Osama’s favorite lawyer: Lynne Stewart

Lynne Stewart

As we saw yesterday, lawyer Lynne Stewart, who died on March 7, was caught passing messages between her client Omar Abdel-Rahman, the so-called “Blind Sheikh,” and his terrorist followers. What happened next? Quite properly, she was arrested and charged with providing support to terrorists. And what happened after that? Quite predictably, a veritable army of far-left organizations, socialist publications, and terrorist front groups shrieked in protest. So did Pravda. Among the donors to her defense committee was George Soros’s Open Society Institute. And guess who recorded a videotape in which he championed her cause? Why, none other than Osama bin Laden himself.

Not surprisingly, the folks at The Nation were at the forefront of Stewart’s defense. David Cole wrote: “Stewart, a 65-year-old who has never committed a violent act, now faces twenty to thirty years in prison. Do you feel safer?” Cole accused the Justice Department of “turn[ing] an administrative infraction into a terrorism conviction that, unless reversed, will likely send Stewart to prison for the rest of her life.”

Judge John Koeltl

Stewart’s trial dragged on for years. She committed perjury. Her sentencing didn’t take place until 2006. At that event, the judge, John Koeltl, showed that he, too, had a soft spot for Stewart. Instead of sentencing her to 30 years, as required by official guidelines, he gave her 28 months and – perversely – praised her for her “public service…to the nation.” She promptly began gloating over her victory and resumed consorting with terrorists and other criminals.

Judge Robert Sack

Judge Robert Sack of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals was not impressed. “From the moment she committed the first act for which she was convicted, through her trial, sentencing and appeals,” Sack wrote, “Stewart has persisted in exhibiting what seems to be a stark inability to understand the seriousness of her crimes.” In 2010, Sacks’s court asked Koeltl to reconsider the sentence. Koeltl, who himself had been appalled by Stewart’s appalling conduct and lack of contrition, agreed that he’d made a mistake and upped her prison term to ten years. “Lynne Stewart,” wrote Matthew Vadum, celebrating the tougher sentence, “is a terrorist and a traitor and ideally she should have received the death penalty.” His logic: by conveying instructions from Rahman to his followers, Stewart “became a terrorist in her own right and back in the good old days would have been put to death, as her fellow traitors the Rosenbergs were.”

Dick Gregory

But in 2013, when she said she was dying of cancer, Koeltl was pressured by the Obama Administration and by a bevy of Stewart’s radical allies to release her on “compassionate grounds.” Dick Gregory went on a hunger strike, vowing not to eat until Stewart was free. Koeltl caved. Stewart was allowed to go home. A socialist newspaper later recalled the joy this kindled among Stewart’s fans: “Our Lynne, the people’s lawyer, woman warrior and courageous freedom fighter, finally was coming home.” After her release, Stewart resumed her career of standing up for murderers. Indeed, last year Michelle Malkin reported that Stewart was “as unrepentant and unapologetic as the rest of her rotten hippie pals in the bloodthirsty Weather Underground, Black Liberation Army and Black Panther movement” and was continuing “to endorse murdering her ideological enemies in the name of peace and social justice.” In her last years, Stewart celebrated the new wave of cop-killers, calling them “avengers” whose actions “spoke for some of us” and who were “avenging deaths that are never and have never been avenged since the ’60s and ’70s.”

Rahman died only 18 days before Stewart did. “He was a personification of an American hero,” she told the New York Times.

Lynne Stewart & the “Blind Sheikh”: a love affair

Lynne Stewart

Over the course of her career, Lynne Stewart – who died on March 7 and whose career we began looking at yesterday – defended Weather Underground cop-killers David Gilbert and Kathy Boudin. Black Panther Willie Holder, and Mafioso Sammy “The Bull” Gravano. But she had her standards. She wouldn’t represent a Nazi or a white supremacist. But she admired Islamic radicals. She saw armed jihad as the solution to oppression in the Middle East, and had no problem with the prospect of victorious jihadists introducing sharia law into conquered territories. She even said she would have taken Osama bin Laden as a client. She came close: her most famous client was Omar Abdel-Rahman, the famous “blind sheikh” who plotted violent acts against the U.S. and whose own terrorist crew, the Islamic Group, was closely tied to al-Qaeda.

