Sunday, October 10, 2010

Kent State
Mike Rappaport

Glenn links to this story about a recent analysis of a tape of the Kent State shootings from 1970.  This peaked my curiousity and so I read the lengthy Wikipedia article on the subject.  How interesting!  I must admit to horrible ignorance about the event.  I had always been taught, simply, that peaceful students had been inexplicably shot by national guard troops.  In a way, that is true, but in another way, quite false.  If you too are ignorant of the events, take a look at the Wikipedia article.   It is a quite complicated matter.  None of this is to excuse any of the deaths, but simply to attempt to understand what happened in an accurate way.

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Mike Rappaport



Posted by: dearieme | Oct 10, 2010 2:46:04 PM

I sometimes wonder whether anything in history is as simple and clear as it is popularly supposed to be. Even if the underlying event was simple, our understanding of it is likely to be distorted.

Posted by: dearieme | Oct 10, 2010 2:50:39 PM

It is hard to see how how anyone could have characterized the Kent State incident as "peaceful students inexplicably shot by [N]ational [G]uard troops." Arson and rock-throwing are outside most reasonable definitions of "peaceful." Likewise, exhibiting enemy battle-flags in the midst of a foreign war is such extreme provocation as to constitutte confirmation of hostile intent.

My judgement at the time was that The Ohio National Guardsmen had shown indiscipline and disorganzation. There had been gross abdication of command responsiility, both as to preparation and as to execution. To put it mildly, the commanders had not established adequate rules of engagement and the troop-handlers--the company-grade officers and the senior NCO's--had lost control of their people.

I had heard before that there had been shots fired from the Comsymp side, and confirmation of that fact does not change my evaluation. Who gave the order to load? What orders had been given concerning when deadly force was to have been used? Those are the kinds of questions to be asked on the National Guard side of the incident.

On the Comsymp side, it is relevant that a riot was in progress. There had been arson of government buidings, and everyone in the area, Communist sympatizer and "peaceful student" alike, was there in defiance of orders to disperse from lawful authority. No innocent bystanders that day, no not one.

Posted by: Lou Gots | Oct 11, 2010 2:24:12 AM

"in defiance of orders to disperse from lawful authority": is that a State issue or a Federal one? Is there an American equivalent of the former English requirement of "reading the Riot Act"?

Posted by: dearieme | Oct 11, 2010 2:28:57 AM

David Horowitz details from his experience in the communist underground that the organizers would by design be gone when these events blew up.

Posted by: james wilson | Oct 11, 2010 9:25:46 AM

Lou, it wasnt a foreign war. It was a "police action."

Posted by: Johnny | Oct 11, 2010 12:43:06 PM

Dearieme: State issue: Such orders had been given. Yes, the effect of them was closely analygous to the Riot Act. Keep in mind that there had not been a conscious command decision to open fire, rather, a loss of control by poorly led troops.

Johnny: Never said Kent State was a foreign war operation. If domestic civilian rioters in 1944 were displaying Swastika flags, the autorities responding to the domestic police action would have understandably inferred malicious intent, which in turn would have weighed favorably upon a decision to use deadly force.

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