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In Praise of Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground

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By Dave Lindorff

The pundits are having a heyday with Hillary Clinton's sleazy McCarthyite attack on Barack Obama during the April 16 debate, trying to link him to the Weather Underground because of his having served on a charity organization board with one of the Weathermen, Bill Ayers, who is currently a distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois, and who is married to Bernadine Dohrn, another Weather Underground veteran.

What has them in a lather is Ayer's comment, made a few years ago, that he has no regrets for the organization's having set off several bombs back in the early 1970s, and that in fact they "should have set of more." (Incidentally, as Robert Parry notes, those comments were made before 9-11, not, as Hillary Clinton charged duplicitously in the April 16 Philadelphia debate, right after 9-11.)

In fact, it's important to remember that while three members of the Weather Underground died at their own hands because of a failed bomb they were constructing, no one else died at their hands. The group scrupulously worked to make sure that their attacks were on property, not people.

It's also important to remember that they were targeting a government that was engaged in a criminal war against a peasant country half a world away, that had killed nearly two million Indochinese people, most of them civilians, and that was well on the way to pointlessly sending 58,000 American troops to their deaths.

The actions of the Weather Underground may have been misguided and quixotic, but they were not terrorists in the sense of trying to cause mass terror among the American public, in the way that Al Qaeda terrorists or other terror groups indiscriminately attack civilians. They were much more carefully targeting the levers of power, and in effect, trying to "bring the war home."

While many in the anti-war movement condemned the actions of the Weather Underground, I would argue that they, like the militant Black Panthers, performed an invaluable role by sending a loud, clear message to the nation's ruling elite that if they continued the war, things would get worse at home.



Their actions made the peaceful mass protests against the Indochina War far more potent, because they forced the ruling elite in the US to have to ponder what would happen if those masses turned to the same kind of violent measures against them.

Ayers has long since earned the nation's respect, whatever one may think of his youthful radicalism, by devoting his life to the challenge of helping educate those who have a hard time breaking the cycle of poverty and ignorance, which makes it obscene to criticize Obama for sharing a boardroom with him (Obama was 8 when Ayers was in the Weathermen back in 1970).

But Ayers and his comrades should also be honored for having been willing to go the extra mile and put their lives on the line to end a criminal war.

We could use that kind of courage and militancy today in the anti-war movement--not in the form of another underground bombing campaign, but certainly in the form of a willingness put our bodies on the line to blockade and undermine an American imperial war machine that has chewed up the lives of tens of thousands of young Americans and killed over a million innocent Iraqis.

Five years into a war with no end in Iraq, it's clear that just going about our business, and making periodic marches along the boulevards of Washington, New York or San Francisco is not enough.
________
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006, and now available in paperback edition). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net

 

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper www.thiscantbehappening.net. He is a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books ("This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the (more...)
 

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Right on! Right on! RIGHT effin' ON! (Punching... by mrk * on Thursday, Apr 17, 2008 at 6:36:43 PM
THANK YOU, Dave, for saying what too many of us wh... by Leigh Saavedra on Thursday, Apr 17, 2008 at 8:03:20 PM
What's age got to do with it?... by Dave Lindorff on Thursday, Apr 17, 2008 at 9:19:38 PM
And thus I watched through the years for her to us... by Margaret Bassett on Thursday, Apr 17, 2008 at 8:45:51 PM
After law school, in 1969, she clerked for a Commi... by Dave Lindorff on Thursday, Apr 17, 2008 at 9:23:43 PM
In the name of peace?  You're out of your... by Jeanette Doney on Thursday, Apr 17, 2008 at 9:31:21 PM
I said maybe we shouldn't be bombing, but we n... by Dave Lindorff on Thursday, Apr 17, 2008 at 9:46:09 PM
Interesting, that Hillary seems to be attempting t... by Rob Kall on Thursday, Apr 17, 2008 at 11:44:32 PM
"Ayers has earned respect... They should be h... by Scott on Thursday, Apr 17, 2008 at 11:58:45 PM
I am not defending bombings that kill people, but ... by Dave Lindorff on Friday, Apr 18, 2008 at 9:33:39 AM
Scott:This respect and decency which you speak,&nb... by Munich on Friday, Apr 18, 2008 at 2:12:35 AM
I write some pretty heavy articles at times, and I... by William Cormier on Friday, Apr 18, 2008 at 4:04:56 AM
       I agree, the ... by robert braunstein on Friday, Apr 18, 2008 at 6:39:46 AM
One should pause and go back and read one of Tom R... by Mr M on Friday, Apr 18, 2008 at 9:39:34 AM
when you have 5 kids. Bear that in mind before you... by larry booth on Saturday, Apr 19, 2008 at 5:07:55 PM
During Wednesday's debate, Hillary had absolut... by John Sanchez Jr. on Friday, Apr 18, 2008 at 11:30:21 AM
It is fuzzy in my memory as I was not politially e... by Marilyn Frith on Friday, Apr 18, 2008 at 1:51:56 PM
Read the article.... by John Sanchez Jr. on Friday, Apr 18, 2008 at 5:55:47 PM
While many in the anti-war movement condemned the... by Brett Paatsch on Friday, Apr 18, 2008 at 11:47:47 AM
In 1970 during a Weatherman bombing at the Army Re... by Marilyn Frith on Friday, Apr 18, 2008 at 2:57:39 PM
as part of a current exhibit "The Enemy ... by Kathlyn Stone on Friday, Apr 18, 2008 at 4:14:57 PM
Marilyn let us agree one life is not worth more th... by robert braunstein on Friday, Apr 18, 2008 at 5:22:54 PM
You seem to be saying that crime is relative. ... by Marilyn Frith on Friday, Apr 18, 2008 at 6:41:05 PM
Murder is a crime not just against the victum but ... by Brett Paatsch on Friday, Apr 18, 2008 at 7:52:01 PM
precisely why I pay no attention to HiLAIRy suppor... by ladybroadoak on Friday, Apr 18, 2008 at 10:26:40 PM
You keep missing the point that none of Bill Ayers... by rhalfhill on Saturday, Apr 19, 2008 at 3:53:16 AM
If anyone began bombing government facilities in t... by William Cormier on Friday, Apr 18, 2008 at 6:42:50 PM
Ive now spent over an hour on this exercise. ... by ladybroadoak on Friday, Apr 18, 2008 at 6:52:59 PM
with all do respect you are welcome to play girl p... by robert braunstein on Friday, Apr 18, 2008 at 9:56:50 PM
   thataway lady broadoak. Many were aga... by robert braunstein on Saturday, Apr 19, 2008 at 9:22:35 AM
  If I only knew how to tie all these differe... by Michael Dewey on Sunday, Apr 20, 2008 at 3:12:25 PM