A chip off the old 'Weatherbureau' block

Sunday, December 22, 2002

WASHINGTON - In three days time it will be Christmas, a time when most of us will be happily observing long-honored traditions with families and friends, complete with carols, trees, decorations and packages. In the spirit of the season, we offer a story of the past, with a loud message for today.

First, a brief trip down memory lane:

On Oct. 20, 1981, Sgt. Edward O'Grady, Patrolman Waverly Brown and Brinks guard Peter Paige were gunned down in Rockland County, N.Y. by heavily armed terrorists. The half dozen gunmen — all Americans — were members of the Weather Underground, a faction of the Students for a Democratic Society and the Black Liberation Army, formed from members of the Black Panther Party and the Republic of New Afrika.

These improbable violent coalitions were committing armed robberies (this was number 19) to finance their "revolution." At stake that day was an armored truck with $1.6 million in cash. Thanks to the bravery of the dead officers, the terrorists failed; but left behind were three widows and nine children, like most victims all largely forgotten.


This month, two Weather Underground terrorists jailed for murder have catapulted back into the news. David Gilbert, those days sporting bushy hair and a full beard, and Katherine Boudin, back then the image of a suburban soccer mom, are headlining through their son, known as Chesa Boudin.

Chesa, 14 months old at the time of the robbery and now 22, has been awarded a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University, England. He was given celebrity status in a New York Times article this month, telling writer Jodi Wilgoren, "When I was younger I was angry. Now, I'm sad that my parents have to suffer what they have to suffer."

His parents married on the day Gilbert was sentenced to three consecutive terms of 25 years each for felony murder. Kathy Boudin's former "Weatherbureau" colleagues, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, now luminaries of Chicago's academic life, have been responsible for little Chesa since his mummy and daddy were locked up. Ayers, an admitted bomber, now is a professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago's School of Education; and Dohrn is director of the Legal Clinic's Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University. This select Weather family lives in Chicago's comfortable Hyde Park section and has every reason to be proud of Chesa Boudin.


Chesa's grandfather was a secret Communist Party strategist. Leonard Boudin masqueraded as a civil rights lawyer during the years the Weathermen killed, robbed and bombed, but really was a contact man for such hostile foreign powers as the Soviet Union and Cuba. Daughter Katherine was one of New York's elite, attending good schools such as Bryn Mawr, enjoying a year in Moscow and developing a social conscience that allowed her to plan the killing and maiming of her fellow Americans.

Chesa receiving the Rhodes Scholarship is worth a closer look. British ultra-conservative statesman Cecil Rhodes created the scholarships in 1902. Winners are selected, so it is said, on the basis of academic achievement, integrity, leadership potential and physical vigor. Out of 981 applicants from some 341 colleges, 32 Americans were named as Rhodes Scholars. Chesa adds injury to the insult left by William Jefferson Clinton to this once-respected institution and to the United States.

Selection was through a committee chaired by Dennis Hutchinson, an academic at the University of Chicago who teaches constitutional law. A Rhodes scholar in the 1970s himself, Hutchinson's resume ends with a statement, "professional scholars (must) … do more than simply talk to one another."

Interestingly, no one has asked about any connection between Chesa's adoptive parents and Hutchinson, though there certainly must be one. Chicago is a large city, but not that large, especially in the realm of academia, where, it is surmised, they "do more than simply talk to one another."

Guardian Mom Dohrn, described by former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover as "La Pasionara of the lunatic left," now pretends that her widely publicized support for the Manson Family killings in the '70s was a joke. "We were mocking violence in America," she has said. Yet she does not deny her leadership of the terrorist cult, and none of her comrades thought the lovely Bernardine was joking.

Guardian Dad, the distinguished Professor Ayers, not only hides his some 17 tattoos under his smart suits, but these days he is writing books about his exploits as a revolutionary and his bombing activities. However, in describing a bomb he placed in the Pentagon, Ayers brags a bit too much. "It turns out that we blew up a bathroom and, quite by accident, water plunged below and knocked out their computers for a time, disrupting the air war and sending me into deepening shades of delight."

"Disrupting the air war" today would provide grounds enough not only to disrupt the professor's tenure but to have Ayers facing much more serious charges.


Given both heredity and environment, we wonder what hope there might be for Chesa. Even his funny name is suspect: The family claims that because he was a breech birth he was named "dancing feet" in Swahili. Others look at his name with suspicion, as "Chesa" sounds a lot like the last name of Joanne Chesimard, a convicted cop killer and "soul" of the Black Liberation Army, now a fugitive in Cuba. Chesimard is believed to have been a part of the Rockland County killing team. She broke out of a New Jersey prison in 1970 at almost the same time as Chesa was conceived.

Chesa Boudin has said of the activities of his four parents, "We have a different name for the war we're fighting now. Now we call it the war on terrorism; then they called it the war on communism. My parents were all dedicated to fighting U.S. imperialism around the world. I'm dedicated to the same thing."

He's made a good start. With a resume that includes organizing with the Institute for Policy Studies; Yale University; a year of study in Chile; work for prison reform in Bolivia, El Salvador and the United States; speaking engagements; and a book in the works, this kid should be on everyone's watch list.

Dateline D.C. is written by a Washington-based British journalist and political observer.


To Rich Gibson's Home Page