State Socialism Exemplified — Burma

December 21, 2008

[First published July 11, 2005]While we focus on the repression of freedom in Sudan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, life can be even worse in some non-Muslim countries, such as Burma (Myanmar). The 42.7 million people in this South Asian country are 89 percent Buddhist, have a life expectancy of fifty-five years, and earn in purchasing power parity $1,200 a year. They are ruled by a socialist military regime, which allows no freedom. Life here is hellish, due to the military’s savage repression of dissent, and their barbaric response to the rebellion of nearly a dozen ethnic minorities.

For example, in the nine villages of Dweh Loh Township, northwest of Rangoon and near the Thai border, the Karen ethnic group has long been fighting for independence. During harvest time in March 2000, military forces attacked the villages, burned down homes, and destroyed or looted possessions. By sheer luck, some of the villagers managed to flee into the forest, leaving behind their rice and possessions and risking starvation— starvation made almost inevitable by the military’s burning of crops and rice storage barns. Soldiers even torched the cut scrub needed to prepare the soil for planting. Those who remained in the village who were not killed were seized for forced labor or portering, or pressed into the military. That done, the soldiers mined all approaches to the village to prevent the villagers from returning.

Soldiers kill any male suspected of being a rebel. These are not all easy deaths. Sometimes soldiers gruesomely torture the victim and prolong death to cause as much agony as possible. Women or young girls are only marginally better off—the soldiers “only” rape them. Then they march them, along with the children and the village men left alive, to work sites to build barracks, defensive works, roads, railroads, or fences, or carry bamboo and firewood. Alternatively, the soldiers force them to porter ammunition and military supplies like mules. This is the most dangerous form of forced labor and many die from it.

Even the children do not escape. Soldiers routinely make them do such arduous labor, or even soldier. Worse, the military sell the girls into prostitution in Burma or into the Thai sex market across the border, which already exploits the bodies of 40,000 Burmese girls. Worse still, the military have forced children to walk ahead of soldiers to trigger mines. No military have used human bodies to clear mines like this since World War II, when the Soviets often compelled prisoners to sweep minefields with their feet.

Even for those Burmese children not forced into labor and portering, general conditions are disastrous for their future and that of the country. Even children living outside the civil war zones are unlikely to go to school. No more than one in five get so much as four years of primary school. They are more likely to be working at some job to help their family survive. According to UN estimates, about one-third of all children six to fifteen years of age are doing so. Many children do not survive to adulthood—half of all those that die each year are children.

In the civil war zones, children and adults alike routinely live on the edge of death. For example, anyone living in the township of Dweh Loh that contained the nine villages I mentioned, had an equal chance of doing forced labor, being looted, or suffering extortion by soldiers on the one hand, or of fleeing into the forests on the other. Those living in other townships throughout this area probably escaped to the forests to barely survive there on whatever food they could grow. Were soldiers to find these refugees, they might shoot them or make them porter under threat of death.

Life was no better for those living in the Nyaunglebin District to the west, where handpicked execution squads of soldiers operated off and on in the area, searching for rebels or their supporters. If these soldiers suspected a villager of even the most minor contact with rebel forces, if a villager was even seen talking to someone suspected of being a rebel, they usually cut his throat. Sometimes the soldiers also decapitated the victim and mounted the head on a pole as a warning to others.

There are around sixty-seven different ethnic groups in Burma, each with its own language and culture, many of which have rebelled and are fighting the military government. With more or less ferocity, these rebellions have been going on since 1948, with a death toll of 200,000 or even possibly 400,000 Burmese. Both sides have also murdered outright an additional 100,000 to 200,000 Burmese. Moreover, rebellion, fighting, and brutal military pressure on the Burmese people have caused 500,000 to 1 million of them to be displaced within the country, many of whom the military have commanded to live in inhospitable forced location zones. Others have escaped relocation for bare subsistence in the forests, bereft of home or village. Still 215,000 others have fled abroad and are formally listed as refugees by international refugee organizations. An added 350,000 Burmese are without refugee status and subsist in refugee-like conditions in neighboring Thailand.

The vast majority of Burmese, however, live far away from the civil war zones and are not members of the rebelling minority ethnic groups. They have other things to fear. Burma is a military dictatorship, and this regime is willing to use its weapons on unarmed people who protest or demonstrate. When students demonstrated against the regime on July 7, 1962, soldiers shot one hundred of them to death. On August 13, 1967, soldiers similarly shot over a hundred demonstrating men and women, and even the children that accompanied them. And so on and on, from demonstration to demonstration, until the worst of them all.

