The main difference according to Ayers is that the Weather Underground, even with all its destruction of private and government property, never killed anyone. He justified what his group did back in the 60’s and 70’s as protests against U.S. foreign policy which resulted in thousands dying in the Vietnam War.
He said that he was being unfairly criticized for violence while John McCain got away with committing “daily war crimes” in Vietnam:
“…I get asked about violence when what I did was some destruction of property to issue a scream and cry against an illegal war in which 6,000 people a week are being killed. Six thousand a week being killed and I destroyed some property. Show me the equivalence. You should ask John McCain that question … I’m against violence. To conflate a group of fundamentalist people [in Boston] who are nihilistic in some way with a group of people who spent their lives trying to oppose the murder of 6,000 people a week … and still the killing went on. And still the killing went on. What would you have done? There’s no equivalence [with Boston]. Property damage. That’s what we did.”
I’m sure like any “principled” liberal that he also opposes our current foreign policy that has seen many deaths of American soldiers as well as innocent Middle Eastern civilians. What if the Boston bombers turned out to be a couple of anti-war liberal protesters who ended up killing a few people and damaging property in their protest against U.S. foreign policy? Then would he be OK with it? After all, he might agree that the U.S. commits “daily war crimes” in the Middle East that have caused many deaths there, so what’s a few deaths here? Three people dying here doesn’t compare with the thousands that have died over there, he might say.
The real reason he objects to people comparing his group with the Tsarnaev brothers is that he doesn’t want to be associated with terrorism. Left-wing terrorism doesn’t exist. What he and his group did 40 years ago wasn’t terrorism. It was “education.” This is what he said in his book about his Weatherman experiences:
“Terrorists terrorize, they kill innocent civilians, while we organized and agitated. Terrorists destroy randomly, while our actions bore, we hoped, the precise stamp of a cut diamond. Terrorists intimidate, while we aimed only to educate. No, we’re not terrorists.”
I guess it’s only fitting that Ayers was a professor at the University of Illinois at the Chicago College of Education.
And about his statement that his group never killed anyone, that’s not entirely true. In March of 1970, a group of Weathermen were assembling an explosive device with dynamite, and it exploded prematurely, killing three people and injuring two others. It also leveled their 4-story Manhattan townhouse.
I’m sure Ayers would say that doesn’t count, because it was completely accidental, and they wouldn’t have intentionally killed their own people. But if it weren’t for their group being so intent on destruction, they wouldn’t have died.
Ayers and the Tsarnaev brothers may have had different ideologies driving them, but their methods were the same.