A Cross in the Road: Why I Was Arrested at Fort Benning
The Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the Decade

January 19, 2006

A Cross in the Road: Why I Was Arrested at Fort Benning
by Joanne N. Cowan

Quaker activist Joanne Cowan is arrested as she kneels on the lawn at the US Army's School of the Americas. Credit: Mike Hasky / Columbus Ledger-Enquirer
Until recently, whenever I heard the word “torture,” I would imagine the depravations of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Soviet gulag or a dank, clammy cell filled with iron instruments from the Spanish Inquisition. Today, however, the word “torture” inevitably evokes horrifying images from US-run prisons in Guantanamo, Afghanistan, and Abu Ghraib.

On November 20, 2005, my growing opposition to the Bush administration’s use of torture led me to the gates of Ft. Benning, Georgia, home of the SOA, the Pentagon’s notorious School of the Americas (better known as the “School of Assassins”). That Sunday dawned overcast and cold with rain sweeping in late in the afternoon as I joined 20,000 other Americans who stood vigil with crosses bearing the names of murdered Central Americans. Black-draped coffins passed in solemn procession, carried by hooded bearers in black capes as the names of the thousands of SOA victims were read aloud. Each name was followed by the raising of crosses and a chant of “Presente! ” -- a traditional recognition of the dead.

I was one of 35 nonviolent activists who crawled beneath the temporary fence erected to protect Ft. Benning from citizens armed only with flowers and faith. As I sat on the damp lawn holding a white rose, awaiting my arrest, I calmly repeated a prayer of protection and felt honored to further the movement to expose and close the SOA.

I now face up to six months in Federal prison and $5,000 in penalties.

Six Decades of Decadence
The School of the Americas was founded in Panama in 1946, as a training school for Central and South American soldiers. During its 59 years of existence, it has trained more than 60,000 soldiers in counterinsurgency, sniper skills, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. After it was kicked out of Panama in 1984, the SOA relocated to Ft. Benning.

Over the years, hundreds of thousands of Central and South Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, and “disappeared” by soldiers trained at the SOA. Abuses have been documented in Guatemala, Mexico, Columbia, Argentina, Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Haiti. In 1996, pressured by critics, the Pentagon reluctantly released copies of the SOA’s training manuals. They advocated torture, extortion and execution.

SOA Watch (soaw.org) was founded 16 years ago by Father Roy Bourgeois, a Maryknoll priest, following a rash of SOA-linked atrocities in El Salvador. These included: the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero; the massacre of more than 900 men, women and children in El Mozote; the murder of four US church women; and the killing of six Jesuit priests, their co-worker and her 14-year-old daughter.

Fr. Bourgeois’ first vigil (held on the November anniversary of the Jesuits’ assassination) drew only a dozen people. It now draws several thousand, including celebrities like Martin Sheen. To date, more than 180 priests, nuns, Buddhists and Quakers have “trespassed” onto the base. For this act of “moral witness,” they have collectively served more than 80 years in prison.

In 2001, the Pentagon responded to the SOA’s critics by changing the site’s name to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. The name change was only cosmetic. In February 2005, eight civilians were massacred in San Jose Peace Community Apartado, Columbia. Eyewitnesses reported that the Colombian Army’s 17th Brigade was occupying the area at the time. General Hector Jaime Fandiño Rincón, an SOA grad, commanded the brigade.

My Arrest
Why me? I’m a “regular” person with a graduate degree in Anthropology. I’m a Quaker and, most recently, a bookkeeper. I’ve a dog, a house, and an organic garden. I did undergraduate work at UC Berkeley in the late 60’s and early 70’s so, perhaps, it’s not surprising that I became an activist for peace and justice.

The journey towards my arrest began in August when I attended a Quaker gathering in New Mexico and heard a speaker explain that the work of prophets was not to foretell the future but to warn of the consequences of present actions. “Be patterns,” Quaker Founder George Fox wrote in 1656, “Be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations.” I felt challenged.

