On the morning of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, along with a million other readers of the New York Times (including many who would never be able to read the paper again), I opened its pages to be confronted by a color photo showing a middle-aged couple holding hands and affecting a defiant look at the camera. In retrospect, the article's headline could not have been more flesh-crawling: "No Regrets for a Love of Explosives." The couple pictured were Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, former leaders of the 1960s' Weather Underground, America's first terrorist cult. One of their bombing targets, as it happened, was the Pentagon.
"I don't regret setting bombs," Ayers was quoted in the opening line of the Times' profile. "I feel we didn't do enough." In 1969, Ayers and his wife convened a "War Council" in Flint, Mich., whose purpose was to launch a military front inside the United States with the purpose of helping Third World revolutionaries conquer and destroy it. Taking charge of the podium, dressed in high-heeled boots and a leather miniskirt -- her signature uniform -- Dorhn incited the assembled radicals to join the war against "Amerikkka" and create chaos and destruction in the "belly of the beast." Her voice rising to a fevered pitch, Dohrn raised three fingers in a "fork salute" to mass murderer Charles Manson, whom she proposed as a symbol to her troops. Referring to the helpless victims of the Manson Family as the "Tate Eight" (the pregnant actress Sharon Tate had been stabbed in her womb with a fork), Dohrn shouted: "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!"
Embarrassed today by this memory, but unable to expunge it from the record and unwilling to repudiate her terrorist deeds, Dorhn resorted to a baldfaced lie. "It was a joke," she told the credulous Times reporter, Dinitia Smith; she was actually protesting America's crimes: "We were mocking violence in America. Even in my most inflamed moment I never supported a racist mass murderer." In 1980, I taped interviews with 30 members of the Weather Underground who were present at the Flint War Council, including most of its leadership. Not one of them thought Dohrn was anything but deadly serious. Outrageous nihilism was the Weatherman political style.
Instead of a critique of this malignant couple and their destructive résumé, the Times' portrait provided a soft-focus promotion for Ayers' newly published "Fugitive Days," a memoir notable for its dishonesty and its celebration of his and Dorhn's malevolent exploits. Ayers' book wallows in familiar Marxist incitements and the homicidal delusions of '60s radicalism, including a loving reprint of an editorial from the old socialist magazine Alarm! written by Albert Parsons, one of the Haymarket anarchists, whom the Weathermen idolized:
"Dynamite! Of all the good stuff, that is the stuff! Stuff several pounds of this sublime stuff into an inch pipe ... plug up both ends, insert a cap with a fuse attached, place this in the immediate vicinity of a lot of rich loafers who live by the sweat of other people's brows, and light the fuse. A most cheerful and gratifying result will follow. In giving dynamite to the downtrodden millions of the globe, science has done its best work."
"Fugitive Days" has received glowing tributes from the liberal literary crowd, including Scott Turow, Phillip Lopate, Thomas Frank, Hunter Thompson and New York Observer columnist Ron Rosenbaum. Studs Terkel declared it "a deeply moving elegy to all those young dreamers who tried to live decently in an indecent world."
But there is nothing decent about Ayers' romantic portrait of political violence. In "Fugitive Days," Ayers has written a text that the bombers of the World Trade Center could have packed in their flight bags alongside the Koran, as they embarked on their sinister mission. Like Osama bin Laden, Ayers is a son of wealth (his father was the the chairman of Chicago's giant utility, Commonwealth Edison). And like bin Laden, Ayers was enthralled by the idea of moving history in the direction he desired through the instant gratification of explosives.
Why did Ayers and his comrades unleash their reign of terror? "I don't think you can understand a single thing we did," explains the pampered Weatherman bomber, "without understanding the violence of the Vietnam War." Here you have the banal excuse of all criminals posing as revolutionary heroes: The devil (or the Great Satan) made me do it.
Today Ayers is not merely an author favored by the New York Times and the literary elite but a distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois. His Lady Macbeth is not merely a lawyer, but a member of the American Bar Association's governing elite, as well as the director of Northwestern University's Children and Family Justice Center. And these privileged radicals' view of America -- their facile defamation of our country's power and wealth, their ready appeasement of our mortal enemies -- are once again on public display as we struggle to deal with terrorist assault.
President Bush has correctly defined last week's repulsive deeds that left more than 5,000 dead as an "act of war," one that must be met by a prolonged and ferocious counteroffensive. But already, the voices of moral confusion, equivocation and surrender have been raised in the usual quarters. On the day of the bloody attack, New Yorker theater critic John Lahr warned readers of the Microsoft Internet journal Slate against a military response: "I fear the hysteria in the American character, which splits so easily into good and bad, which rushes to judgment rather than to thought. The terrorists have taken aim at the American government and American capitalism and brought them both symbolically at least down. America, from the point of view of the terrorists, has been humiliated and brutalized as they have felt humiliated and brutalized by America."
This is the we-feel-your-terrorist-pain appeasement perspective perfectly tuned. The hysteria in the American character! A character that permitted fanatical America-haters to bomb the World Trade Center not once but twice without so much as instituting serious security at its airports, lest the American Civil Liberties Union and other members of the appeasement coalition take their government to court to ensure that terrorists, too, have civil liberties. Hysterically "anti-Islamic" America, which during the Clinton years forbade its intelligence operatives from using "human rights violators" as intelligence assets to prevent such terrorist attacks. Who in these Middle Eastern thugdoms with any access to authority or power let alone terrorist networks is not a human rights violator?
