Jim Dey: Kilgore revisits his past

Jim Dey: Kilgore revisits his past

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Former Symbionese Liberation Army terrorist James Kilgore doesn't have much to say about his controversial past to local audiences. But put him in front of a friendly audience on faraway soil, and he's hard to keep quiet.

That was the case a few months ago, when the University of Illinois faculty and staff member made an author's appearance at Burning Books in Buffalo, N.Y. The 80-minute-plus Q&A session, which was recorded and is on the Internet, included Kilgore discussing how he was drawn to revolutionary politics and criminality in the mid-1970s, his 20-plus years as a fugitive where he lived in two U.S. states and several foreign countries, the time he spent in prison, and his post-prison and parole life as a political activist in Champaign-Urbana.

Kilgore was in Buffalo to hawk his book, "Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People's Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time." But the bookstore host said Kilgore also used his time there to pay a prison visit to David Gilbert, a fellow radical. Gilbert was among a handful of revolutionaries convicted of participating in a 1981 Brinks armored car robbery in which two police officers and a Brinks guard were shot and killed. Now 72, Gilbert is serving a sentence of 75 years for murder.

Kilgore made big news locally in 2014 when The News-Gazette reported that the multi-convicted felon had joined the UI faculty and staff after being released from prison in California. His parole was transferred to Illinois because Kilgore wanted to move here to join his wife, Teresa Barnes, also a member of the UI's faculty.

(Barnes made news locally in May when she complained to Athletic Director Josh Whitman about what she called "racist music" played at UI sporting events.)

Efforts by some members of the UI Board of Trustees to terminate Kilgore's affiliation with the university failed, although not before a significant community controversy.

The effort to terminate Kilgore's role with the UI was led by trustees Chairman Christopher Kennedy, who is a candidate for the Democratic Party's gubernatorial nomination. He said Kilgore's past made him an inappropriate hire that showed disrespect by the UI for the state's taxpayers.

Now 69, Kilgore told the bookstore audience he is most animated by issues involving incarceration, suggesting that too many members of minority groups, the mentally ill and those with substance abuse problems find themselves behind bars.

He said he was enraged several years when Champaign County Board members began discussions about building a new jail and threw himself into a local organization opposing the measure.

Kilgore said his reaction was, "Hell, no, you're not building a jail here. I didn't come out of this prison system (in California) to sit here quietly and watch you spend $20 million building jail cells here."

Efforts to build a new or expanded county jail have fallen short, due in part to efforts by Kilgore and his associates to lead opposition. But he complained that "they're still trying to build this jail" and "they come with different iterations of it."

* * * * *

The SLA was one of the most violent of the leftist radical groups of the 1970s. Despite its avowed support for black Americans, it first drew wide attention in the California Bay Area when members assassinated Marcus Foster, the black superintendent of the Oakland schools. It subsequently drew nationwide attention when, in 1974, it kidnapped 19-year-old newspaper heiress Patty Hearst and held her for ransom.

The story took an even stranger turn when Hearst joined with her captors to declare war on American society. The crackpot group, led by escaped convict Donald DeFreeze, was both murderous and semi-suicidal. Six of them, including DeFreeze, died after being cornered in a house in Los Angeles, where a lengthy shootout occurred. Refusing repeated requests to surrender, most of them died when the house they were in caught fire and burned to the ground.

Kilgore was not associated with the SLA until after the fire, although he became an enthusiast who robbed at least two banks, planted bombs aimed at killing police officers and destroying buildings, and was involved in the murder of mother of four who was a customer at one of the banks he and his associates robbed.

Asked how he became involved in radical politics, Kilgore responded with a joke.

"Let's see if I can remember back that far," he said.

He attributed his growing radicalism to the war in Vietnam, remembering that in February 1970 protesting students at the University of California at Santa Barbara burned down a Bank of America branch.

"I wasn't there, but I probably would have been if I hadn't been home sleeping," he said.

* * * * *

Kilgore recalled that he was at a later protest where those in the crowd tried to burn down the makeshift Bank of America facility established to replace the structure that was destroyed. Recalling that some in the crowd tried to catch an individual who threw a Molotov cocktail, Kilgore said he and a friend protected the bomber from those chasing him, whom he characterized as "football players."

"We sort of stood the football players off. ... I don't think I was that scary. But long-haired hippies sometimes scare people," he said.

Kilgore said he and his friends were "kind of walking a tightrope about whether to stick with non-violence" and that the "notion of non-violence became progressively more difficult to swallow in the face of those violent acts by the government" fighting a war in Vietnam.

As has been widely reported, Kilgore became associated with the SLA after the Los Angeles fire in which most of its small numbers of members were killed.

The three survivors — Heart and two of her original kidnappers, Bill and Emily Harris — were in the Bay Area, and they contacted Kathleen Soliah, Kilgore's girlfriend, and asked for help.

"My partner at the time had personal connections with them. So we ended up being the people they ran to," he said. "We decided to protect them from the kind of fate that befell their comrades."

Later, Kilgore said, he embraced the group's violent tactics, engaging in what he described as "guerilla activities."

Kilgore was circumspect about the wide array of his violent criminal activities, never fully describing them to his audience. He referred, without any elaboration, to discuss the death of Myrna Opsahl, the mother of four whom the SLA murdered during a Sacramento bank robbery. Harris, Kilgore and other members of the SLA robbed banks to get money to finance their criminal activities.

