For some reason the right wing is ratcheting up the Bill Ayers rhetoric lately. During 2008 Sarah Palin accused Obama of "paling around with terrorists". The right wing is restating the charge now. I saw Sean Hannity going nuts on it again last night. Dutko's talking about it. I wonder if these people really know what Bill Ayers did.
There's a decent documentary available at Netflix on the Weather Underground. It gives the details of what they did and why. I'd like to record a brief summary. First some historical context.
In 1962 JFK sent the Air Force to bomb South Vietnam. When you carpet bomb a country in this way (tens of thousands of bombing runs occurred in 1962) you recognize that civilians will pay a heavy price. This is pretty unambiguously terrorism and an extreme moral outrage if there ever was one.
Opposition movements in the US were slow to emerge. In fact the anti-war movement in the US was tiny and faced enormous hostility. Noam Chomsky says that prior to 1966 if he were giving a talk against the war even in a liberal city like Boston he'd be taking his life in his hands. Later the protest movement was larger. But the incredible death and destruction imposed didn't seem to be slowing.
This is what lead to the Weather Underground, which formed in 1969. By now the enormous US backed terror campaign was rising to the fore of the American consciousness. The My Lai massacre had occurred. It wasn't particularly unique, except in two respects. A Life Magazine photographer happened to be there. And after the Tet Offensive the business community started to turn against the war, which made it more likely for events like this to be discussed in the major media. Various pictures were taken, including the one to the left. In this case the photographer asked the soldiers to pause just a sec so he could get this shot. They obliged. They gave him a moment so he could get his picture. Then they immediately gunned them all down.
This is an enormous evil and it's occurring on a large scale. Don't think the image to the left reflects an isolated incident.
Members of the Weather Underground decided that the war needed to be brought home to bring pressure to end this. But here's the key. They DID NOT want to kill anybody. They initially planned an event that would have killed people, but in the process of creating the bombs there was an accident. The only people killed were members of the WU. After that they realized that trying to kill people was a mistake. They decided instead to destroy some property.
There modus operandi was as follows. Plant a bomb in a federal building. Time it to go off at midnight when nobody was present. Phone it in to the police so everyone would know it was coming. This would minimize the chances that anybody would be injured or killed. Hope that the prospect of property damage helped end the war or other acts of violence perpetuated by the US government.
They engaged in property damage in reaction to other acts of US violence besides Vietnam. For instance in 1973 the Nixon administration helped bring about a coup in Chile that installed a military dictator and terror state. Concentration camps were built to torture and murder thousands of people. The WU responded with some property destruction.
One can object to Bill Ayers methods, but unless I'm unaware of what the WU did I don't see how it can be called terrorism. And what he was reacting to is unambiguously terrorism. Yet that terrorism is not just ignored. It's actually celebrated by a lot of the same people that now criticize Obama for "paling around with terrorists."
Bill Ayers engaged in property destruction. JFK, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan engaged in a level of terrorism that Osama bin Laden could only dream of. Shouldn't we first object to the hero worship of Reagan before complaining that Obama had a fundraiser in the home of Bill Ayers?
[Edited mention of B-52's in 1962. These may not have been initiated until the post 1965 escalation under Johnson.]