John McCain is more of a terrorist than William Ayers

13Oct08

“There is no internationally agreed definition of terrorism. Most common definitions of terrorism include only those acts which are intended to create fear (terror), are perpetrated for an ideological goal (as opposed to a lone attack), and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants.”

That is what we find as a definition of terrorism on Wikipedia.

During the last days, Barack Obama has been accused by right-wing media and especially by the republican vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, of having strong ties with former member of the Weather Underground Organization, William Ayers.

What did Obama have to say about this?

“This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who’s a professor of English in Chicago who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He’s not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis. And the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was eight years old, somehow reflects on me and my values doesn’t make much sense [...].”

This is one thing I don’t like about Obama: He does not have, or rather not express, an opinion different from the mainstream on some key issues. He would, as this would mean a considerable risk to his campaign, never object the notion of William Ayers being a terrorist. Ayers did.

“We weren’t terrorists. The reason we weren’t terrorists is because we did not commit random acts of terror against people. Terrorism was what was being practiced in the countryside of Vietnam by the United States.”

From a neutral point of view, Ayers is right. If we look at the definition of terrorism I quoted above, terrorism always “deliberately target[s] or disregard[s] the safety of non-combatants.”

According to Wikipedia, none of the activities which can certainly be attributed to the Weather Underground Organization killed or harmed any human. In fact, the WUO undertook relatively huge efforts to make sure nobody would be endangered by their attacks since three of their members died when a bomb they were constructing prematurely detonated.

Allow me to digress: In a similar case currently debated in Germany, the General Attorney of Germany had to change charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” against four men suspected to be part of the left-wing extremist “militante gruppe” (militant group). The federal court of Germany had ruled that the attacks the “militante gruppe” carried out – arson against empty cars and public buildings – did not meet with the definition of terrorism.

Again: Terrorism means that it is at least likely that people are harmed by the attack. That wasn’t the case with the arson of the “militante gruppe” and that wasn’t the case with the attacks William Ayers’ Weathermen carried out.

There are, indeed, some attacks attributed to the Weathermen which were of terroristic kind, including one which killed a policeman and wounded another. Only a few days ago, the McCain campaign published a statement by the son of the victim of another attack, John M. Murtagh. He claims:

“Barack Obama’s friend tried to kill my family.”

Unfortunately, “nobody ever claimed responsibility, or was caught or tried, for the Murtagh bombing”, as Murtagh himself knows. And that is, most importantly, the case with the whole Obama-Ayers controversy: If Ayers is the “domestic terrorist” Sarah Palin sees in him, why was he never sentenced?

Fact is, that when Ayers and his wife and fellow Weatherman member Bernardine Dohrn turned themselves in to authorities in 1980, Ayers was the only one of the WUO leaders who wasn’t sentenced. Other WUO leaders who turned themselves in to authorities, like Mark Rudd or Dohrn, received probation and fines.

That is not what happens to terrorists when they get caught. Living in Germany I’m no stranger to the fate of the RAF, which was a real domestic terrorist organization. There’s still one of them in prison. And their leaders have not, like Ayers, become professors at university.

After all, it seems as if Ayers was, if not innocent, certainly not a terrorist. He has committed crimes which to charge him for his the job of the judiciary. Still, Barack Obama doesn’t say that. He doesn’t say: “Ayers wasn’t a terrorist.” He rather chooses the easy way of avoiding the inconvenient truth to sooth the media.

What he certainly will never say is what I stated in this article’s title: “John McCain is more of a terrorist than William Ayers”.

Let me explain that. Fact is, that John McCain is a – what has brought him praise from all (“patriotic”) sides – war veteran. As a strike fighter pilot he served in the Vietnam war. As was his order, he also bombed civil installations.

Would anyone say that did not “deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants”?

