It’s Only Mass Murder, Not Like A Disaster

July 9, 2009

Reuters (link here)—“The global death toll from the Asian tsunami shot above 226,000 Wednesday after Indonesia’s Health Ministry confirmed the deaths of tens of thousands of people previously listed as missing.. . . The Staggering death count . . . .

”Darfur Mortality Update: January 18, 2005” by Eric Reeves— “[E]vidence strongly suggests that total mortality in the Darfur region of western Sudan now exceeds 400,000 human beings since the outbreak of sustained conflict in February 2003. In other words, human destruction is more than twice that of the recent tsunami—and has now surpassed the half-way mark for the most commonly cited total for deaths in Rwanda during the genocide of 1994 (800,000).
“Moreover, as international humanitarian aid continues to stream abundantly toward the various areas devastated by the tsunami, the threat of massive secondary death from health-related causes has begun to diminish. By contrast, in Darfur the current mortality rate from genocide by attrition is approximately 35,000 per month and poised to grow rapidly. . . .
“Simply to juxtapose these two human catastrophes is to raise implicitly a series of deeply troubling questions about the priorities of news coverage, the commitments of the international political community, the responsibilities of humanitarian organizations, and the nature of our response to distant human suffering and destruction.”

Yes, what about Sudan? In 1989, Lt. General Umar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir and the Arab-led Sudanese People’s Armed Forces overthrew the democratic government in power at that time and imposed strict Muslim law and faith on the whole country. The South had a protected and special constitutional status under the democratic government, but with its overthrow and especially with the effort of the new regime to impose Muslim law throughout the country, the South revolted and a bloody civil war resulted with the thug regime murdering tens of thousands, outright enslvement, widespread rape, and refugees in the hundreds of thousands, with an overall death toll of possibly 2,000,000 people.

Because they live under a fundamentalist Muslim regime, even northern Sudanese far from the civil war or Darfur enjoy no human rights. For example, the government harasses and monitors women for correct dress, forbidding even slacks. Women who dare to defy the law risk arrest, conviction by an Islamic court of immoral dressing, and flogging, as recently happened to nine women students. Women also cannot hold any public office that would give them authority over Muslim men, nor can they marry a non-Muslim.
All must accept the Muslim faith. To further religious rule, the government appoints only Muslims to the judiciary. Police can arrest and imprison any commoner for up to six months without trial, and while detained, suspects can expect officials to torture them as a matter of course. Worst of all, a Muslim dare not convert to another religion, for the punishment for doing so is death.

But, of course, Sudan is a member in good standing of the international community (you know, the “community” we must consult and get approval from), the United Nations, and the UN Human Rights Commission.

Link of Note

” Abu Gharib: Inexplicable Arab Silence” (5/4/04)

By Linda S. Heard

This journalist was asking why there is not more outrage in the Arab world over . . . not what Sudan was doing to its people, not the mass murder, slavery, and deaths . . . but, the way Abu Gharib prisoners were treated by American guards. But then, it was the that published this piece.

Democide Vs. Other Causes of Death

July 1, 2009

[First published February 1, 2005] A question I often get is how all the murder committed by governments, virtually all by criminal dictatorships (sorry, that was redundant—I need only say dictatorships) compares to other causes of death, such as war and diseases. So, below I present such a comparison chart for the world’s average annual democide rate 1900-1987 to the world’s annual death rate from other causes (this is one of a number of my attempts to visualize the world’s democide toll— link here).

Tears all around

Note that governments murdered more people than all deaths combined due to traffic accidents, war, homicide, and alcohol.

The total murdered by governments over 1900-1987 was 170,000,000; a less systematic update of the toll brings it to 174,000,000 for 1900-1999. [I have had to update this democide to 262,00,000] Shocking, yes? Now, think about how little is said about democide in textbooks and the media. Even more astounding, isn’t it?

For a chapter long dissection of the meaning and definition of democide, see this link.

