Obama’s Friends

September 16, 2008

Obama’s Foul Weather Friends

By Scott Swett and Roger Canfield

lack of media interest in the role of former domestic terrorists Bill
Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn in Democratic nominee Barack Obama’s
political ascent in Chicago is one of the most remarkable aspects of
the 2008 presidential campaign.  When the question is raised at all,
reporters are quick to repeat Sen. Obama’s claim that his relationship
with the two former bomb-makers was fleeting and casual.  Some cite
Chicago mayor Richard Daley’s defense of Ayers as a “distinguished
professor of education” and “a valued member of the Chicago
community.”  Why then should there be cause for concern?    

Weatherman: bombs, rage and revolution

was a revolutionary communist sect that split from Students for a
Democratic Society (SDS) in 1969.  Weatherman’s founding document
called for a “white fighting force” that would be “akin to the Red
Guard in China” to work with the Black Liberation Movement and other
“anti-colonial” movements to bring about a communist revolution and
destroy “US imperialism.”  Weatherman committed at least 40 bombings
between 1969 and 1975.  Targets included the Pentagon, the State
Department and the US Capitol, other government buildings, military
bases, police offices and corporations.  Two of the group’s primary
leaders were Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. 

argue that Weatherman was not a terrorist group, since it frequently
tipped off police about the devices.  Bill Ayers recently called the
bombings “a dramatic form of armed propaganda” and claimed “no one was
ever hurt.”  In reality, the relatively low death toll from the bombing
campaign was mostly due to technical incompetence.

March 6, 1970, three members of Weatherman were killed when a powerful
bomb they were constructing exploded prematurely.  The device had been
made from dynamite, wrapped with roofing nails to maximize casualties. 
Its intended target was a dance for noncommissioned officers and their
dates scheduled for that evening at Fort Dix.  The bomb that killed
three in a Greenwich Village townhouse would have killed far more on a
crowded dance floor. 

Grathwohl, an undercover FBI agent who infiltrated Weatherman, later
testified that Ayers had identified Bernadine Dohrn as the person who
bombed a San Francisco police station in February 1970, killing one
officer and injuring two others.  The agent also said that Ayers had
constructed a bomb made from 13 sticks of dynamite that the group
placed in a Detroit police officers’ association building.  The agent
contacted the police, who cleared the area, but the bomb failed to
explode.  Ayers’ murderous intent was clear enough, however.  According
to the FBI agent, “Bill said that we should plan our bombing to
coincide with the time when there would be the most people in those

and Dohrn were never prosecuted for the bombings because of government
misconduct in collecting evidence.  In 2001, Ayers told the New York Times, “I don’t regret setting bombs.  I feel we didn’t do enough.”

Befriending America’s foreign enemies

before Weatherman began its notorious bombing campaign, the group’s
future leaders had formed relationships with others who shared their
hatred for “Amerikkka.”

Dohrn made numerous contacts with Fidel Castro’s Cuban Mission at the
UN in 1968 and 1969, during which time she arranged for SDS groups to
visit Havana. 

returning from Cuba, Dohrn and others met with North Vietnamese and
Viet Cong representatives in Budapest, Hungary, to discuss antiwar
strategy on US campuses.  Speaking a few days later at an assembly of
revolutionary student movements at Columbia University, Dohrn reported
that the Vietnamese communists she met in Budapest were working with US
GIs in Saigon, attempting to obtain military information.

a gesture of solidarity, the Vietnamese who Dohrn met in Budapest
presented her with a ring made from an American aircraft shot down over
North Vietnam. Bill Ayers would receive a similar ring while meeting
with Vietnamese communists in Toronto.  He later recalled being so
moved by the gesture that he “left the room to cry.”  He said, “I
realized…America was an evil… and that I was… living inside the
belly of the beast….” 

January 1969, at the request of the Cubans and the Vietnamese, Dohrn
assembled another SDS delegation to travel to Havana to plan what the Chicago Sun-Times called an “antiwar campaign during an eight-day seminar with representatives of Hanoi and the Viet Cong.” 

became a key planner in the founding of the Venceremos Brigades. 
Ostensibly a “solidarity” program for US leftists to visit and support
Castro’s Cuba, the group was actually organized by Cuban intelligence
as a covert attack on US security.  Cuban secret police offered the
“brigadistas” money, advice and logistical support.  Some Americans
were also given guerrilla warfare training and instructed in the use of
weapons and explosives.  While they were in Cuba, Huynh Van Ba, a
representative of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South
Vietnam (Viet Cong) advised his American allies to “look for the person
who fights hardest against the cops.”  Dohrn stayed in telephone
contact with Ba after returning home.

