Special Report

When Terrorists Deny Each Other

Why would Bill Ayers disown the Tsarnaevs?

By 5.7.13

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Had Dzhokhar Tsarnaev paid attention in history class, he might have learned something useful for any domestic American terrorist: if caught, claim solidarity with the American left.

No American institution is a safe haven for Islamist terrorists. As sympathetic as the hard left might be to the anti-Americanism of bin Laden’s disciples, the instinct for self-preservation is powerful enough to mute the embrace, even in the halls of academia. Just ask Ward Churchill.

But declare one’s bombs to be small acts of civil disobedience in the furtherance of socialism and anti-imperialism, and one might just find an endowed chair, or at least an adjunct professorship, from which to preach the good word until retirement. Just ask Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn.

Ayers, the former Weather Underground co-founder who proudly led his organization in the successful bombings of dozens of American targets, including the U.S. Capitol, Pentagon, and State Department, on Saturday distanced himself from his tactical and ideological cousins, the Tsarnaevs. It was a clumsy deceit, easily disproven.

“I get asked about violence when what I did was some destruction of property to issue a scream and cry against an illegal war in which 6,000 people a week are being killed,” the Akron Beacon-Journal reported Ayers as saying in response to a reporter’s question. “Six thousand a week being killed and I destroyed some property. Show me the equivalence. You should ask John McCain that question.… I’m against violence.

“To conflate a group of fundamentalist people [in Boston] who are nihilistic in some way with a group of people who spent their lives trying to oppose the murder of 6,000 people a week… and still the killing went on. And still the killing went on. What would you have done? There’s no equivalence [with Boston]. Property damage. That’s what we did.”

Nihilists? Hardly. The Tsarnaevs by all accounts were run-of-the-mill Islamist terrorists. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev said they were self-radicalized Islamists who were motivated to bomb the Boston Marathon by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bill Ayers, a retired professor of education, surely knows that radical Islamists are the polar opposite of nihilists.

For those unfamiliar with the term, Merriam-Webster defines nihilism as: “a: a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless. B: a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially of moral truths.”

Why would Ayers describe the Boston bombers as the exact opposite of what they were? Because to admit the truth would be to admit that they are Ayers’ ideological kin.

Ayers believes that terror for the purpose of protesting war is noble. He said Americans were murdering people in Vietnam. He still believes that his bombings were a justified and honorable means of trying to end what he viewed as murder. (Strangely, he accused John McCain of murdering people in 1970 -- when McCain was a prisoner of war.)

How was Ayers’ motivation different from the Tsarnaevs’? Both detonated bombs on American soil to protest American wars. Is the difference in the death toll? The Tsarnaevs killed three people. The Weather Underground’s bombs killed… three people. Well, at least three. Those were the Weather Underground members who blew themselves up in Greenwich Village in 1970 while making nail-laden bombs intended for a U.S. Army dance hall. Brian McDonnell, a San Francisco Police sergeant, was killed when a bomb exploded at the city’s police headquarters in February of 1970. That bombing has never been solved, but suspicion has long fallen on the Weather Underground, which detonated a bomb at New York City Police headquarters four months later. Then there were the two police officers and Brinks security guard killed in a 1981 armed robbery by members of the Black Liberation Front and Weather Underground. Driving the getaway car was outlaw Weather Underground member Kathy Boudin, last seen fleeing the Greenwich Village apartment that exploded in 1970 when her friends (including Bill Ayers’ girlfriend at the time) accidentally detonated the bomb they had intended for U.S. soldiers. But to be charitable, let’s call it a tie.

After the Greenwich Village explosion, the Weather Underground would call in warnings before detonating their bombs, which is why they killed so few people. So their lethality dropped when the most militant members were killed. Score a point for Ayers & Co. for switching to blowing up buildings while hoping -- but not guaranteeing -- that innocents would not be killed. Terrorism with a twinge of conscience is still terrorism.

Nonetheless, Ayers and the Tsarnaevs chose to protest war through terrorism. The comparison is no less true for Ayers having rejected it. He would be further annoyed if someone pointed out to him that he is also ideologically related to Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph. Remember Rudolph? He was the anti-abortion radical who blew up two abortion clinics and a lesbian night club and detonated a bomb at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. He sounded downright Ayersesque when he said his bombings were justified because “Abortion is murder. And when the regime in Washington legalized, sanctioned and legitimized this practice, they forfeited their legitimacy and moral authority to govern.”

Terrorists always try to justify their violence by tying it to a grand cause. But justifying is easier in America when one can find refuge in the warm embrace of actual nihilists, socialists and other fashionable “ists” of academe. Eric Rudolph, a deranged right-wing kook, never had that privilege. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, an Islamist terrorist, never will. But Bill Ayers? He is a retired professor of education who landed a plum job at the University of Illinois-Chicago. His wife, Bernadine Dohrn, was on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list. She is a law professor at Northwestern University School of Law and former director of Northwestern’s Children and Family Justice Center. Kathy Boudin, who served 22 years for her role in the murders of three men, is director of the Criminal Justice Initiative: Supporting Children, Families, and Communities at the Columbia University School of Social Work.

Politically speaking, the Tsarnaev brothers’ mistake was in not being sophisticated enough to proclaim themselves leftists rather than Islamists. Granted, they also picked the wrong target. The Pentagon would have been better for their academic careers. Who knows, had they been more savvy they might have been played by Robert Redford and Shia LaBeouf and written of fondly in the Nation. Instead, they’ll forever be remembered as the terrorists they are, which all terrorists of all political leanings deserve.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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About the Author

Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. You can follow him on Twitter at @Drewhampshire.