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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Note On Ayers

posted by on October 8 at 14:51 PM

McCain Camp Sends Out Statement from Ayers Victim:”Obama’s Friend Tried to Kill My Family.” BETHLEHEM, PA-A day after Senator McCain did not even mention Bill Ayers during the Nashville debate ( despite the anticipation by many that he would) his campaign sent out a strong statement, by John M. Murtagh who’s family’s house was fire-bombed by Ayer’s militant group, the Weather Underground, when he was a 9 year old kid.

“When I was 9 years-old the Weather Underground, the terrorist group founded by Barack Obama’s friend William Ayers, firebombed my house. Barack Obama has dismissed concerns about his relationship with Ayers by noting that he was only a child when Ayers was planting bombs at the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol. But Ayers has never apologized for his crimes, he has reveled in them, expressing regret only for the fact that he didn’t do more.

What is wrong with Ayers? Why is he not the magic trick that will do its work on Obama? Because, as Palin pointed out, Ayers was a “domestic terrorist.” And what is it we see in a domestic terrorist that we total miss in an international one? That he/she is a criminal. This is of the greatest significance because terrorists are in essence criminals. This criminal element, however, was recently and willfully removed by the Bush administration in order to produce in the 21st century (the post-Cold War world) an enemy that required military rather than police action.

International terrorists are global in the most radical sense. They are not really tied to a state but to something that approximates a gang (Crips, Bloods, and so on). With great effort and at a terrible cost, Bush managed to shift the the terrain of the 9/11 attack from one of crime to war. And so when we hear the word “terrorist,” we are supposed to hear “combat troop.” But because Ayers was not international, the word “terrorist” in his situation retains its truer meaning—criminal. (Yes, yes, the word “criminal” needs its own opening, examination, and ordering.)

All action against terrorists should correspond with the action taken against Timothy McVeigh, who was tried and punished not as a soldier of war but as what he was—a criminal.

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Charles, I'm a jew from Poland, and I know its the CriPs and the Bloods and not the CriBs and the Bloods, unless you were talking about some infant pack terrorizing the neighborhood.

Posted by Joh | October 8, 2008 2:59 PM

it probably isn't working because ayers is a professor at the university of chicago, was never convicted of anything, and his biggest link to obama is he gave him $200 when running for state senate.

obama has a closer tie to dan savage and the "pro-milking" lobby than to bill ayers.

Posted by jrrrl | October 8, 2008 3:02 PM

Could it be that McCain/Hooker Heels are already totally discredited in the minds of everyone but their base?

Posted by whatevernevermind | October 8, 2008 3:09 PM

Obama could get some of the people who lost their savings in the 80's during the S&L crisis to say "John McCain spent my retirement on Carribean vacations, etc."

Posted by Ziggity | October 8, 2008 3:11 PM

It's also worth pointing out that Ayers isn't trying to destroy the United States, while Al Qaeda is. Most people are smart enough to figure out who's the present danger here.

Posted by Fnarf | October 8, 2008 3:14 PM

This shows McCain's contempt for the American people that he thinks we're stupid enough to buy his bullshit criticisms of Obama. Its perfectly clear from the record that Obama barely knew him, had little or no opportunity to become aware of his past, and that there is no implication that Obama participated in Ayer's terrorist activities.

Posted by blank12357 | October 8, 2008 3:17 PM

Ayers doesn't work on almost any level considering

a. the time and place
b. the aftermath
c. the current life of Ayers
d. the tangential relationship between Ayers and Obama
e. the transparency of the attack on Obama in the face of tangible crisis

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 8, 2008 3:18 PM

The Haqqani Network is now just a "gang" like teenagers selling crack on the street? I disagree with your assessment, primarily because terrorist groups are seeking to incite violence to achieve political effect through their atrocities. Bombing a marketplace full of civilians because you disagree with the government, local mosque, etc. is an attemp to intimidate people to change their behavior. The Crips and Bloods are just young punks illegally seeking money and status.

In that sense, I believe Ayers would be classified as a "domestic terrorist", because he was attempting to achieve political effect through violence.

And as far as McVeigh, he was a terrorist too, and he was executed for his atrocity.

Also, for the record, the Ayers-Obama connection is weak and McCain is going to lose, but even the most fervent Obama supporter shouldn't attempt to downplays Ayers' crimes for the sake of partisan politics.

Posted by LT Nixon | October 8, 2008 3:19 PM

The reason William Ayers' connection isn't being pursued by the McCain camp is because the Ivory Tower protects him and other former radicals from the 60's. It's no secret that American academia's politics is left of center. Seriously Charles, you've taught university how many faculty members' politics are right of center?

