Bill Ayers Speaks:
In the op-ed page of the New York Times: "In the recently concluded presidential race, I was unwillingly thrust upon the stage and asked to play a role in a profoundly dishonest drama. I refused, and here's why."

  UPDATE: It's interesting to compare this to what Ayers wrote years ago in his memoirs, reviewed here in 2001 by Timothy Noah of Slate.

VincentPaul (mail):
Diana Oughton?
12.6.2008 10:43am
They sat on two boards together, they worked out of the same office, they were at least one known party together at Ayers' house. Where is the New York Times' vaunted fact-checkers?
12.6.2008 10:49am
If Obama promotes the educational philosophy of Bill Ayers, which is to blame everything on white privilege, then Black and Latino children will continue to fall behind academically for another generation. President Obama would be the ideal person to use the bully pulpit to denounce the victimhood attitude among Blacks and Latinos that academic achievement equals "acting white." But I am afraid he will appoint strict multiculturalists to positions like Sec. of Education.

Bill Ayers' continuing crime is his foaming-at-the mouth hatred of whites preached from his powerful position as Professor of Education -- his upcoming book is titled "Race Course Against White Supremacy", only $13.75 from Amazon.
Multiculturalists like Ayers support Jonah Goldberg's thesis that whites are the "Jews of the Left."
12.6.2008 10:50am
Brett Bellmore:
Anybody who thinks setting bombs isn't terrorism is delusional. Even if you take great care to plant them only where they won't injure anyone, the clear message delivered is: We COULD have injured you if we wanted!" It's like firing a gun at somebody and deliberately missing: You and they both know what it's telling them, and you're just insulting peoples' intelligence if you claim otherwise.

If you want to vandalize without making people fear for their lives, you don't use bombs.

I think Ayers is merely dishonest, though, not delusional. He's completely unrepentant about being a terrorist, and knows he can't really get away with saying, "Yeah, I was a terrorist, you have a problem with that?", so he's got to pretend he was something else. But, no, that's exactly what he was, and he only gave it up because too many eyes are on him now.
12.6.2008 10:52am
What an odious vermin Ayers is.
I never killed or injured anyone... I co-founded the Weather Underground... went on to take responsibility for placing several small bombs in empty offices ... as an illegal and unpopular war consumed the nation.
Despicable and thoroughly un-American.

Who elected Ayers to determine whether a war is "illegal"? Who appointed him judge? What gave Ayers the right to manufacture nail bombs on the pretext that the war was illegal?

Ayers does not see the rank hypocrisy of using violence to end a war. The travesty is that Ayers still walks free.
12.6.2008 10:54am
Two more points about Ayers' educational philosophy, and that of most "Professors" of Education.

1. The achievement gap by most measures is just as great between Asians and whites as between whites and Blacks and Latinos. Students of Asian descent are now I believe a plurality of University of California undergraduates.
Arguing that white privilege and Eurocentric perspective are the main obstacles to Black and Latino achievement is ludicrous given current realities, at least in California.

2. The Amazon description of Ayers' forthcoming book (why is it delayed? To avoid discussion of the equally important issue of Obama's educational philosophy?) encapsulates the odiousness of multiculturalist education.

White supremacy and its troubling endurance in American life is debated in these personal essays by two veteran political activists. Arguing that white supremacy has been the dominant political system in the United States since its earliest days—and that it is still very much with us—the discussion points to unexamined bigotry in the criminal justice system, election processes, war policy, and education. The book draws upon the authors' own confrontations with authorities during the Vietnam era, reasserts their belief that racism and war are interwoven issues, and offers personal stories about their lives today as parents, teachers, and reformers.
12.6.2008 11:00am
Vermando (mail) (www):
Why did you post this Professor?

Please, we don't need 140 comments on this. Was there something of merit in the piece I missed?
12.6.2008 11:04am
John (mail):
It never ceases to amaze me how easily smart people can rationalize to the point of delusion. Perhaps only smart people can do this. Worse, smart people readily accept this crap.

Ayers is not in jail for one reason: illegal wiretaps. There is no doubt Weather Underground wanted to kill people. His op-ed is so disingenuous that one must assume the Times editors are corrupt or are simply fools.

I must say I did chuckle at his reference to Rev. Wright merely as having a "fiery style." Fiery style, yes, that's the ticket. Sheesh.
12.6.2008 11:04am
Wow, so as long as you're only destroying property, it's not terrorism?

12.6.2008 11:12am
bikeguy (mail):

Was there something of merit in the piece I missed?

Please go read something that interests you.
12.6.2008 11:29am
David Warner:

"Why did you post this Professor?"

Would you consider it news if the Times editorial page allowed itself to be defiled by the likes of McVeigh or Kaczynski or Al-Zawahiri? How about other spoiled and largely meritless (by the standards commonly used by the Times to judge who it invites to their editorial page) children of privilege like Paris Hilton or Tori Spelling?