Without explaining what specifically he regrets, Kilgore said would not repeat the choices he made.

* * * * *

Referring to the SLA crime wave, Kilgore said "that wasn't a step I would probably do again. I don't think the actions, the philosophy and the orientation of what happened and the results of it were positive."

He said the SLA operated in "panic mode" and lacked the "organizational strategy" of groups like the revolutionary Weather Underground, led by former UI-Chicago education professor William Ayers. Kilgore attributed part of the SLA's violence to the pressure of being the subject of a national search for Hearst.

"Virtually every day, the national news led with, 'Where is Patty Hearst today?'" he said. "It was really a high-profile situation."

Referring to a "woman who was killed," Kilgore said "that was a horrible tragedy and mistake born of that kind of panic and not really thinking carefully and clearly about what you are doing."

Kilgore described the SLA's activities as "small-group violence" aimed at provoking others with similar ideas to take up the revolutionary cause of overthrowing the U.S. government. But he said it is a failed strategy.

He also said he had "big problems with the whole strategy of armed struggle."

"I think there is something inherently undemocratic about military struggle. To expect leaders of an armed struggle to bring a democratic regime into reality is contradictory," he said.

After Hearst was arrested by the FBI in September 1975, Kilgore and Soliah fled California. He said he lived "a year or two" in Seattle, where he wrote articles for an underground newspaper under a false name. Kilgore lived "for about five years" in Minnesota and was determined he was "going to remain politically active" even though he was a fugitive.

Eventually, he moved to Africa, where he lived in Zimbabwe from 1982 to 1991 and then went to South Africa. Packed in there was a two-year stint in Australia.

Working as a teacher and living under a name stolen from a deceased Seattle baby — Charles Pape — Kilgore married, had children and became active in a liberation movement aimed at putting those countries' black majorities in charge of their governments.

He said he's disappointed with how politics have progressed in those countries, describing them as "quite corrupt and undemocratic."

* * * * *

Kilgore was arrested in 2002 South Africa and brought back to the California to face a variety of federal and state criminal charges, including murder and illegal possession of explosives. He served separate tours in federal and state prisons.

The federal penitentiary where he was held "was much more relaxed than a state California institution."

"I was free to associate with whom I wanted to associate," he said.

He said the state prison was divided by race. Whites who mixed with blacks and vice verse were subject to physical reprisals. He said his choice was "either to follow the rules or get hit" and that he often interacted with people unlike him.

That included, he said, "learning how to talk with someone who has as swastika on their forehead."

After being released from prison in 2009, just prior to moving to Champaign-Urbana, Kilgore said he felt "quite determined to fight against mass incarceration."

But he said that movement needs to join up with other efforts — anti-poverty, housing for the poor, global warming — to become more effective.

"The movement against mass incarceration has to slide in that direction," Kilgore said.

During the Q&A with the audience, Kilgore was asked again to reflect on his violent past. He acknowledged his regret but said "I never felt like I wanted to renounce being someone who was involved in the struggle for social justice."

"But I definitely think I needed to re-think how I did this because it was disastrous on many levels. ... It also was not politically effective," he said.

Referring to a "whole lot of terrible consequences" of the SLA's activities, Kilgore described one as providing "fuel for the right-wing to initiate a backlash."Now, Kilgore said, he's dedicated to "bring(ing) about positive change through popular education."

After his long discourse, the session adjourned so Kilgore could sign copies of his books.

"I'm not tired," he said. "But I think people are tired of hearing me."

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached by email at jdey@news-gazette.com or by phone at 217-351-5369.

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David Green wrote on July 16, 2017 at 5:07 pm

I guess Dey needed a day off. It's midsummer silly season, so let's watch a video and beat a dead horse. Kilgore has moved on, and Dey should too. Unfortunately, 4 million SE Asians killed by the American invasion (still supported by the NG) were not able to move on.

annabellissimo wrote on July 18, 2017 at 6:07 pm

Your attempt to make any kind of equivalence of killing and death in war with killings committed by terrorizing criminals is a false dichotomy. Not only were any human beings killed in any wars ever "not able to move on" but neither were any of the people killed by the violence of terrorists who fancied themselves the "Red Brigade" types in America. The killing of an innocent bank customer or robbing a bank or terrorizing citizens or stealing identity or fraudulently obtaining a college degree or running away in false identity as a cowardly criminal terrorist did exactly what towards ending the war in VietNam or making anything at all better in the U.S.? "Kilgore has moved on, and Dey should too," you wrote. Your point puts what Kilgore does or does not do as the focal point for the perspective one needs to have when, in fact, it is the greater society that is the focal point and Kilgore does not figure with any importance beyond that of a coward, a criminal, a terrorist and some kind of "old felon" that you like to identify with because it serves your own wannabe political activist persona. I hope Dey does not move away from any subject of interest to readers and I hope he continues to keep an eye on what Kilgore is up to and what the University of Illinois is up to in its ongoing bizarre hiring practices.