In his autobiography, Fugitive Days, Bill Ayers recalled the “Days of Rage” protests he helped to lead in the streets of Chicago in October 1969:

small determined group suited up for battle…wearing…motorcycle or
army-surplus helmets…goggles and gas masks, heavy boots and
gloves…Most of us carried an arsenal of…steel pipes and sling
shots, chains, clubs, mace, and rolls of pennies to add weight to the
punch… our bonfire was full up, feeding on…splintered park
benches…. The crowd roared…HO, HO, HO CHI MINH…Bernardine (Dohrn)…shouted, ‘BRING THE WAR HOME’.” 

before an SDS “National Action” conference in Cleveland, Ayers called
“Days of Rage” “a strategy…that’s going to help the NLF [National
Liberation Front] concretely.”

also led a group of rioters in an attack on the South Vietnamese
Embassy in Washington.  The mob broke windows, smashed cars, and threw
rocks, sticks, firecrackers and bottles at the Embassy.  At one point,
a counter-demonstrator grabbed a Viet Cong flag from the group and set
it on fire.  Ayers proudly recalled that he had “burned my left hand
and broke my ring finger rescuing” the flag.  In contrast, Ayers was
later photographed for a New York Times profile standing on a crumpled US flag.

Working within the system

and Dohrn were fugitives from justice for several years, living
“underground” with assistance from sympathetic fellow radicals.  When
they emerged, both were welcomed into the ranks of academia, where they
quickly rose to positions of influence.  Ayers is now a professor of
education and a Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois
at Chicago.  He was recently elected vice-president for curriculum of
the 25,000-member American Educational Research Association, the
largest US association of education professors and researchers.  Dohrn,
who is now married to Ayers, is an Associate Professor of Law at
Northwestern University, where she also directs the Children and Family
Justice Center.  She has participated in several key American Bar
Association committees and boards and was a founding co-chair of the
ABA’s Children’s Law Committee.  

now uses his academic position and political connections to promote his
theories of “progressive” education, a topic on which he has authored
several books.  In 1995, Ayers co-founded the Chicago Annenberg
Challenge, a radical education reform project created to award grants
to Chicago schools and “education networks.”  The grant-making
non-profit handed out well over $100 million between 1995 and 2001, but
failed to measurably improve the Chicago school system.  Where all the
money went may never be determined, but some of it was used to fund
projects run by Ayers’ radical friends.

example, $175,000 went to former SDSer Mike Klonsky, who until recently
was also a blogger at Obama’s official campaign website.  Before
reinventing himself as an educator, Klonsky founded an American Maoist
communist sect that worked with the Chinese communists.  Among the
organizations receiving funding from CAC were the community action
group ACORN, the Arab American Action Network, Bernadine Dohrn’s
Children and Family Justice Center, and Trinity United Church, home
base of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. 

man Ayers and his friends chose as CAC’s first board chairman was a
little-known 33-year old associate at a small Chicago law firm, Barack
Obama.  Ayers himself co-chaired CAC’s other operational arm, the
“Collaborative.”  Ayers and Obama held their respective positions for
more than four years, working closely together during that time.  They
also served together on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago for
three years.

association extended beyond working hours.  In 1995, Obama launched his
first political campaign, for the Illinois State Senate, at Ayers and
Dohrn’s home in Hyde Park.  In 1997, Obama endorsed Ayers’ book on
juvenile justice, and Michelle Obama hosted a panel discussion of the
book in which Ayers and Barack Obama participated.

However, when asked to describe their relationship during the Philadelphia primary debate last April, Barack Obama recalled Ayers merely as “a guy who lives in my neighborhood.”

Suppressing the evidence

has been less than forthcoming with information that might shed light
on these close associations in his past.   Until quite recently,
researchers have been blocked from accessing the document archives of
the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, now held at the University of Illinois
at Chicago.  This delay has provided ample time to review and quite
possibly sanitize the contents.  When Klonsky was identified online
earlier this year, all his posts at Obama’s website were instantly
deleted.  Documentation concerning many aspects of Obama’s life remains
unavailable, including papers from his time in college and law school,
medical records, law firm clients, and files as an Illinois State

campaign attorney has tried to suppress a TV ad that calls attention to
his connection with Ayers, threatening the broadcast licenses of TV
station managers and calling for the Justice Department to prosecute
those who produced and financed the ad.

his life, Barack Obama has selected his mentors from the ranks of those
who despise the United States.  This common thread connects Hawaiian
Communist Party organizer Frank Marshall Davis, the Rev. Jeremiah
Wright (“God bless America?  No, no… God DAMN America!”) and the
former Weatherman leaders, Ayers and Dohrn.  

Ayers, Dohrn and their fellow domestic terrorists ever give up their
revolutionary goal of destroying the “imperialist” America they hate? 
Or have they simply substituted new tools for the bombs and violence
that were once the measure of their commitment?

Scott Swett is the primary author of a new book on the 2004 presidential campaign, To Set The Record Straight: How Swift Boat Veterans, POWs and the New Media Defeated John Kerry. He is also webmaster for SwiftVets.com and WinterSoldier.com.

Roger Canfield is the author of a forthcoming series of books on the antiwar movement:
Comrades in Arms: How the Ameri-Cong Won the Vietnam War Against the Common Enemy-America.

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