Guilty by association

J.B. Sivanich

In the past weeks, John McCain’s poll numbers have been falling steadily, and the campaign has responded by going negative; as Palin put it, “the gloves are coming off and the heels are coming on.”
The number-one target of this string of attacks has been Barack Obama’s “association” with “unrepentant domestic terrorist William Ayers.” Sean Hannity released an hour-long opinio-mentary on Fox News this past Sunday titled “Obama & Friends: The History of Radicalism.”
The last name “Ayers” at one time could be found over 200 times on National Review Online — usually the home of more intellectual conservatives. This attack is a pretty blunt grasp at any straw that will keep the media cycle off the economy, since that subject only hinders McCain’s chances.
The attack is thin too, for Ayers is now a “rehabilitated” — though still “unrepentant” about his actions, mind you — member of the Chicago liberal community and a professor of education at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
A recent New York Times article revealed that though Ayers threw a “coffee” for Obama’s first run at public office in the beginning of his career and served on the same charity board as Obama, the two were not close.
Personally, I cannot muster much energy to condone Ayers. Yes, the Weather Underground enacted property damage, but we applaud that when it is part of our national storyline: the Boston Tea Party. They went out of their way to make sure that the bombs they planted in the NYPD police headquarters, the Pentagon and the Capitol hurt no civilians; in the end, it was the Weathermen who were hurt the most when a bomb they were building exploded killing three of their members in 1970.
I do agree that Ayers should have gone to jail for his actions — charges were dropped because of prosecutorial misconduct.
Guilty by association is a dangerous game for McCain and Palin to play if you take a look at people who they have been hanging around with lately.
On the Monday of their national convention, they invited a man to speak who broke international law to start a war that has cost the lives of around 90,000 civilians and has displaced many more under pretenses that have turned out to be false and that were manipulated by him while making the case for war: George Bush.
On that same night, they had Dick Cheney speak, a man who provided the “philosophical guidance” and “flexibility” for the practice of torture in Guantanamo Bay and other secret detention centers.
Maybe worse than this is that Sarah Palin is receiving foreign policy tutoring sessions from former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
This is a man who gave the green light to Indonesian President Suharto, in person, the day before Suharto began the “annexation” of East Timor which claimed at least 100,000 lives, many killed in indiscriminate rampages which used arms paid for by the U.S.
This same man helped fund the brutal overthrow of the democratically elected Chilean President Salvador Allende, financially and politically supporting General Pinochet, a dictator, and even putting his officers on the CIA bankroll while he ruled over Chile by torture.
This is a slippery line to take and would probably include all American presidents and their close aids in the past 50 years, not just Republican ones. Bill Clinton continued U.N. economic sanctions started by George Bush Sr. against Iraq which, according to the U.N.’s own numbers, killed 1 million Iraqis through starvation and other means.
John F. Kennedy, whose national-security policy Barack Obama evoked in his acceptance speech as the Democratic presidential candidate, gave names of suspected communists to the Baathists in Iraq and helped with arms as they purged Iraq of much of its professional class; the CIA also gave a 22-year-old Saddam Hussein his start.
I do not bring up these points to unilaterally condemn America over the past 50 years, or to present these events out of their contexts as complex foreign policy and geopolitical dilemmas. I only to do this to show that America needs to be honest and questioning about its imperial streak.
Errors and tragedies have undoubtedly been created, and many have slipped past examination due to an illogical patriotic code of not being able to ask questions of our leaders or hold them responsible.
By focusing on Ayers’ as a “radical” and a “terrorist,” McCain and Palin are missing the point that much more radical terror has been waged by America through the past half century. On that point, Ayers was right.