WHO’S BOMBING HER NOW?
By Bruce Anderson
Anderson Valley Advertiser
Most AVA readers are probably aware, however dimly, that a woman named Judi Bari was nearly killed in Oakland by a car bomb in May of 1990. The device detonated directly beneath the driver’s seat of the car Bari was driving.
The person with her, Darryl Cherney, her close friend and fellow Earth First! organizer, was only slightly injured. Both Bari and Cherney would have been killed if the bomb had exploded as designed. A resident of Mendocino County and self-identified Earth First!er, Bari had been foremost in organizing Redwood Summer, a mass protest against corporate timber’s cash-in of the Northcoast’s redwood forests.
The spectacular attempt on Bari’s life was soon eclipsed by the first Iraq war, and Bari, grievously injured in the explosion, died in 1997.
The FBI and the Oakland Police had prematurely arrested Bari and Cherney on the presumption they had knowingly transported the device that almost killed them. In the few years left to her, Bari, and a handful of acolytes, including Cherney, raised large amounts of money for a winning federal libel lawsuit against the FBI and the Oakland Police Department in 2002. Bari’s daughters, Cherney and several left attorneys walked away with several million dollars, having worked closely with the feds to draft the suit to exclude all mention of whose bomb set the suit in motion.
Within days of the blast, Mike Geniella, a reporter with the New York Times-owned Santa Rosa Press Democrat, had received a letter from a person signing himself The Lord’s Avenger. Written in thunderous, faux Old Testament prose, the Avenger described the bomb in detail only the bomber could know. The bombing suspect now became a deranged fundamentalist, and the FBI, always a dependable villain among the left, became the Avenger’s enabler if not co-conspirator.
Bari, Cherney, and their allies well-placed in the Pacifica Network, including Amy Goodman at Democracy Now, have always managed to ignore inconvenient questions about the bombing, especially those raised in a fine but mostly unseen documentary on the case by Steve Talbot, who went on to anchor PBS’s Frontline series.
Talbot’s film was called “Who Bombed Judi Bari?” Talbot answered that question on information supplied by Bari herself — Judi Bari was probably bombed by her ex-husband. Talbot, without directly identifying Bari’s ex in the film, pointed straight at him.
But after Bari’s death, Talbot appeared on a San Francisco-based television program called “This Week In Northern California” to say that Bari had told him she was certain her ex-husband had bombed her, that the great assassins of the corporate-FBI nexus so beloved by the Pacifica Network had to be moved aside for what was really a fancy case of domestic violence.
Bari’s ex-husband, Mike Sweeney, magically kept off stage all these years as the likeliest suspect, is not the usual estranged husband. He comes with special qualifications. He belonged to Professor H. Bruce Franklin’s Maoist posse at Stanford in the late 1960s, and he and Bari met at a labor organizing event, married and moved to Santa Rosa where a hangar on the mostly abandoned airfield next door mysteriously blew up one night prior to their relocation to Redwood Valley in Mendocino County. The airfield was home to weekend pilots who annoyed the Sweeney-Bari household with their overflights, and Sweeney and Bari had successfully sued Hewlett-Packard to halt development of the tract the airfield rested on.
Police suspected Sweeney and Bari — they had no other suspects — but were unable to make the case against them. By the time they arrived in Mendocino County where their marriage soon disintegrated, the two radicals had enjoyed, you might say, a uniquely explosive relationship.
In the 22 years since Judi Bari was blown up in Oakland, out there in what’s left of the American left, it’s an article of faith that she was a martyr to the usual malign forces that do the dirty work for our ruling circles. Tune in Democracy Now or KPFA out of Berkeley and you will hear someone saying that the author of the attack on Judi Bari remains a mystery but we, wink-wink, we in the know, we know the corporations and the FBI got her.
What you won’t hear, because alternative explanations of the case are deliberately excluded from Pacifica’s preciously PC airwaves, is that the mystery of who bombed Judi Bari isn’t a mystery at all, that it can be solved via the known DNA lifted from the Lord’s Avenger Letter. No one seems interested, but that DNA exists and has been found to be primarily female, placed there in 1990, just before DNA became the slam-dunk investigative tool it has since become.
Judi Bari is still being bombed by persons deliberately obstructing resolution of the case, this time in the form of an hagiographic epic assembled by Cherney that mostly features himself. It is also called, “Who Bombed Judi Bari?”, a nice piece of cynicism that might make it appear that the honest film of the same title by Steve Talbot didn’t pre-date Cherney’s film by twenty-one years. Predictably, Cherney’s version of “Who Bombed Judi Bari?” has gotten big play from Amy Goodman and the cringing speakers-of-truth-to-power at places like KPFA.
The even larger mystery of Who Bombed Judi Bari is this: why isn’t what passes for a left media in this country demanding that the Bari case be solved? Why did Susan Faludi suddenly abandon her book on Bari after getting a large publisher’s advance to write it? Why has Judi Bari’s famous sister, Gina Kolata of the New York Times, never written about her sister’s sad fate?
And why has Bari’s family never publicly demanded the case be solved?
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We also welcome dissenting opinions.
Should Mr. Cherney, Mr. Sweeney, Ms. Goodman, Mr. Talbot, Ms. Kolata, or any accurate historian with a direct and knowledgeable command of the facts like to respond or rebut to the above, the Humboldt Sentinel gladly looks forward to hearing it.
(Images by the Humboldt Sentinel. Posted by Skippy Massey)