David Green wrote on July 19, 2017 at 9:07 am

It's remarkable how much you have invested in vengeance against Kilgore, and how little you have invested in understanding how our country was led into an illegal and immoral war that killed millions. But nobody combines verbosity and stupidity quite the way you do. And add in cowardice, since you don't identify yourself.

annabellissimo wrote on July 21, 2017 at 1:07 am

Your unvarying arrogance enables you to assume that you know what others do or do not understand about anything, including the wars that America has engaged in. Apparently only you understand all. Given that, you undoubtedly are familiar with the expression "that's the pot calling the kettle black" and thus, you will see how funny it is that you refer to anybody else's "verbosity." Of course, your verbosity is worth slogging through because you agree with yourself and you adore your words, but the words of others only serve as pivot points for you to launch yet another diatribe, and quite often directed AT the other writer, ad hominen. I have no idea whether you are stupid or not - and wouldn't call you stupid whether you were or not, but that's about courtesy even in disagreement - but I do know from your writing that you have an extraordinarily closed mind. Somewhere along the line you formed ideas, pressed them into some cranial concrete and there they remain, fixed and hard. You stand on them and yell at others about how right you are.

I know, as most Americans know, that America's war-making in VietNam (and other invasions and occupations since then) are, as you say, illegal and immoral. What's almost worse is that nobody seems to even pay attention to the fact that we have entered perpetual war with a lack of caring or protest or anything at all - beyond the mindless, reflexive "thank you for your service." That said, and deeply felt (but you do not know what I or anyone else here feels or thinks, although you always assume that you do), it in no way mitigates or exonerates what Kilgore (or other terrorists and criminals) did or do. These are not "either-or" events. His crimes didn't protest against the government; his crimes were against people whose political or personal beliefs and actions he had no knowledge of. He put himself above them and he put the value of his life above theirs. He is and was a coward, a criminal. a thief and a liar. America's war-making in VietNam and SE Asia and  Iraq and Afghanistan or anywhere else doesn't negate those facts about Kilgore. Both things can be true, and are true.

You're clearly a wannabe activist who tries to align himself today with old terrorists of yesterday and whether you lived through those times or not, I do not know. You say America "killed millions" and I don't know where you get your figures, but you might also want to think about how many the Chinese killed then and since then, how many Pol Pot killed, how many were killed in Rwanda, in what is always called "the former Yugoslavia," in contemporary Syria.....and on and on and on. America has no monopoly on killing. We expect better - or we used to - of our country, or at least some of us do. We may have entered an entirely new era though and all of these musings will become quaint as we begin to understand more and more what it is like to live under an actual totalitarian regime.

David Green wrote on July 21, 2017 at 11:07 pm

I assume you are an American citizen, but you choose to mitigate American crimes by comparing them to the crimes of other countries and/or their leaders. That's irresponsible, that's moral cowardice.

Your comparison of Kilgore's crime to the crimes of our leaders is ludicrous, even if that crime had not been motivated by political rage. You claim to be informed on the history of this country, but with the other hand you in effect mitigate or deny it by invoking the crimes of others. Kilgore did not do that in order to explain or mitigate his own actions.

Kilgore is not the problem. American global militarism stands alone at the present time as a threat to the future of our species. Your verbose obstinance is a transparent and pathetic attempt to deny that. Calling the "kettle black" when you don't have a coherent political analysis, but descending to ludicrous equivalences, is also pathetic. And you have a long track record in these comments sections of using many words either to say nothing or the obfuscate the issues.

Yet you claim to want civility, and claim to be a victim of others' language. What a joke.

The Kilgore issue is over and done. Just move on. And it's interesting how Dey wrote a column about Salaita being "over", but can't let go of Kilgore. But at least he has the excuse of wanting to sell newspapers.

David Green wrote on July 21, 2017 at 11:07 pm

I assume you are an American citizen, but you choose to mitigate American crimes by comparing them to the crimes of other countries and/or their leaders. That's irresponsible, that's moral cowardice.

Your comparison of Kilgore's crime to the crimes of our leaders is ludicrous, even if that crime had not been motivated by political rage. You claim to be informed on the history of this country, but with the other hand you in effect mitigate or deny it by invoking the crimes of others. Kilgore did not do that in order to explain or mitigate his own actions.

Kilgore is not the problem. American global militarism stands alone at the present time as a threat to the future of our species. Your verbose obstinance is a transparent and pathetic attempt to deny that. Calling the "kettle black" when you don't have a coherent political analysis, but descending to ludicrous equivalences, is also pathetic. And you have a long track record in these comments sections of using many words either to say nothing or the obfuscate the issues.

Yet you claim to want civility, and claim to be a victim of others' language. What a joke.

The Kilgore issue is over and done. Just move on. And it's interesting how Dey wrote a column about Salaita being "over", but can't let go of Kilgore. But at least he has the excuse of wanting to sell newspapers.

jparks wrote on July 16, 2017 at 8:07 pm

Certain actions in life should disqualify you from participating in certain future actions. Instigating an unprovoked fight on the playground should disqualify you from playing on the playground for a while.  Purchasing alcohol for an underaged fraternity party and cheering while a 16 year old child drinks themselves to death should disqualify you from being employed as a "house mom".  Sexually molesting a child you mentor should disqualify you from continuing to serve in the priesthood.

Participating in an armed robbery in which an innocent person is killed should disqualify you from being employed to lead youth at an institution of higher education.

Jon White, a former Prairie Middle School teacher in Urbana, should be disqualified from interacting with children again after being found guilty of performing a "taste test" with his blindfolded students using a "banana".  He is currently serving a 60 year prison sentence.

I will go one step further.  Participating in an armed robbery in which an innocent person is killed should disqualify you from ever breathing again.

Certain actions in life should disqualify you from participating in certain future actions. 


