Sarah Palin went on the offensive this weekend, accusing Barack Obama of “paling around with terrorists.” (LAT, Oct. 5) When Obama’s tenuous ties to ex-Weatherman Bill Ayers were brought up a few months back, we pointed out that some of those making hay out of it were themselves far cozier with “terrorists”—such as Pat Buchanan, whose 1996 presidential campaign advisor Larry Pratt “pals around” with Klan and Aryan Nations types. Buchanan now enthuses that “of the four debaters we’ve seen, she [Palin] was the most interesting, attractive of them all.” (NYT, Oct. 3) Indeed, there’s much evidence that Palin and Buchanan—and his vile sidekick Pratt—are the proverbial birds of a feather…
David Neiwert wrote on the Firedoglake blog Sept. 22:
This morning I interviewed John Stein, the former Wasilla mayor who was defeated by Palin in 1996 by using “a quiet campaign by some Palin supporters raising emotional issues like abortion and gun control, which had no apparent tie to municipal politics”—and…a whisper campaign that Stein was secretly Jewish (Stein is a Lutheran).
According to Stein, Palin’s main base of support in that election (and subsequent Wasilla campaigns) was derived from her fellow congregants at Wasilla Bible Church and the larger evangelical Christian community. But it also included some of the Mat-Su [Matanuska-Susitna] Valley’s biggest far-right nutcases—to the extent that she even attempted to reciprocate by appointing one of them to the city’s planning commission.
The connection revolves mostly around three men known to have far-right leanings in the community: a builder named Steven Stoll [later Palin’s abortive appointee to the planning commission], a computer repairman named Mark Chryson [chairman, Alaskan Independence Party, 1997-2003], and a third man named Mike Christ. All three subscribed to a bellicose, “Patriot” movement brand of politics—far-right libertarianism with a John Birch streak.
According to Stein, Steven Stoll—whose local nickname, according to [Progressive Alaska blogger] Phil Munger, is “Black Helicopter Steve”—was involved in militia organizing in Wasilla the 1990s, and subscribed to most of the movement’s paranoid conspiracy theories: “The rumor was that he had wrapped his guns in plastic and buried them in his yard so he could get them after the New World Order took over.”
This wasn’t particularly unusual in the valley at the time. Like much of the rural Northwest, survivalist worldviews often led to Patriot organizing activity and its attendant paranoia: “There were other folks who also got all worked up about the supposed Y2K thing,” Stein said, recalling a home he’d looked at with a full array of bunkers and stored food supplies.
But Stoll, Mike Christ, and Mark Chryson were a special case: “They would demonstrate in front of the Wasilla Council,” recalled Stein, saying that the causes varied but invariably involved an animus to “socialist” government, such as planning and public education. “This same group [Stoll, Christ, and Chryson] also challenged me on whether my wife and I were married because she had kept her maiden name. So we literally had to produce a marriage certificate. And as I recall, they said, ‘Well, you could have forged that.'”
The double standard about terrorism is pretty deeply ingrained in this country, even after Oklahoma City. Islamist or left-wing armed militancy is seen as an existential threat and ultra-toxic contagion (and is always labeled with the T-word)—while that of the radical right is seen as just good ol’ boys having fun (or even as a defense of freedom against Big Government). Blogger Jed Lewison noted on his Jed Report April 27 that John McCain has his own “domestic terrorism problem”—his votes against the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which sought to secure abortion clinics against armed attack:
In both 1993 and 1994, McCain voted against the anti-terrorism measure. On each occasion, McCain was one of thirty radical anti-choice Senators to oppose the bill Fortunately, despite McCain’s opposition, it passed the Senate by a 69-30 margin.
At the time, right-wing anti-choice extremists were terrorizing women, doctors, and clinic staff across the United States with thousands of acts of physical violence and threats of violence each year. The new legislation was necessary because in early 1993, the Supreme Court had ruled that even though the terrorism crossed state lines, the federal government could not protect clinics without a specific grant of statutory authority.
After Dr. David Gunn was murdered by an anti-choice terrorist outside the Pensacola Women’s Medical Services clinic, Congress finally passed the much-needed legislation giving authorities the tool they needed to protect women, doctors, and clinic staff from the ongoing threat of terrorism.