Omar Abdel-Rahman

Rahman was a key figure behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the USS Cole bombing in 2000. His public statements made clear his desire for the destruction of America and the killing of as many Americans as possible. When he was given life in prison in 1996 for his role in the World Trade Center attack and on unsuccessful efforts to blow up United Nations Headquarters and the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels in New York City, he vowed that “infidel” America would “be destroyed” and that “nothing [would] remain.” His life sentence caused Stewart to break into tears. She actually saw this bloodthirsty creature “as a fighter for national liberation on behalf of a people oppressed by dictatorship and American imperialism.” And she admired – believe it or not – “his honesty, his strength of character, his teasing humor.” (In 2003, she called Rahman “a very learned scholar” who “deserved to have a platform, deserved not to be entombed in the middle of America and not able to speak.”) In an effort to obtain Rahman’s release, his followers carried out the 1997 Luxor massacre in which, as Daniel Greenfield has noted, “European tourists had their ears and noses cut off before being killed.”

Remains of European victims of the Luxor massacre await repatriation.

After Rahman was locked up, Stewart was allowed to visit him on the condition that she not act as a conduit between him and anybody on the outside. But she was soon caught on tape transmitting coded messages to and from his jihadist comrades. Michelle Malkin has spelled out Stewart’s crimes: “Stewart ferried messages to the Blind Sheikh from fellow jihadist Rifa’l Ahman Tara urging him to support a new wave of Islamic violence in Egypt – and then smuggled out a coded order to his followers lifting a ceasefire between his terrorist group and the Egyptian government.” On surveillance videos, moreover, as the Middle East Quarterly explained, “Stewart could be seen shaking a water jar or tapping the table while [the translator] and the sheikh exchanged communications that were then later disseminated to the sheikh’s followers.”

In other words, Stewart made it possible for Rahman to send out the word to terrorists in Egypt to resume killing. What happened next? Tune in tomorrow.

The adorable Maoist: Lynne Stewart

Lynne Stewart

She was a fire-breathing left-wing radical who championed revolutionary violence and gave aid and comfort to Islamic terrorists. But when Lynne Stewart died on March 7 at age 77, many obituarists in the mainstream media strove to soften her image. Not all of them, to be sure. The article sent out by the Associated Press, to its credit, made a point of mentioning that Stewart’s clients “included members of the Black Panthers, Weather Underground leaders, a former hit man and a man accused of trying to kill nine police officers,” that Stewart “was a longtime believer in armed struggle as a way of fostering political revolution,” and that she had described “the killings of police officers…as ‘a deterrent’ against the killings of unarmed civilians by police.” Brief though it was, the AP obit provided a pretty good picture of the kind of woman Lynne Stewart had been.

By contrast, while telling much of the truth about Stewart, Joseph P. Fried, writing in the New York Times, seemed determined to avoid some of the most damning facts about her and to whitewash others, all the while stirring in as many heartwarming and humanizing details as possible: “A former librarian and teacher, she had taken up the law in the cause of social justice after seeing the squalor in the area around the public school in Harlem where she taught. She built a reputation for representing the poor and the reviled, usually for modest, court-paid fees.” And then there was this: “Belying the image of a dangerous radical, Ms. Stewart, a short, round-faced woman, often arrived at court wearing a New York Mets cap and a floral-print housedress, dangling a cloth tote bag rather than the lawyer’s typical briefcase and inevitably drawing a clutch of news photographers.” Adorable!

Neither the AP nor the Times mentioned Mao. They should have, for it is important to know that Stewart was a convinced, passionate Maoist. She spoke affectionately not only about Mao but also about Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Minh. There appears to be no record of her ever expressing concern about the millions of people murdered by Mao, or about the lower but still impressive death tolls racked up by Castro and Ho. “I don’t have any problem with Mao or Stalin or the Vietnamese leaders or certainly Fidel locking up people they see as dangerous,” she said in 2002. The road to utopia, after all, is a bloody one.

Nor did the AP or the Times mention Stewart’s take on 9/11. She defended the terrorists’ actions. She called the atrocity an “armed struggle.” The closest she came to criticizing any aspect of it was when she opined that the Pentagon was a better target than the World Trade Center. But she wasn’t making a moral judgment – just a strategic one.

More tomorrow.

The Weathermen: from terrorists to professors

We’ve been looking at the Weather Underground, or Weathermen, described by Arthur M. Eckstein in his book Bad Moon Rising as “the most notorious American radical group committed to political violence in the late 1960s and early 1970s.”