BruckJr wrote on July 16, 2017 at 8:07 pm

Great, great comment.

dlgreen50 wrote on July 17, 2017 at 3:07 pm

Do you think that participating in an illegal war in which people are killed should disqualify you from ever breathing again?

jparks wrote on July 17, 2017 at 9:07 pm


Thewatcher wrote on July 16, 2017 at 10:07 pm

Ah David Green, what a breath of fresh air *rolls eyes*.

Just because a former terrorist has moved on doesn't mean everyone else should too.  That's like saying a rapist has gotten over their victim, so the victim should get over it too.


dlgreen50 wrote on July 17, 2017 at 11:07 am

Actually, the family members of the victim made it very clear that they have moved on. And even the families of the millions of dead in SE Asia due to the U.S. invasion have moved on, even though the effects of chemical warfare on their bodies and environment linger. And presumably the families of the 58,000, who themselves were victims in a sense of that illegal and immoral war. Those who haven't moved on are those, like you, who continue to want to justify U.S. warmaking, because you think so little of yourself that you have to make yourself into a big person by identifying with U.S. military weaponry and an aggressive and obnoxious form of patriotism. And indeed you really shouldn't move on until you can look in the mirror and reckon with this country's shameful history of aggression. So go ahead and roll your eyes about that.

Illiniwek222 wrote on July 17, 2017 at 12:07 pm

...and that justifies the murder of a young mother deposting the proceeds of her church's Sunday collection? What a clueless comment.

dlgreen50 wrote on July 17, 2017 at 2:07 pm

I'm not justifying anything, nor is Kilgore. I'm contextualizing it. You, on the other hand, perseverate on people like Kilgore. All of the deaths of non-activists resulting from anti-war violence in the 1960s and 70s can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Yet you do not want our leaders and their followers to be accountable for the deaths of millions of people as a result of our illegal and immoral wars.That's what you call patriotism. That's what I call cowardice. If only cluelesness was your only issue.

Illiniwek222 wrote on July 17, 2017 at 3:07 pm

You had me at "perseverate", you loon.

dlgreen50 wrote on July 17, 2017 at 3:07 pm

Having a limited vocabulary doesn't always correlate with promoting mass state-sponsored murder.-- David Green

Illiniwek222 wrote on July 17, 2017 at 3:07 pm

But yet you continue to perseverate.--Illiniwek222

dlgreen50 wrote on July 17, 2017 at 4:07 pm

The death of one person: a crime; the deaths of millions: geopolitics.

Illiniwek222 wrote on July 17, 2017 at 4:07 pm

The death of one person: a crime; your justification for that death: fuzzy rationalizations.

Francisco d'Anconia wrote on July 17, 2017 at 5:07 pm

1. The conflict in Vietnam was not illegal according to USSC in cases US vs Sisson or Sarnoff vs Schultz- therefore perhaps you can define "illegal".  Immoral perhaps-but your moral equivalency of a war approved by the majority of the US Public versus a prologue Timothy McVeigh (aka Kilgore) is lost as direct US military involvement ended in 1973, whereas the crimes committed by Kilgore were committed in 1974-1975. 

2. As US citizens we have means in which to enact change, via election. Such change is noted by the 26th Amendment- a direct result of the Vietnam War. Shooting up a bank in Carmichael, California and kidnapping an heiress are typically frowned upon as a means of change.

3. The irony of your rant, Mr Green, is that you denigrate those unwilling to move on from the crimes committed by Kilgore and Ayers- yet you yourself perpetually bring up the Vietnam war which ended 40 years ago.  The issue with Kilgore isn't that he paid his debt to society via incarceration, rather he is allowed to be affiliated with UIUC. I would similarly have issues if a convicted reactionary terrorist worked for UIUC. 

4. I cannot justify all wars-but more often than not the US has been in the right side of conflicts. Mr. Green you live in delusional world where criticism of all things you distain spews forth in a narcissistic manner where you alone judge whether or not things are "just, legal or immoral" whether or not the US electorate agrees with you. Consequently that makes you no different than the warmongering racists by your definition, you oppose. 

jparks wrote on July 17, 2017 at 9:07 pm

Excellent.  Thank you.

dlgreen50 wrote on July 17, 2017 at 10:07 pm

All American wars since World War II have been for the control of resources and in the service of the 1%. By 1968, the majority of Americans thought that the Vietnam War was not only a mistake but immoral. But of course the Nazis had their lawyers too.

But thanks for the diagnosis. I suppose I would rather be a narcissist than someone who is so brainwashed that he justifies his government's murder of tens of millions of people.

By the way, most Germans supported Hitler's wars until they started paying the price.

Francisco d'Anconia wrote on July 17, 2017 at 11:07 pm

In service of the 1%? When you say those things out loud do they sound rational? I mean when I hear you talk you sound like a flat earth society member. Further "by 1968 the majority of Americans thought war was a mistake and immoral..." First I note zero references for such a striking claim, Two,  your claim makes complete sense, because in the same year you reference, those same Americans went on to elect noted pacifist, Richard Nixon over the warmongering, racist,capitalist pig- Hubert Humphery! 

I note that you decided not to pursue your claim that the war was illegal, so I will assume you agree with me it was not.

