Fighting on many fronts

Not content to see the U.S. surrender in Iraq, the “peace” activists want us to lose in our own hemisphere as well. Notes Mary Anastasia O’Grady:

Congressional proposals to cut and run from Iraq are not the only dumb ideas emanating from Capitol Hill that threaten the security of Americans. Another is the insistence that the U.S. should stop its training efforts to increase the professionalism of Latin American militaries.

Since the late 1940s, the U.S. has operated a training facility at Fort Benning, Georgia for Latin American soldiers. Prior to 2000, it was known as the School of the Americas (SOA). Today it is the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, or Whinsec. Some 60,000 Latin military professionals have come through the two schools in the past six decades to improve their warfare skills while imbibing U.S. respect for democratic values.

In a region flush with political instability and insurgent activity, promoting military professionalism among our Latin allies might seem like a good idea. But Rep. Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat, and 122 other House members have a problem with Whinsec. In March 2005, Mr. McGovern sponsored House Resolution 1217, which called for a suspension of the Whinsec program and an investigation of human rights violations that it allegedly contributed to.

It might be tempting to climb on board this “peace train” if not for the low credibility of Mr. McGovern and his activist admirers. The National Journal recently named the Massachusetts congressional delegation the most liberal in the nation and Mr. McGovern one of its most liberal members. Not incidentally, many of those demanding that Whinsec be shut down on “human rights” grounds are wholesale opponents of U.S. policy in the region.

One of the favorite targets of our adorable pacifists is the Colombian military, which a Gallup poll two years ago found was the most respected institution in that war-torn country with an 87% positive image (beating even the Church). Since Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has committed to raising the professionalism of Colombia’s armed forces, the country’s bloodthirsty guerrillas have been set back on their heels. That seems to make Mr. McGovern’s supporters very unhappy.

There is also the habit of linking U.S. training to any misdeed committed by any individual that passed through the school. For example, SOA Watch, a Web site dedicated to closing Whinsec, blames the killing of a leader in the “peace community” on “troops commanded by General Luis Alfonso Zapata Uribe.” Whether that’s true or not is a matter for Colombian investigators. However, as evidence of U.S. complicity, SOA Watch cites Gen. Zapata Uribe’s SOA attendance. What it doesn’t mention is that he was there for six weeks in 1976 just after cadet school, according to Whinsec records. Even if Gen. Zapata Uribe — who may well be innocent — did spend six weeks in Georgia 30 years ago, does that really have any bearing on what constitutes good U.S. policy in the region today?

The notion that the U.S. should simply withdraw from military relationships in Latin America, abandoning not only alliances but also its role in promoting a U.S. human rights agenda, is about as stupid as, well, the Democratic idea of withdrawing from Iraq.