On August 8, 1988, doctors, students, teachers, farmers, musicians, artists, monks, and workers took part in peaceful, pro-democracy demonstrations in all major cities. The military demanded that the demonstrators disperse, and when they would not, soldiers fired round after round into the crowds. They massacred an incredible 5,000 to 10,000 unarmed people simply trying to express their desire for democracy. Soldiers and police then arrested hundreds of those escaping this bloodbath, and tortured them in prison. Many thousands escaped to border areas, leaving their loved ones, homes, and possessions behind.

Those Burmese who stay home, avoid demonstrations, and arouse no suspicion might still be conscripted by the military for forced labor or porter duty. Socialist in mind and spirit, the military have been ambitious in building railways, roads, airports, and so on. And to do so, they simply draft civilians. For example, those who lived near the route of the 110 mile e-Tavoy railway, built by the military in southern Burma, were among the 200,000 people that soldiers forced to work on the project for fifteen days a month without pay. Then there were the 30,000 the military conscripted for the Bassein Airport extension. Those who missed this might have been among the over 920,000 the military compelled to labor on the Chaung Oo-Pakokku Railroad.

Those who do the forced labor have to sleep at the work site, guarded, and without much shelter—sometimes none. The ground is their only bed. To go to the toilet they have to get permission from a guard. Their only food is what the workers themselves can bring. And they have to be sure not to be injured, because there is seldom any medical care. They also can die, as many do, from sickness or exhaustion. If they try to escape from the work site and soldiers catch them, if they are lucky, the soldiers will only severely beat them. Just resting without permission can get them beaten and killed by guards. This happened to Pa Za Kung, a man from Vomkua village in Chin State’s Thantlang Township, doing forced labor on a road from Thantlang to Vuangtu village.

But portering is even worse than forced labor. The military make those living in war zones porter for them, but since as many as two porters are needed for each soldier to move much of their supplies and equipment, people living outside the war zones are also conscripted. Porters suffer from hunger, malnutrition, disease, and exhaustion. Rebel fire kills them, they step on mines, or soldiers shoot them because they cannot force their bodies to work any longer. Or soldiers simply abandon them with no medical care, no food, no help, no way home. All told, this is another form of slavery suffered by millions of Burmese.

Burmese generally have no rights other than to serve the military. This might have changed in 1990, when the military caved in to considerable international pressure resulting from their 1988 massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators, and held real democratic elections— and were shocked when the democratic opposition, under the leadership of 1991 Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, won 82 percent of the seats in the new parliament. The military then refused to yield power, and have held Aung San Suu Kyi under virtual house arrest ever since. They also arrested and tortured thousands of her supporters and members of other political parties, and have killed or disappeared thousands more. They even arrested hundreds of those elected to parliament, some of whom died under the harsh prison conditions. Member-elect Kyaw Min, for example, died of hepatitis caused by his imprisonment.

Having learned their lesson about the power of the democratic idea, the military no longer allow political activity or criticism. There is no freedom of speech or association. In this Buddhist country, the military keep a watch on Buddhist monks and prevent their involvement in political activity. They also restrict the leaders of other religions. There can be no unions. Just having a computer modem can lead to arrest, torture, and a fifteen-year prison sentence. Having a fax machine may even mean death, as it did for the Anglo-Burmese San Suu Kyi, who was honorary Consul for the European Union. No independent courts exist, and the law is what the military command. The military monitor the movements of common citizens, search their homes at any time, and take them forcibly from their homes to be relocated, without compensation or explanation.

Nor are Burmese free to start a business or invest. Since 1962, when the military overthrew the democratic government, the military have pursued a “Burmese Way to Socialism.” This has left little room for private businesses and a free market, and companies run by the military dominate many areas of the economy, leaving as the most vigorous sector of the economy the heroin trade. This alone may account for over 50 percent of the economy.

The result is what one would expect. Among all countries, Burma has plummeted to near the bottom in economic freedom, possibly better than only communist North Korea. And the country is nearly bankrupt. However, perhaps having learned from this economic disaster, the military are now trying to liberalize their economic control and have invited foreign investment.

Link of Note

“Rice calls for pressure on Burma” (7/11/05) BBC


US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called on Thailand and other nations in South East Asia to press for change in neighboring Burma

If ever there was a case for outside intervention, it is Burma. It does not have the military capability to deter such action, as does North Korea. Nor does it have an alliance of like-minded Islamic nations to protect it, as does Sudan. It is vulnerable to outside action, but the international mindset is such that sovereignty trumps Burmese enslavement to socialism and their deaths. The best that Secretary Rice can do is ask neighboring countries to “press” Burma for change?