And so, democide goes on in North Korea, Sudan, the Congo, China, Laos, Liberia, the Ivory Coast, and dozens and dozens of other dictatorships, mainly not some big episode of murder that would make the news, but as the day-by-day operation of government agencies. In other words, murder is a normal daily operation of these thugdoms.

How do we account for this continuing carnage? In these post-Cold War years, it’s the bloody success of immoral noninterventionism and obsolete realpolitiks.. Stability trumps stopping the murderous thugs, you know.

Link of Note

”Congo death toll up to 3.8m” (12/10/204) Guardian Unlimited Special Report

“Six years of conflict in Congo have claimed 3.8 million lives – half of them children – with most victims killed by disease and famine in the still largely cut-off east, the International Rescue Committee said yesterday.

“More than 31,000 civilians die each month as a result of the conflict despite peace deals, the group said, citing mortality surveys prepared with the aid of on-site medical teams. The association has for years produced the most widely used estimate of deaths in the country.”

Much of this is democide. And it goes on. And on. And on.

Genocide Versus Democide

June 25, 2009

[February 4, 2005] I want to comment on the UN report denying genocide in Darfur. But, first I want to clarify the difference between genocide and democide. Often in this blog I use the latter term democide for murder by government, as do some of my links. But the more popular term is genocide, as in the aforementioned UN report.

What are the differences and similarities between democide and genocide? As defined, elaborated, and qualified in my Death By Government). Democide is any murder by officials acting under the authority of the central government. That is, they act according to explicit or implicit government policy or with the implicit or explicit approval of the highest officials. Such was the burying alive of Chinese civilians by Japanese soldiers, the shooting of hostages by German soldiers, or the starving to death of Ukrainians by communist cadre.

Genocide, however, is a confused and confusing concept. It may or may not include government murder, refer to wholly or partially eliminating some group, or involve psychological damage. If it includes government murder, it may mean all such murder or just some. Boiling all this down, genocide can have three different meanings (on this, see my encyclopedia entry here).

One meaning is that defined by international treaty, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This makes genocide a punishable crime under international law, and defines it as:

any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Note that only the first clause includes outright killing, while the other clauses cover non-killing ways of eliminating a group. I will call this definition the legal meaning of genocide, since it is now part of international law.

Regardless of this definition and doubtlessly influenced by the Holocaust, ordinary usage and that by students of genocide have tended to wholly equate it with the murder and only the murder by government of people because of their nationality, race, ethnicity, or religion. This equating of genocide with the killing of people because of their indelible group membership I will label the common meaning of genocide.

What about government murdering people for other reasons than their indelible group membership? What about government organized death squads eliminating communist sympathizers, simply fulfilling a government death quota (as in the Soviet Union under Stalin), or the murder of those who criticized government policy? None of such murders are genocide according the legal and common meanings. To cover such murders, some students of genocide have stretched its meaning to include all government murder, regardless of group identity. This may be aptly named the generalized meaning of genocide. In this meaning, genocide = democide.

As obvious, the problem with the generalized meaning of genocide is that to fill one void it creates another. For if genocide refers to all government murder, what are we to call the murder of people because of their nationality, race, ethnicity, or religion? It is precisely because of this conceptual problem that the concept of democide is useful.

For understanding and research, the legal view of genocide is too complex and subsumes behavior too different in kind. I argue, therefore, that genocide should ordinarily be understood as the government murder of people because of their indelible group membership (let the international lawyers struggle with the legal meaning), and democide as any murder by government, including this form of genocide.

This understood, governments murdered about 170,000,000 people in the last century, 1900-1987. Around 38,000,000 of that was genocide. For what governments committed what and when, see Tables 16A.1 of my Statistics of Democide (link here).

Link of Note

”20th Century Democide” By R.J. Rummel

A narrative and statistical overview.

Power kills, absolute Power kills absolutely . . . . The more power a government has, the more it can act arbitrarily according to the whims and desires of the elite, the more it will make war on others and murder its foreign and domestic subjects. The more constrained the power of governments, the more it is diffused, checked and balanced, the less it will aggress on others and commit democide. At the extremes of Power, totalitarian communist governments slaughter their people by the tens of millions, while many democracies can barely bring themselves to execute even serial murderers.

