[sixties-l] Remembering an SLA Terrorist (fwd)

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Date: Thu Mar 27 2003 - 02:03:14 EST

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    Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2003 14:35:08 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Remembering an SLA Terrorist

    Remembering an SLA Terrorist


    By Stephen Schwartz
    FrontPageMagazine.com | February 20, 2003

    The last major figures in the so-called Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA)
    have been sentenced to prison for murder. They include a man named Michael
    Bortin, aged 54.

    Like most Bay Area leftists who were adults at the time, I remember vividly
    the explosion of the SLA into public awareness a quarter century ago.
    Beginning with the assassination of Oakland school superintendent Marcus
    Foster in 1974, the ragtag gang of lowlifes and losers continued their
    terrorist campaign by kidnapping Patricia Hearst. Most of them died in a
    fire in Los Angeles, unmourned by even the most intransigent members of the
    radical Left. But Patty Hearst and others of their hangers-on survived to
    commit more crimes. An obvious airhead dressed like a disco queen, Kathleen
    Soliah, stood up in a Berkeley park with her silly grin and threatened the
    SLA dead would be avenged.

    Eleven months after the fiery end of the main terror cell, the remaining
    conspirators robbed a bank in Carmichael, Calif., with the participation of
    Hearst. A 42-year old bank customer, Myrna Opsahl, was killed by a blast
    from a shotgun held by the visibly stupid Emily Harris, today Emily Montague.

    Also like most of the Bay Area Left, in which I was very active, I knew
    nothing of the SLA or its members. But all of us knew about the milieu from
    which it emerged, and nothing we knew was good. We knew that Venceremos, a
    splinter from the degenerate Students For a Democratic Society, was a
    Maoist cult headed by intellectual gangster H. Bruce Franklin. Venceremos
    organized military training and assigned its members to spy on other
    leftists; I was among those surveilled. We knew that Vietnam Veterans
    Against the War, aligned with Venceremos, had developed a "lumpen"
    mentality, emphasizing violent rhetoric and threats to other leftists. We
    knew that work with convicts was the focal point of these extremists
    groups' agenda, as it is today among the Saudi-Wahhabi agents who use
    prisons to recruit for Islamist terrorism. Later we heard that Angela
    Atwood, who burned to death in Los Angeles, had been tangentially involved
    in the Socialist Workers Party, the largest of the Trotskyist groups. But
    the SLA was fundamentally a byproduct of the Bruce Franklin cult. Above
    all, we knew that the trash inhabiting the netherworld of Venceremos and
    other post-SDS entities considered themselves above all law and all morality.

    I took little further notice of these parasites, although I became a friend
    of William Randolph Hearst III, and accompanied him to the U.S. Federal
    Building in San Francisco when Patty was arrested in 1975. But everything
    changed when I heard that Michael Bortin was involved. Michael Bortin I
    knew. We are the same age, and he had sat beside me at Lowell High School
    in San Francisco in the mid-60s.

    The Mike Bortin I remembered then, and whom I recall now as he appeared
    when we were teenagers, was the furthest thing from a terrorist, to say
    nothing of claiming credentials as a revolutionary. He was a rather
    unappetizing smartass of no intellectual distinction and no political
    opinions, who made a point of harassing me for my then-Communist views. He
    sat in our history class and spread wide his toothy sneer, pressing me with
    the argument that nobody could want to be a Communist when one could enjoy
    the typical teenage pleasure of drag-racing. His face was fat then.

    There were a number of other oafs like him at Lowell High, who made it
    clear that radical political nonconformity was repellent to them, and some
    of whom were quick with racial insults, since the young Communists and
    other radicals of that time emphasized our devotion to the African-American
    civil rights movement. Strangely, all three of the worst left-baiters at
    Lowell turned into leftist fanatics when they left home. Some, once they
    got to college, had been transformed by their experience in SDS, an
    organization that we young Communists of a pro-Soviet variety eschewed.

    I had also heard of Bortin earlier in 1970s, before the SLA horrors, when
    he was arrested in a bombing conspiracy in Berkeley and was sent to prison
    for a year. Perhaps it was there that he lost his chubby cheeks.

    But with the emergence of Bortin as a major SLA criminal, I began a long
    meditation on these topics. Those of us who had pioneered the leftist
    upsurge of the 1960s, including David Horowitz and Ronald Radosh, evolved
    away from Communism, eventually embracing American patriotism and the free
    market system. The Johnny-come-latelies of the Bortin variety sank deeper
    and deeper into the depths of nihilism. Was this simply a matter of some
    growing up, and some failing to?

    I never thought so. Rather, I had observed the sudden transformation of the
    Left from a small, marginal affair into a mass movement in 1968 and
    afterward. It was clear that as millions of middle-class kids had come into
    the milieu, mainly through SDS, the culture of the Left had changed
    utterly. With all our errors and weaknesses, those of us who initiated the
    ^A'60s radical uprising were neither uneducated, nor unconscious, nor
    unaware of the dangers of the "lumpen" mentality. We were "red diaper
    babies," a label some have turned into an insult, but our Soviet-lining
    parents did not bring us up to believe in the Left as a pretext for

    We read a lot and thought a lot and, in the first wave, were rather
    repressed about sexuality and dope-smoking. Our commitment was terribly
    wrong, in that we turned against our native land and the liberties it
    embodies, but we were idealists and intellectuals. We gravitated to
    universities like Berkeley and Madison because they represented a high
    standard, not because they were riot schools, the leftwing equivalent of
    party schools although we helped turn them into another, more sinister
    kind of party schools.

