COLUMBUS, Ga. – Democratic presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich said Sunday the thinking that went into producing an Army school blamed for human rights abuses in Latin America was the same that led the U.S. to war in Iraq and could cause it to raid Iran.
Kucinich was speaking at the 18th annual protest of the school at Fort Benning that trains Latin American soldiers, police and government officials. One of his first acts as president if elected would be to close the school, he said.
"The type of thinking that produced this school is the same type of thinking that produced the war in Iraq and is producing a war against Iran," Kucinich said. The Ohio congressman and former Cleveland mayor was addressing a crowd estimated by local police to number roughly 10,000.
The Army's School of the Americas moved to Fort Benning from Panama in 1984 and was replaced in 2001 by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, under the Defense Department.
The protests outside the gate to the military installation are timed to commemorate six Jesuit priests who were killed along with their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador on Nov. 19, 1989. Some of those who killed them had attended the School of the Americas.
The military has acknowledged that some graduates committed crimes after attending the School of the Americas, but has said in the past that no cause-and-effect relationship has ever been established.
The new Western Hemisphere Institute has mandatory human rights courses, but the demonstrators contend changes at the school are only cosmetic.
Fort Benning spokeswoman Monica Manganaro said the protesters are "spectacularly misinformed."
She said the school teaches the same courses taught to American soldiers. The only difference is the school in question serves mostly people from Latin America and, as a result, the courses are in Spanish, she said.