"..brainwashed that I justify my govenments murder of tens of millions"  Really Mr. Green? Hyperbole is the tool of the weak and defeated, I expect more from you.. The Nazi's killed 6 Million and Stalin killed 20 million and you are seriously trying to put the US Gov't in the last 50 years  on par with those monsters? So either you are wrong and therefore crazy or yourself brainwashed--or-- complicit in those deaths, because if you honestly believe that the country in which you are a citizen murdered tens of millions and yet you remain a citizen concludes you are a willing participant in said murders! So either renounce your citizenship and move or apologize for making a rebuttal on par with a child.


David Green wrote on July 18, 2017 at 11:07 am

The polling regarding Americans opposition to the Vietnam war, at practical and moral levels, has been well established since that era. Moreover, the soldiers themselves rebelled against fighting the war.

I choose to speak out and work against the criminal policies of my own government. You choose to rationalize and justify those criminal policies. Unlike Kilgore in relation to his own indefensible actions, you don't regret or renounce your support for these governmental policies in your name. Instead, you double down, and doing so you reveal both your ignorance of the history and your support for American global hegemony.

Since World War II, it has been estimated that our military has killed at least 20 million in our pursuit of this hegemony.


But you surely do bluster up an obfuscatory storm.

By the way, Nixon ran as the peace candidate in 1968, very clearly. And Humphrey, who was an ardent Cold Warrior, could hardly claim as LBJ's VP that he was opposed to the war and would bring it to a swift end.

David Green wrote on July 18, 2017 at 11:07 am



First of all, let’s make absolutely certain that was the fact: that the U.S. directed the war against South Vietnam. There was a political settlement in 1954. But in the late ’50’s the United States organized an internal repression in South Vietnam, not using its troops, but using the local apparatus it was constructing. This was a very significant and very effective campaign of violence and terrorism against the Vietminh — which was the communist-led nationalist force that fought the French. And the Vietminh at that time was adhering to the Geneva Accords, hoping that the political settlement would work out in South Vietnam. [The Geneva Accords of 1954 temporarily divided Northern and Southern Vietnam with the ultimate aim of reunification through elections. — editor’s note]

And so, not only were they not conducting any terrorism, but in fact, they were not even responding to the violence against them. It reached the point where by 1959 the Vietminh leadership — the communist party leadership — was being decimated. Cadres were being murdered extensively. Finally in May of 1959 there was an authorization to use violence in self-defense, after years of murder, with thousands of people killed in this campaign organized by the United States. As soon as they began to use violence in self-defense, the whole Saigon government apparatus fell apart at once because it was an apparatus based on nothing but a monopoly of violence. And once it lost that monopoly of violence it was finished. And that’s what led the United States to move in. There were no North Vietnamese around.

Then the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam was formed. And its founding program called for the neutralization of South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. And it’s very striking that the National Liberation Front was the only group that ever called for the independence of South Vietnam. The so-called South Vietnamese government (GVN) did not, but rather, claimed to be the government of all Vietnam. The National Liberation Front was the only South Vietnamese group that ever talked about South Vietnamese independence. They called for the neutralization of South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia as a kind of neutral block, working toward some type of integration of the South with North Vietnam ultimately.

Now that proposal in 1962 caused panic in American ruling circles. From 1962 to 1965 the US was dedicated to try to prevent the independence of South Vietnam, the reason was of course that Kennedy and Johnson knew that if any political solution was permitted in the south, the National Liberation Front would effectively come to power, so strong was its political support in comparison with the political support of the so-called South Vietnamese government.

And in fact Kennedy and later Johnson tried to block every attempt at neutralization, every attempt at political settlement. This is all documented. There’s just no doubt about it. I mean, it’s wiped out of history, but the documentation is just unquestionable — in the internal government sources and everywhere else.

And so there’s just no question that the United States was trying desperately to prevent the independence of South Vietnam and to prevent a political settlement inside South Vietnam. And in fact it went to war precisely to prevent that. It finally bombed the North in 1965 with the purpose of trying to get the North to use its influence to call off the insurgency in the South. There were no North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam then as far as anybody knew. And they anticipated of course when they began bombing the North from South Vietnamese bases that it would bring North Vietnamese troops into the South. And then it became possible to pretend it was aggression from the North. It was ludicrous, but that’s what they claimed.

Well, why did they do it? Why was the United States so afraid of an independent South Vietnam? Well, I think the reason again is pretty clear from the internal government documents. Precisely what they were afraid of was that the “takeover” of South Vietnam by nationalist forces would not be brutal. They feared it would be conciliatory and that there would be successful social and economic development — and that the whole region might work.

This was clearly a nationalist movement — and in fact a radical nationalist movement which would separate Vietnam from the American orbit. It would not allow Vietnam to become another Philippines. It would trade with the United States but it would not be an American semi-colony.

And suppose it worked. Suppose the country could separate itself from the American dominated global system and carry out a successful social and economic development. Then that is very dangerous because then it could be a model to other movements and groups in neighboring countries. And gradually there could be an erosion from within by indigenous forces of American domination of the region. So this was no small thing. It was assumed that the key to the problem was preventing any successful national movement from carrying out serious social and economic development inside Indochina. So the United States had to destroy it through a process which would become the war against South Vietnam. And, it should be pointed out that on a lower level we were doing the same things in Laos and Cambodia.

