Will Obama claim this isn't the Bill Ayers he once heard?Posted by DarthDilbert at 8/15/2008 11:05:00 AM
Sam Green and Bill Siegel debuted a documentary called "The Weather Underground" on 17 November 2002 at the San Francisco Film Arts Festival. It was produced by KQED-TV, ITVS, PBS, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the National Endowment for the Arts. I first watched the movie on Google Video, and later on DVD.
What I heard on the DVD commentary track by former Weathermen Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers shocked me. In it they maintain the same radical terrorist views that they acted upon in the late 1960s and early 1970s. From the opening seconds of the DVD until the closing credits a clear narrative emerges about what type of friends that Barack Hussein Obama maintains. I wasn't the only one to hear when they were young that you can tell quite a bit about a persons character by the people that they associate with. My grandfather once told me that if you give someone enough rope they will hang themselves. That sage advise is demonstrated magnificently in listening to the commentary from Dohrn and Ayers.
It begins with audio of Bernardine Dohrn's communique from 21 May 1970 announcing that a "state of war" exists between the Weather Underground and the United States. Her commentary track then comes in [T00:00:56] and she says that "it's thirty-four years later and we are still in a state of war". Ayers advises [T00:01:09] that they have recorded this commentary in January 2004 after President Bush's State of the Union address in which Ayers claims [T00:01:09] the President "trumpeted the new imperialism". A quick search of the speech shows this to be blatantly false. Dohrn has a flicker of sanity when she says [T00:02:03] that "you can never say that we were thoroughly articulate".
The opening credits then roll and we hear Ayers respond to "the question of violence". He says [T00:02:19] "You know what gets me always is we're always asked about the question of violence, and you know, Henry Kissinger [and] others go through life and that's never the first question they are asked. I mean - what - who ever asks Kissinger 'When did you decide turn to violence to dominate Vietnam?' No one ever asks it that way. It's outrageous".
Ayers acknowledges their ignorance by saying [T00:03:12] that they were "willing to act even when you know you're knowledge is incomplete". He goes on to say that they were [T00:03:21] "trying to link into the revolutionary worldwide movement" and that it "still makes sense" to him and still does. Dohrn follows this up by saying [T00:03:28] that it still makes sense to her and that she wants to "challenge empire". This was the first of several more instances when she uses the word "empire" in place of the United States ([T00:10:29]. [T00:39:13], [T01:02:42], [T01:26:38]).
David Gilbert is then introduced and Ayers describes [T0:04:16] him as "a beautiful guy". Gilbert was convicted on three counts of second degree murder and one count of robbery of a a Brink's truck on 20 October 1981 when two police officers and a Brink's guard were murdered. His earliest release date is 13 October 2056 when he would be 112 years of age. Ayers states [T0:04:16] that "if there were any justice David would be on the street today". Dohrn describes him [T00:04:32] as a "political prisoner". Ayers refers to Gilbert and says that [T00:04:42] "his humanity just comes through in these interviews. He's a descent, wonderful, [and] loving guy." He goes on to say that Gilbert was [T0:04:54] "motivated by love" and that he was [T0:04:57] "a great example".
We then go through a number of combat scenes from Vietnam and whines about how [T00:08:10] "the myth making about the 1960s makes it seem - terribly disempowering to militants and activists today because the lie is that it was all easy". We then see an interview of Ayers from the main film, apart from the commentary say [T00:08:20] that "we had to do whatever we had to do in order to stop the war" then shrug his shoulders.
Naomi Jaffe is introduced and like Ayers comment acknowledging their ignorance, Jaffe says [T00:10:14] how they were "totally insane". Images of rioting in the streets are shown and Ayers laments how horrible it would have been to have been left out of the Communist revolutionary actions and notes that [T00:11:49] "capitalism is irredeemably bad". Ayers and Dohrn then complain for a while how their organization suffered a split, and Ayers asks [T0:14:49] "What did we do wrong?" and [T00:15:51] "What was right?"
We are told that in the story it is now the Summer of 1969 and Ayers says that [T00:16:43] "in our minds the world is heading straight to the precipice and if we, a group of twenty-year olds don't stop it then the planet will be dead". He goes on to say that it is hard to look back and see that they were [T00:16:54] "taking on that responsibility", and that in that summer they were [T00:17:38] "preparing for war".
Ayers then has a a rather interesting quote when he says that he took part in the DVD because [T00:17:54] he "didn't know Bill Siegel or Sam Green but I just tend to - anyone who asks me to talk about it I talk about it." If Ayers is so open about discussing his actions, then why does he refuse to answer questions about his involvement today?
