As of Thursday May 11, 2023, “Fort Benning,” home of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) became “Fort Moore.” The name change was part of a broader initiative by the U.S. military to remove the names of Confederate officers from military bases at the recommendation of a congressional commission.
That the US Army is acknowledging its racist past is notable, and the name change from Fort Benning to Fort Moore is a positive symbolic gesture. However…. For those of us with School of the Americas Watch, it evokes memories of the closure of the School of the Americas (SOA) in December 2000 and the subsequent opening on January 17, 2001, of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) – on the same site, and with many of the same teachers, classes and manuals. New Name – Same Shame.
As SOAW founder Father Roy Bourgeois said at the time: “The new institute is not different from the SOA it replaces. It is a combat school. Infantrymen and women from Latin America come to learn to fight. By refusing to make any significant changes to the new school, the Department of Defense failed to address the real issue – the violence perpetrated against the people of Latin America by U.S.-trained soldiers.”
Likewise, the 2023 name change of the army base to Fort Moore does not change the on the ground reality – the base, whatever name it is given, is the home of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.
We must recognize that symbols alone are not enough to bring about true change. While the renaming ceremony attempts to whitewash the past, it fails to acknowledge the ongoing suffering and violence perpetuated by the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). The base, irrespective of its name, remains the home of WHINSEC / School of the Americas, a symbol of a system rooted in racism, domination, and oppression.
At SOA Watch, our commitment to a world free from suffering and violence remains unwavering. We view for-profit immigration detention centers, the militarization of the border, and the training of repressive forces at WHINSEC and other sites like Cop City - to be located a mere two hours away near Atlanta, Georgia - as integral parts of the same violent and racist system. These interconnected issues demand our collective resistance and sustained efforts to effect meaningful change.
Together, we must continue to expose the truth, challenge oppressive systems, and advocate for justice and equality. Fort Moore is the same old Fort Benning and should serve as a reminder of the ongoing shame that persists within the institution. It is incumbent upon us to maintain our vigilant stance, amplifying our voices, and standing in solidarity with those affected by the unjust practices taught and perpetuated at such schools for war. As we move forward, let us remain steadfast in our mission to oppose and shut down centers of violence.
New Name, Same Shame! Together, we will persist in our collective resistance.