14 Oct 1970 --- Washington: Replacing one woman with another, the FBI, October 14, added to its 10 Most Wanted list of fugitives, Bernardine Rae Dohrn, (shown in FBI flier), a self-proclaimed Communist revolutionary who advocates widespread terrorist bombings. In putting her on the list in place of the captured Black militant, Angela Davis, the FBI described Miss Dohrn, 28, as a reputed underground leader of the "Violence-Oriented Weatherman Faction of Students for a Democratic Society". --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

As we’ve noted, J. Edgar Hoover was desperate to bring them down. Yet when President Nixon tried to get him to employ illegal means to gather intelligence on the organization, Hoover resisted. Eventually, however, at White House urging and with Justice Department approval, Hoover’s men bugged the homes and phones of Weathermen friends, relatives, and supporters. Yet all their efforts proved to be unavailing. The Weathermen had gone underground, and the FBI couldn’t find them.

Job Talk
L. Patrick Gray

Hoover died in May 1972 and was replaced by L. Patrick Gray; before the month was over, the Weathermen set off a huge bomb in the Pentagon. (Today, the ease with which they managed to do it seems mind-boggling: “A female member of Weather had simply walked into the vast building along with crowds of civilian employees to scout a suitable location for a bomb, then had returned the next day, again simply walking in. She placed the bomb in a women’s restroom.”) No one was hurt, but the bomb caused millions of dollars’ worth of damage. “Under Gray,” writes Eckstein, “capturing the Weathermen became the main task of the Bureau’s entire Domestic Intelligence Division.” Though hampered by a June 1972 court ruling that effectively forbade most of the Weathermen wiretaps, the war on the Weathermen continued. Yet, in Eckstein’s account, it was a clumsy war, fought against a kind of enemy the FBI had never faced before.

kathie-boudin-fbi-posterIn the end, indeed, the downfall of the Weathermen was the result less of effective field work by the FBI than of “an aspect of traditional Marxist-Leninist political life that had bedeviled the American far Left from its origins: ideological division and disagreement, combined with savage factionalism.” What happened was this: in the mid 1970s, with the radical counterculture rapidly evaporating and the mainstream culture itself becoming more accepting of far-left ideas, Weathermen top dog Bill Ayers and others tried to steer the group away from violent underground revolution and toward open community organizing – toward, that is, the “education” (read: radicalization) of the working class and an emphasis on addressing practical political issues. The goal – Leninist revolution – was the same; only the method was different.

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Clayton van Lydegraf

But other members of the group, under the leadership of an old Stalinist named Clayton van Lydegraf, revolted, declaring themselves to be the real Weather Underground and returning with new brio to the business of planting bombs. They began by planning a deadly attack on the office of California state senator John Briggs. But they turned out to be as careless as they were violent. Unlike the earlier incarnation of the Weathermen, this one proved to be much easier for the FBI to penetrate. The Bureau even managed to plant an undercover agent in Lydegraf’s home – as a roommate. Before the Weathermen could carry out their bombing of Briggs’s office, then, the FBI managed to arrest its five top leaders – an action that, in one fell swoop, cracked the back of the national Weather Underground.

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Kathy Boudin today

Some of them went to prison, but not for long. And thanks to the entry of leftist counterculture values into the mainstream of elite American culture (especially the academy), many former Weathermen enjoyed successful post-terrorist careers and, in time, came to be treated as heroic veterans of the legendary Sixties. Bill Ayers became a professor of education at the University of Illinois – Chicago; Bernadine Dohrn is a law professor at Northwestern; Cathy Wilkerson teaches math in Brooklyn; Mark Rudd is a professor of math in New Mexico; and Kathy Boudin who was in that house on West 11th Street when it exploded in 1971 and who was later convicted of felony murder in connection with a 1981 Brink’s truck robbery in Nyack, New York, in which two police officers and a security guard were killed is now an adjunct professor at Columbia University.