Say a family down the block is mistreating and molesting their children, who often appear with bruises and cuts, limping and malnourished. How about telephoning the family as pressing them to better treat their children? Crazy? Why do we treat international morality different from what within democracies. Simple. Real Politics.Policy

Who Are The Mortacracies? PARTVII—What To Do About Them

December 11, 2008

[First published May 9, 2006] In a previous post, I defined the worst group of mortacracies in the world today. For reference, I also include the list here:

Okay, what can we do about them. First, I do not suggest any democracy make war on these mortacracies, or militarily attack them unless:

They are a direct or immediate threat to the national security of a democracy, as is Iran in its development of nuclear weapons and being the home of Islamofascism.
They have invaded a democratic neighbor.
They are supporting and aiding terrorism against a democracy, as did Afghanistan under the Taliban.
They are engaged in wholesale democide, as were Rwanda and Serbia, and as is Sudan today.

But, there is much that can be done otherwise and I will divide this into what democratic governments can do, and what you and I must do first. This distinction is crucial. Democracies will not act unless their top legislative and executive leaders perceive that this is what the people really want—that there is a national will. This is one reason that the Clinton administration did nothing with regard to Rwanda, except hinder the action by others that might have dragged them into doing something. Congress and the administration well perceived that the American people had no interest in intervening to prevent the genocide, and there was no interest within the government to create—excite—such a demand. And similarly, this is why it took years for President Clinton to finally get involved in the Bosnian genocide. Photographs of the dead, pleas from the victims, and the haplessness of the UN finally generated enough media, public, and congressional outrage to propel Clinton into action.

Similarly, with the intervention of the senior President Bush in Somalia. The sympathy and concern of the public over the Somali famine, the belief that millions would starve to death, and the clear anarchy of the country leaving no authority to prevent the famine was made clear by the media. But, above all, what was most effective in arousing the public for intervention was the widely circulated, pitiful photographs of starving children with sad eyes and distended bellies.

So, what can the public do to create the political will to act against the mortacracies? This is not a new question and there is no new approach or action that must be developed. All this is activism 101, whose syllabus informs the activists fighting globalism, war, environmental degradation, global warming, global hunger, and so on. The techniques are public and on the websites of any one of these activist groups. In short, volunteer, organize, protest, demonstrate, write, phone, contribute, donate, and seek deep pockets. But, in this case, it would be to focus public outrage on the worst democidal/mortacidal states. One thing is essential, which the environmentalist and animal rights activist have sewed on their underwear—publish photos of the dead, the dying, the tortured, the crying, and especially, the babies and children.

A successful model to follow is what an aroused minority did about the detested White rule—apartheid—in South Africa. These activists demanded that universities, mutual funds, and retirement funds divest themselves of stocks of corporations doing business with South Africa. Also, they organized boycotts of these corporations and demonstrated in front of their national headquarters.

Those with websites and blogs can help immeasurably by beginning this process, and by embarrassing the major media into doing the necessary drumming. I can’t travel because of spinal arthritis, and I have bad hearing, but I will do what I can by scribbling.

Fundamentally, this is not a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Conservative, or Liberal effort, but a humanitarian one. Whichever party or ideology will listen and help should be welcome, even though it may be for their own political ends. The mortacracies are the enemy of all who subscribe to democratic freedom, and a common enemy can make for strange bedfellows.

If political leaders have their ear to the ground, what can they do? First is to recognize that action against a mortacracy can’t be done effectively by one state. Whatever is to be done must be in coordination, if not in coalition, with other democracies. And, I don’t mean through the UN, which is in the pocket of the thug regimes, and where potentially mortacratic China and unfree Russia have veto powers in the Security Council against joint action. Such coordination would work best through an “Alliance of Democracies”, which I have long called for and which is slowly being built as the “The World Movement for Democracy”, and of which slowly, inch-by-yearly-inch, NATO is becoming a potential military arm (for example, NATO has now taken over the American role in Afghanistan—on this, see the “NATO in Afghanistan

What can such an alliance, or whatever it will be called, do about the mortacracies? Many would think of economic sanctions, or a blockade. However, for the worst of the mortacracies, those most affected by such actions would be the very people the mortacracy is enslaving, not the thugs and their gangs of enforcers. The whole state is their preserve, all its money and products are theirs, and what they can’t get from other states for their table or pleasure, they can loot or expropriate from their slaves with their guns. But then, more will die or must be murdered, but these thugs seem not to care as long as they can gratify their desires.

I suggest instead that the focus be entirely on these thugs and their henchmen personally, such as through their international ostracism and isolation by:

Severance of diplomatic relations.
An international declaration that they are criminals for crimes against humanity and thus subject to arrest if they travel abroad.
A freeze of all their foreign financial accounts.
Refusing economic/food aid/medical aid unless directly for the people and tightly monitored
Treating similarly any nondemocracy providing aid or support to this mortacracy.

