I spent a lot of time exploring what was inside of me. I wondered what caused me to feel the need to cross again. In this inner journey, what came to me were not words, but images and feelings. When I closed my eyes, I could see Sister Dianna Ortiz as she was in 1987: young and full of life and enthusiasm for her big adventure as a missionary teacher. I could hear her laugh about the little students whom she had taught in the United States. And then I heard screams of pain, of fear, of anger. I could feel the joy being forcibly ripped away from Sister Dianna by terrible men who have never been held accountable for their crimes. One of the men was an American, who was with the CIA. Others had been trained at the School of the Americas.

Sister Dianna is only one of many who have been either tortured or killed or both by graduates of the School of the Americas.

I studied the issues, too, and this helped me make my decision to cross the fence again. This is what I found:

The United States government refuses to take responsibility for the training that has led to these terrible crimes being committed. The United States government has never asked for the curriculum of the School of the Americas and for the behavior of its graduates to be investigated by a truth and reconciliation commission. The United States government responds, not with apologies and offers of reparation, but with denials, lies, and name changes.

The United States government calls the Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation a “new school for the new century.” If that were really so, the United States government would have already set up the truth and reconciliation commission to investigate that old, discredited school. Why has that not happened?

If I were to suddenly get tired of being “Alice” and were to change my name to, say, Eleanor or Morwenna or Bridget, would I become a new person? Would my name change make me into someone whom I am not?

Can the United States, by changing the name of the School of the Americas to the Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation, make the school into something that it is not?

I don’t believe that the country that denies the prisoners of Guantanamo prisoner of war status so that it can hold them for extended periods of time without pending charges is capable of teaching human rights to Latin American troops.

I don’t believe that the country that prosecutes an illegal war in Iraq is capable of teaching human rights to Latin American troops.

I don’t believe that the country that blames the prisoner abuse/torture at Abu Ghraib on its lower ranking soldiers is capable of teaching human rights to Latin American troops.

I don’t believe that the country that certified Colombia as having a clean human rights record is capable of teaching human rights to Latin American troops. Nearly all of the murders of labor union leaders in the world occur in Colombia.

Of course, Colombia has oil. Iraq has oil. I don’t believe that the country that lusts after the oil belonging to foreign countries is capable of teaching human rights to Latin American troops.

I chose to make the strongest statement that I could, to try to draw attention to a training academy that is teaching known human rights violators methods for refining their skills.

I am grateful for your support. Whatever you can do to support me as I go to trial next month will be very much appreciated. by Alice E. Gerard

On November 21, I crossed the fence at Fort Benning for the second time in two years. I knew that the most likely result of that action would be another visit to federal prison, this time for six months.