Now maybe there were legitimate civil-liberties arguments against the FACE Act. But why is it necessary for Obama (like Kerry before him) to make all the requisite noises about “killing” Osama bin Laden (who has never been tried in a court of law), yet even this will not immunize him against terrorist-baiting—while nobody (apart from a few marginal left-wing bloggers) calls out McCain as “soft on terrorism”?
Next, let’s put the violence of the Weather Underground in a little context. In a front-page story in the New York Times on the Obama-Ayers controversy Oct. 4 the paper recalls:
In an article that by chance was published on Sept. 11, 2001, The New York Times wrote about Mr. Ayers and his just-published memoir, Fugitive Days, opening with a quotation from the author: “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.”
Three days after the Qaeda attacks, Mr. Ayers wrote a reply posted on his Web site to clarify his quoted remarks, saying the meaning had been distorted.
“My memoir is from start to finish a condemnation of terrorism, of the indiscriminate murder of human beings, whether driven by fanaticism or official policy,” he wrote. But he added that the Weathermen had “showed remarkable restraint” given the nature of the American bombing campaign in Vietnam that they were trying to stop.
The Times delineates the casualties the Weather Underground were responsible for:
Most of the bombs the Weathermen were blamed for had been placed to do only property damage, a fact Mr. Ayers emphasizes in his memoir. But a 1970 pipe bomb in San Francisco attributed to the group killed one police officer and severely hurt another. An accidental 1970 explosion in a Greenwich Village town house basement killed three radicals; survivors later said they had been making nail bombs to detonate at a military dance at Fort Dix in New Jersey. And in 1981, in an armed robbery of a Brinks armored truck in Nanuet, N.Y., that involved Weather Underground members including Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, two police officers and a Brinks guard were killed.
The Weathermen undertook their campaign of bombings in response to the US saturation bombardment of Vietnam—which claimed probably hundreds of thousands of civilian lives, wreaked untold ecological damage, and so shocked the world that the Geneva Conventions were amended in its aftermath to outlaw the practice. However adventurist and counter-productive the Weather bombings were (and they pale in comparison to the deadly violence of the radical-right armed underground of the ’80s and ’90s), they were an effort to resist US government actions which are today legally recognized as criminal.
But while Obama is tarred as a terrorist-lover for his acquaintance with Bill Ayers, McCain is unapologetic for the 23 bombing missions he flew in Vietnam. (Newsweek, July 21) On the contrary, this experience is portrayed as a patriotic duty and touted as qualifying him for the Oval Office.
The racism behind the genocidal US campaign in Southeast Asia is alive and well in John McCain—as his own words reveal. According to press portrayals, such as the above Newsweek story, many in Vietnam are actually rooting for McCain—including Tran Trong Duyet, head of the guard unit at Hoa Lo prison where McCain was held as a POW (the “Hanoi Hilton”), who denies the senator’s claims that he was tortured there. McCain isn’t so forgiving. “I’ll call right now my interrogator that tortured me and my friends a gook,” he said in 2000. “You can quote me.” (NYT, Sept. 20)
Katie Hong wrote in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 2, 2000:
…Sen. John McCain told reporters, “I hated the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live.” Although McCain said he was referring only to his prison guards, there are many reasons why his use of the word “gook” is offensive and alarming.
It is offensive because by using a racial epithet that has historically been used to demean all Asians to describe his captors, McCain failed to make a distinction between his torturers and an entire racial group.
It is alarming because a major candidate for president publicly used a racial epithet, refused to apologize for doing so and remains a legitimate contender.
Contrary to McCain’s attempt to narrowly define “gook” to mean only his “sadistic” captors, this term has historically been used to describe all Asians. McCain said that “gook” was the most “polite” term he could find to describe his captors, but because it is simply a pejorative term for Asians, he insulted his captors simply by calling them “Asians”—a clearly disturbing message. To the Asian American community, the term is akin to the racist word “nigger.”
Yet even the Obama campaign is too intimidated to make an issue of this.
Meanwhile, a Support Bill Ayers website has accrued over 500 signatures in protest of the campaign of vilification:
We write to support our colleague Professor William Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who is currently under determined and sustained political attack. Ayers is a nationally known scholar, member of the Faculty Senate at UIC, Vice President-elect of the American Educational Research Association, and sought after as a speaker and visiting scholar by other universities because of his exemplary scholarship, teaching, and service.
Whose activities in the 1960s were worse—Bill Ayers’ or John McCain’s? And why is nobody asking this?