Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Death of a Terrorist

A terrorist died this week.

He died not in a drone attack on a Afghan cave or in a firefight with US troops in Iraq--but intstead in a hospital bed in Madison. Dwight Armstrong--one of the four men responsible for the bombing of Sterling Hall on the University of Wisconsin campus--passed away Sunday at the age of 58.

Armstrong is not as well known as Timothy McVeigh or the Unabomer--and he didn't kill as many people as the Al Quaeda operatives on the planes on 9/11--but he is just as evil and cowardly as any of those listed above. Armstrong, his brother Karl, David Fine and Leo Burt loaded up a stolen van with the terrorist's explosive of choice--one ton of ammonium nitrate and jet fuel--and blew it up outside the school building on August 24th, 1970. Killed in the explosion was graduate student Robert Fassnacht--while three other people were injured.

Armstrong and his co-conspirators targeted Sterling Hall because it housed the Army Math Research Center--which in their minds was some major contributor to the Vietnam War. Fassnacht had nothing to do with the military. He was in the building working on a personal project when he became a victim of the "statement" four anti-war radicals wanted to make. He left behind a wife and two children under the age of three.

Armstrong in classic terrorist form--fled the country to Canada--where he lived on the run for seven years before being arrested in Toronto and finally brought to justice. He offered a half-hearted apology to Fassnacht's family--"we didn't think anyone would be in the building at the time"--but insisted that what he did was right--given what the US was doing in Vietnam. "We just should have done it more responsibly" his brother said. Armstrong served three years of a seven year federal prison term.

Like all "great" radicals, Armstrong found no productive way to serve society even after his stint behind bars. He was arrested again in 1987 for selling amphetimines in Indiana and was sentenced to ten years in prison. If you can't stick to "the man" by blowing up his university buildings--just sell drugs to his kids.

The ultimate irony is that the very institution that Armstrong and his terrorist buddies sought to destroy in 1970 was the institution that tried to save his life at the end. He likely could have seen Sterling Hall from his University Hospital bed less than a mile away. It amazes me the UW would have allowed that criminal within 100-miles of campus. Although it did take the University 37 years to put up a memorial plaque in honor of Robert Fassnacht. It's too bad Armstrong died during the summer break--because the retrospective on his actions would make a great "teachable moment" for today's crop of campus "radicals".

1 comment:

  1. I always felt this situation was treated with kid gloves. Hell, even today in Madison, some consider this guy and his cronies as sort of "folk heros." It wasn't that long ago, I recall one of the Madison papers ran a follow-up w/ one of these bums. Turns out he runs a hot dog stand. Maybe you outta start doing "follow-ups" on the likes of David Birkowitz and Charlie Manson while at WOSH.