After it is explained by Brian Flanagan how members of the Weather Underground were opposed to monogamy and engaged in orgies, Ayers and Dohrn are clearly angered and embarrassed [T00:19:33] about their actions and Dohrn calls this segment "the worst moment in the movie". She said that this period of time was [T00:20:09] "beginnings of the gay and lesbian movement and of really rethinking the heirarchys of family". Even though is supposed to be 1969, we see film from Vietnam of the napalm attack on 8 June 1972 of Trang Bang by the Vietnamese Air Force. We see the young girl in the infamous images, Kim Phúc, and Ayers refers to the attack as [T00:20:34] "the real obscenity".
We go back to 1969 and the "Days of Rage" that began on 8 October 1969 and Ayers refers to the actions by the American military in Vietnam as [T00:25:13] "Terrorism - official state terrorism". Dohrn laments [T00:25:16] how Henry Kissinger and Robert McNamara were not placed on trial referring to them as "war criminals". Ayers then refers to the war in Iraq noting how the American military must pull out of the country but that "the harm that they have caused be repaired".
An interview with Fred Hampton is shown in which Ayers describes [T00:25:59] as "an amazing guy" and later [T00:32:06] as "a terrific human being". Hampton was deputy chairman of the Illinois chapter of the radical Black Panther Party. Ayers notes that Hampton didn't agree with the tactics used during the Days of Rage, but that they were [T00:26:12] "comrades on so many other levels".
We soon see Ayers' mug shot photo from 27 August 1968, taken when he was arrested by the Chicago Police Department. Ayers says [T00:27:18] that the image shows "the look you give when the FBI when they're taking your picture". Dohrn says [T00:27:22] "That's Bill with his fu*k you look" to which Ayers responds [T00:27:23] "exactly".
A montage of images from the FBI's surveillance of the Weather Underground and SDS are shown and Dohrn refers to the COINTELPRO program and alleges that the FBI [T00:29:31] murdered "black leaders". Ayers then says that [T00:29:40] the program is "back in place today" and claims that the FBI is unapologetic and unembarrassed to talk about the rise of imperialism the need to repress citizens. I mean you look at Guantanamo and you just - our most paranoid extreme views of what they were capable of are dwarfed by what they are doing everyday right now. Outrageous."
Dohrn then asks [T00:32:16] "what's the jobs of white people when this is happening to black leaders: Malcolm, King, Fred. What do we do?" Ayers answers by saying [T00:32:33] "that's the whole history of America right there." Malcolm X was killed by Talmadge Hayer, Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson. All three are Black Muslims. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered by James Earl Ray. Fred Hampton was killed in a gunfight with the Chicago Police Department. There is then newsreel footage of the gunfight between the Chicago Police Department and the Black Panthers. It was in that fight that Mark Clark was killed after firing one round from the shotgun he held in his lap. An unknown member of the Black Panthers is heard in the background falsely claiming that Clark was "murdered".
Dohrn reflects [T00:34:32] on the Winter of 1969 and laments about the current anti-war movement asking "Where's the anti-war movement right now?" She goes on to say that [T00:35:14] "We all know we're being lied to by our government and we know that there is a state of permanent war going on all over the world and most of us know its wrong and it doesn't make us safer and it's really plundering the world for the profits of a few. So what are we doing". Ayers answers by saying [T00:35:34] "clearly part of the point of those in power is to say 'You're not effecting us. We're not listening' and to make people feel alienated, disenfranchised - uhm, cynical, passive, pacified, but what advice do you give young people? What do you say today?" Dohrn in turn responds saying [T00:35:56] "that was the most disparing I ever felt in my life". Remember that this commentary was recorded in January 2004 - some two years and four months past the events of 9/11.
Dohrn goes on to say [T00:36:30] that "the United States anti-war movement in the face of this kind of violence really was restrained - mainly. Nobody was killed. One person in Madison - mainly. Nobody was injured." The Madison incident she speaks of happened on the morning of 24 August 1970 when "a van loaded with six barrels of explosives blew up just outside the East Wing of Sterling Hall at the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison. The bombing was carried out by four men in protest of America's involvement in the Vietnam War. The bombing was directed against the Mathematics Research Center, a U.S.-Army-funded facility, which was located in the East Wing of Sterling Hall along with the physics and astronomy departments. "Army Math," as it was known, was despised by many antiwar activists who felt the center was contributing to the death and destruction in Southeast Asia through its research and had no place on a public university campus. Ironically, the department hardest hit by the blast was not the MRC but physics, many of whose faculty were against the war. A 33-year-old physics researcher named Robert Fassnacht was one of those working late when the blast went off. Fassnacht was killed in the explosion, and four others in Sterling Hall were injured. Years of research work was destroyed. In addition, at least one patient was injured by flying glass in University Hospital, which at the time was located across the street. At least 26 buildings on the campus alone were damaged in the bombing, which was heard more than 20 miles away. The explosive used was ammonium nitrate and fuel oil (ANFO), the same type that would be used in the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City."
