Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn are currently hailed by the Left as “respected” university professors—Ayers in the University of Illinois’ education department, and Dohrn at Northwestern University’s School of Law. In the mid-1990s, both were instrumental in helping to launch 34-year-old Barack Obama’s political career in Chicago. Ayers in particular would go on to cultivate a close working relationship with Obama, serving as a fellow board member at the Woods Fund of Chicago and appointing Obama to chair the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which funneled money to a host of far-left causes such as ACORN and an organization run by Communist Party leader Mike Klonsky. On Thursday, March 12, the National Press Club hosted an event where several key speakers urged federal authorities to reopen an investigation into the role that Ayers and Dohrn—both of whom are former leaders of the notorious terror group Weather Underground—may have played in the February 16, 1970 murder of Sergeant Brian McDonnell at Park Station police headquarters in San Francisco.
Ayers and Dohrn have always denied any personal involvement with the Weather Underground bomb blast that killed McDonnell. In fact, their consistent refrain has been that none of the thirty bombs which their organization detonated ever harmed anyone other than three fellow Underground members who were killed in March 1970, when a bomb they were constructing—and were planning to detonate at a Fort Dix, New Jersey dance attended by Army soldiers—exploded unexpectedly in their lab. But one of the individuals who spoke at the National Press Club, Larry Grathwohl—a former FBI informant who actually infiltrated the Weather Underground and held private meetings and conversations with Ayers—contends that Ayers confided to him that Dohrn had planted the bomb that took Sergeant McDonnell’s life.
Thus we see a remarkable scenario taking shape: On Thursday, Grathwohl and his fellow speakers—retired San Francisco policeman (and McDonnell colleague) Jim Pera, veteran congressional investigator Herbert Romerstein, and the renowned researcher into extremist movements Trevor Loudon—urged the Obama Justice Department to investigate the very people, Ayers and Dohrn, who first helped Obama gain a foothold in politics. How will this play with a Justice Department headed by none other than Eric Holder, who in 1999 worked doggedly to secure the release of 16 incarcerated Marxist-Leninist terrorists belonging to the FALN?
To put this story more fully in perspective, some further background about Ayers and Dohrn is in order. Their Weather Underground emerged in 1969 as “Weatherman,” a Communist-driven splinter faction of Students for a Democratic Society. Characterizing Weatherman as “an American Red Army,” Ayers summed up the organization’s ideology as follows:
“Kill all the rich people. Break up their cars and apartments. Bring the revolution home, Kill your parents.”
The fledgling Weatherman issued a “manifesto” eschewing nonviolence and calling instead for armed opposition to U.S. policies; advocating the overthrow of capitalism; exhorting white radicals to trigger a worldwide revolution by fighting in the streets of the “mother country”; and proclaiming that the time had come to launch a race war against the “white” United States on behalf of the non-white Third World. Weatherman leaders traveled illegally to Castro’s Cuba, where they were taught Marxist philosophy and urban warfare at terrorist-training camps established by the Soviet KGB.
At a 1969 “War Council” in Flint, Michigan, Bernardine Dohrn delivered a signature speech wherein she praised the bloody murders recently committed by the Manson Family, stating: “Dig it! First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a fork into the victim’s stomach! Wild!” The War Council ended with a formal declaration of war against “AmeriKKKa,” always spelled with three K’s to signify the United States’ allegedly ineradicable white racism. From that point onward, Weatherman was transformed into the even more radical “Weather Underground” cult.
Ayers and Dohrn spent the 1970s as fugitives running from the FBI. In 1974 they co-authored—along with Jeff Jones and Celia Sojourn—a book titled Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism. The title was an allusion to Mao Zedong’s observation that “a single spark can start a prairie fire.” Dedicated to a bevy of violent, America-hating revolutionaries, including Sirhan Sirhan (assassin of Robert F. Kennedy), this book contained the following statements:
- "We are a guerrilla organization. We are communist women and men ... deeply affected by the historic events of our time in the struggle against U.S. imperialism."
- "Our intention is to disrupt the empire, to incapacitate it, to put pressure on the cracks, to make it hard to carry out its bloody functioning against the people of the world, to join the world struggle, to attack from the inside."
- "The only path to the final defeat of imperialism and the building of socialism is revolutionary war."
- "Revolutionary war will be complicated and protracted. It includes mass struggle and clandestine struggle, peaceful and violent, political and economic, cultural and military, where all forms are developed in harmony with the armed struggle."
- "Without mass struggle there can be no revolution. Without armed struggle there can be no victory."
- "We need a revolutionary communist party in order to lead the struggle, give coherence and direction to the fight, seize power and build the new society."
- "Our job is to tap the discontent seething in many sectors of the population, to find allies everywhere people are hungry or angry, to mobilize poor and working people against imperialism."
- "Socialism is the total opposite of capitalism/imperialism. It is the rejection of empire and white supremacy. Socialism is the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the eradication of the social system based on profit."
In 1980 Ayers and Dohrn surrendered to law-enforcement authorities, but all charges against them were later dropped due to a technicality—government authorities had failed to get a warrant for some of their surveillance. Ayers’ sardonic comment about this fortuitous turn of events, as reported by Peter Collier and David Horowitz in their book Destructive Generation, was this: “Guilty as sin, free as a bird, America is a great country.”
In a 2001 interview, Ayers gave expression to his enduring hatred of the United States: “What a country. It makes me want to puke.” Published that same year was Ayers’ book Fugitive Days, wherein he recounts his life as a Sixties radical and boasts that he “participated in the bombings of New York City Police Headquarters in 1970, of the Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972.” Of the day he bombed the Pentagon, Ayers writes: “Everything was absolutely ideal.... The sky was blue. The birds were singing. And the bastards were finally going to get what was coming to them.”
All told, Ayers and Weatherman were responsible for 30 bombings aimed at destroying the defense and security infrastructures of the U.S. “I don’t regret setting bombs,” said Ayers in 2001, “I feel we didn’t do enough.” In Fugitive Days, Ayers reflects on whether or not he might use bombs against the U.S. in the future: “I can’t imagine entirely dismissing the possibility,” he writes.
That is because Ayers views himself not as a terrorist but rather as a freedom-fighter struggling to overthrow an evil American “Empire” characterized by “a kind of rising incipient … form of fascism” as embodied in those who do not share his revolutionary Marxist ideals. Neither does Bernardine Dohrn consider herself a terrorist. Of her Weather Underground past, she says: “We rejected terrorism. We were careful not to hurt anybody.”
But that assertion is patently untrue. In a Weatherman riot that erupted during the Chicago “Days of Rage” in October 1969, for instance, a local district attorney named Richard Elrod suffered injuries that rendered him paralyzed for life. Dohrn later led a celebration of Elrod's paralysis by leading her comrades in a parody of a Bob Dylan song, “Lay, Elrod, Lay.”
Brian McDonnell was another casualty of the violence practiced by Ayers, Dohrn, and their comrades. Hopefully a measure of justice can finally be delivered to those responsible for his death. And if that happens, maybe someone in the media will have the backbone to ask Barack Obama why he chose to hitch his political star to people like Ayers and Dohrn.