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Second Thoughts on the Plight of Judith Clark: An Answer to My Critics

Fourth: I think Clark’s sentence should be commensurate with those received by the others in the case for which she was tried. But of her guilt, there is no doubt. At her next parole hearing, or before Governor Andrew Cuomo receives petitions asking for her release — which a liberal Democratic governor may be more willing to do than his Republican predecessor -- she should be asked the following:

What do you know about any of the unsolved murders and bombings carried out by your comrades in The Weather Underground, The May 19th group, or any other revolutionary cells with which you might have been involved?  In particular, do you know who committed some of the unsolved murders, and planted bombs about which we have no information on what individuals did these acts?

If Clark has learned her lesson, and knows that the groups she worked with were not working for justice and equality, but rather were engaging in acts of terrorism committed in the name of bringing down “Amerikka,” as they called the United States, she will freely present to the authorities any and all information she is privy to. She will not refuse to do so on the grounds that their motives were good, that they only wanted a better America, or whatever rationale was used by them at the time.

Does Clark condemn the kind of rationale Susan Rosenberg presents in the book she wrote justifying her politics? Rosenberg still writes that she was a political prisoner, and has penned a dishonest and vile book, and has moderated her position only because at present, she thinks armed struggle will not work. She thinks she was punished for her leftwing views, not for possessing 740 pounds of TNT when arrested which she was planning to use.

Clark, in other words, has to make clear that it is necessary for her to address the politics of her action, and to show that she realizes how wrong she was, and how wrong those like Rosenberg whom Clinton freed still are. She must show the world that she knows people like Susan Rosenberg, Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn and others were not committing “mistakes” in the service of justice, but acts of terror in the service of a totalitarian creed and future.

All of the above was addressed by Whittaker Chambers in an article he wrote in 1959 for National Review. Chambers was a compassionate man. Recall that when he first testified against Alger Hiss, he did not accuse him of engaging in espionage, only of being part of a secret Communist group (the Ware group) in Washington, D.C., that sought to enter government service in order to influence policy. Chambers hoped that Hiss, a man he thought had decent motives, would take the clue to fess up to his guilt, and that hence he, Chambers, would not have to take the step of showing that he was actually working for the GRU.

After Hiss got out of prison, Chambers argued that he should have a passport issued to him so he could travel abroad freely, even though he detested everything about his politics. But in his NR article, he wrote that although Hiss had served a term in prison and paid somewhat of a penalty for his sins and crimes, he did not do enough. Chambers wrote: “There is only one possible payment, as I see it in his case. It is to speak the truth. Hiss’s defiance perpetuates and keeps a fracture in the community as a whole.”

Hiss never did fess up. He continued to be defended as innocent by gullible New Deal liberals, who believed that if they acknowledged his guilt, they too would be seen as complicit for their failure to pay real attention to Communist infiltration of the U.S. government in their own heyday. Similarly, those who favor freedom for all terrorist “radicals” still in prison, tend to see them as people like themselves who might have taken that extra step on their own, and hence to admit their guilt is to indict themselves retroactively.

If I am right about Judith Clark truly being repentant, or more accurately if Tom Robbins is correct, then Clark will honestly answer the questions I suggest she be asked by the governor, next time an appeal to free her is lodged at his door. If she does not, I think she should serve out her sentence as prounounced. It is up to her to do the right thing.