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Clinton Commuted Weather Underground

The great Barbara Olson enumerated some of President Bill Clinton’s more stellar last minute pardons and commutations in her book, The Final Days.

Behold pages 21-24:

Clemency for Communist Bomb Throwers

Susan Rosenberg was a member of the Weather Underground, one of the most violent of the left-wing militias that disrupted the nation from the 1960s through the 1980s. The Weather Underground was part of an interlocking directorate that included the May 19th Communist Organization (May 19 is the birthday of both Ho Chi Minh and Malcolm X), the Black Liberation Army, the Red Guerrilla Resistance, and others, together known as “The Family.” One of their objectives was to establish the “Republic of New Afrika” in the American South, a vision that was part of the Communist Party policy that did not view blacks or Jews as genuine Americans.

Rosenberg was born on Manhattan’s upper west side. Emanuel Rosenberg, her dentist father, was sufficiently wealthy to send her to the Walden School and Barnard College. After college she worked in a drug counseling program run by the Black Panthers and the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican revolutionary gang. (Note the coincidence, not only with young Hillary’s work for the Black Panthers and similar groups, but her education at exclusive enclaves like Wellesley and Yale.) Rosenberg received further political education as a member of a youth work brigade in Cuba but did most of her serious political work stateside, where The Family launched a string of robberies and bombings in Bonnie-and-Clyde style.

“I rob banks with black people,” said Rosenberg, alias “Elizabeth” and “Barbara Grodin.”

In October of 1981, Rosenberg’s gang held up a Brink’s truck in Nanuet, New York, killing guard Peter Paige and two police officers, Edward O’Grady and Waverly Brown, the first black officer on the local force. Rosenberg drove the getaway car and managed to escape.

The Family also bombed the United States Capitol. The November 7, 1983, blast ripped through a conference room near the Senate chamber and the offices of then—minority leader Robert C. Byrd. The bombers said in a communiqué that “we purposely aimed our attack at the institutions of imperialist rule rather than at individual members of the ruling class and government. We did not choose to kill any of them this time. But their lives are not sacred.”

The Family’s other targets included the Naval War College at Fort McNair, the Washington Navy Yard’s computer center and its officers club, the FBI office in Staten Island, New York, the Israeli Aircraft Industries Building in New York, the South African consulate in New York, and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association in New York.

Rosenberg was also involved in the escape from prison of Joanne Chesimard, sentenced to life for killing a New Jersey trooper. In 1984, police caught Rosenberg at a warehouse in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where she was unloading 640 pounds of explosives—what she called “combat materiel.” That amount of explosive is literally a weapon of mass destruction, enough to create a holocaust of Oklahoma City proportions. She also possessed fourteen firearms, including an Uzi submachine gun, and fake identification.

During her trial, Rosenberg wore a shirt reading “Support New African Freedom Fighters,” and “What Is a Nation Without an Army?” She claimed she was not a criminal but a revolutionary guerrilla and repeatedly harangued the court about Central America and the Middle East. She was sentenced to fifty-eight years, the maximum. In light of that sentence, prosecutors decided not to pursue murder charges stemming from the Brink’s attack.

Following her sentencing she proclaimed, “Long live armed struggle. By taking up armed action to attack South Africa, the United States military, the war profiteers, and the police, we begin to enact proletarian internationalism.” She continued to sign her letters “Venceremos.” Legal appeals for reduction of her sentence were rejected.

Rosenberg became a celebrity of the far Left, with prominent leftists such as Noam Chomsky and William Kunstler lobbying for her release. When she became eligible for parole, Clinton’s appointee as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Mary Jo White, warned the parole board that the damage Rosenberg had caused outweighed any ambiguously phrased change of heart about violence. But Rosenberg managed to get the usual favorable leftist publicity, including what amounted to a puff piece on 60 Minutes and support from Jerrold Nadler, a New York congressman and ardent Clinton defender. Rosenberg petitioned for clemency. She finally got it, from Bill Clinton, on his last day in office.

The outgoing president went the second mile and also commuted the sentence of Rosenberg’s comrade Linda Sue Evans. She had been convicted in the plot to bomb the United States Capitol in 1983. Evans also served a five-year sentence for two other federal convictions.

Those outraged by the president’s commutations included Charles Schumer, senator from New York and a gun-control advocate, and New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who had prosecuted the Brink’s attack as an assistant U.S. attorney. Relatives of the victims were also outraged but lacked any recourse. The Weather comrades, including the more famous Bernadine Dohrn and Kathy Boudin, were already the beneficiaries of an ongoing campaign of historical revisionism that painted them as, at worst, misguided idealists. Now they were enjoying freedom, courtesy of President Clinton.

Clinton’s actions left many wondering just what merits he had seen in these last terrorist pardons. The answer perhaps lies in the degree to which Bill Clinton was shaped by the events of the 1960s. His first political crisis, in fact, was how to avoid the draft, to avoid service in Vietnam. More than thirty years later, as his second term wound down, Bill Clinton would finally make it to Vietnam.

Susan Rosenberg before her arraignment in 1984.

Handing out pardons is perhaps a bit more serious that rubbing elbows with (former?) terrorists like Bill Ayers.

But of course these historical tidbits have been studiously ignored by our watchdog media.

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, May 1st, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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