Francisco d'Anconia wrote on July 17, 2017 at 5:07 pm
Illiniwek222 wrote on July 17, 2017 at 9:07 am

Ease up on Kilgore. He hasn't made a pipe bomb in years.

annabellissimo wrote on July 18, 2017 at 6:07 pm

The people whose lives were destroyed by Kilgore haven't made ANYTHING in years. Your casual glib comment about Kilgore and pipe bombs does injustice to the severity of what he did. Many people worked to oppose the war in VietNam and worked for human rights without killing, bombing, kidnapping, robbing, stealing, lying. Kilgore is a coward and a criminal. He is even an identity thief, stealing identity of a dead child. Filthy coward.

His apologies and shame might be suitable for a youthful act of poor judgment, a youthful mistake, minor crime. What he did was none of that - and he did not own up to anything: he was caught. Now in his later life he still promotes himself as a savior of the underdog, a white knight for the oppressed. He is a coward and a criminal and apparently has a vaunted view of his importance, supported by the nostalgic wannabe political activists and now has a book to his name and a book tour to perform at. Reading Rabbi Harold Kushner today provides a good reminder of how often the worst among us often are rewarded handsomely, while the best suffer and that life is unfair. That Kilgore walks around and pontificates is a keen example of that unfairness when so many suffered, died, feared, were terrorized and will never walk among us again.

The further salt in the wound to the Kilgore "saga" is the fact that the University of Illinois has employed him. It is reprehensible. To those who try to justify Kilgore's past crimes for their anti-war foundations, ostensibly, one only needs to note that the woman who died at the bank did not volunteer for his little band of "activists." She did not have a say about whether she wanted to give her life - and alter her children's and husband's lives forever - for his "cause." How did anything Kilgore and his ilk of the time do anything at all to stop the war in VietNam or make anything better at all?! They did not. Citizen activism and opposition very likely did finally get the U.S. government's attention to end the war, but the violence and destruction only served to polarize and destroy unified opposition. Most activists of the time abhorred the violence, the "Red Brigade" kind of horrific tactics that Kilgore and his ilk apparently wanted to bring to America. They were terrorists.

Kilgore's constant "avuncular old felon" public persona always moralizing about what America should do about anything at all is a sickening, offensive reminder of what a cowardly, fascist criminal looks like. By the way, there is no "mass incarceration" in the U.S. There are many profound social problems that are contributing to the numbers of black Americans being in prison, but the answers to those problems is not to empty the prisons of actual criminals. The answer is to address the causes of the level of criminality in any population group. That will be a very complex problem as jobs and quality of education and family structure have all fallen into ruin. We will all be living in some kind of hell-zone soon. We don't need the likes of Kilgore telling us what we need to do about anything. Criminals need to be punished and, if possible, rehabilitated - and that is true of "street criminals" as well as "white collar" criminals. As it is now, the punishment is weak and the rehabilitation non-existent - and the crimes go on and on and on. Why doesn't Kilgore devote his "good deeds" to fixing the CAUSES of criminality, rather than trying to empty the prisons of their "mass incarceration."


Illiniwek222 wrote on July 19, 2017 at 11:07 am

It was sarcasm, Anna. I agree with you on this. Relax.

Oh, and thanks for the parargraphs...easier to read.

Illiniwek222 wrote on July 17, 2017 at 9:07 am

Ease up on Kilgore. He hasn't made a pipe bomb in years.

Community wrote on July 17, 2017 at 4:07 pm

Yes, let's continue to actively demonize a man who has owned up to his mistakes, changed his life, and makes the lives of others better. No, he might as well be dead! You're all good, good people.

jparks wrote on July 17, 2017 at 5:07 pm

Owned up to his mistakes?  HE GOT CAUGHT!  He didn't own up to anything.  He ran for years.  Even ran to other countries.  Ran like the coward that he is.  He only owned up to his mistakes after he got caught.  

One final little detail.  If Kilgore had been caught in California before the Statute Of Limitations expired for his crimes, he would have been eligible for the death penalty.

I don't defend scum bags like that.  You do.  I wonder how many other University employees have been convicted of crimes serious enough to put them on death row.  My guess is none.

Community wrote on July 17, 2017 at 8:07 pm

So, admitting that one was wrong and actively promoting a better way of living one's life is not enough to count as owning up? Just curious -- what would count?

jparks wrote on July 17, 2017 at 9:07 pm

Please provide the following: Evidence of "Admitting that one was wrong".  "Wrong" being the operative word here.  Admitting one might have done something differently doesn't qualify. #2 "Actively promoting a better way of living one's life".  "Better" being the operative word here.  Better in the eyes of an accomplice to murder is probably going to be different than in mine.


Community wrote on July 17, 2017 at 10:07 pm

Re: #1, here is something Kilgore said to the board of trustees back in 2014 : "As a young man, I committed acts of which I stand ashamed." He also said that his past actions were "destructive" rather than positive, which is why he regrets having performed those actions.

Re: #2, we're not left to speculate about what he means by "better". He correctly points out that the currently existing system of mass incarceration, especially incarceration for non-violent crimes, is unjust and seeks to correct it. And, as evidenced from some of the other remarks I've cited, he appears to be actively proposing non-violent political protest now. Don't go all moral relativist on me now. This is surely a better life, no?

Illiniwek222 wrote on July 17, 2017 at 5:07 pm

He had 20 plus years to own up, yet he scampered away. Absent his arrest in South Africa, he would not be sitting for this interview, at least not in a bookstore in Buffalo.

locavore wrote on July 17, 2017 at 5:07 pm

The News-Gazette is not attacking Kilgore because of what he did in California in the 1970s. They are doing it because he was instrumental in preventing local businesses from walking away with $38m in revenues as a result of an unnecessary jail buidling project. It's what business syndicates do when they feel cheated out of a promised sum of money. Kilgore is a peace activist, and we should be thanking him for his efforts.