Global Peace And Human Security Are Not Hopeless

June 24, 2009

[First published February 17, 2005.] Yes, There is Hope. Great Hope

With all the mass murder by thug dictators in such countries as North Korea, Burma, Sudan, Congo, Iran, and the like, with terrorists murdering people wholesale, and with the apparent inability to stop or prevent most of it, the post-World War II exclamation, “Never Again,” seems hopeless. Such is the feeling I get from reading news items on the latest democide (murder by government) and murder bombing, and some of the email I receive. And, I must admit, I have contributed to this pessimism with my country-by-county, year-by-year estimates of the world’s democide. Clearly, as I’ve pointed out, a slow motion nuclear war has taken place, with my conservative estimate of 262,000,000 murdered by governments in the 20th Century.

And it continues into this century.

But, it is not hopeless. We are not faced, nor are our children faced with such democide in perpetuity. We do have the ability to turn “Never Again” into reality for all.

We should recognize some facts. One is that democracies by far have had the least domestic democide, and now with their extensive liberalization, have virtually none. Therefore, democratization (not just electoral democracies, but liberal democratization in terms of civil liberties and political rights) provides the long run hope for the elimination of democide. Second, that the world is progressively becoming more democratic, with from 22 democracies in 1950 to something like 121 democracies today (about 89 of them liberal democracies), gives substance to this hope. A third is that democracies don’t make war on each other, and the more democratic government, the less its foreign and domestic violence, AND DEMOCIDE. And fourth, the democratic peace and the fostering of democracies worldwide is now the core organizing principle of American foreign policy.

Already, the growth in the number of democracies has decreased the amount of international war and violence (see my, “Democracies Increase and Ipso Facto, World Violence Declines,” “Democracies Up, Violence Down Again, Media Still Blind”). And this will continue. Eventually, at some point in the future, virtually the whole world will be democratic. Then, perhaps, in the presence of the world’s major presidents, and prime ministers, the President of the Global Alliance of Democracies can uncover a statue of Irene, the Greek Goddess of peace, in Geneva, with these words on its base:

“Now, Never Again”

Link of Note

”Ending Slavery” (2/12/05) By Thomas Sowell

To me the most staggering thing about the long history of slavery — which has encompassed the entire world and every race in it — is that nowhere before the 18th century was there any serious question raised about whether slavery was right or wrong. In the late 18th century, that question arose in Western civilization, but nowhere else.

It seems so obvious today that, as Lincoln said, if slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong. But no country anywhere believed that three centuries ago.

Many pessimists feel about ending democide as humanists in the 16th and 17th centuries felt about ending slavery. It always has been and always will be. Moreover, while we now see democide as horrible, a black mark on humanity, and what must be stopped, like slavery, this is only a modern view. Historically, democide has been accepted as an inevitable aspect of war, and a necessity of governance.

Sowell’s article is a good reminder of how we once viewed slavery, and how what we once thought was as natural to society as a division of labor, was virtually eliminated in a century.

If Not Stupid, Then What?

June 23, 2009

Below I give the link to the most recent libertarian attack by James Ostrowski on the idea of the democratic peace, and response by Colleague. If submitted by as a student term paper, it would be graded an F by both of us.

This raises the question as to what it is with the libertarian anti-interventionists that they cannot mount an even reasonable critique of the democratic peace. Is it that they are stupid? No, these are often intelligent people who have mastered a profession in their own right. Ostrowski, for example, is an attorney, and has written Political Class Dismissed. He also has an interesting and useful website at HYPERLINK “” These people have to be taken seriously, and Colleague and I do so.

Then what? At the heart of their problem is that they are unfamiliar with the nuances of international relations, and in particularly, with the research on the democratic peace. In other words, they are largely ignorant of the field and idea on which they write.

