It was 40 years ago that four college students were gunned down by the US National Guards. No one has ever been put on trial or punished for these senseless murders, unlike members of radical groups such as the Symbionese Liberation Army, who have been retried years after they committed violence. In modern America, only those on the left are punished for a time when this country was at war with itself.
In the fictional autobiography I Am Pol Pot, there is a chapter that explores the terror taking place in the US as a fall-out from the US war on Indochina. From Chapter 13,
For the US, the Kampuchean Revolution hits home:
May 11, 1970
“America’s youth: War on war”
Campus violence has erupted since President Richard Nixon decided to send thousands of troops across the border into Cambodia. Nearly 2,000 students have called for immediate “provisional” strikes, across the country. One of the worst cases of violence was in Ohio last week.
Kent State, an obscure teachers college, became the national center of the anti-war debate, when National Guardsman opened fired, indiscriminately, on a crowd of unarmed students.
At first there was a carnival like atmosphere as students were drinking beer and dancing. Some students began using gasoline to light fires. Governor James Rhodes arrived. Without consulting the president of the college, Robert White, he began dispensing National Guard troops throughout the campus. There were about 500 in an hour. Rhodes said the campus trouble makers were worse than “brown-shirts, communists and vigilantes.”
He announced that he had banned all demonstrations, but he students hollered “This is our campus.”
Rhodes said “Evacuate the Commons area. You have no right to assemble.”
To that the students yelled back “Pigs of Campus! We don’t want your war”
At first tear gas was fired into the crowd, then the guards started running out and getting nervous. Facing rock throwing students, the guards retreated, but many held their guns, M-16 riffles, on the crowd. The guards opened fire and many students thought they were blanks at first.
“My God, this is for real,” a student shouted as she realized the bullets were chipping things around her. Students began to run for cover.
“My God, they’re killing us,” one terrified girl said.
A river of blood flowed from the head of one boy, while another tried to stop the profuse bleeding of another boy’s stomach. When the shooting stopped, four young people, none of whom were radicals for even protest leaders, were dead. Ten students were wounded.
From New Leftist Review:
“Viet Cong – NUFK alliance closing in on US imperialism”
From the field we hear that both the troops of Lon Nol’s Khmer Republican Army and the South Vietnamese are acting like common criminals, wile the leftist guerillas are paying the peasants for everything they take. They are careful to respect local customs and treat all peasants well. As a result, many of these peasants are joining in with the guerillas.
Students from around the country are supporting the Viet Cong and NUFK. Now that the draft is over, the more serious radicals can focus on not simply ending US involvement, but also ending US imperialism in Indochina.
Never has the left been more united than on this issue. It has brought together elements of the New Communist Movement in the US, while it has united China, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia against a single enemy, US imperialism.
The New Marxist Journal, Spring, 1970, by Lou Mill:
The next president elected was President Richard M. Nixon. He ran on the platform of "Peace with honor" in Vietnam. His plan was to gradually reduce the troops and replace them with South Vietnamese soldiers. But his first actions were to spread the war into Cambodia.
Less than a month after his inauguration, February 9, 1969, Nixon approved a plan to start bombing what had been perceived to be a Viet Cong and/or North Vietnamese base at the eastern border of Cambodia. It was a top secret campaign. The justification was reconnaissance photos that showed Vietnamese activities inside Cambodia. B-2s were used and the operation was so secret that the pilots did not realize they were bombing inside Cambodia.
Originally they were suppose to be limited to just a few strikes and there would be no civilians in the areas targeted. Far from being effective and wiping out the Viet Cong, it just made them angry.
By April 1970, the US had launched an all out invasion of Cambodia with 30,000 US troops and 40,000 South Vietnamese troops. The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong moved west to avoid the troops.
Meanwhile, back home the press found out about the invasion and campus demonstrations erupted all over U.S. universities.
At Kent State University in Ohio protests of the bombing of Cambodia, just as many others. But Governor James Rhodes sent in the National Guard. Some rocks were thrown, some windows were broken, and an attempt was made to burn the ROTC building.
The units that responded were ill-trained and came right from riot duty elsewhere; they hadn't had much sleep. The first day, there was some brutality; the Guard bayoneted two men, one a disabled veteran, who had cursed or yelled at them from cars. The following day, May 4th, the Guard, commanded with an amazing lack of military judgment, marched down a hill, to a field in the middle of angry demonstrators, then back up again. Seconds before they would have passed around the corner of a large building, and out of sight of the crowd, many of the Guardsmen wheeled and fired directly into the students, hitting thirteen, killing four of them, pulling the trigger over and over, for thirteen seconds.
As four student lay dead, others approached in shock. They were horrified that they had been fired on. They were also stunned. None of us can forget that press picture of a woman kneeling over her dead boyfriend as he bled to death.
Nixon and many of his supporters acted with indifference or even delight that this massacre had happened. They felt the students deserved it. The country was divided now more than ever and it was not just the Vietnam War anymore, it had moved over to Cambodia and that involvement was about to increase.
Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We're finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.
- Neil Young
OHIO CSNY - Kent State Massacre Montage