, like, the least attended courses at the school. And she was able to visit at this point once it got changed into wine set in the early aughts as part of this, like, full court PR press by the Pentagon to, like, deal with the fact that they had gotten a bad reputation. So they invited and a bunch of activists who campaign to shut down the school of the Americas in order to, like, show them the new courses and, like, make the case that things have changed for the better. They invited in journalists, and of course they invited in Leslie Gill. Now, as part of this PR blitz, Leslie got to meet with the head of the school, a general named Glenn Weidner. This is an American general in one passage. Attempts to have him speak on the subject of the numerous massacres in war crimes committed by School of America 's graduates and I'm going to read this passage because his responses will sound very similar to anyone who's listened to a police press conference lately. Let's do it. Acknowledging that a few bad apples from Latin America had attended the School of the Americas, Whitener insists that these individuals were never taught torture techniques and that their crimes represented the unconscionable acts of a few rogue actors, not the teachings of the SOA or the policies of terrorist states. He maintained that some graduates who stood accused of human rights violations had only taken short courses on benign topics such as auto maintenance, and had trained at the school years before their alleged crimes took place. It was unconscionable. He argued for critics to point fingers at the school and claimed that it caused these men to commit crimes. In a rationalization of the School of the Americas that I would hear from others, Widener pointed out that the Unabomber went to Harvard. Does that mean, he asked rhetorically, that Harvard caused him to kill people? Does that mean that Harvard should be shut down? Whitener and others at the SOA thus did not deny the reality of human rights violations, but his argument treated a prominent university and a military school as comparable institutions. Harvard, however, did not teach combat skills to Latin American soldiers. Moreover, the United States government had used its military apparatus, including the SOA, to support Latin American armed forces with bad human rights records for decades. Yet if one objected to his confused logic, Widener dismissed the critique as anti military and thus unacceptable. Hey, can't be anti police. They protect you. Even if they don't, that's what they're doing. A lot going on here. That including the fact that he's like, well, what about, you know, you know, Mom went to Harvard. Why aren't people linger at hot and Harvard? *******. Like I would say, yeah. Sorry, go ahead. No, no, go. Like, imagine being like, hey, we found like 11 people have committed atrocities who can't be our problem. Yeah, I the the only, like, sane response to me is to be like, let me investigate that, because that seems wildly out of step with what I thought my institution was trying to do. To say, like, oh like, serial killers come from all over the place, but no other schools produce 11 that become dictators, get your head out of your *** and thousands of perpetrate thousands of perpetrators tied to the school of the Americas. Thousands of individual. People who committed acts of murder and genocide can be tied to the school of the Americas. If Harvard, if 1000 Harvard graduates in the course of, like, 20 years, had started mail bombing campaigns, I'd be like, there might be something wrong with Harvard that's going, perhaps we should look into Harvard. Yeah, like everyone would be saying that if there was this one school that kept making unabombers, we'd all be like, what the **** is going on at Harvard? Somebody should look into this ****. Maybe we shouldn't have Harvard anymore. It seems like all it does is make unabombers. There's also no institution, particularly one that carries guns and oftentimes produces policies for major like countries, networks, individuals that should be above scrutiny. And the idea to say like, oh, that's anti military and just the most to me that's that's the first, like that's the the loudest signal to me that we're in cult territory in the same way that I firmly believe that the police are a form of a cult that these people have just bought into their uniform. And this idea that they are a military for the country, which was not at all your intended purpose. I can't. I cannot. Yep. It's hate it here. It's not great here. It's not great here. I don't love it. You know what I do love though? Joelle? Raytheon. You know, one of the few bright spots in this Dark World of imperialism and murder are the wonderful products of the Raytheon Corporation. Joel, have you ever thought I want to fire missiles via robot at groups of indistinct men in vehicles? But I don't want to accidentally blow up as many school buses? Is that a thought you've had? Not yet, Robert, if you want to