INTERVIEW `A Crime Against Humanity and God” BY JEANNE GOKA Roy Bourgeois is a Maryknoll priest who has spent the past seven years organizing a campaign to close the School of Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, a U.S. Department of Defense school that trains soldiers from Latin American countries. Its alumni include: Roberto d’Aubuisson, the Salvadoran death squad leader who ordered the execution of Bishop Oscar Romero; former Panamanian dictator and CIA asset Manuel Noriega; Guatemalan Colonel Julio Alpirez, who ordered the extra-judicial assassination of guerrilla leader Efrain Bcimaca, the husband of Texas lawyer Jennifer Harbury; and 19 of the 26 soldiers of the Atlacatal Battalion, which in November of 1989 executed six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter in San Salvador. Bourgeois has served two terms in federal prison for acts of civil disobedience. His Christian social service mission began when he was a naval officer in Vietnam. Did you leave the military for personal reasons? No, actually, let me just say that it was a very slow transition. When Vietnam was in the making, I felt it was my responsibility to join the Navy. I became a naval officer and spent the next four years in the military. The generals, the president, the members of Congress, they were saying that we had to go to Vietnam to stop the spread of communism. And I believed that and I went. In Vietnam, for the first time, I began to look at things with critical eyes and question what was going on there, in the midst of all that violence and death and losing friends. I really started looking at my faith more seriously. There was a missionary that I met near our basethis Redemptorist priest from Canada, Luciano Louvier, an incredible guygoing on about his work trying to help the children at an orphanage, about three hundred, many of them wounded. I saw something in him that touched my life very deeply. I saw him as a healer, in the midst of all that violence and death. I went to this Army chaplain after a while, to ask Roy Bourgeois about doing missionary work, because my year in Vietnam was coming to an end. And he recommended the Maryknoll order. I had never heard of them. So I had written to Maryknoll and applied and was accepted. And then, six years in comfortable seminaries, and I was ordained. But let me sayjust a little footnote change in my life was a struggle. I wasn’t Alan Pogue knocked off of a horse. It took me three years after leaving Vietnam to go on my first demonstration with other veterans. Later, after ordination, I was assigned to a mission in Bolivia. A slum on the outskirts of La Paz was home for the next five years. And it was there, really, that I got educated. It was a very radicalizing experience. When we as missionaries go to another country, the poor 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER NOVEMBER 7, 1997
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