]]]]]]]]]]]] WAR ISN'T THIS CENTURY'S BIGGEST KILLER [[[[[[[[[[[[[ R.J. Rummel, (6/1/88) Professor of political science, Univ. of Hawaii at Manoa [This article is a slightly shortened version of the one published in the Wall St. J. 7/7/1986. Though two years old, I think it is one of the most revealing ever written.] Our century is noted for its bloody wars. World War I saw 9 mil- lion people killed in battle, an incredible record that was surpassed within a few decades by the 15 million battle deaths of World War II. 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 unbelievable than these vast numbers killed in war is a shocking fact. The number of people killed by totalitarian or extreme authoritarian governments already far exceeds that for all wars, civil and international. Indeed, this number already approxi- mates the number that might be killed in a nuclear war. The table provides the relevant 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 acquiescence in killing others. --------------------
>>>> Twentieth Century Killed, by Cause]]]] Twentieth Century Killed, by Cause [[[[[[[ CAUSE TOTALS AVERAGES (in millions) (per 100,000 population) ---------------- Government 119.4 349 Communist 95.2 477 Other non-free 20.3 495 Partially free 3.1 48 Free 0.8 22 ---------------- War 35.7 22 International 29.7 17 Civil 6.0 26 ---------------- All figures rounded. Source: various historical materials. --------------- Those killed in the totals were killed apart from the pursuit of any continuing military action or campaign, or as part of any con- flict. The Jews that Hitler slaughtered during World War II are counted, since their merciless and systematic extermination was unrelated to and actually conflicted with Hitler's pursuit of the war. UNDERESTIMATION POSSIBLE The totals are based on a nation-by nation assessment and are minimum figures that may underestimate the true total by 10% or more. Moreover, they do not even include the 1921-22 Soviet famine and the 1958-61 Chinese famine, which caused about 4 and 27 million deaths, respectively, by the imposition of a command agricultural economy and by destructive collectivization. However, the table does include the Soviet government's planned starvation of the Ukraine that was begun in 1932 as a way of destroy- ing Ukranian nationalism and breaking peasant opposition to collecti- vization. As many as 10 million may have been starved to death or succumbed to famine-related diseases; I estimate 8 million died. Had these people all been shot, the moral responsibility would have been no greater. The table lists 831,000 people killed by free democratic govern- ments, a fact that should startle most readers. This figure includes the French massacres in Algeria before and during the Algerian War (36,000 killed, at a minimum), and those Eastern Europeans killed by the the Soviets after the Western democracies forcibly repatriated them during and after World War II. It is appalling that the democracies, particularly Britain and the US, turned over to Soviet authorities more than 2,250,000 Soviet citizens, prisoners of war, and Russian exiles (who were not Soviet citizens) found in the Allied zones of occupation in Europe. Most of these people were terrified 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. 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 Britain and Argentina with the widescale lack of interest in Burundi's killing of some 100,000 Hutu in 1972, of Indone- sia slaughtering a likely 600,000 people it accused of being "commu- nists" in 1965, and of Pakistan's eventual killing of from one to three million Bengalis in 1971. A most noteworthy example of this double standard is the Vietnam War. The international community was outraged at the US 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 foreign and domestic opposition forced an American with- drawal. 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 Khmer Rouge, who in trying to recreate a primi- tive communist agricultural society slaughtered from one to three million Cambodians. If we take two million as the best estimate, then in four years the government of this small nation of 7 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 this 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 and 83 million). In China under Mao Tse-Tung, the communist government eliminated, as an average figure between esti- mates, 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 the intellectuals generally shown anything like the same horror or outrage over these 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 govern- ments. This is due to the massacres 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 Timorans out of a population of 600,000. Omitting this country alone would reduce the average killed by non-communist, non-free governments to 397 per 10,000, or significantly less than the 477 per 10,000 for communist countries. In any case, we can still see from the table that the more free- dom in a nation, the fewer people killed by government. Freedom serves as a brake on a governing elite's power over life and death. DEADLIEST SCOURGE 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 to be 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 citi- zens that would protect them in the democracies. In no case have I found a democratic government carrying out massacres, genocides 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 people through privation, torture, beatings and the like. Absolutist governments (those that Freedom House would classify as not free) are not only many times deadlier than 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 humani- tarian goal. Not simply to give the greatest number the greatest hap- piness, not simply to obey the moral imperative of individual rights, but because freedom preserves life and peace.
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