Also, there is more to the idea of the democratic peace than just reading books about it. It comes out of the scientific study of international relations and war, so to get the best handle on it, one must have some familiarity also with quantitative methods, particularly statistics (although my approach is generally mathematical). So, for example, using multiple regression, reseachers have found that even holding many possible causes of violence constant, the more democratic a government, the less severe its foreign violence. This statement requires some understanding of the method of multiple regression, the meaning of “holding constant,” and the empirical content of “democracy” and “severe violence.” From one study to the next, these terms are defined by explicit data collections.

I want to be clear on this. I am not saying that the democratic peace is such an esoteric idea that only a specialist can understand and critique it. This is not quantum physics. It is most akin to quantitative economics. I am saying that one must familiarize themselves with the writing in this field to critique it adequately, and there are enough “common sense” reviews and summaries to do this (I will discuss a comprehensive bibliography this week— link here).

Because of the technical nature of this research on the democratic peace (within the field of quantitative international relations), even those trained in international relations, such as in national security studies, or diplomacy sometimes misunderstand the work on the democratic peace. But, there are good critiques, and there are those who have become knowledgeable in the research and disagree with it. Not one, however, is a libertarian.

Link of Note

”The Myth of Democratic Peace: Why Democracy Cannot Deliver Peace in the 21st Century” (2/19/05) By James Ostrowski

From Colleague
Colleague is a PH.D, did his dissertation on the democratic peace, and teaches international relations.

Ostrowski’s essay was intensely frustrating :

He does not seem to understand the INTER-democraticness that is the core of the theory and empirical findings of no war between democracies.

He critiques “democratic pacifism” as distilled from a variety of sources, sketched out as:

democracies rarely if ever go to war against each other; democracies tend to be more peaceful than dictatorships; democracies tend to have less internal violence; and this tendency toward peacefulness is structural, that is, related to the nature of democracy, not an accident or coincidence.

This sounds like it might be “democratic peace,” and includes some of its propositions, but drags in others that really cloud things up, such as “democracies tend to be more peaceful,” and veers off into explanations of WHY the democratic peace is so. Why didn’t he undertake to critique the standard five propositions set forth in the very book by Rummel he attacks (Power Kills [link here]). I’d be much more willing to read his research if he walked me through why each of those five propositions were in error.

Some of his statements are flat-out ignorant. He says that the main threat to world peace is not war between two nation-states, but nuclear arms proliferation. Sounds smart, but consider that no democratic states with nukes feel threatened by other democratic states with nukes. And all states feel threatened by non-democratic states with nukes. Regime type matters. His second level of threat is terrorism. Yup. And what democracy is exporting terrorism? What terrorist group espouses democracy? None. Again, regime type matters. His final level of threat is internal ethnic-religious conflict. It sure is a problem, but what is the most reliable possible solution to such conflict — meaning how can such conflict be kept from breaking out in widespread violence? He cites Afghanistan — well, is sure seems like the arrival of democracy there (albeit in its infancy) has reduced the murderous type of violence practiced by the dictatorial Taliban. Again, he should repeat after me…Regime Type Matters.

His data is nonsensical and irrelevant.

Example 1: listing “Wars of the Democratic Powers” tells me absolutely nothing about whether democracies fight each other. He seems to have completely missed the very idea of regimes types and dyads. Also, where is the comparison list of “Wars of the Nondemocratic Powers”?

Example 2: listing nuclear powers by type of government tells me nothing. It’s like identifying a rapist and a chef as both having a knife in his hand. So what?

Example 3: “Recent Intrastate Conflicts” makes no mention at all of the severity of the internal conflict, nor of changes in government, nor of what years these conflicts occurred. I have no idea what I’m supposed to understand from this list.

Example 4: the chart of homicide rates that has only one “dictatorship” listed against which to compare many democracies. And that dictatorship — with the lowest rate on the list — is tiny little Singapore. What about the 80 some non-democracies in the world? What about the world’s most repressive regimes (Burma, China, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Laos, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam….)? What the hell am I supposed to get from this chart?