I suspect this character was based on Ayers. What's he doing in the Times? Not fit to print.

Also interesting take here on Ayers' racism. Caution: conventional ideological allegiances twisted out of recognition.
12.6.2008 11:47am
midlantan (mail):
Whether you agree with or condone the actions of Ayers and the WU of the early 70s or condemn them, it's worth keeping in mind that destroying property in order to spark or facilitate political change is the tactic that the US itself has used quite frequently. That is, our leaders engage in wars (or "police actions") and aim to cripple the infrastructure of a country, region, etc. to undermine command and control, and sometimes to serve demonstrative purposes (as a form of propaganda). The US tries to avoid killing innocents (although many argue that it doesn't try hard enough), but some (many) innocent people, and certainly many combatants, end up being harmed. I'm not equating the actions of the US government with those of the WU, but if the words of the leadership of both the US and the WU at the time are to be believed, they share those keys traits in common. Calling exploding bombs at Army recruiting offices or the Pentagon itself mere "vandalism" is to excuse it through understatement, and doesn't really get at what those actions mean, but slapping the label "terrorism" on them to condemn them doesn't really help either. If both the US and the WU attempt to destroy property to achieve some political goal, while at the same time trying not to harm people (or at least civilians) in the process, why would is it "terrorism" in the latter case but not the former? Is the distinction that when the US does it, it's acting as a state, rather than a private band of upper middle class 20-somethings with a grievance? Is it, as Smokey suggests, because the US leaders who prosecutes wars are elected (or at least some are elected, and they choose the McNamaras, Kissingers, etc.)? Again, I'm not asking to suggest that it's OK to plant bombs as the WU did (or even to drop bombs on civilians, as the US did in Vietnam) but I'm curious what makes this "terrorism" as opposed to "crime."
12.6.2008 11:55am
Seamus (mail):
midlantan: If you're suggesting we ought to prosecute Bill Clinton for terrorism in connection with his bombing of Serbia in 1999, I'm completely cool with that.
12.6.2008 12:06pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
our leaders engage in wars ... If both the US and the WU attempt to destroy property to achieve some political goal, while at the same time trying not to harm people (or at least civilians) in the process, why would is it "terrorism" in the latter case but not the former?
Because the term "terrorism" means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, as explained in another thread.

We elect our leaders and we trust them to pursue our national interests. Sometimes that necessitates war. Nobody elected Bill Ayers to plant bombs. If you really cannot see the difference, then I hope no one elects you to anything either.
12.6.2008 1:16pm
MarkField (mail):

Because the term "terrorism" means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, as explained in another thread.

This begs the question why our government chose to define "terrorism" to include only acts by "subnational groups". I think "Duh" comes to mind as the answer, but we don't need to pretend ignorance of the fact that the greatest perpetrators of terrorism in the world have always been governments (think Stalin or Rwanda or Robespierre or too many other examples).
12.6.2008 1:33pm
midlantan (mail):
I guess it's not a surprise that my question provokes a little testiness (or, as is apparently inevitable on the VC, a reference to Bill Clinton). "Terrorism" is self-evidently bad. Questions about what distinguishes certain acts of putative terrorism from state-sponsored acts of violence might require acknowledgment of shared similarities between the two, and we can't have any of that messy gray-area stuff here in VC comment threads!

Seamus - there are plenty of people who suggest that. I wasn't. Nor was I suggesting prosecution of anyone else, for that matter. But yes, planting bombs as the WU did is certainly criminal, and prosecutable as crime, and various types of conduct in the prosecution of war can also be criminal, and prosecutable as crime (or "war crime"). If you think Clinton's actions in ordering bombing in Serbia in the 90s rise to that level, then I understand your advocacy of prosecution. Certainly many people have called for the prosecution of the US officials responsible for bombing in Vietnam, on grounds that I assume would be similar to your arguments regarding Serbia.

Roger - Your definition seems like a pretty good one. It's about what I would have suggested (and yes, I can recognize the difference). But assuming that's how we define terrorism, then labeling what the WU did (or tried to do) as "terrorism" isn't very accurate. It's certainly *useful* to do so -- labeling Ayers as a terrorist is an effective way of saying you don't like him (especially in the post 9/11 US, where calling him a terrorist equates him with groups who've slaughtered thousands of innocent civilians and seek the destruction of the US, western democratic society, etc.) But the WU largely targeted military targets, so the "premeditated" targeting of "non-combatant targets" part of the definition doesn't fit them so well. (I would say that ROTC recruiters and most Pentagon employees are non-combatants, but other may disagree. But more to the point, military offices and property -- as opposed to people -- aren't "non-combatant" in the way the definition suggests.)

And the definition leaves a rather thin line separating what the US has done on occasion from "terrorism." It has, after all, targeted non-combatants in some instances, and certainly targeted the property of non-combatants for destruction in many more. If the only thing separating those actions from terrorism is their sponsorship by a national government, then it seems to diminish the significance of the "terrorism" label.