These are government-to-government negative actions. More important are what democratic governments , and intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations can do positively regarding those practically enslaved, and threatened with early death or murder by the worst of these mortacracies:

Provide aid, support, and encouragement to democratic movements within the state.
Provide information on nonviolent political action.
Provide aid and relocation to refugees.
Provide from abroad, and in the appropriate language, information, news, and support over TV, radio, and Internet networks to those remaining within the state.

All these actions have subtexts and nuances, and require timing and coordination among them. Whatever, the goal should be clear. It is to save lives and enrich life, and if that can be done by persuading the thugs that rule to change their deadly behavior, so much the better. The best would be to have their regimes replaced by democratic ones, but that may not be achievable in the short run without war or a military intervention. And in the case of mortacracies, we should beware of letting our desire for the best get in the way of what is good enough in the short run.

A free pdf downloadable nonfiction book emphasizing the democratic peace

Love, Fear, And Death In Mao’s China

December 10, 2008

I urge those of you who are interested in China and what it is like to live under absolute communist totalitarianism to read any one of the many Chinese memoirs now coming out. Their virtue is that they provide feeling and insight into what it was like to live day-by-day under such a system. These memoirs get away from the cold abstractions of scholarly and journalistic books on China, and their sterile analyses and statistics. To understand Mao’s China, you have to take to heart and sense its reality for the people, and these memoirs help you do so.

The latest I’ve read is Son Of The Revolution by Liang Heng and his wife Judith Shapiro. It is not as well written as Jung Chang’s Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, nor as historically far reaching, since her book covers the personal history of her family over three generations. But, Liang’s memoir is more detailed in its focus on his life and that of his mother and father. Moreover, unlike Chang’s parents and Chang herself, who were high Chinese Communist Party (CCP) cadre, Liang and his parents were nothing but ordinary small city dwellers. His father was a reporter for a local newspaper and his mother worked for the local police.

His parents suffered incredibly from the various attempts by the CCP to cleanse China of bad thinkers, rightists, spies, and capitalist roaders. Of most interest to me was Liang’s experience as a Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution. He lived in Changsha in central China, which was one of the more violent cities during this period. The Red Guards, nothing more than teenagers and even younger children, divided into enemy factions, each claiming to represent the true revolutionary spirit of Mao. Each had weapons handed out by the army or stolen from armories, including even cannon, machine guns, mortars, and so on. The Army and police were ordered to be neutral in the battles between factions, although they themselves often broke into warring groups.

Guns were everywhere, with young kids and even girls, strutting around with pistols tucked into their belts. The battle in the city was horrendous: bullets whizzing down the streets made it very dangerous for anyone to step outdoors. As happened throughout China, teachers, professors, high officials, and cadre were often beaten, tortured, and murdered as the Red Guards tried to purge the city of those whom they perceived as lacking proper support for the revolution, or who they saw as Mao’s enemies. Evidence of this could be owning a Western book, having distant relatives that escaped to Taiwan, a grandfather who had fought the communists during the civil war, a mother that let drop a criticism of the CCP, and so on.

Among the Red Guards and others involved, no matter the fighting faction, they fought for love of Mao. This is not a typo. It was for LOVE.

I have consistently pointed out how such totalitarian systems run on fear. That is well documented in this memoir. But there is something added, which was also there in Chung’s book and others, but I had not picked it up as I did here. That is love. Liang was born in 1954, just as the bloody “land Reform” campaign was completed, and before the establishment of the commune—the factorization of the peasant—and Great Leap Forward. From birth, therefore, Liang was subject to intensive and continuous daily brainwashing and the implantation of correct thought. Mao became everything: the “Red Sun,” the “Great Saving Star,” the “Great Helmsmen,” and the “Heart and Soul of China.” If I remember correctly, the second word he learned after that for his mother was Mao. The Chinese were taught that they owed everything good about their lives to him, and everything bad to the previous nationalist regime, American imperialism, rightists, or capitalist roaders. Hard as it is to believe, because of this “education” that he and other Chinese received, he loved Mao, as did Jung Chang, and as did everyone they knew. It was inconceivable to question or criticize him.

But with this love, there still was the constant fear. But not of Mao, since he was perceived, as they were taught, to have only their welfare and happiness in mind. But the fear was of the CCP cadre, of their classifying one as evil, or their accusing one of violating one of the plethora of rules that governed everyday life. The consequences could be horrendous: denial of ration tickets, being made to divorce one’s mate, being sent to the countryside, public denunciation, humiliation, lying confessions, arrest, torture, even execution. One had no protection against any of this, no media, no lawyers, no courts, and no constitution. Everyone was totally at the mercy of the communist cadre, even the cadre themselves were at the mercy of those higher up.

What a fantastic combination. Love for the man responsible for the daily horrors, while fearing the personal impact of these horrors. Of course, no one could conceive that these were Mao’s fault. It just had to be those bad people around him or lower down in the CCP.