John McCain surely did kill or hurt more people than William Ayers. Still, he is seen as a hero and people are going to vote for because of this. For me it is hard enough to see the real criminals not being punished – people like Henry Kissinger, an advisor to McCain, or Zbigniew Brzezinski, an advisor to Obama. But it is really becoming surrealistic – or just too realistic – when somebody who killed innocent civilians accuses somebody else of knowing somebody who damaged some buildings.

3 Responses to “John McCain is more of a terrorist than William Ayers”


  1. 1 Bill Posted October 13th, 2008 - 04:31

    Personally, I don’t think the Obama/Ayers ‘link’ is an issue worth really discussing. Well, to be precise, I don’t think it’s a valid reason to vote against Obama b/c Obama clearly doesn’t support terrorism. The whole thing is a distraction and not relevant IMHO. With that said, I think your argument is silly. And I say that mainly b/c personally, It’s hard not to see it as intellectually dishonest. And having the stronger candidate, I don’t think we need to use intellectual dishonesty to win.

    First off, Wikipedia is one place you can derive definitions but it’s by no mean a definitive source and it’s hardly a defacto standard for definitions. This is particularly so b/c anyone can edit it and definitions there are seldom static. When trying to ascertain meaning of language in say political debates, a definition that’s generally accepted would seem more appropo (admittedly this is just an opinion on my part and people will certainly disagree). I’ll cut to the chase – Using a Collegiate Dictionary is a lot better source for a definition if you want to fend off criticism of cherry picking definitions. To that end, I’d posit the following link from Webster’s Online http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Terrorism . There are several definitions for it which differ by nuance but essentially convey the same point. Many of the definitions there specifically cite acts against People or *Property*. Had not a single person perished (other than the perpetrators who’s actions were voluntary) in the 9/11 attacks for instance, under the Wikipedia definition such wouldn’t be a terrorist attack. Under most of the Webster’s ones it would be. I can’t see how one could argue that taking down the Twin Towers or destroying part of the Pentagon *wasn’t* a terrorist activity. No one has to be hurt to instill terror. If someone for instance drove by a political opponent’s house and started firing bullets into it, I think most would agree that it would be a terrorist activity even if no one was hurt. Even if on one was even home at the time for that matter. Seeing my house riddled with bullets from a political opponent would certainly make me fear for my life and I don’t think many others would feel much differently

    Ayer’s acts, as well as those of the WU were absolutely intended to strike fear into the hearts of political opponents. To his charges of terrorism, Ayers himself said “Guilty as Sin, Free as a bird, what a country”. I could cite mounds more about his intentions but I don’t think that point is in dispute.

    You ask if he was the terrorist Palin accuses him of being, why wasn’t he sentenced. It’s impossible to have looked into this matter without stumbling upon the answer b/c it’s featured prominently in just about every discussion of the subject. Prosecutorial Misconduct is why he got off and Dohrn got off so lightly. And a well connected, politically powerful and wealthy family is how he and Dohrn entered society and got respectable positions. Both of them are extremely smart and well educated so once getting a foot in the door it’s little surprise they succeeded professionally.

    You make the point that Ayers was the one WU member that wasn’t sentenced. Again, while true, that’s intellectually dishonest, particularly based on your assertion “That is not what happens to terrorists when they get caught” . Ayers was definitely charged for his participation in WU’s crimes. He wasn’t sentenced b/c of prosecutorial misconduct. Again, as to his guilt I can’t make a stronger point that Ayers own words, “Guilty as Sin, Free as a Bird, What a Country!”

