In the furor over the January 6 riot, which Sen. Mitt Romney called an “insurrection incited by the president of the United States,” a more serious assault on the Capitol has been overlooked. For those who weren’t around or may have forgotten, here’s what went down on the evening of November 7, 1983.
“Listen carefully, I’m only going to tell you this one time,” a caller from the “Armed Resistance Unit,” told the operator at the Capitol switchboard. “There is a bomb in the Capitol building. It will go off in five minutes. Evacuate the building.” A Senate document, “Bomb Explodes in Capitol,” describes what happened.
The caller warned that “a bomb had been placed near the chamber in retaliation for recent U.S. military involvement in Grenada and Lebanon.” At 10:58 p.m. “a thunderous explosion tore through the second floor of the Capitol’s north wing.” The device, hidden under a bench at the eastern end of the corridor outside the Senate chamber, “blew off the door to the office of Democratic Leader Robert C. Byrd. The blast also punched a potentially lethal hole in a wall partition sending a shower of pulverized brick, plaster, and glass into the Republican cloakroom.” The adjacent halls were virtually deserted, so “many lives had been spared.”
Later than night, the Armed Resistance Unit called National Public Radio and proclaimed, “Tonight we bombed the U.S. Capitol.” The bombers “purposely aimed our attack at the institutions of imperialist rule rather than at individual members of the ruling class and government. We did not choose to kill any of them at this time. But their lives are not sacred and their hands are stained with the blood of millions.”
Tonight We Bombed the U.S. Capitol is the title of the 2020 book by historian William Rosenau. In a Smithsonian magazine article headlined “In the 1980s a Far-Left, Female-Led Domestic Terrorism Group Bombed the U.S. Capitol,” Rosenau outlined the group’s back story.
The Armed Resistance Unit was part of the May 19th Communist Organization, named for the shared birthdays of Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh, and dedicated to the violent overthrow of the United States Government. According to Rosenau, the May 19th Communist Organization was the “the first and only women-created and women-led terrorist group,” with leaders including Judy Clark, daughter of high-level Communist Party officials, Marilyn Buck, and Susan Rosenburg.
“They are sort of an offshoot of the Weather Underground, which essentially cracked up in the mid 1980s,” Rosenau explained. “These women decided to continue the armed struggle. Many of them had been in the Weather Underground, but they thought the Weather Underground had made important ideological mistakes.”
The terrorist group’s bombings claimed no victims but “they really at least debated amongst themselves quite intensely the assassination of police officers, of prosecutors, of military officers.” Their inventory of weapons included dynamite, detonation cord and Uzi machine guns, fully automatic with sawed-off barrels.”
Marilyn Buck attended UC Berkeley, joined Students for a Democratic Society, and later lent her services to the Black Liberation Army (BLA). Susan Rosenberg, daughter of progressive parents, saw herself as part of the struggle against U.S. imperialism.
At 29, Rosenberg made the FBI’s most wanted list as a suspect in the prison escape of Joanne Chesimard of the BLA. Rosenberg was also wanted for a 1981 Brinks robbery in which two police officers and a guard were killed. In 1984, police caught Rosenberg with 12 guns, some 200 stolen sticks of dynamite, more than 100 sticks of DuPont Trovex explosives, and hundreds of fake identification documents.
In 1985 Rosenberg was sentenced to 58 years, but through a plea deal she escaped additional time for aiding and abetting a series of bombings at the U.S. Capitol, the National War College and New York Patrolmen’s Benevolent association. After 16 years in prison, the veteran of the May 19th Communist Organization caught a break.
On January 20, 2001, his final day in office, President Bill Clinton commuted Rosenberg’s sentence. That drew criticism from New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Sen. Charles Schumer, and officials such as Bernard Kerik. As the former New York police commissioner told Fox News, “I’m sure she would have killed every single one of us if she could have.”
In 2011, Rosenberg published An American Radical: Political Prisoner in My Own Country, and went on to become vice-chair of Thousand Currents, fiscal sponsor of the Black Lives Matter Global Network. As it happens, Mitt Romney also supports Black Lives Matter. The 2012 presidential loser calls the January 6 riot an insurrection, but like other politicians he kept rather quiet during the violent, riotous summer of 2020.
What Sen. Romney thinks of the 1983 Capitol bombing by left-wing terrorists has not come to light. William Rosenau knows what the deal is.
The violence of Antifa and right-wing extremists, he explains, “hardly rises to the level of the left-wing political violence of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.” As the author wrote in Politico, “the 1970s and 80s were a time of political derangement and violent upheaval, and May 19th was in the thick of it.”