A good review of the book by Xiaowei Zheng is here.

Links of Note

“‘20,000’ on death row worldwide”:

At least 1,770 executions took place last year in China, where a person could be sentenced and executed for non-violent crimes including tax fraud, embezzlement and drug offence….

“China’s military budget jumps 14%”:

China has said it will increase its military spending by 14.7% this year to 283.8bn yuan ($35.3bn ….)….China’s armed forces are the biggest in the world and have seen double-digit increases in military spending since the early 1990s…. Washington has several times accused China of understating its military budget. It said last year’s spend[ing] was not the $30bn stated but closer to $90bn.

“China’s role in genocide”:

At the United Nations last September, the Security Council passed Resolution 1564, threatening Sudan with oil sanctions unless it curbed the violence in Darfur. China immediately threatened to veto any move to actually impose sanctions, so the threat was rendered useless.

RJR: It has to do with Sudan’s oil.

“Feinstein insists U.S. not bound to protect Taiwan”:

In remarks certain to please visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Thursday told a gathering of Chinese-American business and cultural leaders in San Francisco that the United States has no obligation to defend Taiwan if it provokes China into a military confrontation.”

RJR: If there is a hell for high officials that by their statements make war more likely, Feinstein is a strong candidate.

“Is the US asleep at the wheel?”:

US politicians and military officers think that Taiwan exists solely for the benefit of — or as a detriment to — US-China relations. This blissfully egocentric attitude has been the source of much confusion in cross-strait relations, and could lead Washington to make a major miscalculation jeopardizing its strategic position in the Western Pacific.

RJR: One problem is the near universal belief that Taiwan was before World War II part of China. It was not then or ever in the last century, nor did the treating ending the Japanese control of Taiwan (Formosa) give it to China. By treaty, its status is undetermined.

“Seeds of Fury”:

Protests are flaring across China’s countryside over everything from land seizures to corruption. In a nation of 900 million farmers, quelling this rising unrest may be Beijing’s greatest challenge…. By the central government’s own count, there were 87,000 “public-order disturbances” in 2005, up from 10,000 in 1994.

“Torture Exhibition:
Display of Crimes Against Conscience”
Not for the queasy.

“China’s Cultural Revolution — A Docudrama “

Who Are The Mortacracies? Part V

December 8, 2008

[first published May 8, 2006] I lied. I wrote that this would be the concluding part of this series on defining the world’s mortacracies, with my identification of the final list and what to do about them. But, I came across the Fund For Peace webste on failed states with beautiful data for my purpose here. So, never one to let good data rest in peace, I will exploit them to further define mortacracies.

The data comprise the 12 indicators of a state’s failure listed below:

1 – Mounting Demographic Pressures,
2 – Massive Movement of Refugees and DPs,
3 – Legacy of Vengeance – Seeking Group Grievance,
4 – Chronic and Sustained Human Flight,
5 – Uneven Economic Development along Group Lines,
6 – Sharp and/or Severe Economic Decline,
7 – Criminalization or Delegitimization of the State,
8 – Progressive Deterioration of Public Services,
9 – Widespread Volition of Human Rights,
10 – Security Apparatus as “State within a State,”
11 – Rise of Factionalized Elites,
12 – Intervention of Other States or External Actors.

The definitions of each of these variables is here, and the methodology for scoring nations in a range from 0 for least intensity on an indicator to 10 for the highest intensity—greatest failure—is here. The actual scoring is done though special software, which:

“indexed and scanned tens of thousands of open-source articles and reports using Boolean logic. The data are electronically gathered using Thomson Dialog, a powerful data-collection system that includes international and local media reports and other public documents, including U.S. State Department reports, independent studies, and even corporate financial filings. The data used in each index are collected from May to December of the preceding year. The software calculates the number of positive and negative ‘hits’ for the 12 indicators. Internal and external experts then review the scores as well as the articles themselves, when necessary, to confirm the scores and ensure accuracy.”

Before going on, I have to clarify a possible confusion of terms. In line with my source, I will have to use the term “state” for the sovereign nations or countries of the world. In previous parts, I have been using the term “country,” which is a more general term for both a state and the non-sovereign territories of a state, although by context it should have been clear that I meant states. Sometimes, because of my background in international relations, I also may unthinkingly use the term “nation” for state, or “nation state.”

Now, keeping in mind that I am not focused on defining failed states in order to assess the risk of conflict, as is The Fund For Peace, but on defining mortacracies, not all 12 indicators are relevant t this purpose. So, I excluded indicators 1, 5, 11, and 12, and recalculated the total sum of the remaining eight indicators. The maximum possible failure is a total sum of 80 on these eight indicators, and the minimum is 0. The worst failure, then, is Sudan with a total of 74.6, and the least failure is Norway with 9.8 (these are the same lowest and highest failures on all 12 indicators). The U.S. is at 21, just above the U.K., which is 20.7. The average is 45.9, with a median of 50.3 and a standard deviation of 16.7.

