“Hello. This is Bernardine Dohrn. I’m going to read A Declaration of a State of War. This is the first communication from the Weatherman underground. All over the world, people fighting Amerikan imperialism look to Amerika’s youth to use our strategic position behind enemy lines to join forces in the destruction of the empire….Tens of thousands have learned that protest and marches don’t do it. Revolutionary violence is the only way…”
“…We fight in many ways. Dope is one of our weapons. The laws against marijuana mean that millions of us are outlaws long before we actually split. Guns and grass are united in the youth underground. Freaks are revolutionaries and revolutionaries are freaks. If you want to find us, this is where we are. In every tribe, commune, dormitory, farmhouse, barracks and townhouse where kids are making love, smoking dope and loading guns—fugitives from Amerikan justice are free to go…
“…Within the next fourteen days we will attack a symbol or institution of Amerikan injustice. This is the way we celebrate the example of Eldridge Cleaver and H. Rap Brown and all black revolutionaries who first inspired us by their fight behind enemy lines for the liberation of their people.”
“Never again will they fight alone.”
With that announcement, broadcast on radio stations across the country on July 31, 1970, the Weather Underground, which included Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, Mark Rudd, and others, split from Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and declared war on “Amerika.” This group already had a string of bombings, arsons, and other terrorist activities under its belt; two months before the announcement three members of the core group had been killed building a bomb in a Greenwich Village townhouse. An FBI report later stated the group possessed enough explosives to level both sides of the street.
In the two years after the “Declaration of a State of War,” there would be two more high-profile bombings — a New York City police station and the Pentagon.
It’s rather fascinating to compare members of the Weathermen to Anwar al-Awlaki, the American citizen-turned-terrorist who is the subject of the leaked white paper defining the parameters for drone strikes against American citizens abroad. The Washington Post reports:
The U.S.-born Muslim cleric played key roles in the Fort Hood, Tex., shooting rampage in 2009 that killed 13 people, as well as last year’s foiled attempt to put bombs on cargo planes bound to the United States. His words led a young Nigerian to attempt to blow up a jetliner over Detroit, and inspired an unemployed Pakistani man to drive a bomb-laden vehicle into the heart of New York’s Times Square. … So effective was his message that the CIA last year put him on the agency’s official target list, making him the first American citizen to be designated for death, wherever he could be found, without judicial process.
The CIA targeted Awlaki and in 2011 he was killed by a drone strike in Yemen. The DOJ white paper defended such targeted killings of U.S. citizens, asserting
the inherent right of the United States to national self defense under international law, Congress’s authorization of the use of all necessary and appropriate military force against this enemy, and the existence of an armed conflict with al-Qa’ida under international law.
The paper laid out a three-part test for killing a U.S. citizen who is “an operational leader continually planning attacks against U.S. persons and interests” and who is outside the United States:
(1) A high-level official of the U.S. government must determine that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States;
(2) A capture operation would be infeasible–and those conducting the operation would continue to monitor whether capture becomes infeasible; and
(3) Such an operation would be conducted consistent with applicable law of war principles.
What does any of this have to do with domestic terrorists like Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers?
In October 1970, the Chicago Daily News reported (see FBI file) on the radical leftist activities of Americans traveling between the U.S. and communist Cuba, calling the country a “revolutionary factory.” Fidel Castro’s Cuba had become a veritable post-graduate training ground for radicals in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Hardcore anarchists and left-wing professors visited alongside peaceniks who picked sugar cane and oranges for Castro’s collective. Some 4000 Americans visited Cuba for varying lengths of time during that decade.
The Chicago Daily News described the results:
Bernardine Dohrn, mini-skirted Weatherwoman and 30 fellow activists met with Vietnamese communists in Havana in July, 1969.
Three months later, with the fiery Bernardine in command, a shocked Chicago watched as several hundred ultra-radical Weathermen staged a wild window-smashing rampage which they called “Four Days of Rage” in protest against the Vietnam War.