Blowing up stuff

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J. Edgar Hoover

On March 6, 1970, the same day that bombs went off by mistake in a Greenwich Village townhouse, leveling the entire building and killing three members of the Weather Underground – who had supposedly been acting on their own, without the approval of the organization’s national leadership – unexploded bombs were found in an alley next to the headquarters of the Detroit Police Officers’ Association and in a ladies’ room in the 13th Precinct of the Detroit Police Department. The combination of the New York explosion and the discovery of the bombs in Detroit (which went unreported at the time in major newspapers) not only strongly suggested that the Greenwich Village bombers, far from being renegades, were in fact working in collusion with Weathermen in other cities, but also led J. Edgar Hoover to take the Weather Underground seriously as a domestic threat. (The discovery in late March of a “bomb factory” in Chicago only further emphasized the danger.) In the months that followed, the FBI hunted down leaders of the group, who went underground.

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Weatherman Mark Rudd

The Greenwich Village explosion was far from the beginning of the Weathermen story. On February 12, 1970, Weathermen set off pipe bombs next to police cars parked near the Berkeley, California, police department headquarters. One policeman’s arm was permanently mangled, and several other policemen suffered minor injuries. But some of the bombers were disappointed because nobody had died. On February 21, firebombs went off at several locations in New York – at the home of the judge in a then-ongoing Black Panther trial, at a police car, at two armed forces recruiting stations, and at the Low Library at Columbia University. On March 2, the group firebombed a policeman’s home in Cleveland. On March 12, three Manhattan skyscrapers were bombed, and 300 bomb threats phoned in; while there were no deaths, thousands of people were evacuated from office buildings. On June 9, eight policemen were injured in a bombing of New York City police headquarters. (One scary aspect of this crime was that the bomb had actually been planted inside the building.) And on August 24, a Weathermen-connected group of radicals in Madison, Wisconsin, destroyed the Army Mathematics Research Center in that city with a truck bomb, killing a researcher and injuring several others.

Phil Ochs, Berkeley, CAApril 1969 sheet 272 frame 11-12
Phil Ochs

Such was the spirit of the era, at least in certain circles, that many public figures saw the Weathermen not as despicable sowers of mayhem and destroyers of innocent lives but as heroic rebels. As Arthur M. Eckstein writes in his splendid history of the group, Bad Moon Rising, folk singer Phil Ochs, whose concert at Carnegie Hall on March 27, 1970, was disrupted by a bomb threat that was possibly phoned in by the Weathermen, was tickled pink by the prospect of that storied venue being leveled by a Weather Underground bomb. “It’s be great!” he said.

J. Edgar Hoover didn’t agree. He wanted to destroy the Weathermen. More on that tomorrow.

The murderers on West 11th Street

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After the bombing

On March 6, 1970, bombs created by a radical terrorist group called the Weather Underground destroyed a three-story townhouse at 18 West 11th Street in Greenwich Village. Three people (Diana Oughton, Terry Robbins, and Ted Gold) were killed, and two others (Kathy Boudin and Cathy Wilkerson) were injured. When police inspected the premises, they found enough unexploded dynamite to have destroyed every building on both sides of that rather long block. (At the time, actor Dustin Hoffman lived right next door.) The truth that eventually came to light was that the house itself which the poet James Merrill had lived in as a child, and which had later been the home of lyricist Howard Dietz had not been the target of the bombers, but had been their headquarters. The five people who had been killed or injured had, in fact, planned to bomb a dance at Fort Dix in New Jersey. “It is likely,” writes Arthur M. Eckstein in his history of the group, Bad Moon Rising, “that dozens of people would have been killed if the plan had succeeded.”

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18 West 11th Street, then and now

At first they called themselves Weatherman – singular, not plural. After a while they came to be known publicly as the Weathermen or the Weather Underground. The group itself had begun as a faction within the radical organization Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). It was a Leninist group, devoted to an international revolutionary struggle on behalf of the proletariat against the forces of imperialism, capitalism, and racism; many of its members had spent time in Cuba, idolized Che Guevara, met with North Vietnamese officials, and/or been influenced by Mao Zedong.

After the townhouse bombing, the Weather Underground publicly announced that the 11th Street bombers were members of a renegade New York cell that had been engaged in a “rogue operation” that had not been approved by the Weathermen’s national leaders. The Weathermen’s national leaders further announced that, while they would continue to work toward a guerrilla revolution that would overthrow the U.S. government, they would make certain not to plant bombs that might actually harm or kill people and would instead carrying out bombings that would do damage only to property.