The next step is to standardize these totals to get a relative picture of what nations are high in failure and to plot the result. The plot is shown below (if the plot is unclear or does not show, see here:

The distribution of states is a uniform curve that is nearly perfectly fitted (correlation squared = .998!) by a fourth degree polynomial. There are two inflection points on the curve, one approximately at a standard score of 1.00 (which means the states at this level states are about one-standard deviation above the mean = 0), and the other at about the mean itself. The implication of this is that a good list of mortacracies would be those at or above one standard deviation on the total for the eight indicators.

These comprise the 21 states shown below (if the list is unclear or does not show, see here):

This is quite a list. Unlike some of the other lists of possible mortacracies, this one has virtually all the states I would have included intuitively, especially the top ones. Even North Korea and Burma are captured by these indicators.

Now, from all I have done, it is time to choose a final list of mortacracies. I promise.

Two lovers sent back to 1906 to foster democracy wage war on a rogue time policeman from the far future who is contriving to do the same for communism. His advanced weapons and teleportation capability make for a shocking lethal confrontation. Free download in pdf

Who Are The Mortacracies? Part II

December 6, 2008

[First published May 2, 2005] RETRACTION: In case you read it in yesterday’s Part I, before I edited it out: I lost my cool at the end of the blog and called for the democracies to make war on these bloody mortacracies (a thanks to Walter W. Cox for questioning it). I retract that as an irrational and dangerous thrashing about. I had just seen the previous night the A&E “Flight 93” and 9/11 recap, and then stupidly wrote my Part I about the bloody mortacracies. But the question as to what to do about these mortacracies has to be answered sensibly, and as a last part in this series, I will try to write a more nuanced, practical, and rational blog on what the democracies can do about these mortacracies.

Now, in Part I, I defined the gang of democide committing mortacracies. But what about those regimes whose actions create such life threatening conditions as to unintentionally cause the mass death of their people?


Consider Zimbabwe, for example. The Marxist policies of the Robert Mugabe gang that rules the country by force (the country is rated not free by Freedom House), have caused a country that had a relatively high standard of living for Africa before Mugabe’s rule to deteriorate into being among its poorest. It has an unemployment rate of over 70 percent, and the world’s highest inflation rate at 900% (a roll of toilet paper now costs $145,750 Zimbabwean dollars). There is a crisis food shortage that without outside aid will turn into a famine, and fuel is hard to get. Its economy has collapsed by about 40 percent, dragging down the country’s standard of living such that the people now have among the shortest lives in Africa. Their life expectancy (LE) at birth is 36.7 years, and continues to fall. Compare this to 82 years for Japan, the highest among sovereign countries, and 77.1 years for the United States. The chart below shows the six-year movement in Zimbabwe’s LE (If the chart does not show, click here)


Moreover, Mugabe suppresses speech, curtails and controls civil organizations, and corruption is widespread among officials. He has set his army on opposition supporters, using rape as a preferred weapon. And he continues to expropriate land owned by Whites. The 2005 Human Development Report gives Zimbabwe a human development index (HDI) of .50, while for comparison it is .94 for the U.S., .91 for Israel, and an average of .74 for the world.


What bothers me most about this is how young, by my standards, people are on the average when they die in Zimbabwe and other such thug regimes. Many of us were just getting started in life at that age these people die. And to die from the conditions you are forced to live under though no fault of your own, conditions created or allowed to continue by the gang that rules, such as massive corruption, hyper-inflation, extensive personal and mass violence, high unemployment, illiteracy, food shortages, malnutrition, and very poor medical services and facilities. While the resulting early deaths are not democide, since unintended by the regime, the regime still should be held responsible for them in my view.

The question is how to characterize these deadly conditions, if such ready terms such as genocide, politicide, and democide are inapplicable. First, I suggest that the term mortacracy, that I have applied to mass murdering regimes, be extended to regimes like Mugabe’s. That is, they commit mortality—they cause their people to die. Mortacracies mortalize their people.

Of course, one obvious way of defining such mortacracies is by the life expectancy (LE) of a country’s people at birth. Then, those countries near or at the bottom might comprise our best list of mortacracies.