    By 1968 many of the "young pioneers" had personally and professionally
    moved on from mindless activism. Horowitz had returned from Britain and
    became the hardworking editor of Ramparts magazine. Radosh had published
    serious studies of U.S. foreign policy. I was honing my craft as a poet and
    translator, and had begun my own evolution away from Stalinism to Trotskyism.

    But the tone in the mass movement was increasingly set by the
    Johnny-come-latelies, which seems to be an inevitable outcome in leftist
    history. They were not big readers or thinkers; their intellect was located
    somewhere between their viscera and their sexual organs. They were having
    the time of their lives, and nobody was going to get in their way, as the
    family of Myrna Opsahl learned, the hard way.

    I now believe the speed with which the ^A'60s Left turned utterly rotten had
    more to do with a particular ideology than with inexorable historical laws.
    Between the Bolshevik revolution and the surrender of the global Left to
    Stalinism required the passage of 20 years, the imprisonment and massacre
    of numerous revolutionary "pioneers" of that time by the Soviet secret
    police, and the rise of Stalinism's homologue, Nazism. Yet with all the
    moral evil of Bolshevism, its lies were resisted by many radical intellectuals.

    Our lies went unresisted.

    We told our generation that the Cold War had been created by the U.S. as a
    scheme to perpetuate an undefined "imperialism" a lie echoed today by the
    marching morons who parade in defense of Saddam.

    We told our generation that the only alternatives were peace or war, i.e.,
    acceptance of Russian expansionism or a devastating nuclear conflict.

    We told our generation that Martin Luther King, Jr. a true man of God and
    righteous leader in the greatest political transformation of the 20th
    century, the American civil rights movement, was a weak leader susceptible
    to surrender.

    We told our generation that petty thugs were selfless heroes. These
    included Ho Chih Minh, who had murdered hundreds of Vietnamese Trotskyists
    before attacking his neighbors; like Fidel Castro, a whiter version of
    Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, in military dress like Franco or any
    other Hispanic caudillo; Ernesto "Che" Guevara, a physician who ordered
    liquidations in violation of his Hippocratic oath; and Yasir Arafat, who
    enriched himself by keeping the Palestinian Arabs in a state of abjection
    and dependency.

    We told our generation that the Soviet turn toward support of corrupt Arab
    regimes did not represent a devil's deal with anti-Jewish hatred, stirred
    up in the Soviet camp under the pretext of criticizing Israel.

    We told our generation that terrorism was not a crime against humanity.

    All lies; and the indoctrination of millions of American young people in
    such lies could not but lead straight to Emily Harris and her shotgun,
    killing Myrna Opsahl.

    For myself, I believe some guilt in this terrible chapter of world history
    must be shared by the Stalinist physicists, led by J. Robert Oppenheimer,
    "the million-killer," as the anti-Stalinist poet Kenneth Rexroth called
    him. They built a bomb in a hurry, to save Russia, and then handed it off,
    by espionage, to the Russians, guaranteeing that the peaceful and
    constructive world our parents had believed would follow World War II would
    be sabotaged by permanent fear. With the shadow of the bomb hanging over
    us, how could we be expected to find a moral compass?

    Nevertheless, some of us did so. Horowitz refused to lie to protect the
    Black Panthers and the murder of one of his acquaintances. Radosh refused
    to continue lying to save the reputations of the Rosenbergs, grubby Russian
    spies who, had they gotten the chance, would have assembled lists of New
    York Trotskyists for liquidation by an American version of the KGB. My
    rejection of Communist lies will be detailed at another time and place. But
    all of us ended up as defenders of democracy and the West.

    I believe there is a psychological element that unites all of us who have
    made this journey, and another such factor that unites human dust of the
    SLA type.

    We who pioneered the leftism of the '60s were wrong, but we swam against
    the stream, to use a phrase once favored by the Bolsheviks in describing
    the socialists who opposed the first world war. We did not organize or join
    mobs. We sought a fresh path, refusing to recognize that it might lead us
    into a fetid swamp. And we swam against the stream when we broke with the
    Left. Indeed, none of us are predictable functionaries of the "bourgeois
    regime" today. We continue to follow our own courses.

    Mike Bortin and his SLA "comrades," by contrast, did what they did to be
    cool, to be part of the gang. Just as Bortin spoke for the mediocre
    majority in high school when he jeered at my Communism, so he spoke for the
    mediocre majority in college when he claimed the "revolution" would be
    served by terrorism. They did not swim against the stream; they were swept

    In a sense, none of us changed at all, at least in our hearts, which is
    what counts.

    Bortin and Co. have now been sentenced to prison terms for their
    involvement in the murder of Myrna Opsahl. The hysterical Emily Montague
    got eight years; her ex-husband Bill Harris, babbling incoherently and
    posturing like the punk he is, acted as if he thought impersonating a
    homeless person would gain him some form of mercy. But the simian Harris
    received seven years. Kathleen Soliah, alias Sara Jane Olson, who had the
    aspect of a lobotomy patient, and got six years, as did Bortin. The smirk
    he had worn in high school was finally removed from his face.
    There remains a major unanswered question in this depressing affair: who
    arranged for Kathleen Soliah and James Kilgore to travel to southern
    Africa? I have my own sources on these matters, which I am following up.
    But will we have to wait for the opening of Cuban archives to learn the
    full truth about the malign activities of these rotten adventurers?
    Stephen Schwartz, an author and journalist, is author of The Two Faces of
    Islam: The House of Sa'ud from Tradition to Terror. A vociferous critic of
    Wahhabism, Schwartz is a frequent contributor to National Review, The
    Weekly Standard, and other publications.

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