Example 5: counting deaths of one’s own soldiers in war as democide. Conceptually this is like counting beans as steaks. It makes no sense, but even if we were to accept this definition, why only count U.S. war deaths? If what we are after is comparing kinds of governments, then even a modicum of intellectual integrity would call for looking at the own-soldiers deaths of other governments, especially non-democratic ones. Does Ostrowski not do this knowing that it will only show that democracies suffer fewer casualties that non-democracies? Gee, that is one of Rummel’s five propositions, unmentioned by Ostrowski.

Example 6: Ostrowski concludes with a nice little chart rank-ordering regimes by their peacefulness. We discover that “self-government” is the most peaceful, followed by “republics” then democracy. Nowhere in any of his data charts could I find ONE example of a “self-government” or a “republic.” What the hell are these things — in the real world where we try to get data to understand reality? The closest example I can think of to his definition of “self-government” is Somalia, where there is indeed no state with final authority, and each person governs himself…except that people also tend to govern anyone else they can wield power over. With nothing to prevent warlords, this isn’t exactly what I’d want to hold up as a “peaceful” society.

Lacking any data at all to support his assertions, I can only conclude that the essay is groundless, directionless, unrigorously speculative, lacking definitional integrity, etc. This isn’t even high-school level “research.”

I’m torn about these libertarians: I have an intense affinity for them because of their love of freedom…but I despair for them for their almost callous lack of scholarship, their arrogance, and their apparent inability to understand even basic points about international politics. For example, Ostrowski’s point about counting own-soldier deaths as democide. It has a certain appeal, from the perspective of an anti-statist. But the complete lack of comparative perspective (who kills more of their own soldiers by ordering them off to war?) negates even the possibility of scholarship. And ultimately their “project” fails because it is not practical. Not “impractical” in the sense of too hard to do, but impractical in the sense that it has an inaccurate view of humanity. In the long run, their work does not contribute to making anything better, whether that be understanding ourselves, or achieving peace. So, I keep asking myself every time I read their stuff, or visit their Web sites — why do I waste my time? Perhaps I hope they will see the light…. so far though, only murky darkness….

Kill Them All–Iran’s Mass murder of 30,000

June 22, 2009

Part of the problem in communicating the nature of our enemies and their depths of depravity is finding the right words to describe the horrors they inflict on people. The following from an article, “Khomeini fatwa ‘led to killing of 30,000 in Iran’” by the diplomatic correspondent Chrisina Lamb, helps (link here):

Children as young as 13 were hanged from cranes, six at a time, in a barbaric two-month purge of Iran’s prisons on the direct orders of Ayatollah Khomeini, according to a new book by his former deputy.

More than 30,000 political prisoners were executed in the 1988 massacre — a far larger number than previously suspected. Secret documents smuggled out of Iran reveal that, because of the large numbers of necks to be broken, prisoners were loaded onto forklift trucks in groups of six and hanged from cranes in half-hourly intervals.

Gruesome details are contained in, The Memoirs of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, one of the founders of the Islamic regime. He was once considered Khomeini’s anointed successor . . . . The most damning of the letters and documents published in the book is Khomeini’s fatwa decree calling for all Mojahedin (as opponents of the Iranian regime are known) to be killed. . . . the fatwa reads: “It is decreed that those who are in prisons throughout the country and remain steadfast in their support for the Monafeqin (Mojahedin) [regime opponents] are waging war on God and are condemned to execution.”

. . . . According to testimony from prison officials — including Kamal Afkhami Ardekani, who formerly worked at Evin prison — recently given to United Nations human rights rapporteurs: “They would line up prisoners in a 14-by-five-metre hall in the central office building and then ask simply one question, ‘What is your political affiliation?’ Those who said the Mojahedin would be hanged from cranes in position in the car park behind the building.”

He went on to describe how, every half an hour from 7.30am to 5pm, 33 people were lifted on three forklift trucks to six cranes, each of which had five or six ropes. He said: “The process went on and on without interruption.” In two weeks, 8,000 people were hanged. Similar carnage took place across the country.