Dohrn continues, and blames the government for the horrific acts by Charles Manson which took place earlier in 1969 saying [T00:36:52] "Look at this criminal act. They conflated these hideous act of Manson's with the movement." We then are supposedly back in the Winter of 1969 are are shown images of the My Lai massacre from 16 March 1968 (dizzy yet?) and Ayers saying [T00:37:15] "it's emblematic of what the Us was doing in Vietnam. This is the US in Vietnam."
Next we see an interview from Ayers in the film in which he says that in his group [T00:38:09] "some people felt literally that the bigger mess we could make - the better. That is - that whatever it cost, whatever you know - destructive uhm, kinds of activity we could do against the US government the better." Dohrn says [T00:39:10] "We tried to bring the reality of war and empire home." Ayers once again says that [T00:39:26] "Anyone who thinks Vietnam wasn't official state terrorism is missing the very essence of what was going on".
We then move onto the event surrounding the Greenwich Village townhouse explosion on 6 March 1970 where three members of the Weather Underground: Theodore Gold, Diana Oughton, and Terry Robbins were killed when a nailbomb they were constructing to be used at a non-commissioned officer's dance at Fort Dix, NJ detonates. After we see an image of a dance showing soldiers and sailors, there is an interview with Brian Flanagan who says that [T00:40:48] "what we wanted to do was deliver the most horrific hit that the United States government had ever suffered on it's territory. We wanted to light it up. Our slogan was 'Bring the war home', and we really wanted to give the United States and the rest of the world a sense that this country was going to be completely unlivable if the United States continued in Vietnam, and that was the goal of this group." There is next an interview with Todd Gitlin (President of Students for a Democratic Society from 1964-1965) who refers to the actions of 6 March 1970 and how Weather Underground [T00:41:23] "were willing to be mass murderers. This is mass murder we're talking." We then hear from the commentary track and Dohrn dismisses Gitlin saying [T00:41:33] how he is "normally thoughtful" and says "you know we all exaggerated, but uh [laughs] we were not mass murderers. We didn't murder anybody. You know the difference between Stalin and Hitler and uh people who didn't murder anybody, didn't kill anybody through the most extraordinary decade of provocation is a choice. We chose not to be terrorists. We chose not to hurt anybody." Ayers goes on to say [T00:42:52] "We did not want to participate in terrorism in any form." Dohrn then refers to Terry Robbins, the leader of that Weather Underground cell, who was killed in the explosion as [T00:42:58] "a great teacher" and "a great militant". She then mourns the deaths of Ralph Featherstone and William Payne who were killed on 9 March 1970 when a bomb they intended to place in the Bel Air, Maryland courthouse where H. Rap Brown was to stand trial on charges of inciting to riot exploded.
A former member of the FBI is heard in the background saying that members of the Weather Underground were [T00:45:04] "randomly bombing and intending to kill people" and Ayers immediately counters saying that [T00:45:06] "it's just not true". He claims that their targets were "focused". Dohrn goes on to say that [T00:45:12] the targets were "symbolic and very particular. All of Weather Underground's actions were understood by everybody without the communique really. They spoke for themselves, cause they were so focused. There was nothing random, and no civilian targets. No human targets. Property damage. That's why Todd's comments is so preposterous really - the idea that we're mass murders when it was property damage at the end of the day."
They brag about the support that they enjoyed [T00:46:10] "from millions of people". while reflecting on [T00:46:28] "the hurt they caused" their families by going underground. After then complaining at length about the amount of footage of the ocean included in the documentary, Dohrn states that the actions of Weather Underground were [T00:48:02] "the beginning of a lot of new movements: gay and lesbian, environmental, disabled." Next, there are images of Attica and Ayers describes prisons today as being [T00:49:42] "the plantations of the new millennium". There is then a discussion [T00:54:21] about the death of George Jackson who was killed in the prison yard at San Quentin during an escape attempt on 21 August 1971.