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Bill Ayers today

In the years and decades that followed, this claim – that the townhouse crew had gone rogue and that the Weathermen, as a whole, weren’t out to murder but only to commit vandalism – was faithfully repeated in the writings and public statements by members (and, later, former members) of the group, most famously Bill Ayers, who has since become famous as a friend and mentor of former President Obama. This relatively benign line was also reliably echoed in the Academy Award-nominated 2003 documentary Weather Underground and in Jeremy Varon’s 2004 book Bringing the War Home (a comparison of the Weather Underground with Germany’s Red Army Faction, which we wrote about last September). Only in recent years has this narrative been prominently challenged. As Eckstein makes clear in his book, many if not most members of the Weather Underground were, in fact, devoted to killing, and Ayers and other Weather leaders presented “a united front committed to maximum violence.” In short, the would-be bombers who worked out of that 11th Street townhouse were not defying the Weathermen leadership; they were engaged in precisely the sort of activity that Ayers urged upon them.

More tomorrow.

Robert Redford: glamorizing totalitarians

rrSince starting this site, we’ve talked about several of Hollywood’s most reprehensible stooges. But we’ve given short shrift to Robert Redford.

He’s been acting since 1960. He was the #1 money-making star for three years in a row in the 1970s; he’s won an Oscar for best director; he’s a top film producer; and he’s the founder and head honcho of the highly influential Sundance Film Festival.

In short, he’s got power. And he uses it. How? To churn out shrill propaganda films that betoken useful stoogery of the first order.

lionsTake The Milagro Beanfield War, a 1988 tale of heroic Mexican peasants and evil U.S. landowners – directed by Redford and starring John Heard – that was breathtakingly cliche-ridden and one-dimensional. Or Lions for Lambs (2007), a numbing talkfest about the War on Terror, directed by Redford and starring him, Meryl Streep, and Tom Cruise, that the left-wing Guardian‘s reviewer Peter Bradshaw called a “muddled and pompous” dose of “fence-sitting liberal agony” and “injured sensitivity” that “gives liberalism such a bad name that on leaving the cinema, I felt like going out and getting a nude study of [right-wing editor] Norman Podhoretz tattooed on my inner thigh.”

The_Company_You_Keep_posterThen there’s The Company You Keep (2013), also helmed by Redford, which glamorized several aging former members of the Weather Underground, a Vietnam-era Maoist group that sought to bring down the U.S. with bombings, killings, kidnappings, mass imprisonment, and “re-education.” (The ex-terrorists were played by Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, and Redford himself.) Striking what the New York Times‘s Stephen Holden called “a scrupulously ethical balance in contemplating domestic terrorism” (what’s that supposed to mean?), the film was a morally reprehensible exercise in nostalgia for the ideologically rooted violence that marked “The Sixties” at their very worst. Redford freely admitted that back in the day he’d sympathized with this crew of creeps; after seeing the movie, Peter Collier, himself a recovered left-wing radical, asked a pointed question: “Weatherman was always radical, but how did it become chic? How did this group—proudly totalitarian in its day—get mainstreamed without ever having to undergo denazification? Why has it been allowed a rehabilitation without evincing at least a token of remorse?”

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The Weather Underground in its heyday

Deploring the film in the New York Post as a “rose-colored hagiography of bloodstained killers” that “defiles the memory of all those victimized by left-wing militants on American soil,” Michelle Malkin recalled the couple on whose story the movie was loosely based: 

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Boudin’s mug shot

In 1981, rich-kid Weathermen ideologues and lovers Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert joined forces with Black Liberation Army thugs and other ragtag commie revolutionaries to hold up an armored Brink’s vehicle in Nyack, NY….Two of the victims gunned down in the botched Brink’s robbery were police officers; one, a private security guard. All were veterans from working-class backgrounds….

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Boudin receives an academic award

Boudin and Gilbert were convicted and sent to prison. Prior to her arrest, she had been an 11-year fugitive from justice after an accidental homemade bomb explosion at her New York City townhouse resulted in the death of three people….Boudin was paroled in 2003 after convincing the parole board that she acted nobly out of “white guilt” to protest racism against blacks. Never mind that Waverly Brown was black.

Boudin, by the way, is now a professor in the School of Social Work at Columbia University; in 2013 she was also a Scholar-in-Residence at NYU Law School. (The useful stooges take care of one another.) 

These, then, are the kind of monsters whom Redford glamorizes in his films. Oh, and let’s not forget Che Guevara. We’ll get around to him next time.