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Revolutionary and State Violence: The Chickens Always Come Home to Roost

The political system is corrupt to the extreme. Its disdain for democracy is profound. A caretaker’s observation at a cemetery on the Greek island of Mykonos comes to mind, while he looked back while closing the cemetery gate one summer long ago: “kaput.” His observation sort of says it all about the political, economic, and social systems much of the world lives under now: It’s all gone kaput!

The system is kaput (except for the elite, who in any case will also suffer the consequences of climate change and climate disasters) and it was obvious in the duplicity and utter disdain for the truth as witnessed in the April 2008 presidential primary debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Snippets of that debate were included in a three-part interview that aired in November 2016 with former Weatherman and Professor William Ayers on the Real News Network (“RAI With Former Weatherman Bill Ayers”).

Ayers became the object of intense scrutiny during the 2008 election season when news surfaced about his support for Obama, their work on a foundation in Chicago, and the fact that Ayers had been a member of the radical group, the Weathermen (a.k.a. the Weather Underground), during the Vietnam War era.

Obama quickly put his relationship with Ayers in perspective while calling the acts of the Weathermen “despicable.”  Not satisfied with that condemnation, Clinton doubled down on Ayers and the group, stating, “What they did was set bombs… and people died.” What Mrs. Clinton failed to mention was that the Weathermen destroyed property and the only people who died as a result of their bombings (bomb making in his case) were three of their own members in a townhouse explosion on West 11th Street in New York City in March 1970.

The killing of one person, and injuring of several others at the University of Wisconsin, which housed the Army Mathematics Research Center, in August 1970, was not an act of the Weathermen. The Brinks robbery of October 1981 in Nanuet, New York, in which an armored car guard and two Nyack, New York police officers were killed was perpetrated by the May 19th Communist Organization and members of the Black Liberation Army. Four former members of the Weather Underground took part in the robbery and killings.  The Brinks robbery was an act of delusional murder that cast a long shadow of shame on the remnants of the defunct Vietnam antiwar movement. The Vietnam War had ended in 1975.

A discussion of revolutionary violence is not the subject of this writing. I believe that that violence only validates the use of violence by the nation that protesters seek to stop from doing reprehensible acts against people. It is the ancient and failed eye for an eye argument. It is not self-defense in any discernible way. But Mrs. Clinton’s condemnation of Bill Ayers is a clear case of duplicity: it is an exercise in hypocrisy that only the political system can produce. How many deaths of innocent people have been caused by the war of regime change in Iraq? What human price has been exacted for that nation’s oil resources?

Recall that Mrs. Clinton was the primary architect of the 2011 attack against Libya that resulted in the destruction of that society and has created a refugee crisis that is ongoing and set the stage for right-wing radicals to set up shop in that country with all the resulting mayhem and grotesque human rights violations that such groups create. Mrs. Clinton, a supporter of the 2003 destruction of Iraq, was also a primary cheerleader of the case for regime change in Syria. Her curriculum vitae is a who’s who in supporting both the use of force and the threat of force that has become such a part of the bipartisan foreign policy of the U.S. That she was secretary of state while holding such bellicose views is cause for both pause and alarm that has led to a State Department that is an extension of Pentagon planning and not a center of diplomacy.

Mrs. Clinton’s excitement at the assassination of Osama bin Laden is reminiscent of the look of a child upon opening gifts at a birthday celebration. Also apparent in Mrs. Clinton’s romantic view of state violence was her pronouncement when she learned that Muammar Gaddafi had been killed in 2011 in Libya: “We came, we saw, he died.” Amazing stuff from someone who came out of the Vietnam War era, but apparently Mrs. Clinton learned nothing from a war which Bill Ayers correctly states killed over 6,000 people a week and would eventually lead to the deaths of millions (3 to 5 million) and over 58,000 from the U.S.

How do those of goodwill stop the violence that Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1967 was committed by “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government”?  The linguist and political theorist Noam Chomsky has condemned the Weathermen. Did the cul-de-sac created by a violent system lead some to extreme acts?

Many protesters from the Vietnam War era condemn the violence of the Weathermen as delusional and counterproductive that cast a long shadow on an otherwise predominantly peaceful movement. Many also point to the longer shadow of U.S. interventions in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos that killed millions.

The Cold War moved seamlessly to the War on Terror. Ideologies changed and the military-industrial-financial complex solidified its control on power. Insanely homicidal factions grew up to fill the vacuum that war leaves behind. The killing continues.

 

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Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).

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