Link of Note

”A 14 year old boy is sentenced to 85 lashes for breaking his Ramadan fast!” (11/16/04 )

A 14 year old boy died on Thursday, November 11th, after having received 85 lashes; according to the ruling of the Mullah judge of the public circuit court in the town of Sanandadj he was guilty of breaking his fast during the month of Ramadan.

But, we shouldn’t intervene in Iran, even to help the anti-regime, democratic movement. Right? Yes, tell that to the dead souls of the 30,000 (among hundreds of thousands) slaughtered, and the 14-year-old boy. And all their surviving loved ones.

Dare To Call Evil Evil

June 16, 2009

[First published on March 29, 2005] I am told that some of my colleagues and readers wince when I use the term “evil.” How can I say that democide, terrorism, and mass murderers like Kim Jong Il, Saddam Hussein, and Omar Hassan al-Basher (Sudan) are evil? This is the worst moral accusation one can level at an activity or another human being. Who am I to do so?

To discuss evil in any depth requires either a theological discussion of evil, or a philosophical safari into ethics. I wish to leave theology aside, and as far as ethics is concerned, simply express my view of evil. First, I do not accept some prevailing ethics, such as that ethics is simply a personal emotive expression of something one hates (like ugh!), a situational expression about some gross immorality, or an objective fact that exists outside of us. In my view, ethical statements are prescriptive, state what ought to be deontologically (I’m a Kantian on this), and are universal. That is, they state what everyone would agree to for their moral governance, were they to have to live under them without advanced knowledge as to their socio-economic status, race, religion, sex, etc.

Evil for me is then something all would agree is not only morally reprehensible under these conditions, but also fundamentally reprehensible to what it means to be human and civilized. In this sense, any murder is evil. We lock up people for life or execute them for this reason. But we also have to recognize that there are different levels of reprehensibility, as to whether a person murders one fellow human being, 10, or 10,000 in one pen stroke, as have some political leaders like Stalin.

I would turn the question around and ask, “How can one not call such thugs evil, or the mass murderers of millions evil (Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot)?” Not to do so means that one is without the moral gauge that is crucial to civilization and humanity, or his real politics has corrupted him, as it has the leaders of South Korea.

Link of Note

” Toxic Indifference to North Korea” (3/26/05) By Abraham Cooper

Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and a member of the North Korean Freedom Coalition.

He says:

Since 2002, defectors among the flood of refugees from North Korea have detailed firsthand accounts of systematic starvation, torture and murder. Enemies of the state are used in experiments to develop new generations of chemical and biological weapons that threaten the world. A microcosm of these horrors is Camp 22, one of 12 concentration camps housing an estimated 200,000 political prisoners facing torture or execution for such “crimes” as being a Christian or a relative of someone suspected of deviation from “official ideology of the state.” Another eyewitness, Kwon Hyuk, formerly chief manager at Camp 22, repeated to me what he asserted to the BBC: “I witnessed a whole family being tested on suffocating gas and dying in the gas chamber. . . . The parents were vomiting and dying, but until the very last moment they tried to save kids by doing mouth-to-mouth

From Colleague:

I re-read this article again, still not believing the incredible tale told.

What do North Korean apologists have to say about this?

Where are the voices of Johan Galtung, Bruce Cummings, Chalmers Johnson, Noam Chomsky. . . ? These people are so willing to accept any story of US evil, no matter what the evidence, and so unwilling to accept anything critical of the remaining communist regimes — despite the inescapably logic that argues that regime with lots of power tend to kill lots of people.

Oh, right. How dumb of me. All these stories of North Korean murder are nothing more than CIA propaganda and deceit. After all, no Beloved Leader would permit anything such as gassing political prisoners….unless there was good cause. Anyway, I’m sure America has gassed more political prisoners than North Korea ever dreamed of gassing.. . .

I wonder, when Korea is re-unified, how many people will emerge to give color to this dismal portrait of power run amok. And how many leftists will be trying to first deny, then disparage, then defend these actions, finally changing their tune to how all this democide was really the work of right-wing North Koreans.


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