That Dey has submitted another story about Kilgore based solely on a video he watched online implies that someone is cyber-stalking Kilgore. I doubt it's Dey -- probably someone with a badge, who feeds Dey the leads and expects him to be a good soldier.

So here's a challenge to Dey et al.: Let's all watch another video and then you can write a follow-up story about it. This one was produced in 1972, and it's a great glimpse into what the Vietnam War was like from the perspective of those coming back from it -- no midia filters, no talking heads (or editorial writers) telling us what to think. The film is called Winter Soldier, and I defy you to watch this with any of the moral smugness on evidence here.

Here's a link to make it easier for you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrOBqC1A0sc

Francisco d'Anconia wrote on July 17, 2017 at 5:07 pm

I doubt the vast community jail construction complex is concerned about the "overwhelming" sway Mr. Kilgore brings to the table. Perhaps instead of big brother, Mr Dey searched YouTube. 

jparks wrote on July 17, 2017 at 9:07 pm

More jails (prisons) is exactly what we need.  I left law enforcement many years ago due to the fact that the punishment never fit the crime.  Probation is only an appropriate sentence in a few circumstances.  If punishment is never considered severe enough by the individual the original criminal act will never stop.  This isn't complicated.

rsp wrote on July 17, 2017 at 6:07 pm

I don't think he's ever "owned up". I think he's tried to rationalize away what he did and suggest maybe, maybe he went about it the wrong way. Regrets? He's made a new career out of those few years he served with himself as the victim. I think that tells you everything.

I don't get what the family of Myrna Opsahl has to do with this? In all the years Kilgore was on the run the Opsahl family was forced to deal with the murder. Because they dealt with their grief and her children grew up without her Kilgore should get a pass? Exactly how were they supposed to run away from the death of their mother?

cretis16 wrote on July 17, 2017 at 8:07 pm

Thank God, the smart legislature  passed the budget so we can give Mr. Kilgore a nice raise for his continued work at the University. Taxpayers need to pony up some more cash so we can hire more felons.

Local Yocal wrote on July 18, 2017 at 2:07 am
Profile Picture

Locavore is right to say this yet-another hit piece on James Kilgore is another attempt to discredit Kilgore's exemplary work on stopping the county from wasting $32 million tax dollars on more jail. Mass incarceration is a real problem, as is our failure to provide any re-entry programs for returning inmates back to society. Kilgore has experienced firsthand the devasting policies that have crippled a segment of our community and has dedicated his time to solving problems. You couldn't ask for greater rehabilitation. Kilgore is a productive contributing member of our community doing great work. 

And unlike Dey, Kilgore can write a book. 

Francisco d'Anconia wrote on July 18, 2017 at 8:07 am

Kilgore and Ayers are domestic terrorists in the same vein though smaller scale as Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph. 

You are an apologist for those radical terrorists in the same vein as David Duke is an apologist for reactionary terrorists. 

Kilgore may, as you say, be an advocate against mass incarceration, however,he is more similar to Hitler writing Mein Kampf in prison than Mahatma Ghandi being imprisoned in South Africa.

Last, I presume more people have commented on this one article than have read Kilgore's book. 

David Green wrote on July 18, 2017 at 10:07 am

Yet, you refuse to oppose the endemic terrorism of your government; instead, you rationalize it.


David Green wrote on July 18, 2017 at 11:07 am

And unlike Dey, Kilgore can actually read a book.

Francisco d'Anconia wrote on July 18, 2017 at 4:07 pm

Pathetic rebuttal, Mr Green. 

CharacterCounts wrote on July 18, 2017 at 9:07 am

A terrorist who has committed criminal acts regardless of when  they occurred should not be teaching or having any official capacity at a state university.  I don't see any real difference between the Unabomber, Ted Kacznski and James Kilgore, they both are terrorist whose acts resulted in death.

If Kacznski should be released from prison, should he be hired by the UI?  It seems many responding to this article believe Kilgore should be forgiven for his past.  Should the same be said about Kacznski.

Kilgore says he is no longer involved in terrorism, how do we know?  Until he was identified as being involved in criminal activity/terrorism, no one knew he was a terrorist.

If a bank teller takes money from their teller drawer and is convicted, go to prison but says they know they did wrong, should the bank rehire the person?

Kilgore is not a role model that I want my children and grandchildren to listen to and follow.  Why do some believe we should listen and follow Kilgore's ways?

jparks wrote on July 18, 2017 at 8:07 pm

I have a question for those of you who support the taxpayer funded employment of a person who committed a crime which was punishable by the death penalty.  Is there a crime that a person could committ which would preclude him or her from being employed at the University of Illinois?

BruckJr wrote on July 18, 2017 at 9:07 pm

Be a republican?

jparks wrote on July 19, 2017 at 8:07 pm

....(Insert the sound of crickets here...)  They must still be thinking.  ....(Insert the sound of crickets here...)

Thewatcher wrote on July 19, 2017 at 11:07 am

Mr. Green thinks that responding on a local newspaper message board makes him a great intellect.  He's one of about 5 people that regularly post on here.  Nobody cares about you.

