[sixties-l] Mercy for a Terrorist? [SLA]

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 10/07/00

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    Mercy for a Terrorist?
    by David Horowitz
    WHO IN AMERICA TODAY could be associated with a gang that carried out an 
    execution-style murder of a prominent public official, and the murder of a 
    pregnant woman during a bank hold-up, and then, when finally arrested, be 
    championed as an "idealist" by church officials, Democratic Party 
    legislators, columnists, and local activist groups?
    The answer: a progressive activist who has remained faithful to her leftist 
    Twenty-five years ago, Kathleen Soliah went underground as a fugitive. She 
    was wanted by police as a suspect in the planting of pipe bombs under two 
    randomly selected police cars that would have killed the occupants had they 
    not failed to explode.
    During this and other episodes, Soliah was a member of the Symbionese 
    Liberation Army (SLA), a group led by ex-convict Donald DeFreeze in the 
    early seventies, whose defining slogan was "Death to the fascist insect 
    that preys on the life of the people."
    After DeFreeze and five other SLA members were killed in a shootout with 
    police in Los Angeles, Soliah led a rally for the "victims" in Berkeley's 
    "Ho Chi Minh Park," claiming that the six outlaws were "viciously attacked 
    and murdered by 500 pigs in L.A."
    Soliah singled out her best friend Angela Atwood, one of the dead SLA 
    members, saying: "I know she lived happy and she died happy. And in that 
    sense, I'm so very proud of her." Soliah was finally apprehended in St. 
    Paul, Minnesota on June 16 , where she was living under a pseudonym, "Sara 
    Jane Olson," with her doctor husband Fred G. Peterson. Soliah has 
    subsequently been released on $1 million bail raised within a week by 250 
    sympathizers and friends.
    The Minneapolis Star-Tribune describes the attitude of the liberal 
    community in St.  Paul after learning of her past in these terms: "In the 
    days since her June 16 arrest, Olson [Soliah] has been almost canonized: 
    reader of newspapers for the blind, volunteer among victims of torture, 
    organizer of soup kitchens. The office manager of the Minnehaha United 
    Methodist Church, where she is a member of the congregation, called on its 
    members to build a "contingent of support." Twenty of them were said to 
    have been in court in California on the day she was arraigned.
    Soliah's brother-in-law, Michael Bortin, was a Berkeley radical and with 
    his wife Josephine (who is Soliah's sister) was also an SLA member. 
    Recently, Bortin attempted to explain to the press the relationship between 
    the radical gangster Soliah and the St. Paul housewife "Sara Jane Olson," 
    who was such an upstanding member of the progressive community: "There's 
    not this dichotomy between what Kathy was and what she is now. She was 
    doing the same things in the early Seventies."
    Bortin claimed that it was the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin 
    Luther King, the presidency of Richard Nixon, and the war in Vietnam that 
    changed their attitudes to make them SLA members. "We lost our faith in the 
    country, in due process. In law and justice."
    Maybe so. Back then, I was one of the editors of Ramparts, the largest 
    publication of the New Left. Like Bortin and Soliah, I would have described 
    myself then as a "revolutionary" who had "lost faith in my country." But 
    along with many other leftists at the time (and unlike Bortin and Soliah), 
    I hadn't lost my mind or sense of decency as well. I wrote an editorial for 
    Ramparts condemning the SLA as a criminal organization.  It was the first 
    editorial I wrote that I didn't sign. I was concerned enough that the SLA 
    might come and kill me.
    The SLA had announced itself to the world on November 6, 1973, in a 
    terrible deed which has gone all but unmentioned in the current reportage 
    on Soliah's case. Without warning, three of its "soldiers" ambushed and 
    gunned down the first African American superintendent of schools in 
    Oakland. Dr. Marcus Foster had no warning when he was met with a hail of 
    bullets in a parking lot behind the Oakland School District office. The 
    bullets had been tipped with cyanide, just so he would have no chance to 
    survive the attack.
    His crime, according to the SLA's official death warrant, was that he 
    followed a school board directive to issue ID cards to students, to protect 
    them from drug dealers and gang members wandering onto their campuses 
    intending to do them harm.
    The Foster killing revolted me, as it did many, but not all, members of the 
    radical community. Thus Ramparts received many letters like the one by 
    Yippee leader Stew Albert, accusing us of "giving a green light" to the 
    police to hunt down and "murder" the SLA warriors.
    Leonard Weinglass, the famed lawyer for Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, and the 
    Chicago Sevenand now counsel for Black Panther and cop-killer Mumia Abu 
    Jamalthen represented the families of the dead SLA members who sought 
    monetary restitution from the city of Los Angeles for denying justice to 
    their offspring.
    In my view, however, justice had been done. If anything, the SLA killers 
    hadn't been punished enough.
    In fairness to Soliah, it is not clear that she was aware of the SLA's 
    intentions before the murder of Marcus Foster, although she certainly 
    embraced them afterwards.  According to Patty Hearst, who was kidnapped by 
    the SLA and then converted to their political agenda, Soliah participated 
    in a 1975 bank robbery the SLA committed in a Sacramento suburb.
    An innocent bystander, Myrna Lee Opshal, who was pregnant and had come to 
    the bank to deposit church funds, was accidentally shot and killed by SLA 
    member Emily Harris. Later Harris dismissed the killing to her comrades 
    saying the victim was "a pig," explaining "she was married to a doctor." 
    (Ironically, Soliah today is herself married to a doctor.)
    These were the deeds, and this was the mentality of the gang to which 
    Kathleen Soliah dedicated her radical political life. Now she is once again 
    being defended by progressives, who blame the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon 
    even for the evils they themselves have committed.
    If Kathleen Soliah's crimes are excused by Nixon, why would not Nixon's be 
    excused by the crimes his Communist enemies committed? Soliah's attorney 
    Stuart Hanlon is a graduate of the William KunstlerLeonard Weinglass school 
    of radical alibis, who recently helped win the release from prison of 
    convicted murderer and former Black Panther Geronimo Pratt by claiming the 
    FBI and police had conspired to frame Pratt because of his passion for 
    "social justice."
    The radical fantasy that turned the Soliahs into paranoid conspirators is 
    very much alive today in the rhetoric of the left, which is unrelenting in 
    its insane picture of America as a repressive, racist, sexist, imperialist, 
    empire. It is kept alive in part by the radical rewriting of the history of 
    the Sixties in which "noble idealists" like Soliah declared war on 
    government "fascists," and whatever they did were always the hapless 
    victims of the greater evil of their adversaries.
    There is a whole library of memoirs and histories by aging new leftists and 
    "progressive" academics dealing with the rebellions of the 1960s, but 
    hardly a page in any of them has the basic decency or honesty to say, "Yes, 
    we supported these murderers and those spies, and the agents of an evil 
    I'd like to hear even one of these advocates of "justice" acknowledge that 
    "we greatly exaggerated the evils of this system and underestimated its 
    decencies and virtues, and we're sorry." I'd like to hear that from Soliah 
    and her apologists. I'd like to hear them pay a moment's tribute to Marcus 
    Foster and to Myrna Opshal, and to the brave policemen and FBI agents who 
    risked their lives to protect other Americans, including progressives, from 
    the harm they intended.
    I'd like to hear them say, just once, "I'm sorry."

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