Target: Major General Frederick Padilla, President of the National Defense University
Goal: Demand that the university refrain from hiring teachers linked to human rights abuses
With the United States scrambling to defend its own use of torture, officials should be cautious to avoid associating with known war criminals. But the National Defense University (NDU), funded by taxpayers through the Department of Defense, has instead chosen to hire as teachers people linked to brutal human rights abuses.
Jaime Garcia Covarrubias worked for Chile’s infamous Pinochet regime. Several historians have linked the U.S. government to the coup that allowed Pinochet’s rise to power, overthrowing a democratically elected president in 1973 (others have denied this). A McClatchy investigation described Garcia Covarrubias as employing “sexual torture and electric shocks to eyelids and other sensitive parts of the body” and murdering political dissidents. He was eventually ordered back to Chile pending an investigation into his activities during the dictatorship, which ended in 1990.
Why, then, would Garcia Covarrubias have been hired to teach at the National Defense University–and allowed to keep his post at the Pentagon’s top school for 13 years? Staff who raised questions about his employment were intimidated or forced out. Sadly, this isn’t the only instance of questionable hiring by the university. Carlos Alberto Ospina Ovalle, former chief of the Colombian military, has also been linked to horrific acts of torture and the murder of civilians yet was later hired by NDU.
Senator Patrick Leahy has been a vocal opponent of such practices. “Reports that NDU hired foreign military officers with histories of involvement in human rights abuses, including torture and extra-judicial killings of civilians, are stunning, and they are repulsive,” he said in a recent statement. Demand that the university thoroughly check all potential hires for ties to abuse, and refrain from employing people with such disturbing histories.
Dear Major General Padilla,
The Department of Defense should be ashamed of itself, hiring known torturers to teach its best and brightest at the NDU. The thought that taxpayers indirectly fund the salaries of these war criminals is beyond sickening. Despite efforts to downplay abuses, and to intimidate staff who dare speak up, the public has learned the truth.
Martin Edwin Andersen was the school’s communications director until his criticism of Garcia Covarrubias’s hiring led him to be forced out. “It’s shameful that at a time the U.S. prestige as a democracy is under attack, that the National Defense University could be playing footsie with a former state terrorism agent,” he told the press.
What are people to think when you insist on training future military leaders this way? All university hires must be thoroughly investigated–and I insist that the NDU stop employing individuals with ties to torture, politically-motivated murder and other war crimes.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: PD-USGOV-MILITARY via Wikimedia Commons