This piece was written during Obama's first presidential campaign, in answer to the "bombing run" from the Right, demonizing William Ayers and 60s radicals. The NY Times didn't want it for an Op-Ed. Go figure.
Ayers, Obama and the Vietnam War/ Terry Bisson
Conveniently forgotten in all the hoopla about Obama's “terrorist pal” is what Ayers and other "unrepentant terrorists" were protesting at the time.
The war in Vietnam. Racial injustice here at home.
While John McCain and his colleagues were bombing Vietnamese villages from the air, defoliating an agricultural country with Agent Orange, and napalming civilians and soldiers alike, the Weathermen (and millions of others, young and old) were protesting a illegal, shameful, immoral, patently racist, vastly unpopular and ultimately unsuccessful war.
A disclosure: I was one of those millions. So was John Kerry; so were Dr. Spock, Eugene McCarthy, Martin Luther King and, ultimately, Robert Kennedy.
Another disclosure: I thought Weather was cool. Still do. I was proud of the fact that a few young white middle class Americans, like myself, were so outraged by the brutalities of the Vietnam War that they vowed to “bring the war home.” I might not have shared their guts or their passion, but like them I saw nothing morally unjustified in bombing a country that was unleashing more bombs on a tiny Asian country than were dropped in all of World War Two. Especially since they tried their best to injure no one (and mostly succeeded).
Terrorists? Terrorism is about attacking civilians. Terrorism was policy in Vietnam (see: Christmas bombing, Hanoi; My Lai; Phoenix Program, cluster bombs, etc.). Go see the children born disfigured from Agent Orange. Do the numbers. That doesn’t necessarily make McCain a terrorist; he was just following orders, and it’s hard to be scrupulous about collateral damage from 25,000 feet.
Still, he wasn’t drafted. He was an enthusiast.
Obama has a campaign to run, so he can’t be expected to heap praise on the radicals of the sixties who fought for the dream of racial equality he embodies. But I like to think he secretly admires their commitment and principles.
So don’t tell me about John McCain and his “honorable” bombing runs.
Bill Ayers and the Weathermen (and women), and the millions of genuine American mavericks who protested the Vietnam War, are the ones I honor.
(Thanks for your interest in my work. If you enjoyed this little piece, give a dollar to a homeless person.)