[sixties-l] Dont Need a Weatherman (fwd)

From: sixties@lists.village.virginia.edu
Date: Thu Oct 04 2001 - 14:41:27 EDT

  • Next message: sixties@lists.village.virginia.edu: "[sixties-l] Anti-war actions...continued (5) (fwd)"

    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    Date: Thu, 04 Oct 2001 11:10:13 -0700
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Dont Need a Weatherman

    Don't Need a Weatherman


    The clouded mind of Bill Ayers.

    by Ronald Radosh

    POOR BILL AYERS. His timing could not have been worse. Just when his widely
    publicized memoir of his days as a terrorist was coming out, our nation
    suffered its worst terrorist assault ever.
    Indeed, the very morning of the attack, the New York Times printed a
    fawning profile of Ayers and his comrade
    in terror, Bernardine Dohrn. Under the headline "No Regrets for a Love of
    Explosives," accompanied by a large
    color photo of the couple, Ayers boasts that he bombed New York City's
    police headquarters in 1970, the
    Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972and proudly adds, "I
    don't regret setting bombs. I feel we
    didn't do enough." Asked whether he would do it again, he answers, "I don't
    want to discount the possibility."
    Or, as he puts it in Fugitive Days: A Memoir, "I can't imagine entirely
    dismissing the possibility."
    Given the timing, the New York Times may have regretted printing the piece,
    but worse was to come, for, five
    days after the destruction of the World Trade Center by terrorists, the
    newspaper printed yet another flattering
    interview with the terrorist. (The story appeared in the Sunday magazine
    section of the paper, which the Times
    had printed before the attacks.) In this second interview, conducted by a
    writer whose parents were comrades
    of Ayers in the Weather Underground, Ayers lets us know that America "is
    not a just and fair and decent place."
    This, from the man who is now a distinguished professor of education at the
    University of Illinois, Chicago, and
    who brags at the end of Fugitive Days that he is "Guilty as hell, free as a
    bird, it's a great country." As for those who might believe without irony
    that America is a great country, Ayers has one reaction: "It makes me want
    to puke."
    Bill Ayers belonged to a late offshoot of what began in 1962 as a protest
    group, the Students for a Democratic
    Society. SDS subsequently held the first student antiwar rallies in
    Washington, D.C., and organized large
    chapters in nearly all major American universities. By June 1969, it had
    split into two distinct groups, those
    with a traditional Marxist approach aimed at organizing the working class,
    and those spurred on by visions of
    revolution in the Third World. This latter group, inspired by Ho Chi Minh
    and Mao Zedong, opted for a
    homespun guerrilla army of covert terrorists. Deciding to become warriors
    who would, as they used to say,
    "bring the monster down" by using violence against those living in "the
    belly of the beast," they named
    themselves "the Weathermen" (after a line in a Bob Dylan song: You don't
    need a weatherman to know which
    way the wind blows).
    All that was more than thirty years ago, but Bill Ayers still looks back
    with fondness on the violence of what was called in those days the "New
    Left." Indeed, in Fugitive Days, he attempts to bring his readers to share
    his reasoning. He and his comrades were moved, he insists, by the most
    decent of motives to undertake, not
    terrorism, but a restrained and purposeful form of "resistance." Terrorists
    seek to harm average people, men,
    women, and children, without regard to the target. For the Weather
    Underground, "the symbolic nature of the
    target" was paramount. They were only trying to prove "that a homegrown
    guerrilla movement was afoot in
    America," and thus they bombed police stations, statues to those they
    considered oppressors, ROTC buildings, draft offices, and corporate
    OF COURSE, THEIR DECISION TO MOVE to bombing came at a cost. On March 6,
    1970, a bomb they were
    constructing in their Greenwich Village townhouse accidentally exploded,
    killing Ayers's girlfriend Diana
    Oughton and his Weatherman comrades Ted Gold and Terry Robbins. Ayers
    begins his book with a portrait of
    how he heard the news, waiting by an isolated phone booth for his weekly
    report to be phoned in. Shattered,