    Now as to McCain being a terrorist. First off, he was a military officer under orders and all of his actions were legal under international war. Many civillians were forced by NVA to remain in tactically attractive locations thereby forcing them to be human shields. All of McCain’s sorties operated in support of military actions and while war crimes were committed in Vietnam, I know of no evidence whatsoever that any of McCain’s missions were deemed as such or even questionable. It’s certainly a valid argument to say the whole Vietnam war was a war crime from a moral perspective, but he, as well as the overwhelming majority of US soldiers were operating under the premise that their actions were legal (Unlike real war criminals who hide behind the “I was ordered to do so” umbrella). There’s much to criticize in the execution of the Vietnam war at top levels (I share your sentiment about the Higher ups) but you provide no evidence and I know of none that indicates that McCain specifically targeted civillians and in war, until weapons become much more precise, it’s virtually impossible to know for sure that no civillians are in a given area. It’s impossible to conduct any notion of modern “Legal” war where civillian casualties were nonexistent. So it’s impossible to not intentionally disregard the safety of civillians. If you limit the definition to the first part “deliberately targeting” then your whole argument falls apart in that respect. But if you insist that part of the definition in valid and necessary to define “Terrorism”, then holding Ayers to the same Standard, how can you say he didn’t intentionally disregard the safety of civillians? Building bombs, setting off bombs etc anywhere that you couldn’t completely verify that no civillians were present is intentionally disregarding the safety of civillians.

    In the end, while war is distasteful and always tragic, uniformed officers that are part of a military fighting each other is completely different than independent groups setting bombs in public places.

    ——————-I am not one to defend McCain and am certainly no fan of his. If one wants to argue that all soldiers are terrorists than I guess you could make the case you’re making – that McCain is in fact a terrorist. All soldiers aren’t terrorists and we don’t need to dishonor every combat veteran to make the Ayers issue ‘not matter’. I refuse to believe even 1 sane person that was going to vote for Obama changed their mind b/c of Ayers (other than those that think the issue isn’t about terrorism but about Obama’s percieved lying about his relationship). Anyway if you don’t make that claim, I can’t see an ounce of substance in your arguement regarding McCain == Terrorist. Too often, I see our side resorting to ridiculous arguments while responding to attacks from the other side. That’s what *they* do, we shouldn’t concede the moral high ground there. We are right, we don’t need to use intellectually dishonest points. Cherry Picking a definition so that Ayers’ actions aren’t technically terroristic in nature is weak in every respect. Ayers himself wouldn’t deny he was engaged in terrorism – he feels it was necessary and justified but he doesn’t deny it was terrorism.

    This whole thing can be countered easily…. Obamaa doesn’t support terrorism and never has. He knew of Ayers past but realizes that Ayers may still be a radical but has no intention of returning to violence. Although Ayers may be a bad guy, he’s done a lot of good and does a tremendous amount of work to help the disadvantaged. And a passion for helping the disadvantaged is the centerpiece of their relationship – nothing more nothing less. The Right can only shoot blanks at this point, because it’s true. And they can’t sit there and accuse us of hypocrisy b/c we throw out our values and logic just to defend our Guy. Again, that’s what they do and we should never try to emulate them – the destination is somewhere none of us ever want to go.

  2. 2 Simon Posted October 13th, 2008 - 15:44

    Hi Bill, thanks for your answer.
    Unfortunately you seem to have misunderstood the definition of terrorism I posted. It says, that terrorist attacks must “deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants”. So your examples, like a 9/11 without human victims, would still be a terrorist attack under that definition because there would still have been a possibility that somebody would be affected.
    Also I mentioned that decision by the Federal Court of Germany which also says that attacks on empty building are not to be seen as terrorism.

    For me it is very important to make a difference between attacks on humans and attacks on building etc. That is why I call McCain “more of a terrorist than William Ayers”: Because I think that attacking civilians is the most important about this definition (from an ethical point of view).

    I would not call McCain a terrorist from a scientific position for there is already a word for people like him: Soldier. And I must say I have little to no respect for people who kill others they don’t even know – I have no respect for anybody who kills somebody else. There is nothing, absolutely nothing heroically about bombing civilians. I don’t think I dishonor combat veterans. Did they ever have honor?

    After all, I care more about how Obama reacts towards the truth than how a lie affects his chance to win the election. I’d rather like to see a honest man losing than a coward win.

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