Next there are a series of title cards which note a number of terrorist attacks by Weather Underground: the 10 May 1970 bombing of the National Guard Association building in Washington, DC in response to the Kent State Killings; the 9 June 1970 bombing of New York City Police headquarters in response to "police repression"; the 16 July 1970 bombing of the US Army base at the Presidio in San Francisco to mark the eleventh anniversary of the Cuban Revolution; the 28 February 1971 bombing of the United States Capitol to protest the invasion of Laos; the 8 October 1970 bombing of a Queens New York traffic-court building to express support for the New York prison riots; the 8 October 1970 bombing of the Harvard Center for International Affairs to protest the war in Vietnam; and the 17 September 1971 bombing of the New York Department of Corrections in Albany to protest the killing of 29 inmates at Attica State Penitentiary.
All of these appear while she brags [T00:54:17] saying "I think we can now look back and say the whole movement, not the Weather Underground or the Black Panther Party, but the whole movement, the organizing the draft resistance, the women's movement, and so on all uhm - sustained this aroused opposition for ten years to the war, and even though we were unable to unable to stop the war and even for all the limitations and mistakes, you could say that we sustained a popular resistance, we toppled two presidents, that we left behind, we in the big sense, now in the movement left a legacy that uhm - accomplished some real things. We, I think, created a cradle for new movements that went through the 80s and 90s. I think the War Powers Act limited the American's ability to plunder the rest of the world. I think the draft was abolished, the FBI and CIA restraints were put on. The movement wasn't criminalized. People like Stu and Judy here and millions of people in the mass movement continue to mobilize and organize, so there was a legacy that changed the course of American history even though we didn't make a revolution, we didn't start the war, but you couldn't know that when you're acting in the history."
Ayers says [T00:58:12] that "The notion of being illegal , I mean to be declared illegal and fighting against this system is very deep in the American tradition: Underground Railroad. John Brown, the uh Boston Tea Party. It goes way back." We next see a police officer who has someone in custody escorting him from a building when the person in custody escapes running off screen. As he is running away, demonstrators physically confront the police officer attempting to wrestle his baton away from him. He is soon struck by a rock thrown by one of the demonstrators, which knocks him to the ground. Ayers describes this [T00:58:26] as his "favorite scene" saying "you know, here's a group of demonstrators who say 'You mean we're supposed to allow this guy to come in and just take this guy off. Maybe we should not let him', and deciding that - it happens. I mean it's a wonderful wonderful piece of film." In the background we hear the narrator romanticize the group describing them as later day versions of Bonnie and Clyde or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
The documentary then moves to the Weather Underground's actions on 12 September 1970 where they assisted Timothy Leary in escaping from the California Men's Colony prison. Dohrn notes [T00:59:21] that "It was doable with Leary, so we did it." The narrator says that [T00:59:28] "Weather Underground was paid $20,000 for the job". Dohrn says [T00:59:36] that "it wasn't about the money. It was practicing." Ayers says [T00:59:53] that there was a debate about the prison break and that a goal was to have "everyone at San Quentin out at once". They then whine about how many people are in prison today and Ayers says that [T01:00:23] "there are so many people in prison today who in a just world would be free." Dohrn then brings up Leonard Peltier, who was convicted of the 26 June 1975 murder of FBI Special Agents Jack R. Coler and Ronald A. Williams.
Next we hear more complaining from Dohrn [T01:02:31] about how the hippie culture is now seen as joke. Ayers responds saying that [T01:02:42] "the great thing about the hippie culture was it rejected the three pillars of kind of empire: rejected militarism, rejected materialism, and rejected racism."
We next revisit the efforts by the FBI to apprehend the Weather Underground and former FBI agent Don Strickland is interviewed [T01:04:12]. Strickland was part of a special unit tasked to infiltrate groups such as the Weather Underground. Ayers claims that the FBI is not embarrassed by their actions and now [T01:05:38] "there is no shame. They can triumphantly talk about empire, and triumphantly talk about repression. It's a terrible, terrible time." Dohrn claims [T1:06:20] that the terrorist attacks by Al Queda on 9/11 gave the FBI "an opportunity to, uh, convince - to seize power again, basically to seize power, to seize the civil rights, civil liberties, freedoms that democracy promises us, and say for our safety, for our order, for law and order, you need to give up your rights again. We'll take care of you. We know how to make you safe. Nothing could be more foolish. Everybody knows that - uh, ultimately we're not safe until everybody in the world is safe."
We soon see footage from 9 August 1974 where someone is holding a copy of the New York Post the headline "Nixon quits tonight". Dohrn gives her most insightful comment yet when she says [T01:08:33] "I think that the end of the war did pretty much, was the final coda to a lot of anti-war organizations, a lot of political organizations. At the same time, a lot of everything we fought for was absorbed into the institutions. That's what reform movements are all about, as opposed to revolutionary movements. A lot of the things we agitated about were legislated, and got investigated by the Church Commission instead of us". While Dohrn is making these comments we see footage from demonstrations for ERA and homosexual rights.