wage a brutal counterinsurgency campaign and blow up slightly. Used school buses after blowing up quite a few school buses. Robert, you need the new RX4 knife missile from Raith. Yes. Sophie, you do know that you don't need to do another ad break? I was gonna let you finish, but because you were doing so well and but you don't. I I'm just. I. This is we're beyond money. So they my enthusiasm for Raytheon's fine product line is not, is not is not a shallow capitalist. Right? This is this is pure love. Yeah. And the RX4 is. You know, like I said, there's no better way to murder the specific terrorist you want to murder without blowing up school buses as the RX4. If you're feeling like I've blown up too many school buses in Yemen, the RX4 is the answer for you and for Yemen. How much is the RX4 going to run me, Robert? Ohh, just enough to fund a couple of schools. OK, that's reasonable. We don't need any. Yeah, yeah. **** those schools though. We gotta we gotta play. Anyway. Nobody needs schools. In fact, target #2. Yeah, yeah. Shoot some. Shoot some nice knife missiles at the schools. Whatever. **** it, Raytheon. Anyway. Joel, you wanna how are you feeling at the end of all this? At the end of this informed Robert, I feel informed and and better able to hopefully again just identify the patterns that we're seeing and be vocal in my opposition of them. It is so upsetting to have lived in, be a current member and party of a country that has committed such atrocities. I don't want these things to happen in the name of my country anymore. I really like so many aspects of being an American. So many Americans do. I love this. Cannot continue. Yeah, well, today's been a fun episode. We all enjoyed things. We learned a lot. I think we're all. Bummed out now, so go do some push-ups. Uh, go scout out the roads around your house in order to keep an eye on the right wing militias that that might try to set up death squads in your area. And more than anything. I don't. I don't know. I have nothing for you other than what I've given you. Uh, go, go, go. Make this not happen again. Yes. Do you have any any plugs? No, I have. I've never been on the Internet before. I actually don't understand what's happening to me right now. I was woken up and dragged into a darkened room by masked men and told to read this script. So I actually, that was actually me and Anderson and somehow with a funny voice changer. Well, I have nothing to plug that makes dog bark sound like scary men. Well, he means he's out. I write OK on Twitter and where I passed her spot on Twitter and Instagram and we have public store. And if you're Joel, did you do your plugs? I don't remember. I blocked out. I didn't. I don't have anything to plug. But I do want to commend you, Robert, for doing some of the best work I have. This personally impacted my life. Like I I don't know on a large scale what's happening with anything. It's like I said, chaos. But I mean it very legitimately. When I say you've given me a space to be more educated and more informed, I am a product of the American school system and I need to be more informed. So thank you. Yeah. Thank you, well. Yay, that's the episode. Alright, through it. Alright, we got it. Thank you. Hello, I'm Erica Kelly from the podcast Southern Fried true crime. And if you want to go from podcast fan to podcast host, do what I did and check out spreaker from iheart. I was working in accounting and hating it. Then after just 18 months of podcasting with Spreaker, I was able to quit my day job. Follow your podcasting dreams. Let's breaker handle the hosting, creation, distribution, and monetization. Of your podcast, go to That's SPHR E If you could completely remove one phrase from your vocabulary, which phrase would you choose? I don't know. Correct answer. No, I meant I don't know which phrase, and the best way to banish I don't know from your life is by cramming your brain full of stuff you should know. Join your host, Josh and Chuck on the Super Popular podcast packed with fascinating discussions on science, history, pop culture and more episodes that ask was the lost city of Atlantis Real? I don't know. Is birth order important? I don't know. How does pizza work? Well, I do know a bit. About that so you can know even more, because stuff you should know has over 1500 immensely interesting episodes for your brain to feast on. So what do you say? I don't want to miss the stuff you should know. Podcast you're learning already. Listen to stuff you should know on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. Sisters of the Underground is a podcast about fearless Dominican women who stood up against the brutal dictator Kapal Trujillo. He needs to be stopped. We've been silent and complacent for far too long. I am Daniel Ramirez, and as a Dominicana myself, I am proud to be narrating this true story that is often left out of the history books through your has blood on his hands. Listen to sisters of the underground wherever you get your podcasts.