In September, I traveled to Washington, DC for the Call for Justice Weekend, which featured a mock trial of Bush officials for complicity in torture. I came away with a renewed distaste for how the US “affects and exports” democracy. I was deeply moved by Jennifer Harbury’s account (Truth, Torture, and the American Way: The History and Consequences of US Involvement in Torture) of how her husband Everardo was detained and killed in Guatemala by CIA-sponsored soldiers. My soul was deeply disturbed by the tales of torture-survivors who implicated the SOA in their suffering.

What put me over the top was Vice President Dick Cheney’s insistence that the CIA be allowed to conduct torture “legally.” I had attended the emotional SOA vigil once before, but now I was finally willing to serve witness to my concerns. But my willingness was ahead of my true readiness. I had responsibilities to cover, personal concerns to address, a job I wanted to keep, as well as research to do on how to commit civil disobedience and face the consequences.

I read Clare Hanrahan’s book, Jailed for Justice, a Woman’s Guide to Federal Prison Camp. I joined an affinity group for moral support and sought counsel from SOAW’s lawyers. I engaged in a Quaker process of “seeking clearness” to test the depth of my intent and strengthen its foundation.

My decision to face prison is deeply interwoven with my Quaker faith. The seasoning of my thoughts led me to walk to the fence -- and crawl beneath it -- with grace and peace of mind. I now know that wherever I am -- whether standing in vigil or in prison -- God is with me and all is well. It is with this conviction that I await my trial on January 30 with 35 others who followed the same path of nonviolent civil disobedience, “speaking truth to power” in hopes of ending America’s criminal use of torture -- taught and exported from the SOA.

Joanne Cowan is a resident of Boulder, Colorado.
This article first appeared in the January 2006 edition of
Common Ground Magazine, the Bay Area's Magazine of Conscious Community.

Note: The Latin America Military Training Review Act of 2005 (HR 1217), introduced by Rep. Jim Mc Govern (D-MA), would investigate the SOA. The Torture Outsourcing Prevention Act of 2005 (HR 952) introduced by Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), would ban the practice of “extraordinary rendition,” which sends captives to other countries for “torture by proxy.”

Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the Decade
by Russell Mokhiber

Every year, the major business magazines put out their annual surveys of big business in America. You have the Fortune 500, the Forbes 400, the Forbes Platinum 100, the International 800 -- among others.

These lists rank big corporations by sales, assets, profits and market share. The point of these surveys is simple -- to identify and glorify the biggest and most profitable corporations.

The point of the list contained in this report, The Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the Decade -- is to focus public attention on a wave of corporate criminality that has swamped prosecutors offices around the country. This is the dark underside of the marketplace that is given little sustained attention and analysis by politicians and news outlets.

To compile The Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the 1990s, we used the most narrow and conservative of definitions -- corporations that have pled guilty or no contest to crimes and have been criminally fined.

The 100 corporate criminals fell into 14 categories of crime:
  • Environmental (38),
  • Antitrust (20),
  • Fraud (13),
  • Campaign finance (7),
  • Food and drug (6),
  • Financial crimes (4),
  • False statements (3),
  • Illegal exports (3),
  • Illegal boycott (1),
  • Worker death (1),
  • Bribery (1),
  • Obstruction of justice (1)
  • Public corruption (1), and
  • Tax evasion (1).

    There are millions of Americans who care about morality in the marketplace. But few Americans realize that when they buy Exxon stock, or when they fill up at an Exxon gas station, they are supporting a criminal recidivist corporation. And few Americans realize that, when the take a ride on a cruise ship owned by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, they are riding on a ship owned by a criminal recidivist corporation.

    Six corporations that made the list of the Top 100 Corporate Criminals were criminal recidivist companies during the 1990s. In addition to Exxon and Royal Caribbean, Rockwell International, Warner-Lambert, Teledyne, and United Technologies, each pled guilty to more than one crime during the 1990s.