To my knowledge, this is a new line of research, and there is no guidance but intuition in judging what is a low enough LE to reflect a true mortacracy at work. The 2003 life expectancies from birth (LE) for all countries, except notably for North Korea, are listed in the UN Human Development Report 2005. I plot them below (If the chart does not show, click here):


Each blue dot is a country’s LE, which tend to merge for all countries into a curving line. This is an incredibly uniform plot, as shown by the trend line—the best fitting third degree polynomial regression and its virtually perfect correlation R^2 of .99. The LEs begin to dip down at the low end, with two breaks, one a little below an LE of 60, and the other at an LE of 50. Breaks of this sort in an otherwise smooth plot indicate that there is something working on the very low LEs to cause the break and steeper decline in the trend line. This could be the greater mortality caused by mortacracies at this level, and reflected in their LEs. Below, I list all 28 countries that are below the break in LEs at 50 years, and include their freedom rating and scores (If the chart does not show, click here).



Among the 28, 5 are free, 13 are partly free, and 10 are not free. South Africa, which is rated free, is recovering from the years during which the Whites’ policy of apartheid segregated the near 80 percent Black population in the impoverished, undeveloped, and ill-nourished areas of the country, with few health services. Even though the present liberal democratic government is trying to develop and improve the conditions of the largely Black areas, the LE has only increased slowly due to the overwhelming task of improving in the short run the conditions of life and education for 35 million Blacks.


Near the bottom of LEs is Lesotho, which became free one year before. And it is still is recovering from a military coup, violence, assassinations, three years of poor harvests, corruption, and a sharp rise in HIV/AIDS cases. In other words, democracy has not had time to influence the death rate. As to Botswana, which is a stable and long running democracy, it has been ravaged by an AIDS/AIDS epidemic that infects about one-third of the population and which has caused economic problems, including 40 percent unemployment.

Namibia and Mali are also free countries below the cut-off LE of 50. Until its independence in 1990, Namibia was ruled by South Africa and its 87 percent Blacks also suffered under the apartheid system. In addition, under South African control Namibians violently intervened in the Angola civil war, besides being plagued with its own guerrilla war. Since independence, the democratic government has undertaken economic development, fair land reform, and a huge power development program. It now provides encouragement to extensive foreign investment. As for Mali, it is still recovering from 30 years of corrupt and rapacious military or corrupt one-party rule. This ended in 1992 with a fair and open democratic election, but it left the country terribly impoverished. Nonetheless, there has been steady improvement in the economy, much of which has yet to reach most of the people.

Then there are the remaining countries, such as the Central African Republic, Congo, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Zambia, which have been ruled by corrupt and violent tyrants, treating their countries as their own preserve, raping the resources for their own benefit and that of their relatives and tribesmen, killing and murdering to keep power, and showing virtually no interest in the well being of their people. Their abysmally low LEs reflect this.

But is the raw LE the best measure of mortacracies? LE is only one indicator of a regime’s effect on life. Perhaps I should consider, in addition to an index to LE, a wider measure of human underdevelopment that takes into account LE’s social and economic context. Such is the Human Development Index, which I will look at in Part III in order to refine my definition of the world’s mortacracies.

NOTE: The Brookings Institute recently held a forum on US policy options for
Darfur. It included presentations by the United States Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick and the Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Displaced Persons Francis Deng, among others. A full pdf transcript is available here. Otherwise, C-Span has the entire event on video, which can be seen here (real player needed).



Link of Note



“4 million dead in Congo” December 22, 2004:

” THE WORLD’S biggest war may be its most invisible. In 10 years, an estimated 4 million have died in eastern Congo. A maelstrom of invading forces, local militia, a central army and United Nations peacekeepers shoot their way across the landscape…. In general, the Congo war is a scattershot conflict based on ethnicity and survival. The death rate, according to a relief group, the International Rescue Committee, runs at 1,000 people a day. These deaths, like the millions before, stem from hunger and disease, both preventable by peace.” 

“Counting the dead” April 10, 2003:

“So now we know: up to 4.7 million people have died in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s four-and-a-half-year civil war. The figure was announced this week by the International Rescue Committee, an American aid agency. Its lower estimate was 3.1 million….” 

“Mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo: a nationwide survey” January 7, 2006 (free registration required):

” Commencing in 1998, the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been a humanitarian disaster, but has drawn little response from the international community. To document rates and trends in mortality and provide recommendations for political and humanitarian interventions, we did a nationwide mortality survey during April–July, 2004…. Total death toll from the conflict (1998–2004) was estimated to be 3·9 million. Mortality rate was higher in unstable eastern provinces, showing the effect of insecurity. Most deaths were from easily preventable and treatable illnesses rather than violence. Regression analysis suggested that if the effects of violence were removed, all-cause mortality could fall to almost normal rates.” 

RJR: Can there be any doubt that the Congo (Kinshasa, or former Zaire), classified as not free by Freedom House, is a mortacracy?



