The Magazine

Don't Need a Weatherman

The clouded mind of Bill Ayers.

Oct 8, 2001, Vol. 7, No. 04 • By RONALD RADOSH
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CURIOUSLY, YOU WON’T FIND IN AYERS’S PAGES an account of the "War Council" held by the Weather Underground in Flint, Michigan, in December 1969, at which he and Dohrn were key players. It was at the Flint War Council that Dohrn admonished the four hundred delegates to stop being "wimpy" and "scared of fighting," and to "get into armed struggle." Invoking the example of Charles Manson, who had killed Sharon Tate and all her houseguests in the Los Angeles hills, Dohrn declared, "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!" She closed her speech by holding up three fingers in what she called the "Manson fork salute." Dohrn was followed by one of Ayers’s friends, John Jacobs, who told the crowd, "We’re against everything that’s ‘good and decent’ in honky America. We will loot and burn and destroy." The delegates then discussed how to get weapons, make bombs, and rent "safe houses"—after which they broke into a nearby Catholic Church to engage in group sex.

Similarly, Ayers never acknowledges that later terrorism followed directly from his example and his policy. After the Weather Underground collapsed, many of his old comrades joined the new May 19th Communist organization, which became a support group for the ultra-violent Black Liberation Army. Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, for instance, ended up in prison for life for their role in the Black Liberation Army’s 1981 Brinks Robbery, in which a black cop was murdered. (Ayers and Dohrn took in Boudin and Gilbert’s child after their imprisonment.)

Ayers ends with the scene of rejoicing as he and Dohrn watched the television images of America’s defeat in Vietnam. "We were overjoyed," he writes, and they "spent several days celebrating, laughing and crying." Today, they still go every March 6 to put flowers on the site of the Village townhouse where their own bombs destroyed their comrades’ young lives. They also traveled to Vietnam, to pay homage to Ho Chi Minh at his grave.

In perhaps the most disgusting pages of the book, Ayers describes the brave American soldiers who, coming upon the My Lai massacre in 1968, landed their helicopter and tried to save Vietnamese civilians from other American troops gone mad. This action was finally acknowledged by an official government ceremony in 1998. But Ayers mentions these soldiers only to compare them to Diana Oughton, Ted Gold, and Terry Robbins—who died making a bomb meant to blow up other American soldiers at Fort Dix. "How much longer" will it take to honor "the three who died on Eleventh Street?" he demands. "How much longer for Diana? When will she be remembered?"

BILL AYERS HAS LEARNED NOTHING in the years since he was a terrorist. He still thinks he and his comrades should be forgiven, because their terrorism was "propaganda of the deed" meant to "blaze away the masters of war," a cause for which he used "explosive words at first, slowly replaced by actual bombs." He still thinks that America "shatters community everywhere"—and intends the publication of Fugitive Days to encourage another generation of terrorists against the United States, however much he has tried to deny that intention in the days since the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Preparing for his book tour, Ayers posed for a publicity photo with the American flag crumbled in weeds underneath his feet. This man still hates America and seeks its destruction.

Ronald Radosh’s most recent book is Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left, published by Encounter Books.