    The Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the 1990s
    For detailed explanations of each case, see:

  • 1 -- F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd.
    [Crime] Antitrust [Fine] $500 million
  • 2 -- Daiwa Bank Ltd.
    Financial $340 million
  • 3 -- BASF Aktiengesellschaft
    Antitrust $225 million
  • 4 -- SGL Carbon Aktiengesellschaft
    Antitrust $135 million
  • 5 -- Exxon Corporation and Exxon Shipping
    Environmental $125 million
  • 6 -- UCAR International, Inc.
    Antitrust $110 million
  • 7 -- Archer Daniels Midland
    Antitrust $100 million
  • 8 -- (tie) Banker's Trust
    Financial $60 million
  • 8 -- (tie) Sears Bankruptcy Recovery Management Services
    Fraud $60 million
  • 10 -- Haarman & Reimer Corp.
    Antitrust $50 million
  • 11 -- Louisiana-Pacific Corporation
    Environmental $37 million
  • 12 -- Hoechst AG
    Antitrust $36 million
  • 13 -- Damon Clinical Laboratories, Inc.
    Fraud $35.2 million
  • 14 -- C.R. Bard Inc.
    Food and drug $30.9 million
  • 15 -- Genentech Inc.
    Food and drug $30 million
  • 16 -- Nippon Gohsei
    Antitrust $21 million
  • 17 -- (tie) Pfizer Inc.
    Antitrust $20 million
  • 17 -- (tie) Summitville Consolidated Mining Co. Inc.
    Environmental $20 million
  • 19 -- (tie) Lucas Western Inc.
    False Statements $18.5 million
  • 19 -- (tie) Rockwell International Corporation
    Environmental $18.5 million
  • 21 -- Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
    Environmental $18 million
  • 22 -- Teledyne Industries Inc.
    Fraud $17.5 million
  • 23 -- Northrop
    False statements $17 million
  • 24 -- Litton Applied Technology Division and Litton Systems Canada
    Fraud $16.5 million
  • 25 -- Iroquois Pipeline Operating Company
    Environmental $15 million
  • 26 -- Eastman Chemical Company
    Antitrust $11 million
  • 27 -- Copley Pharmaceutical, Inc.
    Food and drug $10.65 million
  • 28 -- Lonza AG
    Antitrust $10.5 million
  • 29 -- Kimberly Home Health Care Inc.
    Fraud $10.08 million
  • 30 -- (tie) Ajinomoto Co. Inc.
    Antitrust $10 million
  • 30 -- (tie) Bank of Credit and Commerce International
    Financial $10 million
  • 30 -- (tie) Kyowa Hakko Kogyo Co. Ltd.
    Antitrust $10 million
  • 30 -- (tie) Warner-Lambert Company
    Food and drug $10 million
  • 34 -- General Electric
    Fraud $9.5 million
  • 35 -- (tie) Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
    Environmental $9 million
  • 35 -- (tie) Showa Denko Carbon
    Antitrust $9 million
  • 37 -- IBM East Europe/Asia Ltd.
    Illegal exports $8.5 million
  • 38 -- Empire Sanitary Landfill Inc.
    Campaign finance $8 million
  • 39 -- (tie) Colonial Pipeline Company
    Environmental $7 million
  • 39 -- (tie) Eklof Marine Corporation
    Environmental $7 million
  • 41 -- (tie) Chevron
    Environmental $6.5 million
  • 41 -- (tie) Rockwell International Corporation
    Environmental $6.5 million
  • 43 -- Tokai Carbon Ltd. Co.
    Antitrust $6 million
  • 44 -- (tie) Allied Clinical Laboratories, Inc.
    Fraud $5 million
  • 44 -- (tie) Northern Brands International Inc.
    Fraud $5 million
  • 44 -- (tie) Ortho Pharmaceutical Corporation
    Obstruction of justice $5 million
  • 44 -- (tie) Unisys
    Bribery $5 million
  • 44 -- (tie) Georgia Pacific Corporation
    Tax evasion $5 million
  • 49 -- Kanzaki Specialty Papers Inc.
    Antitrust $4.5 million
  • 50 -- ConAgra Inc.