Look, I don't have any problem with Obama's connection with Ayers. McCain shouldn't exploit it. He has more to lose than to gain. Few Americans know who the Weathermen, Ayers et, al. are. What baffles me is academia's love affair with the left.

Posted by lark | October 8, 2008 3:27 PM

We also have two factions going on here. Pro Vietnam: McCain and anti-Vietnam: Ayers.

McCain feels snubbed that Obama was in the same room as someone that fought against Vietnam. What McCain doesn't want to admit is that the majority of the nation's already forgiven Ayers for it because Vietnam was worth the protest.

Posted by apres_moi | October 8, 2008 3:30 PM

John McCain's friend Gordon Libby plotted to kidnap and kill my family. John McCain was about 50 years old when his friend plotted and committed other deplorable acts.

Posted by Doctor Professor | October 8, 2008 3:45 PM

Ayres' group was against the Viet Nam war and I think most people today agree that that war was wrong.

I don't think anyone with a brain has empathy for the Weather Underground's tactics, but being against an unjust or unnecessary wr resonates with many.

Posted by elswinger | October 8, 2008 3:54 PM

The main reason this attack is not going to work is because by US standards it is ancient and irrelevant history.

I'm doing a visiting faculty gig at a small liberal arts college this semester and I'd bet dollars to dimes that less than one percent of the students even know what SDS or the Weather Underground were.

At a faculty social a couple of days ago it seemed clear that the dividing line was about 51. The younger faculty didn't have a clue who Bill Ayers was and even some in their early 50s weren't all that clear.

This is but the dying gasp of the silly inter-generational war between the boomers and their parents.

Posted by gnossos | October 8, 2008 3:56 PM

Why does that guy think his house was firebombed by the Weather Underground, when his dad was trying the case of some Black Panthers? Was there some sort of left-wing terrorist mutual aid pact? Did the WU firebomb anyone else's house? Or is this just another poorly founded smear?

Posted by Lt. Panda | October 8, 2008 4:05 PM

I'm with you 100%, Prof. Mudede.

I've had the argument with friends and family over and over again about how Terrorism is a Law Enforcement matter. 9/11 should have been handled by the FBI working with InterPol, not the Army and the Marines. We could have had the culprits, their handlers and numerous hangers on in custody (real custody and not Gitmo) set for trial and shown on the world stage for what they are: criminals. It would have made us look civilized, dignified and mature. Instead we have...what we have now which is a nation of raving lunatics who appear no better than the supposed criminals we're after.

The War on Terror is bullshit. It's not a military problem. It's a law enforcement matter. If we're very, very lucky perhaps President Obama can shift things.

Posted by TacomaRoma | October 8, 2008 4:08 PM

Eric Rudolph, domestic terrorist and bomber of Olympics and abortion clinics alike, is imprisoned for life on the same wing of Supermax prison with the Unabomber and that shoe bomb guy from the airplane.

Posted by Just Sayin | October 8, 2008 4:21 PM

an excellent point! i'm rarely a fan of "the reason is" because i lean toward "complex problems have complex causes", but from a contemporary philosophy perspective, i think this is spot on.

when people see that the terrorist in question is not just white, but a blond and becoming middle-aged man their "need for war" is disspated, and they don't have a ready framework for whatever anger/pique they might have. without a pre-built framework, most people don't bother much.

mccain didn't think to build the groud floor of this attack (or anything else really) because one of mccain's essential problems (from publicly calling his wife a cunt, to yesterday's "that one") is that of a man who, at 72, still hasn't realized that everyone doesn't think exactly as he does. mccain either sees himself in others, or nothing at all.

thanks chuck, needed something new to think about.

Posted by cranky | October 8, 2008 4:24 PM

Charles, you make most philosophy departments look sadly 'out of touch'. The ontological difference between 'enemy' and 'criminal' is indeed an aesthetic taste - i.e. interpreted in ways that support the raw pursuit of power. Taken to its extreme, the absolute difference between 'ally' and 'enemy' leads to not a police state, but a militarized one; the state destroys itself for the sake of security.

Posted by George | October 8, 2008 4:31 PM


A book on the history of the Weathermen claimed that they were responsible for the bombing. I don't know the basis of that assumption, but a few weeks after the Murtagh bombing, some Weathermen blew themselves up in Greenwich Village.

Posted by keshmeshi | October 8, 2008 4:44 PM

Great point Charles - absolutely agree that terrorism (whether domestic or international) is an issue of crime and law enforcement vs. war and the military. Or, at least, that it should be.

