January 28, 1975 | Bombings in Washington and Oakland

On this day in 1975, a bomb exploded in the State Department building in Washington by “Weather Underground” members.

Some terrorist groups obtain almost mythical status despite having had little impact.

There is an old saying “Everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it.” Long attributed to the great American writer Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) it was apparently spoken first by Charles Dudley Warner, then editor of the Hartford Courant.

There is of course a lot of truth behind this quote. We humans seem to obsess about the weather. Or maybe it is just us Canadians as we have an awful lot of it. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have experienced, within the same year, almost a 100 degree swing in temperature. The coldest I have experienced in Ottawa is (with the ‘wind chill’ factored in) -54 Celsius and the warmest (with the humidity factored in) 40 Celsius. That is indeed a lot of weather!

Climage change

Today of course a lot of people are talking about the weather – or more accurately the climate. Global warming and climate change are on everybody’s minds these days as multiple sides make arguments whether or not to stop using fossil fuels.

As I have stated in previous blogs, it is only a matter of time before some groups use violence to make their point that we need to act now before it is too late to save the planet.

students protesting in Lausanne
Weather Underground

Several decades ago there was a very different extremist group that was all about the ‘weather’. I am speaking of course about the Weather Underground, a radical left militant organization active in the late 1960s and 1970s which was founded at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The organisation’s political goal was to create a revolutionary party to overthrow what it viewed as American imperialism: it took its name from the Bob Dylan lyric you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”.

A lot of what it did during its campaign of bombings – no one was killed except for three of the terrorists in a botched explosion in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1970 – was tied to its opposition to the US involvement in the War in Vietnam.

1975 Bombings in Washington and Oakland

On this day in 1975, a bomb exploded in the State Department building in Washington shortly after callers identifying themselves as “Weather Underground” members warned news organisations they were setting off bombs in protest at United States aid to South Vietnam. In a similar telephone call to The Associated Press offices in Rockefeller Center, another member of the group warned that damage would be done to a Defence Department installation in Oakland, California.

In a written statement, the Weather Underground accused the US Defence Department of waging war in Indochina and of violating the Paris Peace Agreement by flying reconnaissance flights over North Vietnam. I do recall the immense opposition to the Vietnam War as many Americans and others wanted to ‘bring the boys’ home in what was seen as an act of ‘imperialism’ (the US government tried to sell it as an effort to stem the advance of communism in Southeast Asia).

The Weather Underground petered out by 1977. Perhaps they peaked before their time. If the world does indeed warm up significantly in the near future maybe we will all have to live ‘underground’ because of the ‘weather’.

Sorry, that was not very funny.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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