Liberal self-hatred masquerading as a concern for human rights was the primary reason why it was so easy for a complicated and lethal attack to be planned and carried out without coming to the attention of American intelligence agencies. It was more important for the Clinton administration to be sensitive to the utopian concerns of the progressive elites and the one-world kleptocrats who make up the U.N. than to protect the American people.
America the brutalizer! Osama bin Laden, our blood-drenched terrorist enemy, is not exactly one of your huddled masses. He is a Saudi prince! Abdel Rahman, architect of the first World Trade Center bombing, is a sheik! Brutalization is not their problem. They are brutes! Like other radical zealots, they are driven by the fanatic conviction that God is on their side and those who do not share their faith -- in our case, Christians and Jews -- are infidels worthy of destruction.
In May 1998, three years before the destruction of the World Trade Center, bin Laden was asked by ABC News reporter John Miller why he had called upon all Muslims to kill Americans, even if they were civilians. "Allah ordered us to purify Muslim lands of all nonbelievers," answered the murderous chieftan. "We are surprised this question is coming from Americans. American history does not distinguish between civilians and military, and not even women and children. They are the ones who used the bombs against Nagasaki.. America does not have a religion that will prevent it from destroying all people. We believe that the biggest thieves in the world and the terrorists are the Americans. We are sure of Allah's victory and our victory against the Americans and the Jews as promised by the prophet, peace be upon him. We predict a black day for America and the end of the United States as United States."
Is this clear enough? This holy war is not about American acts. It is about who we are. It is not a war that can be negotiated. It is them or us.
This is the hour for America to take care of itself; to take steps to defend itself. America must be hard where it has been soft, calculating where it has been sensitive, strong where it has been weak. Osama bin Laden is impressed with American weakness, the very kind of weakness urged again on America in this crisis, by appeasers like John Lahr. "We have seen in the last decade the decline of the American government and the weakness of the American soldier who is ready to wage Cold Wars and unprepared to fight long wars," bin Laden has stated. "This was proven in Beirut when Marines fled after two explosions. It also proves they can run in less than 24 hours, and this was also repeated in Somalia. We are ready for all occasions. We rely on Allah."
On the day of the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings, I appeared on a Fox TV program in San Diego and did my best to steer the discussion toward the steps America must take to defend herself, to carry the war to the enemy camp. But the host would have none of it. While thousands of Americans writhed in agony in the twisted steel of the Trade Center, she wanted to discuss the danger of American "hysteria," the "threat" that American prejudice might pose to Muslims in our midst. It did not even occur to her that if Americans were prejudiced in a way that made this issue pressing, these terrorists would never have been trained as pilots by American companies, housed in American homes or ignored by American security agents at the airports where they hijacked the airliners in order to convert them into bombs.
For years now, our classrooms have been taught by America-disparagers like Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. Many of us have children in schools and universities who, even in this hour of mourning, are being lectured by their teachers on America's sins and why we are reaping what we have sown. The political friends of Ayers and Dohrn have been busily at work for the last two decades seeding our educational culture with anti-American poisons that could one day destroy us.
A visit to a well-traveled Web site "for the progressive community" reveals how profoundly America has been rejected and how passionately its bloodthirsty enemies have been embraced by significant sections of our population, even as we enter a life-and-death struggle with an enemy that wants to exterminate us:
-- "Not only have we caused these events with our monstrous foreign policies but also with our complete disregard of our environment causing mortal damage to the Earth (Earth is a living being) and other species that co-exist with us." Susan Yost, Cumberland, Va.
-- "My heart went out to all the people there as I sat watching, waiting, and then sadness filled me, sadness that the foreign policy of this country has come back to haunt us; sadness that our government has been so arrogant that a lesson like this occurred; It is U.S. policies of terror in other countries that have brought this down on us." Matthew A. Peckham, Eugene, Ore.
-- "Our corporate entities not only run this country but have decimated many other small countries in ways we cannot even fathom. This is a wake-up call America. It is time to change our ways." Rich Cianflone, Colorado
--"The United States conducts itself as a terrorist organization throughout the world." Lance Del Goebel, Manhattan, Illinois
--"U.S. foreign policy has come home to roost today ... we are reaping what we have sown." Glynn Ash
America, the Great Satan.
These comments, and those from such well-known anti-American extremists as Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn in recent days, could have been cribbed from bin Laden's friend, Saddam Hussein, whose response to the air terror attacks was as follows: "Notwithstanding the conflicting human feelings about what happened in America yesterday, America is reaping the thorns sown by its rulers in the world. Those thorns have not only bloodied the feet and the hearts of many, but also the eyes of people shedding tears on their dead whose souls have been reaped by America." Saddam then invoked a litany of misdeeds that could have come from a Chomsky primer: "There is no place that does not have a symbolic monument that shows America's criminal acts against these victims, whether in Japan that was the first to be seared by the nuclear destruction weapons boasted by America, or Vietnam, Iraq ... or the criminal acts the U.S. is now perpetrating by supporting the criminal racist Zionism against our heroic Palestinian people."
Last Tuesday was indeed a "wake-up call" -- but not for liberals to escalate their anti-American crusade. It's time for everyone to rally to our country's defense. Even people like Bill Ayers appreciate on some level what an extraordinary nation they have the good fortune to call home. I interviewed Ayers 10 years ago, in a kindergarten classroom in uptown Manhattan where he was employed to shape the minds of inner-city children. Dressed in bib overalls with golden curls rolling below his ears, Ayers reviewed his activities as a terrorist for my tape recorder. When he was done, he broke into a broad, Jack Horner grin and summed up his experience: "Guilty as hell. Free as a bird. America is a great country."
It is indeed a great country. A country worth fighting for.