What is the difference between the five Muslim immigrants convicted in a Federal court in Camden, New Jersey on Monday, and Bill Ayers and his comrades in the Weather Underground?
The answer: not much, except for the outcome. The men were convicted for conspiring to kill American soldiers in Fort Dix. They had taken concrete steps to train and arm themselves. The government had taped conversations about their plans between them and FBI informants; propaganda videos, and proof of the purchase of machine guns. The jury was evidently not impressed with the defendants’ arguments that they were not serious, and had been coaxed into making incendiary arguments by the informants. If that was so, any sane juror realized, it would not explain why they actually purchased the weapons for the planned attack.
In the case of the Weather Underground, as Bob Owens recounts on his blog today, the FBI had only one inside informant- Larry Grothwol. Like today’s informants, Grothwol had first hand knowledge of terrorist plans of the communist cell, and of actual attacks they carried out. But the Bureau didn’t need this to find evidence- the Weathermen group did it themselves when their home made bomb went off prematurely, killing only themselves.
Despite this, the U.S. Government never tried Ayers and others for their plans and their conspiracy, of which Ayers famously bragged to David Horowitz and later in his book, that he was “guilty as hell” but “free as a bird,” adding sarcastically that “America is a great country.” Yet everyone knew years later, due to confession from members of the group like Mark Rudd, that the anti-personnel bomb they were building was meant for soldiers and their dates at a dance in the very same Fort Dix.
Today’s would-be terrorists are Islamic radical fundamentalists, organized into the same kind of conspiratorial cells as the Weather Underground was in the1960’s and 70’s. Yet, to this very day, Ayers brags in his memoir that each year he and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, go to the site of the Greenwich Village townhouse on the anniversary of the bombing, to lay flowers on the street. He even writes that the time should come when like US soldiers who lost their lives are remembered and honored, so should his comrades like his former girlfriend Diana Oughton, who was killed in the blast, be honored as well.
At least we should be grateful that our government today is on top of the actions of conspirators, and stops and convicts them before they act on their beliefs. That, however, is small consolation for our just anger at how Ayers and company got away with their conspiracies.