    Ayers realized that they were destroying themselves and the time had come
    to quit.
    What Ayers does not mention is that the bomb that killed his friends was an
    antipersonnel bomb meant for an
    army dance at Fort Dix in New Jersey. Had it exploded at its chosen target,
    thousands of soldiers and their
    dates would have been killed. "Terrorists destroy randomly," he writes,
    "while our actions bore...the precise
    stamp of a cut diamond. Terrorists intimidate, while we aimed only to
    educate." Somehow, the GIs his
    comrades aimed to kill, or the policemen he might have murdered had a bomb
    he planted in a Chicago
    station gone off, do not count. And the GIs' dates, and the civilians
    working at the police station, also do not
    count. Their deaths would simply have been a way of educating people, as
    Bill Ayers continues to educate
    them at the University of Illinois, Chicago.
    Despite his numerous disclaimers that he was never a terrorist, Ayers often
    emotes about the mystical wonder
    of bombs. He reprints a verse in praise of dynamite by the
    nineteenth-century anarchist Johann Most: "Stuff
    several pounds of this sublime stuff into an inch of pipe,...plug up both
    ends, insert a cap with a fuse
    attached,...and light the fuse. A most cheerful and gratifying result will
    follow." Throughout the book, he often
    ends with such words as "Bombs away!" After witnessing riots and a
    shoot-out between police and black radicals in Cleveland, a murderous
    assault he calls a "loving attempt...to change so much of what was
    glaringly, screamingly wrong," Ayers writes:
    "Night after night, day after day, each majestic scene I witnessed was so
    terrible and so unexpected that no city would ever again stand innocently
    fixed in my mind. Big buildings and wide streets, cement and steel were no
    longer permanent. They, too, were fragile and destructible. A torch, a
    bomb, a strong enough wind, and they, too, would come undone or get knocked
    The extraordinary mau-mauing that convinced the New York Times to print not
    just one but two obsequious
    profiles of Bill Ayers was only part of the publisher's plan for promoting
    Fugitive Days. Had the events of
    September 11 not taken place, Ayers would have embarked on a twenty-city
    book tour. Ron Rosenbaum,
    writing in the New York Observer, found some merit to the "terrible logic"
    of the terrorists' "convictions," praised them for having "emerged from the
    underground without betraying their principles." Edward Said, Columbia
    University's own radical intellectual, blurbed the book for "its marvelous
    human coherence and integrity." Studs Terkel called it a "deeply moving
    elegy to all those young dreamers who tried to live decently in an indecent
    world." Thomas Frank declared Ayers a man who took a "quintessentially
    American trip," and Scott Turow in his blurb regrets that Ayers's "critical
    point of view" is one we are "barely able to recall."
    THE WORLD TRADE CENTER SEEMS to show that we are able to recall it all too
    well. In its press release after the attacks, Beacon Press printed a
    statement from Ayers (also printed, in shorter form, in the New York Times,
    though the Times has not printed any of the scores of letters it received
    protesting Ayers's double appearance in its pages). In the statement, Ayers
    refers to "the barbarism unleashed against innocent human beings" as a
    "nightmare" and claims he is "filled with horror and grief." Noticing that
    his memoir is "now receiving attention in a radically changed context," he
    asks that we not "collapse time" and imagine that his words apply to the
    United States today. Fugitive Days, Ayers says, is simply his effort to
    explore "the intricate relationships between social justice, commitment,
    and resistance"and "to understand, to tell the truth, and to heal."
    Not surprisingly, to read Fugitive Days is to discover that Bill Ayers
    intended precisely the opposite when he
    wrote it. "Everything was absolutely ideal on the day I bombed the
    Pentagon," he rhapsodizes. "The sky was
    blue. The birds were singing. And the bastards were finally going to get
    what was coming to them."
    Ayers and his comrade (and now wife) Bernardine Dohrn were merely "ordinary
    people," he recently explained
    to the Chicago Tribune, "trying to do our best in extraordinarily extreme
    and violent times." But Ayers remains, in fact, a man in love with his
    years of violence. In his account of the "Days of Rage," the October 1969
    riot the
    Weathermen organized in Chicago, he describes Dohrn admonishing her troops
    to violence wearing a "short
    skirt and high stylish black boots....Her blazing eyes...allied with her
    elegance,...a stunning and seductive
    symbol of the Revolutionary Woman." (Ayers also reminds us that it was at
    the Days of Rage that Tom Hayden,
    one of the founders of SDS, told the rioters, "Anything that intensifies
    our resistance...is in the service of humanity. The Weathermen are setting
    the terms for all of us now.")
    CURIOUSLY, YOU WON'T FIND IN AYERS'S PAGES an account of the "War Council"
    held by the Weather
    Underground in Flint, Michigan, in December 1969, at which he and Dohrn
    were key players. It was at the Flint War Council that Dohrn admonished the
    four hundred delegates to stop being "wimpy" and "scared of fighting," and
    to "get into armed struggle." Invoking the example of Charles Manson, who
    had killed Sharon Tate and all her houseguests in the Los Angeles hills,
    Dohrn declared, "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!" She closed her speech by holding up three fingers in what
    she called the "Manson fork salute." Dohrn was followed by one of Ayers's
    friends, John Jacobs, who told the crowd, "We're against everything that's
    'good and decent' in honky America. We will loot and burn and destroy." The
    delegates then discussed how to get weapons, make bombs, and rent "safe
    houses," after which they broke into a nearby Catholic Church to engage in
    group sex.
    Similarly, Ayers never acknowledges that later terrorism followed directly
    from his example and his policy. After the Weather Underground collapsed,
    many of his old comrades joined the new May 19th Communist
    organization, which became a support group for the ultra-violent Black
    Liberation Army. Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, for instance, ended up in
    prison for life for their role in the Black Liberation Army's 1981 Brinks
    Robbery, in which a black cop was murdered. (Ayers and Dohrn took in Boudin
    and Gilbert's child after their imprisonment.)
    Ayers ends with the scene of rejoicing as he and Dohrn watched the
    television images of America's defeat in
    Vietnam. "We were overjoyed," he writes, and they "spent several days
    celebrating, laughing and crying." Today, they still go every March 6 to
    put flowers on the site of the Village townhouse where their own bombs
    destroyed their comrades' young lives. They also traveled to Vietnam, to
    pay homage to Ho Chi Minh at his grave.
    In perhaps the most disgusting pages of the book, Ayers describes the brave
    American soldiers who, coming
    upon the My Lai massacre in 1968, landed their helicopter and tried to save
    Vietnamese civilians from other
    American troops gone mad. This action was finally acknowledged by an
    official government ceremony in 1998.
    But Ayers mentions these soldiers only to compare them to Diana Oughton,
    Ted Gold, and Terry
    Robbins, who died making a bomb meant to blow up other American soldiers at
    Fort Dix. "How much longer"
    will it take to honor "the three who died on Eleventh Street?" he demands.
    "How much longer for Diana? When
    will she be remembered?"
    BILL AYERS HAS LEARNED NOTHING in the years since he was a terrorist. He
    still thinks he and his
    comrades should be forgiven, because their terrorism was "propaganda of the
    deed" meant to "blaze away the
    masters of war," a cause for which he used "explosive words at first,
    slowly replaced by actual bombs." He still thinks that America "shatters
    community everywhere"and intends the publication of Fugitive Days to
    encourage another generation of terrorists against the United States,
    however much he has tried to deny that
    intention in the days since the attack on the World Trade Center and the
    Pentagon. Preparing for his book tour, Ayers posed for a publicity photo
    with the American flag crumbled in weeds underneath his feet. This man
    still hates America and seeks its destruction.
    Ronald Radosh's most recent book is Commies: A Journey Through the Old
    Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left, published by Encounter Books.

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Thu Oct 04 2001 - 14:59:26 EDT