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   Here  is an interesting article I found in the July 7 th 1986 Wall  Street

Journal, page 10. It's title is

             War Isn't This Century's Biggest Killer by R.J.Rummel
   Our  century  is  noted for its bloody wars.   WW1 saw 9   million  people

killed in battle, an incredible record that was surpassed within a few decades by the 15 million battle deaths of WW2. Even the numbers killed in 20th century revolutions and civil wars have set historical records. In total, about 35,654,000 people have died in this century's international and domestic wars, revolutions, and violent conflicts.

   Yet,  even  more  unbeliveable than these vast numbers killed in war is  a

shocking fact. The number of people killed by totalitarian or extreme authoritarina governments already exceeds that for all wars, civil an international. Indeed, this number already approximates the number that might be killed in a nuclear war.

   The  table  provides  the relvent totals and classifies them  by  type  of

government (definitions provided by Freedom House, a New York based human-rights group) and war. By "killed" is meant the direct or indirect killing by government officials, or government acquiesence in the killing by others. Excluded from the totals are those people executed for what are conventionally considered criminal acts (murder, rape, spying, treason, and the like). Those included in the totals were killed apart from the pursuit of any continuing military action or campaign, or as part of any conflict. The Jews that Hitler slaughtered during WW2 are counted, since their merciless and systematic extermination was unrelated to and actually conflicted with Hitler's pursuit of the war.

   The totals in the table are based on a nation-by-nation assessment and

areminimum figures that may underestime the true total by 10% or more. Moreover, they do not even include the 1921-1922 Soviet famine and the 1958-1961 Chinese famine, which caused about 4 million and 27 million deaths, respectively. The Soviet famine was mainly due to the imposition of a command argicultura economy and forced requistions of food by the government; the latter was sholly caused by Mao's destructive collectivization of agriculture.

   However, the table does include the Soviet government's planned starvation

of the Ukraine that was begun in 1932 as a way of destroying Ukranian nationalism and breaking peasant opposition to collectivization. As many as 10 million may have been starved to death or succumbed to to famine-related disease; I estimate eight million died. Had these people all been shot, the Soviet government's moral responsibility would have been no greater.

   The  table lists 831,000 people killed by free democratic  governments,  a fact  that  should  startle most readers.   This  figure  includes  the  French

massacres in Algeria before and during the Algerian War (36,000 killed minimum), and those Eastern Europeans killed by the Soviets. after the Western democracies forcibly repatriated them during and after WW2.

   It  is apalling that the democracies,  particularly Britian and the  U.S.,

turned over to Soviet authorities more than 2,250,000 Soviet citizens, prisoners of war, and Soviet exiles (who were not Soviet citizens) found in the Allied zones of occupation in Europe. Most of these people were terrrified of returning and refused to cooperate; often whole families preferred suicide. An estimated 795,000 of those repatriated were executed or died in or traveling to slave-labor camps.

   If a government is held to be held responsible for those prisoners who die

in frieght cars or in camps from privation, surely those democratic governments that turned helpless people over to totalitarin rulers with the foreknowledge of their peril also should be held responsible.

   It  is  sad  that  hundreds  of  thousands of  people  can  be  killed  by

governments with hardly an international murmur, while a war killing several thousand people can cause an immediate world outcry and global reaction. Contrast the international focus on the relatively minor 1982 war between Britian and Argentina with the widescale lack of interest in Burundi's killing or acquiesence in the killing of some 100,000 Hutu in 1972, of Indonesia slaughtering a likely 600,000 people accused of being "communists" in 1965 and of Pakistan's eventual killing of from 1 to 3 million Bengalis in 1971.

   A most noteworthy example of this double standard is the Vietnam war.  The

international community was outraged ar the U.S. efforts to prevent North Vietnam from taking over South Vietnam and ultimately Laos and Cambodia. "stop the killing" was the cry, and eventually the pressure of forgeign and domestic opposition forced an American withdrawl. The overall number killed in the Vietnam War on all sides was about 1.2 million people.

   South  Vietnam  was eventually conquered by the North,  and  Cambodia  was

taken over by the communist Khmer Rouge, who in trying to recreate a primitive communist agricultural society slaughtered from 1 to 3 million Cambodians. If we take 2 million as the best estimate, then in four years the government of this small nation of seven million alone killed 64% more people than died in the 10-year Vietnam War. Overall, the best estimate of those killed by the victorious communists in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia is 2,270,000. And the killing still goes on.

   To view the double standard from another perspective, both world wars cost

24 million battle deaths. But from 1918 to 1953, the soviet government executed, slaughtered, starved, beat or tortured to death, or otherwise killed some 39.5 million of its own people (estimates vary from between 20 to 83 million). In China under Mao Tse-Tung, the communist government eliminated, as an average figure between estimates 45 million people. The number killed in just these two nations is about 84.5 million, or a lethality of 252% more than both world wars together. Yet, have the world community and intellectuals generally shown anything like the same horror or outrage over there Soviet and Chinese megakillings as has been directed at the much less deadly world wars?

   However,  as large as the number of people killed by communist governments

is, it is nearly the same as for other non-free governments. This is due to the masacres and widescale killing in the very small country of East Timor, where since 1975 Indonesia has eliminated (aside from the guerrilla war and associated violence) an estimated 100,000 Timorians of of a poplulation of 600,000. Omittin the country alone would reduce the average killed by non-communist, non-free governments to 397 per 10,000, or signicantly less than the 477 per 10,000 for communist countries.

   In  any case,  we can still see from the table that the more freedom in  a

nation, the fewer people killed by government. Freedom serves as a brake on a governing elite's power over life and death.

   This  principle appeared to be violated in the two special cases mentioned

above. One was the French government's mass killings in the colony of Algeria. There the Algerians were considered second-class citizens and lacked the right to vote in French elections. In the other case the Allied democracies acted during and just after wartime, under a regime of strict secrecy, to turn over foreigners to the Soviet Union. These foreigners, of course, had no rights as citizens that would protect them in the democracies. In no case have I found a democratic government carrying out maddacres, genocide and mass executions of its own citizens; nor have I found a case where such a government's policies have knowingly and directly resulted in the large-scale deaths of its people though privation, torture, beatings and the like.

   Absolutist  governments  (those that Freedom House would classify  as  not

free) are not only many times deadlier that than war, but are themselves the major factor causing war and other forms of violent conflict. They are a major cause of militarism. Indeed, absolutism, not war, is mankind's deadliest scourge of all.

   In  light  of  all this,  the  peaceful,  nonviolent  fostering  of  civil

liberties and political rights must be made mankind's highest humanitarian goal. Not simply to give the grestest number the greatest happiness, not simply to obey the moral imperative of individual rights, but because freedom preserves peace and life.

  1. ————–

Mr. Rummel is a professor of political science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.


           (in millions)  PER 10,000
 GOVERNMENT       119.4          349
   Communist       95.2          477
   Other non-free  20.3          495
     "    "  omitting Indonesia  397
   Partially free   3.1           48
   Free              .8           22 
 WAR               35.7           22
   International   29.7           17
   Civil            6.0           26
Note: all figures are rounded
Source: Various historical materials
/data/webs/external/dokuwiki/data/pages/archive/survival/warvsgov.txt · Last modified: 1999/08/01 17:51 by

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