[sixties-l] Fwd: A Tale of Two Terrorists

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Date: Thu Jan 18 2001 - 16:42:22 EST

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    A Tale of Two Terrorists
    FrontPageMagazine.com | January 18, 2001
    by Ronald Radosh
    URL: http://www.frontpagemag.com/archives/radosh/2001/rr01-18-01p.htm

    AS MOST OF US are observing the antics of the liberal and radical Left, as
    it mobilizes its troops to prevent the nomination of John Ashcroft as
    Attorney General, it might be easy to miss a scandal that is breaking out
    in Germany, but is receiving little attention here. Yet this new incident
    replicates similar occurrences in our own past, and therefore has lessons
    for us.
    The episode concerns the past of Germany's most popular politician and
    currently the nation's Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, as well as that
    on an old associate of his in the 1960's student New Left, one
    Hans-Joachim Klein, who at present is on trial in Germany on charges
    involving the murder of three people during a terrorist raid on OPEC back
    in 1975. In human life, twenty-five years is a long time past, although in
    terms of history, it is but a second. And, to be fair to Minister Fischer,
    he is changed man. During the crisis over intervention in the Balkans,
    Fischer supported armed intervention, opposing his own stalwart left-wing
    in the Green Party.

    Back in 1973, Fischer was in a far different place. And his past has
    suddenly come back to haunt him. It returned only because the daughter of
    the late left-wing terrorist, the notorious Ulrike Meinhof, of the
    so-called Bader-Meinhof gang that led the self-proclaimed Red Army
    Faction- found previously unknown photographs in her mother's archive of
    Mr. Fischer in action in the radical era. They portrayed an armed and
    helmeted Fischer disarming, hitting and beating up one Rainer Marx, then a
    German police officer who had been surrounded by radical leftists, who
    threw him to the ground and kicked him repeatedly. Moreover, Fischer is
    shown hitting Marx from behind---hardly the actions of a gentleman.

    But there is more to the story. It turns out that another now-retired
    police officer, Horst Breunig, alleges that Fischer also played a role in
    the severe burning of one of his fellow officers, Jurgen Weber, during a
    street demonstration in Frankfurt in May of 1976. Weber was injured by the
    use of gasoline bombs - Molotov cocktails - used by the German New Left on
    a regular basis back in 1975 and 1976. The bomb that injured Weber was
    used one day after Meinhof's death, as street protests erupted and
    authorities had banned violent demonstrations. A Molotov cocktail hit
    Weber's police car, setting the officer on fire as he suffered severe
    burns over sixty percent of his body. Breunig argues that, one day before
    the incident, Fischer took part in a meeting planning the action, and
    approved the use by his comrades of firebombs.

    Various of Fischer's old comrades have corroborated that, as officer
    Breunig charges, Fischer had in fact voted with his movement's majority
    for the use of Molotov cocktails, and had discussed how to get them
    through a police cordon. And although no one charges that Fischer himself
    threw the bomb, his assent gives him moral responsibility for its use.
    What does Fischer say in response? And it is here that we see a pattern
    emerge, so familiar to us in the United States. The New York Times quotes
    him as saying: "Should I distance myself from the struggle over Vietnam
    and Chile? No. What I must distance myself from is being a street
    fighter." What exactly does Fischer mean by this? Evidently, it is the
    simple assertion, which translated, is that the cause I supported was
    just; possibly the means we used were incorrect. But the necessity for our
    moral action against the US in Vietnam and Chile must explain and excuse
    whatever wrong tactics we may have used. It is enough that now I distance
    myself from those who were street fighters, although back then, one had to
    join in solidarity with those who saw the need for violence. And join in
    solidarity Fischer did. Fischer is quoted as having, in 1976, referred to
    "our solidarity with our comrades in the underground," an acknowledgement
    that they were all part of the same Movement. And even though he
    supposedly opposed their choice, Fischer went on for four more years,
    extending to the end of the decade, as a commander in Frankfurt of the
    so-called "Riot Groups," a revolutionary movement pledged to the overthrow
    of the German democratic government.

    So many years later, Fischer's supporters attribute his actions to
    so-called "youthful excess," and they argue his actions should be forgiven
    and that he be allowed to continue in government as his nation's Foreign
    Minister. Others argue that, at a time when the German government is faced
    with right-wing extremists and ultra-nationalists who target immigrants
    with terror and force, they cannot afford to have in high office a
    government official who engaged in similar tactics when he was younger.

    For those of us in the United States, the conflict brings up memories of
    those remnants and survivors of the 60's New Left who praise their old
    movement for its commitment to "participatory democracy" and who attribute
    the antics of their comrades in the Weather Underground of the late 60's
    to a similar revolutionary excess and enthusiasm, to be forgiven so they
    can resume a positive role working for "social change" in today's new
    America. Thus Bernadine Dohrn can laugh off her notorious espousal of
    violence as a leader of the Weather Underground and gain plaudits for her
    new role as Director of the Children and Family Justice Center of
    Northwestern University's School of Law Legal Clinic, where she supervises
    60 law students dedicated to serving children's needs. And like Fischer in
    Germany, Dohrn is unapologetic about her activities in the 1960's. As she
    told a recent interviewer for the radical Z magazine, reflecting on the
    New Left at Columbia University in 1968, "I remember the creative spirit
    of liberation and the moral force generated by Columbia students," who she
    says took action in solidarity with justice and freedom for those in
    Vietnam and Harlem and risked "their own privileged futures." As for the
    violence of the New Left, which she extolled and supported, Dohrn only
    says that she is "astonished at how restrained the movement was" as it
    took part in a "global movement for liberation."

    Indeed, Dohrn praises her fellow revolutionaries David Gilbert---now in
    prison for life for his role in the murder of a police officer during the
    infamous Brink's robbery committed by the Weather Underground - and Ted
    Gold - who blew himself up accidentally in a West Village townhouse where
    he and his comrades were making bombs - as two men with a true "clarity of
    vision." And hence she favors Gilbert's release from prison as a "prisoner
    of conscience," whose just behavior for the cause has been "criminalized"
    by the authorities, whose acts were merely those of "social commitment,"
    and not "crimes."

    Dohrn, like Fischer, has hardly suffered for her attempts to bring down
    the American democratic republic. Indeed, even without being able to
    practice law as a result of her own previous conviction, Dohrn has been
    taken on by Northwestern University in a prestigious job where she trains
    other lawyers in legal activism, without pausing for a moment to seriously
    reevaluate her commitment to revolutionary terrorism. It was Dohrn,
    speaking at the Weather Underground's "War Council" in Flint, Michigan in
    1969, who spoke the now infamous words about Charles Manson and his cult
    who killed Sharon Tate in Los Angeles---"Dig it. First they killed those
    pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a
    fork into a victim's stomach! Wild.!"

    Fischer has gone on to leadership and prominence in Germany's postwar
    democratic government, where he is a popular political leader who regrets
    the tactics he once espoused, but similarly justifies whatever horrors
    took place as a result of necessary excesses in a just struggle against US
    imperialism. Neither has suffered for their New Left activism; indeed,
    they have gained fame, good jobs and the respect of their brethren. And
    both, it is clear, look back with pride on their actions and their old
    politics. Once again, we have more proof that being on the Left in one's
    early life is never having to say you are sorry.
    Ronald Radosh is a regular columnist and book reviewer for
    FrontPageMagazine.com. A former leftist and currently Professor Emeritus
    of History at City University of New York, Radosh has written many books,
    including The Rosenberg File (with Joyce Milton). His soon-to-be-published
    memoir is entitled Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left
    and the Leftover Left.

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