THE BLOG
11/10/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Calling Bill Ayers a "Terrorist" Doesn't Make Him So

As John McCain's campaign begins to disintegrate within less than thirty days to election day because of his unequivocal support for George Bush's reckless economic policies that have gotten our economy into this ditch, he is beginning to use a series of sleazy advertisements to distract people from the fact that every morning, their 401Ks are smaller than it was the day before.

As part of this distraction campaign of character assassination against Barack Obama, McCain's attack dog -- Sarah Palin -- has been out there saying Obama is friends with Ayers, "a domestic terrorist." In response, Obama has accurately pointed out that Ayers committed his actions over forty years ago, when Obama was eight years old. Obama's interactions with the rehabilitated and now University professor William Ayers has been very limited and only about matters of uncontroversial public good.

But what the Obama campaign has intelligently avoided doing (because they may look as if they are defending Ayers) is to challenge the notion that William Ayers is a terrorist. We are told that Ayers was a "domestic terrorist" because according to the New York Times, he was a member of "the radical Weathermen" who launched "a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and United States Capitol" to protest the Vietnam War. Furthermore, we are told that Ayers was a terrorist because the FBI said so 40 years ago.

But the fact is that throughout its entire time of activities, Weathermen did not hurt a single citizen. The FBI may call Weathermen a terrorist group, but the FBI's definition of terrorism is rather broad, defining terrorism as "the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a Government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives." Based on this definition, America's actions in both Iraq and Afghanistan as well as those in Nicaragua in the 1980s are terrorism. So is Israel's bombing of that mysterious military site in Syria in 2007. But how many Americans consider America or Israel "terrorists"?

In 2001, the FBI also branded not domestic terrorist cells or Al Qaeda -- which planned and executed the attacks of 9/11, which led to the killing of 2,975 Americans -- but the Earth Liberation Front, as the top domestic terror threat in the United States. According to the now defunct ELF Press Office, ELF is the collective name for anonymous and autonomous individuals who use "economic sabotage and guerrilla warfare to stop the exploitation and destruction of the environment." Since its creation, ELF's actions have not led to the hurting of a single individual anywhere in the world.

In his book about his Weatherman experiences, Bill Ayers objected to describing the WUO (Weather Underground Organization) as "terrorist." Ayers wrote, "Terrorists terrorize, they kill innocent civilians, while we organized and agitated. Terrorists destroy randomly, while our actions bore, we hoped, the precise stamp of a cut diamond. Terrorists intimidate, while we aimed only to educate. No, we're not terrorists." It is true that even if Bill Ayers was in fact "aiming" to educate, what renders groups certain classifications is the consequences of their actions, not their aims. Nonetheless, Weathermen also specifically aimed to engage in activities that did not result in the hurting of any individuals. For instance, they specifically targeted government buildings at night to avoid killing citizens. In addition, the consequences of Weathermen's actions led to the destruction of a lot of property and no human life, ever.

It was extremely poor judgment on Weathermen's part to resort to violence and odd and erroneous on Ayers' part to elevate violence and destruction of properties built with the tax money from many people who also opposed to Vietnam War to the level of education. It's an utter insult to all true educators, of whom he is currently one. Nonetheless, Weathermen were extreme vandals, not terrorists. Is vandalism of government property bad? Absolutely. Is it as bad as actions that most Americans consider to be terrorism: intentionally targeting and killing civilians to push any kind of a social agenda? Absolutely not.

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