In light of the recent news that U.S.-trained Iraqi forces are being investigated for committing war crimes in their fight against ISIS, I decided to do my first listicle: forces that have been trained or funded by the U.S. and then accused of committing war crimes (in possible violation of the Leahy Law, which prohibits U.S. support for armed forces involved in human rights abuses.)
Some of this training took place at the notorious School of the Americas, now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. In other cases, it was conducted as security assistance in the home countries of the forces in question.
Since it made the news most recently, we’ll start with Iraq. The Iraqi army has been accused of murdering civilians and displaying severed heads, precisely some of the actions that have led to widespread outcry to fight ISIS.
A leader of the Colombian security forces, Carlos Alberto Ospina Ovalle, is one of many Colombian soldiers trained at the School of the Americas and accused of leading death squads in the country’s civil war against the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC.) Ospina has recently taken a position teaching at the National Defense University, teaching counterterrorism strategy.
Guatemala has had to create entire foundations dedicated to identifying the remains found in mass graves from atrocities committed by the Guatemalan army. The killings were carried out over the course of decades, from 1940 to 1996. And high-ranking officers implicated in the atrocities, including Guatemala’s former dictator Manuel Rios Montt.
Chile is yet another Latin American country whose leaders trained at the School of the Americas, then returned home to torture and murder their own citizens in the name of fighting communism and later terrorism. The right-wing regime of dictator Augusto Pinochet was a favorite ally of the Reagan administration, and received considerable support from the U.S. financially and militarily. Oddly enough, a former Pinochet officer implicated in torture and extrajudicial killing is also now teaching at the National Defense University.
Human Rights Watch has reported extensively on the use of torture and extrajudicial killings by U.S.-funded and trained Afghan forces. Torture remains a major issue in prisons across Afghanistan that have been turned back over to Afghan forces.