Our very own Radio New Zealand National (US – think NPR) interviewed Bill Ayers yesterday.
I half expected that the left position was correct – that this man was repentant of placing the bombs and terrorising people. However, about 2/3 of the way into the interview he tries to bluster that he wrote a book all about it, then comes out saying that he doesn’t regret anything.
Kathryn Ryan made some good points, correctly pointing out that it was Hillary, not the McCain campaign who first brought up the issues. She make a key omission at the start however, failing to mention that the charges were dropped because of prosecutor misconduct, not because of Ayers’ innocence.
Here’s some of what was said. My comments in italics.
A: Well, what I did was not terrorism, it was extreme, it was illegal, but if you take the definition of terrorism from the US criminal court or from the US criminal code or from the United Nations, what we participated in crossed lines of legality, propriety, certainly we broke the law and destroyed property but to call it terrorism is to have such a broad definition of terrorism that includes everything from burning an American flag to burning a draft card. Both of which I also did, but both of which are not actually terror. They may be stupid, and they may be illegal but they are not acts of terror, and it makes the word unusable if everything in opposition is terror. What we did at a time when 2000 Vietnamese a month were being murdered; at at time when the majority of the American people had turned against this illegal, immoral, and dishonest war – at that time, the anti-war movement, in crisis (because we coudn’t figure out how to stop the war) split into many, many factions. Some joined the democratic party, and tried to build a peace wing, some fled to Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Canada, and Africa, some did other things and what we did was try to build a clandestine organisation that could survive what we thought was an impending American fascism, escalating repression, [this, from a guy who used to sit around and have perfectly serious conversations about the best way to eliminate the estimated 25m people who would disagree with them after they took over!] and to make the war painful for the war makers. [Which ironically, is what the US was doing in Vietnam & what making war is all about: having used all other methods to avoid war, making waging the war painful for those fighting it. Ayers in fact turned to the very tactics he despised.]
And so we targeted symbols, and we targeted war targets, we did not target people. [a lie, the house of a judge was fire-bombed] We never kidnapped, we never assassinated or bought mass destruction on anyone and therefore it wasn’t terrorism.
R: Some might say “what is the point of bombing a public building if not to induce terror in those who work there or go there”?
A: It doesn’t induce fear at 2 in the morning if you knock out a computer in the Pentagon that’s waging an air war against the Vietnamese [what is this, the terminator chronicles?!?] and while you can say it’s stupid and I’ve never really defended it, I’m not defending it now [except in every other part of the interview he tries to justify it] you could call it a lot of things, but calling it terror is what I’m argueing against. And, if you want and I believe we aught to in this country, have a truth and reconcilliation process about the Vietnam war, then what we would have to do is line up people like myself, like my partner and we’d also have to line up John Kerry and Bob Kerry and John McCain and Henery Kissinger and George Bush and Dick Cheney and ask everyone “What did you do while the United States murdered 2000 a month? [Funny how concerned he is for those 2000/month, but shows no concern whatsoever for the murdering rampage that was caused by the war being lost.] What was your responsibility?” And in that company, I’m happy to say exactly what I did and take full responsibilty for it. But without that kind of process, it seems that a small organisation that came out of the student movement, the war movement, is asked to stand for everything backward and violent where Henery Kissinger goes to state dinners and advises the state department. That makes no sense whatsoever.
R: You did have casulaties though, through an accidental explosion…
A: I’m sorry?
R: You did have casualties though, through an accidental explosion that killed 3 or 4 people. [note tone of question here is neutral, not accusing but tending towards sympathetic]
A: Oh, absolutely and I write about that fully in my book, Fugitive Days and those things are terrible, horrific, um, hard to live through, and yet that too compares nowhere on the scale of what the Kissingers for example were doing to the Vietnamese people. If you take – and many people won’t – take a Vietnamese life as valuable as an American life if you think that that’s true, which I do, then how can you compare what we did to what they did? [Funny how, while very concerned about lives that American forces took, he has no concern whatsoever for – never even mentioning – the lives being taken by the North, and the VC, who started the war.]]
The interview going on, but I think this is the key part. It’s clear that he is not repentant, and still believes to this day that what he did was justified – even setting bombs which could easily have killed people.