David Green wrote on July 20, 2017 at 10:07 am

Actually, what makes me a great intellect is comparing myself to you. Besides, my dog cares about me.

Bulldogmojo wrote on July 20, 2017 at 12:07 pm


One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.


It's funny how the Conservative gun nuts frequently on here who are so all american and deride Kilgore, Ayers et al.  are the first ones to declare how they are ready to kill for the cause of democracy in the face of tyranny. (They aren't. They're actually cowards) That is of course unless they have the kind of fascist government they can really get behind like the current one that feeds their "Snowflakes are going to kill ya better buy mo guns, mo guns," paranoia.

LOL History Rhymes doesn't it...

jparks wrote on July 20, 2017 at 9:07 pm

So Bulldog and David Green, this goes out to you two specifically.  Two days and I received no response to my question.  Here it is again since you are still here.  Is there a crime that a person could commit that would disqualify him or her from being employed by the University of Illinois?

Obviousy being an accessory to murder (punishable by the death penalty in the state in which it was committed) isn't severe enough for you to disqualify.

What could it possibly be?  Would a serial rapist help you decide?  How about a serial child molester who served a 30 year sentence?  I am trying to understand your point of view.  No one in the two previous examples lost their lives.  Myrna Opshal lost her life in a crime in which James Kilgore should have been sentenced to death in California if he had not run like the coward that he is.

James Kilgore (whether intended or not) carried out a death sentence for Myrna Opshal.

You defend him because...............?

Illiniwek222 wrote on July 21, 2017 at 9:07 am

...deafening silence...

jparks wrote on July 21, 2017 at 9:07 pm

David Green, Bulldog, and others.......,Going once...Going tw.......

Bulldogmojo wrote on July 21, 2017 at 9:07 pm


Well let's see, I don't work in human resources but I know for sure if you commit the crime of offending the delicate sensibilities of a wealthy U of I donor who supports Netanyahu and the Knesset's blatant human rights violations to literally drive the Palestinians into the sea, starve them, bomb their children on the beach and give them no recourse but to elect Hamas to defend themselves, I know for that offense you can be offered a position and then be terminated by a charlatan the likes of Phyllis Wise who allows that very intrusion into the confidential HR apparatus and then publicly denies it only to retain her tenured position in yet another ethics debacle damaging this University's reputation. Ironically this caused damage to the donor base.

That offense of unpopular speech against people who will kill because they think a giant mud hut called Jerusalem is "Magic" and god is a real estate agent. The pathetic Christians who turn a blind eye to that Zionist dogma who think that it's also the up-escalator to a hereafter where they pray they will be there by themselves get right in line to support Israel's military killings that the late Journalist Bob Simon said was unfixable due to religious zealotry.

So that's one offense for sure...the exercise of unpopular free speech

Aside from that I guess you can go to UIUC Human resource page and search "Campus background check policy" I'm sure by now it is so ambiguously written as to exclude anyone they want for any reason as long as it pleases wealthy donors.

My personal view is if you have done the time for your crime and have demonstrated you can make a positive contribution (furthering your education, a period of not getting in trouble) then you should be allowed by any employer to be hired. I do not think someone's political connections should prevail such as I think Laura Frerichs should have been fired for getting drunk at work and then driving into a cop car. Her presence is a blight on this university.

I'm sure you David Horowitz / Bernie Goldberg / McVeigh / Foxnews worshippers can't reason this from anything other than your MAGA drunken patriotism locked in state but read something other than the Turner diaries once in awhile. Do your own homework, "workin' the google" as George dubya used to say

jparks wrote on July 21, 2017 at 10:07 pm

Could someone please translate that please.

Bulldogmojo wrote on July 21, 2017 at 11:07 pm


Translation: You should have paid attention in school. Now get back in your food truck.

David Green wrote on July 21, 2017 at 11:07 pm

I obviously don't think that Kilgore should be compared with a serial anything. He served his time and he's qualified for the work he's been doing. This was just a Jim Dey witch hunt, as with Salaita, although with Salaita there were more primary instigators.

His is not the profile of a criminal who should never be allowed to teach at the U of I, although such profiles obviously exist.

What, did you think I wouldn't say that?

jparks wrote on July 22, 2017 at 8:07 am


David Green wrote on July 22, 2017 at 11:07 am

I answered your question quite clearly above, but you keeping asking it. So I repeat, the answer is yes.

Is there an American troop that you would not support? Is there an American war that you would oppose?

jparks wrote on July 22, 2017 at 12:07 pm

David please dumb this down for me and I am being completely serious. In response to my question you replied "...... the answer is yes".

What is the crime?  If you answered this question earlier I missed it.  What I am looking for is...The crime of__________should preclude someone from being employed at the University of Illinois.  Aggrevated battery?  Attempted murder?  Vehicular manslaughter?

If you filled in this blank earlier I honestly missed it and I apologize.  If so please let me know where I can find it.  Thank you.


David Green wrote on July 23, 2017 at 9:07 am

Sorry jparks, I can't possibly dumb my responses down enough to get to your level of argument and understanding. But perhaps William Calley should be disqualified from teaching at the U of I; and Dick Cheney.

And really, what's your point. Did you oppose Salaita teaching here? What crime did he commit? So it's really not about criminality, is it? It's about the politics of those who oppose state policies, and those who hide behind "support the troops."

Bulldogmojo wrote on July 22, 2017 at 10:07 pm


Crazy caps lock violations disqualify you for sure.

You seem stable