The fact that the person perpetrating the terrorist act is from another country does not mean that it becomes a matter for the military -- a murderer or rapist from another country is treated as a criminal, so why shouldn't a terrorist from another country also be treated as a criminal?

Posted by Julie in Chicago | October 8, 2008 5:28 PM

Um, because when you have a gang of 15,000 with rocket launchers and bazookas and there is no govt. where they are hanging out, then you just can't go and put them all in jail and try them one by one?

yes I agree in that primary model of action against terrorists is criminal not military.

But that said....if they are in an ungoverned area or they pose too great a threat or they just practicably can't be caught and prosecuted, then

I am okay with going and bombing them,

like Obama says he will do

if we find OBL and Pakistan is unwilling or unable to help.

I mean, the Taliban was "guilty" of harboring the Al Q. terrorists, so there wre like 15,000 Taliban members guilty of aiding and abetting.

But we could not go and try to arrest 15,000 Taliban fighters and extradite them through Afghan "court" proceedings, etc.
That govt. was one they controlled.

IOW terrorists using stateless areas or in league with states require law enforcment + force, and sometimes this means killing them without trial or due process.

Technically every fighter for the Confederacy was a criminal guilty of treason, too, but Lincoln didn't try to get a force of one million US marhsals to go arrest them all.....

Posted by PC | October 8, 2008 6:22 PM

I think the semiotic argument in the last paragraph fails. While its true the use of terrorism in the Ayers case breaks down the militarization of the term terrorist, its usage by the McCain Campaign restricts this to the rebuttal.

Much like using code words, when the McCain camp talks about Obama's connection to terrorists they fail to mention Ayers. Ayers only becomes an issue when the republicans work to maintain the legitimate use of this rhetoric. IE. the statement is true because Obama is friends with Ayers.

The argument and rhetoric used by the McCain campaign triggers a response in the base which magnifies Obama's otherness and links him with Al Quada. This direction has two goals the first is to energize the base. The second is to shave off votes from Obama to racism.

While the code words and the argument of terrorist may not create the direct link, in the minds of "traditional" communities, the emphasis of otherness creates feelings of doubts and unease. Which the McCain camps will either discourage voters from turning our, or even better win them votes in the isolation of the voting booth.

I agree with your conclusion but I think if anything the long term prognosis of the zeitgeist will be one that favors more militarization rather then less. This is of course predicated on A) Obama losing, B) an Obama presidency that is largely a continuation of the status quo.

Posted by Bubbles | October 8, 2008 8:24 PM

Eric Rudolph was one guy, a US citizen in the US. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were two guys, both US citizens in the US. Richard Reid was one guy, a Brit (US ally). Courts and cops work in cases like this.

The Taliban was and is thousands of guys, who were citizens of a failed state (Afghanistan) that was controlled by members of their own group. There weren't enough cops in Interpol AND the FBI to arrest the entire Taliban and Afghan regime, even if you could arrest an entire government.

Many of the other Taliban are citizens of other countries who have no interest in cooperating with Western law-enforcement agencies, and others still are for all practical purposes citizens of nowhere at all. The parallel to the Barbary situation of 1801-05 is illuminating; there, too, there were depradations committed by a whole network of brigands under no effective State control. I don't hear anyone reviling Thomas Jefferson for having sent in the military. He understood that that's what a military's for, i.e., when there's a bunch of people outside the reach of your laws and treaties.

I said in 2001, and have never retracted the statement, that we should have turned Afghanistan into the fifty-first state. Done properly, with patience, care, hearts and minds, etc., it would have put a powerful democratic presence on the borders of Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and China (there is a miniscule border with China)--four of the six countries that needed such an example the most urgently. (The fifth and sixth being North Korea and Iraq. At the time, I'm saying.) Iraq would have been within easy reach to intimidate Saddam--who was a bastard, we can all agree--especially with the Israeli Air Force also one country away on the other side of him.

I won't go into whether actually invading Iraq was the right thing or not, but that's not my point. I won't go into the absurd ways in which lawyers in civil trials can force disclosure of intelligence resources which lead to giving information to the terrorists' confederates, either. My point is that there IS a point at which international terrorism becomes a military matter.

Posted by Seajay | October 8, 2008 8:29 PM

Bill Ayers was named Citizen of the Year by the City of Chicago in 1997. He worked with republicans and others in the City of Chicago on issues of education. No one got their panties in a wad until Sean Hannity and John McCain decided they could attack Obama with the connection that they were on a board together.

Posted by Roxie in Austin | October 8, 2008 8:43 PM

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