To be clear, I'm not excusing the WU's bombing, or suggesting it was justified. Nor am I suggesting the conduct of all war is illegal, or that war can never be justified, etc. But just throwing around "terrorist" as an epithet does little to explain why Ayers is so evil, or more importantly, why any association with him is necessarily bad. Equating the illegal bombings designed to achieve a political end without injuring people (or even recklessly, without due care as to whether people may be hurt or killed) with the intentional killing of innocent civilians for political ends seems to me to inappropriately dilute the significance of the word "terrorism." By extension, it seems to diminish the significance of the kinds of horrific acts done on 9/11 or 7/7 or last month in Mumbai. I don't think that's the intent of most people who use "terrorism" so freely, but it's the effect.
12.6.2008 2:17pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
Midlantan, the national sponsorship distinction is a useful one. Think of the difference in how the USA treated uniformed soldiers in Saddam Hussein's Iraq army, versus civilians who plant bombs in civilian targets. The former were doing their civic duty. The latter are criminals of the worst sort.
12.6.2008 2:40pm

I thought it was fascinating, in a weird way, and given how often Ayers came up in the election iI thought it was important. I suppose I could decide not to post things that I think are fascinating and important because some commenters might be unable to handle themselves,or because some readers would rather not see it. But the election is over, and I thought it made for a pretty interesting piece. (Plus, Eric Posner's comment above suggests that I was right in thinking that others would post about it whether I did or not.)
12.6.2008 3:25pm
kodos (mail):
Ayers writes: I co-founded the Weather Underground, an organization that was created after an accidental explosion that claimed the lives of three of our comrades in Greenwich Village.

He writes as if these were innocent victims. He doesn't bother to mention that the explosion was caused because hes "comrades" were constructing a bomb. I don't know much about Ayers, but this op-ed alone is enough to convince me of his fundamental dishonesty.
12.6.2008 3:29pm

Off topic request -- could you comment on today's NYT editorial that's (IMO) a bit more interesting. Does he get the 4A points right? Is the relationship between AUSA and DOJ as described? Is the Federal bench really that much more defendant friendly than the state bench in our most liberal state? Finally, what do you make of his subjective claims about how prosecutors ought to deal with LEOs that engage in deceptive or pretextual acts?
12.6.2008 3:42pm
(I ask because (1) I was too young at the time of the OJ trial to understand what's what and (2) you are about perfectly qualified to answer the claims in that editorial, of which I'm skeptical.
12.6.2008 3:45pm
josil (mail):
The caviling concerning the word "terrorism" seems to drain it of all life. Whether you want to label Ayers an alleged criminal or terrorist seems to be a matter of preference. Maybe we ought to allow the victims to apply the labels...and the remedy.
12.6.2008 5:09pm
LM (mail):

This begs the question why our government chose to define "terrorism" to include only acts by "subnational groups". I think "Duh" comes to mind as the answer, but we don't need to pretend ignorance of the fact that the greatest perpetrators of terrorism in the world have always been governments (think Stalin or Rwanda or Robespierre or too many other examples).

I'd think that in such a libertarian crowd (which is generally much more cynical than I am about the motives of government) this point would go without saying.
12.6.2008 5:14pm
OJ is now doing time.
So there is hope that Ayers may see justice on this plane.
12.6.2008 5:39pm
Orson Buggeigh:
Justice for Ayers and Dohrn would involve a small room with a barred window for the rest of their natural lives, or an exit like Timothy McVeigh's. The apologists for Ayers seem to think his behavior is simply the acceptable actions of a social activist.

Question for the pro-Ayers crowd: Precisely how is Ayers different from the guy who wanted to kill abortion performing doctors to end a societal evil?
12.7.2008 12:55am
Orson, he's not. They were both tried before a jury of their peers in a system of law. Ayers got off because the government's tactics were blatantly illegal. By the time Rudolph came around, the DOJ knew better than to bend the rules.
12.7.2008 12:37pm

Post as: [Register] [Log In]

Remember info?

If you have a comment about spelling, typos, or format errors, please e-mail the poster directly rather than posting a comment.

Comment Policy: We reserve the right to edit or delete comments, and in extreme cases to ban commenters, at our discretion. Comments must be relevant and civil (and, especially, free of name-calling). We think of comment threads like dinner parties at our homes. If you make the party unpleasant for us or for others, we'd rather you went elsewhere. We're happy to see a wide range of viewpoints, but we want all of them to be expressed as politely as possible.

We realize that such a comment policy can never be evenly enforced, because we can't possibly monitor every comment equally well. Hundreds of comments are posted every day here, and we don't read them all. Those we read, we read with different degrees of attention, and in different moods. We try to be fair, but we make no promises.

And remember, it's a big Internet. If you think we were mistaken in removing your post (or, in extreme cases, in removing you) -- or if you prefer a more free-for-all approach -- there are surely plenty of ways you can still get your views out.