Beyond any doubt, Cuba has shaped, supplied technical training to, given political indoctrination for and perhaps most important of all, served as the inspiration for the American radical movement in its avowed aim to bring down the American system that it so fiercely despises…
…The ubiquitous Miss Dohrn, a brilliant University of Chicago law school graduate, mapped her anti-war campaign during an eight-day semester with representatives of Hanoi and the Viet Cong. She journeyed to Havana at their request.
Now a fugitive sought by the FBI, Bernardine was heard from last week when she claimed credit for blowing up for the second time within a year, a police memorial statue in Chicago’s Haymarket Square.
So, would Dohrn and other Weathermen qualify for a visit from the U.S. Department of Drones? Let’s just imagine for a moment that instead of going “underground” in the U.S., Dohrn and other members of the group had taken refuge in Cuba and continued to plot against “Amerika.”
According to the Justice Department memo, she would need to be “an operational leader continually planning attacks against U.S. persons and interests.”
“A high-level official of the U.S. government must determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.”
Bernardine Dohrn: “I’m going to read A Declaration of a State of War. This is the first communication from the Weatherman underground. All over the world, people fighting Amerikan imperialism look to Amerika’s youth to use our strategic position behind enemy lines to join forces in the destruction of the empire….Tens of thousands have learned that protest and marches don’t do it. Revolutionary violence is the only way…”
Government officials knew Dohrn and her comrades were very serious about their threats. Thirteen members had been indicted just a week before in a national bombing plot.
“A capture operation would be infeasible–and those conducting the operation would continue to monitor whether capture becomes infeasible.”
Would Castro have allowed American officials into Cuba to capture American domestic terrorists who were plotting to overthrow the U.S.? The math is easy on this one.
“Such an operation would be conducted consistent with applicable law of war principles.”
As long as you didn’t waterboard Dohrn before you droned her…
Of course, we can’t know what would have happened if the U.S. had possessed drones in 1970, but I’m just pointing out that the situation with the Weathermen wasn’t all that different than that of Awlaki.
Dohrn and other Americans spent time in Cuba during the Vietnam War. Communist Cuba supported the enemy during the war and Dohrn actually met with enemy Viet Cong leaders “at their request.” She and others in her group planned and carried out acts of terror against public venues, including a New York City police headquarters and the Pentagon. And it could have been much, much worse. Harvey Klehr, professor of politics and history at Emory University, said of the Greenwich townhouse explosion, “The only reason they were not guilty of mass murder is mere incompetence.”
So, Mr. President, Americans would like to know…
If your fugitive friends Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn and the rest of the Weathermen had fled to Cuba in 1970, would you have sent a drone after them? Because I don’t see a whole lot of difference between the Weathermen and Anwar al-Awlaki, except that the Weathermen were more successful than most of Awlaki’s protégés.
While this may seem like a futile intellectual exercise, I think it’s important to answer the question of how broadly the sphere of Obama’s drone powers would extend. I don’t personally object to the use of drones to take down an enemy combatant hell-bent on killing Americans — even if he is an American citizen. You forfeit your right to due process, and any other rights as an American citizen, when you join forces with an enemy that is at war with our country.
But I want to know if President Obama will use these war powers consistently. We’ve already seen members of Occupy Wall Street plotting to blow up a bridge in Cleveland. Their group tolerated violent criminals and anarchists in their camp and the movement is built on the same ideology that led to the violent Weather Underground. If OWS reorganizes after a hiatus (as the SDS did) and returns with a new, violent “Black Bloc” iteration, will the Obama administration treat them as terrorists and hunt them down with drones if they flee by private jet with Michael Moore to some OWS Mecca like Venezuela or Cuba?
The answer, of course, should be “yes,” unless the purpose of the white paper on the use of drones was nothing more than an after-the-fact attempt by the Obama administration to cover their backsides in the wake of a drone assassination that sent the Left into a severe state of cognitive dissonance. Or unless they would refuse to attack enemy combatants with whom they share an ideology.
Previously from Paula Bolyard at PJ Lifestyle: