ON THE MORNING OF THE ATTACKS on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, along with a million other readers of the New York Times including many who would never be able to read the paper again, I opened its pages to be confronted by a color photo showing a middle-aged couple holding hands and affecting a defiant look at the camera. The article was headlined in an irony that could not have been more poignant, "No Regrets For A Love Of Explosives." The couple pictured were Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, former leaders of the 1960s’ Weather Underground, America’s first terrorist cult. One of their bombing targets, as it happened, was the Pentagon.
"I don’t regret setting bombs," Ayers was quoted in the opening line of the Times profile; "I feel we didn’t do enough." In 1969, Ayers and his wife convened a "War Council" in Flint Michigan, whose purpose was to launch a military front inside the United States with the purpose of helping Third World revolutionaries conquer and destroy it. Taking charge of the podium, dressed in a high-heeled boots and a leather mini-skirt – her signature uniform – Dorhn incited the assembled radicals to join the war against "Amerikkka" and create chaos and destruction in the "belly of the beast." Her voice rising to a fevered pitch, Dohrn raised three fingers in a "fork salute" to mass murderer Charles Manson whom she proposed as a symbol to her troops. Referring to the helpless victims of the Manson Family as the "Tate Eight" (the most famous was actress Sharon Tate) Dohrn shouted:
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!
Embarrassed today by this memory, but unable to expunge it from the record and unwilling to repudiate her terrorist deeds, Dorhn resorts to the lie direct. "It was a joke," she told the sympathetic Times reporter, Dinitia Smith; she was actually protesting America’s crimes. "We were mocking violence in America. Even in my most inflamed moment I never supported a racist mass murderer." In 1980, I taped interviews with thirty members of the Weather Underground who were present at the Flint War Council, including most of its leadership. Not one of them thought Dohrn was anything but deadly serious. Outrageous nihilism was the Weatherman political style. As soon as her tribute to Manson was completed, Dohrn was followed to the Flint platform by another Weather leader who ranted, "We’re against everything that’s ‘good and decent’ in honky America. We will loot and burn and destroy. We are the incubation of your mothers’ nightmares."
It has long been a fashion among media sophisticates to ridicule the late J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI men who sought to protect Americans from the threats posed by people like Ayers and Dohrn in their "days of rage." But Hoover’s description of Bernardine Dohrn as "La Pasionara of the lunatic left" is far more accurate than anything that can be found in the Times profile.
Instead of a critique of this malignant couple and their destructive resume, the Times’ portrait provides a soft-focus promotion for Ayers’ newly published Fugitive Days, a memoir notable for its dishonesty and its celebration of his malevolent exploits. Ayers’ text wallows in familiar Marxist incitements and the homicidal delusions of Sixties radicalism, including a loving reprint of an editorial from the old socialist magazine Alarm! Written by Albert Parsons, one of the Haymarket anarchists, whom the Weathermen idolized:
Dynamite! Of all the good stuff, that is the stuff! Stuff several pounds of this sublime stuff into an inch pipe…plug up both ends, insert a cap with a fuse attached, place this in the immediate vicinity of a lot of rich loafers who live by the sweat of other people’s brows, and light the fuse. A most cheerful and gratifying result will follow. In giving dynamite to the downtrodden millions of the globe, science has done its best work.
In Fugitive Days, Ayers has written – and the Times promoted – a text that the bombers of the World Trade Center could have packed in their flight bags alongside the Koran, as they embarked on their sinister mission.
"Memory is a motherf*cker," Ayers warns his readers, in the illiterate style that made him an icon of the New Left. It is as close as he gets to acknowledging that his account leaves World Trade Center size holes in the story of his criminal past. Among them is its second half, how Weatherman imploded in the year other Americans were celebrating the bicentennial of their nation. It imploded because the devotion of the terrorists to the bibles of the cause – Lenin, Stalin, Mao – eventually led them into a series of brainwashing rituals and purges that decimated their ranks. None of this is remembered in Ayers’ book. Nor is the passage of their closest comrades into the ranks of the May 19th Communist Movement, which murdered three officers – including the first black policeman on the Nyack force, during an infamous robbery of a Brinks armored car in 1981. Caveat emptor. The point of the omissions is to hide from others (and from Ayers himself) the real-world consequences of the anti-American ideologies, which took root in the Sixties and now flourish on college campuses across the country.
Today William Ayers is not merely an author favored by the New York Times, but a Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois, Chicago. His Lady Macbeth is not merely a lawyer, but a member of the American Bar Association’s governing elite, as well as the director of Northwestern University’s Children and Family Justice Center. These facts reflect a reality about the culture of facile defamation of America and ready appeasement of her mortal enemies, that confronts us as we struggle to deal with the terrorist attack.