    Fraud $4.4 million
  • 51 -- Ryland Mortgage Company
    Financial $4.2 million
  • 52 -- (tie) Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois
    Fraud $4 million
  • 52 -- (tie) Borden Inc.
    Antitrust $4 million
  • 52 -- (tie) Dexter Corporation
    Environmental $4 million
  • 52 -- (tie) Southland Corporation
    Antitrust $4 million
  • 52 -- (tie) Teledyne Industries Inc.
    Illegal exports $4 million
  • 52 -- (tie) Tyson Foods Inc.
    Public corruption $4 million
  • 58 -- (tie) Aluminum Company of America
    Environmental $3.75 million
  • 58 -- (tie) Costain Coal Inc.
    Worker Death $3.75 million
  • 58 -- (tie) United States Sugar Corporation
    Environmental $3.75 million
  • 61 -- Saybolt, Inc., Saybolt North America
    Environmental $3.4 million
  • 62 -- (tie) Bristol-Myers Squibb
    Environmental $3 million
  • 62 -- (tie) Chemical Waste Management Inc.
    Environmental $3 million
  • 62 -- (tie) Ketchikan Pulp Company
    Environmental $3 million
  • 62 -- (tie) United Technologies Corporation
    Environmental $3 million
  • 62 -- (tie) Warner-Lambert Inc.
    Environmental $3 million
  • 67 -- (tie) Arizona Chemical Co. Inc.
    Environmental $2.5 million
  • 67 -- (tie) Consolidated Rail Corporation
    Environmental $2.5 million
  • 69 -- International Paper
    Environmental $2.2 million
  • 70 -- (tie) Consolidated Edison Company
    Environmental $2 million
  • 70 -- (tie) Crop Growers Corporation
    Campaign finance $2 million
  • 70 -- (tie) E-Systems Inc.
    Fraud $2 million
  • 70 -- (tie) HAL Beheer BV
    Environmental $2 million
  • 70 -- (tie) John Morrell and Company
    Environmental $2 million
  • 70 -- (tie) United Technologies Corporation
    Fraud $2 million
  • 76 -- Mitsubishi Corporation, Mitsubishi International Corporation
    Antitrust $1.8 million
  • 77 -- (tie) Blue Shield of California
    Fraud $1.5 million
  • 77 -- (tie) Browning-Ferris Inc.
    Environmental $1.5 million
  • 77 -- (tie) Odwalla Inc.
    Food and drug $1.5 million
  • 77 -- (tie) Teledyne Inc.
    False statements $1.5 million
  • 77 -- (tie) Unocal Corporation
    Environmental $1.5 million
  • 82 -- (tie) Doyon Drilling Inc.
    Environmental $1 million
  • 82 -- (tie) Eastman Kodak
    Environmental $1 million
  • 82 -- (tie) Case Corporation
    Illegal exports $1 million
  • 85 -- Marathon Oil
    Environmental $900,000
  • 86 -- Hyundai Motor Company
    Campaign finance $600,000
  • 87 -- (tie) Baxter International Inc.
    Illegal Boycott $500,000
  • 87 -- (tie) Bethship-Sabine Yard
    Environmental $500,000
  • 87(tie) Palm Beach Cruises
    Environmental $500,000
  • 87 -- (tie) Princess Cruises Inc.
    Environmental $500,000
  • 91 -- (tie) Cerestar Bioproducts BV
    Antitrust $400,000
  • 91 -- (tie) Sun-Land Products of California
    Campaign finance $400,000
  • 93 -- (tie) American Cyanamid
    Environmental $250,000
  • 93 -- (tie) Korean Air Lines
    Campaign finance $250,000
  • 93 -- (tie) Regency Cruises Inc.
    Environmental $250,000
  • 96 -- (tie) Adolph Coors Company
    Environmental $200,000
  • 96 -- (tie) Andrew and Williamson Sales Co.
    Food and drug $200,000
  • 96 -- (tie) Daewoo International (America) Corporation
    Campaign finance $200,000
  • 96 -- (tie) Exxon Corporation
    Environmental $200,000
  • 100 -- Samsung America Inc.
    Campaign finance $150,000

    © Russell Mokhiber

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