Next is a clip of the documentary Underground from 1976 and Dohrn describes a number of terms that were set between them and the filmmakers which included the filmmakers going to jail rather than disclose information about the Weather Underground members and refuse to cooperate with law enforcement. While she is discussing the filmmakers we once again see a series of title cards that begin with the 18 May 1973 Weather Underground bombing of the 103rd Police Precinct in New York in response to the killing of a 10-year-old black youth by police; the 28 September 1973 bombing of ITT headquarters in New York in response to ITT's alleged role in the Chilean coup earlier that month; the 6 March 1974 bombing of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare offices in San Francisco to protest alleged sterilization of poor women; the 31 May 1974 bombing of the Office of the California Attorney General in response to the killing of six members of the Symbionese Liberation Army; the 17 June 1974 bombing of Gulf Oil's Pittsburgh headquarters to protest its actions in Angola; the 28 January 1975 bombing of the State Department in response to escalation in Vietnam; and the 16 June 1975 bombing of Banco de Ponce (a Puerto Rican bank) in New York in solidarity with striking Puerto Rican cement workers.
Mark Rudd is then interviewed saying [T01:12:03] "we felt that more and more people would be attracted to the revolutionary violence of the Weather Underground and of the other groups. What I began to discover was that Americans are taught again and again from a very early age that the only violence - that all violence which is not, uhm - sanctioned by the government is either criminal or mentally ill. So our violence, was categorized as that - criminal and mentally ill." Towards the end of Rudd's comment when he says "our violence", Ayers appears to object saying [T01:12:33] "it's true but you know it's important to remember when you use that word 'our violence', we destroyed property, and I don't see how you can even use the same language to destroy - to compare the murder of human beings with, you know, uh and office building or a nuclear silo or a B-52. There's just to comparison. It's true what we did was illegal. It's also true that it was destructive and cost someone some money, but it didn't rise to the level of what was going on everyday in the normal workings of the US abroad, and still."
We then see footage from the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975 and Ayers describes the war in Iraq is an [T01:14:23] "imperial project. It's always the same, not only will they use people and throw them away, but they will murder indiscriminately. They'll do what they feel they have to do, and there will be resistance. What we have to do is make ourselves the resistance to that war and we have to wake up internationally get the US out." He says that a goal of the modern anti-war effort is to [T01:17:00] force "the US government pay reparations for the damage they've done is essential".
We soon see an NBC Nightly News broadcast about the surrender of Mark Rudd on 13 October 1977, and later that of Dohrn and Ayers on 3 December 1980. Ayers compliments his wife saying she has a will that would bend bars. Dohrn responds saying [T01:19:42] "I wish I could bend bars. I wish we could get - I mean lets open up the prisons. Let's just start there." Ayers says [T01:19:55] "it's interesting at how much the prison movement of thirty-five years ago was just prelude for what's coming because two million people behind bars."
The story moves to 1981 and Ayers that [T01:20:31] "I think the United States was on a wrong track and declining and I think it still is very much on the wrong track and still in spite of all the illusion on decline."
The discussion once again drifts off to Iraq and Dohrn says that "if you're gonna occupy Iraq you're gonna break down doors. You're gonna terrorize the civilian populations. You're gonna be bombing from the air." Ayers responds saying [T01:26:15] "they are - already. Torturing people. Incarcerating people without any due process. It's all happening, and that's what colonialism looks like".
We then see a montage of the people featured in the documentary. We learn that Naomi Jaffe is an activist in Albany, New York. We learn that David Gilbert is serving a 75-year sentence for his conviction on murder and robbery charges from 20 October 1981 and hear Dohrn say [T01:27:17] "Let's get David and the other people out. They deserve to be out even though they're free spirits inside". We learn that Ayers and Dohrn are married and live in Chicago. We learn also that Ayers is a professor at the University of Illinois and Dohrn teaches at Northwestern university law school and is also director of the Children and Family Justice Center. We learn that Mark Rudd lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico and the movie says that he teaches math at TVI Community College, but according to his site he no longer holds that position. We learn that Laura Whitehorn joined a radical group called the Armed Resistance Unit and after being arrested in 1985 charged with a series of bombings served fourteen years in prison, and now is an activist in New York City. We learn Brian Flanagan won $23,000 on Jeopardy, and until September 2007 owned a bar in New York City called the Night Café on the corner of 106th and Amsterdam.