The President has correctly defined the repulsive deed that has left 10,000 dead as an "act of war." This, it must be said, is a very belated recognition of our reality, which was postponed for almost a decade by an Administration infused with the attitudes of self-flagellation and moral equivalence perfectly expressed on the day of the attack by John Lahr, a writer for the Microsoft Internet journal Slate. On the day of the attack that crushed to death and burned alive 10,000 innocent civilians at their workplace, John Lahr advised America to "Rush to Thought, Not to Judgment."
I fear the hysteria in the American character, which splits so easily into good and bad, which rushes to judgment rather than to thought. The terrorists have taken aim at the American government and American capitalism and brought them both – symbolically at least – down. America, from the point of view of the terrorists, has been humiliated and brutalized as they feel they have felt humiliated and brutalized by America.
This is the we-feel-your-terrorist-pain, appeasement perspective perfectly tuned. The hysteria in the American character! A character that permitted fanatical America-haters to bomb the World Trade Center not once but twice without so much as instituting serious security at its airports, lest the American Civil Liberties Union and other members of the appeasement coalition take their government to court to ensure that terrorists, too, have civil liberties. Hysterically "anti-Islamic" America, which during the Clinton years forbade its intelligence operatives from using "human rights violators" as intelligence assets to prevent such terrorist attacks. Who in these Middle Eastern thugdoms with any access to authority or power let alone terrorist networks is not a human rights violator? Liberal self-hatred masquerading as a concern for human rights was the primary reason why it was so easy for a complicated and lethal attack to be planned and carried out without coming to the attention of American intelligence agencies. It was more important for the Clinton Administration to be sensitive to the utopian concerns of the progressive elites and the one-world kleptocrats who make up the UN than to protect the American people.
America the brutalizer! Osama bin Laden our terrorist enemy and mass murderer is not exactly one of your huddled masses. He is a Saudi prince! Sheik Abdel Rahman, architect of the first World Trade Center bombing is a sheik! Brutalization is not their problem. They are brutes! Like other radical zealots they are driven by a religious fanaticism confident that God is on their side and those who do not share their faith – in our case, Christians and Jews – are infidels, worthy of destruction. In Palestinian schools in democratic Israel, Palestinian school children are taught by their Palestinian teachers to chant "Destroy the heathen Jews." Register it. Not those who have injured them, but those who are not Muslims. Religious fanaticism will express itself in political – and eventually military – fanaticism whatever you do. Ask not, Americans, what your country has done to deserve its pain. Ask what has been done to inflict pain on your country and what you can do about it.
In May 1998, three years before the World Trade Center bombing, Osama bin Laden was interviewed by ABC News reporter John Miller. He explained his war this way:
John Miller: Mr. Bin Laden, you have issued a fatwa [death sentence] calling on all Muslims to kill Americans where they can, when they can. Is that directed at all Americans, just American military, just Americans in Saudi Arabia?
Osama bin Laden: Allah ordered us … to purify Muslim land of all non-believers,… We are surprised this question is coming from Americans…. American history does not distinguish between civilians and military, and not even women and children. They are the ones who used the bombs against Nagasaki…. America does not have a religion that will prevent it from destroying all people…. We believe that the biggest thieves in the world and the terrorists are the Americans… We are sure of Allah’s victory and our victory against the Americans and the Jews as promised by the prophet peace be upon him….We predict a black day for America and the end of the United States as United States…
Is this clear enough? This holy war is not about American acts. It is about who we are. It is not a war that can be negotiated. It is them or us.
This is the hour for America to take care of itself; to take steps to defend itself. America must be hard where it has been soft, calculating where it has been sensitive, strong where it has been weak. Osama bin Laden is impressed with American weakness, the very kind of weakness urged again on America in this crisis, by appeasers like John Lahr. Rush to thought, not judgment:
Osama bin Laden: We have seen in the last decade the decline of the American government and the weakness of the American soldier who is ready to wage Cold Wars and unprepared to fight long wars. This was proven in Beirut when Marines fled after two explosions. It also proves they can run in less than 24 hours, and this was also repeated in Somalia. We are ready for all occasions. We rely on Allah.
On the day of the World Trade Center bombing, I appeared on a Fox TV program in San Diego and did my best to steer the discussion towards the steps America must take to defend herself, to carry the war to the enemy camp. But the host would have none of it. While thousands of Americans writhed in agony in the twisted steel of the Trade Center, she wanted to discuss the danger of American "hysteria," the "threat" that American prejudice might pose to Muslims in our midst. It did not even occur to her that if Americans were prejudiced in a way that made this issue pressing, these terrorists would never have been trained as pilots by American companies, housed in American homes, or ignored by American security agents at the airports where they hijacked the airliners in order to convert them into bombs.
Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn are a far more typical academic couple, and their NY Times interlocutor a far more familiar arbiter of information to the American public than is comforting to consider. We have already been treated to TV images of college students shifting the blame to American shoulders while the embers of the Trade Center are still warm. Many of us have children in secondary schools who, in this hour of mourning, have been lectured by their teachers on America’s sins and chickens coming home to roost. The political friends of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn have been busily at work for the last two decades seeding our educational culture with anti-American poisons that could one day destroy us.
A visit to a well-traveled website "for the progressive community" – www.commondreams.org – reveals how profoundly America has been rejected and how passionately its bloodthirsty enemies have been embraced by significant sections of our population, even as we enter a life and death struggle with an enemy that wants to exterminate us:
- "Not only have we caused these events with our monstrous foreign policies but also with our complete disregard of our environment causing mortal damage to the Earth (Earth is a living being) and other species that co-exist with us." – Susan Yost, Cumberland VA
- "My heart went out to all the people there as I sat watching, waiting … and then sadness filled me, sadness that the foreign policy of this country has come back to haunt us; sadness that our government has been so arrogant that a lesson like this occurred;…It is US policies of terror in other countries that have brought this down on us." Matthew A Peckham, Eugene OR
- "Our corporate entities not only run this country but have decimated many other small countries in ways we cannot even fathom….This is a wake up call, America. It is time to change our ways." –Rich Cianflone, Colorado
- "We are reaping what we have sown. We will now have the dreaded opportunity to live in the same fear that our financial policies and military assistance have inflicted on others." – Harold Parkey, Fort Worth, Texas
- "For fifty-six years Washington has successfully conducted mass murders…." – William Mandel, Oakland, California (Mandel is a lifelong Communist and taxpayer funded Public Radio commentator.)
- "The United States conducts itself as a terrorist organization throughout the world." – Lance Del Goebel, Manhattan, Illinois
- "U.S. foreign policy has come home to roost today … we are reaping what we have sown."—Glynn Ash
America, the Great Satan.
Actually, these comments are merely cribbed from bin Laden’s friend, Saddam Hussein, whose response to the Trade Center attacks was as follows: "Notwithstanding the conflicting human feelings about what happened in America yesterday, America is reaping the thorns sown by its rulers in the world. Those thorns have not only bloodied the feet and the hearts of many, but also the eyes of people shedding tears on their dead whose souls have been reaped by America." Saddam then invoked a litany of misdeeds that could have come from a primer written by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn or any number of familiar anti-American extremists: "There is no place that does not have a symbolic monument that shows America’s criminal acts against these victims, whether in Japan that was the first to be seared by the nuclear destruction weapons boasted by America, or Vietnam, Iraq … or the criminal acts the US is now perpetrating by supporting the criminal racist Zionism against our heroic Palestinian people…."
This is the banal excuse of common criminals – the devil made me do it. "I don’t think you can understand a single thing we did," explains the pampered Weatherman bomber Bill Ayers "without understanding the violence of the Vietnam War."
I interviewed Ayers ten years ago, in a kindergarten classroom in uptown Manhattan where he was employed to shape the minds of inner city children. Dressed in bib overalls with golden curls rolling below his ears, Ayers reviewed his activities as a terrorist for my tape recorder. When he was done, he broke into a broad, Jack Horner grin and summed up his experience: "Guilty as hell. Free as a bird. America is a great country."
In my experience, what drives most radicals are passions of resentment, envy and inner rage. Bill Ayers is a scion of wealth. His father was head of Detroit’s giant utility Commonwealth Edison, in line for a cabinet position in the Nixon Administration before his son ruined it by going on a rampage that to this day he cannot explain to any reasonable person’s satisfaction (which is why he has to conceal so much). It could be said of Bill Ayers that he was consumed by angers so terrible they led him to destroy his father’s career. But in the 10 hours I interviewed him I saw none of it. What I saw was a shallowness beyond conception. All the Weather leaders I interviewed shared a similar vacuity. They were living inside a utopian fantasy, a separate reality, and had no idea of what they had done. Nor any way to measure it. Appreciating the nation to which they were born, recognizing the great gifts of freedom and opportunity their parents and communities had given them, distinguishing between right and wrong – it was all above their mental and moral ceiling.
In the days ahead, this is one of the dangers we face.