Freedom’s Moral Goods

Who Are The Mortacracies? Part I

December 6, 2008

[First published May 1, 2005] I have used the term democide for murder by government, where murder is understood as it is defined in civil law. This is clear enough. And, I have used the term mortacracy for a regime that commits mass democide, such as Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, communist China, and Pol Pot’s Cambodia, among others. The key understanding of democide is that it is intentional. Yet what about those regimes that unintentionally cause the deaths of their citizens as a natural consequence of their actions, or their lack of action?. One example might be a regime where corruption has become so pervasive and destructive of a people’s welfare that it threatens their daily lives and reduces their life expectancy.

This blog is Part I of an exploration in the measurement and identification of mortacracies—those political regimes that murder or cause the death of their citizens by the tens of thousands.

Here, I will focus on the identification of mortacracies in 2005 by their domestic democide—their outright murder of their own citizens—and for this the U.S. State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2005 will be my primary source. I am impressed by the well organized detail and thoroughness of the report. I have compared it to other human rights reports, such as those published by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and find it the best for my purpose. I will consult these other sources as necessary for additional information.

Using the Country Reports, then, I was able to define democide of four kinds:

Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life, as in (1) the government or its agents committing politically motivated killings, and/or (2) security forces unlawfully killing people.

Disappearances of people caused by the government, its agents, or security forces.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions that caused, or were so life threatening to assume to have caused, the death of inmates.

Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts, or what I will call “war crimes.” It includes indiscriminate, nonselective killings arising from excessive use of force, or by the shelling of villages.

From the sources I mentioned above, I was able to assess the democide of each country in the world for 2005, and create the following list of mortacracies for 2005—those political regimes responsible for the mass murder of tens of thousands of their people. (If the table doesn’t show, see here)

The full table of democide data for all regimes is too big to show here. It is on my website. The list of mortacracies above comes from democide level 3 in the linked table. If you have any difficulty reading these tables, please let me know so that I can improve their legibility.

A word on how I determined the level of democide. First, any democide (a “yes” for any of the democide classifications in the table) earns at least a democide level of “1”. If a careful reading of the Country Report, and other sources, then suggested the level of killing was 1,000 or more, in 2005 or in previous years, I gave it a level “2”; and if at least 10,000, I gave it a level “3”.

What does “or in previous years” mean? The number a regime murdered in previous years counts toward its level of democide for 2005 if its freedom level is unchanged or it dropped (such as from partly free to not free). However, if its level of freedom improved such that it went from not free to partly free, then I did not count any democide before the change. Moreover, if a country went through a political system change, as occurred when Pol Pot was defeated in 1979, and Vietnam established a puppet Cambodian regime, or when Afghanistan’s Taliban were defeated by the American coalition, then even though the freedom level remained the same, I did not count the previous democide. However, simply a change in who rules through a coup, revolution, or natural succession, as happened in Syria, North Korea, and China, does not wash away the previous democide.

If you have difficulty with this, think of my purpose, which is to define a mortacracy. If a regime murdered hundreds of thousands of its people since it gained power, as did the Iranian theocracy, but while the same regime was in power in 2005 it only murdered a few, then it seems misleading and unreasonable to say that the regime was mortacratic during those previous years when it murdered so many, but it is not a mortacracy in 2005. By mortacracy, I mean a quality of a regime, as in being a dictatorship or democracy, and not its policy or actions in a particular year.

There you have it in the above table. The worst mass murdering thug regimes of the last year, all but one also depriving their people of all human rights, which is to say, enslaving them.

Related link

“QUANTIFYING GENOCIDE IN DARFUR: April 28, 2006 (Part 1)” By Eric Reeves:

” Currently extant data, in aggregate, strongly suggest that total excess mortality in Darfur, over the course of more than three years of deadly conflict, now significantly exceeds 450,000. As Rwanda marks a grim twelfth anniversary, we must accept that while vast human destruction in Darfur has unfolded plainly before us, we have again done little more than watch, offering only unprotected humanitarian assistance while some 450,000 people have perished as a result of violence, as well as consequent malnutrition and disease. Human destruction to date, however, certainly does not mark the conclusion of the world’s moral failure in responding to genocide in Darfur—on the contrary, this massive previous destruction is our best measure of what is impending.

Far [more] terrifyingly, all current evidence suggests that hundreds of thousands of human beings will die in the coming months from these same causes.”

RJR: This democide is so overt and public as to draw such attention to it. But thanks to the hopeless UN, the disinterest of the democracies, and Sudan’s supportive Arab Muslim countries, even then not much is being done about it. But for many of the mortacracies—like North Korea, which is a border to border concentration/labor camp—the day-by-day death and summary execution of its people is not so public, and thus hardly mentioned in the media. Even then, as evidenced by Sudan, nothing much would be done.

A murdered Darfur child

20th Century Mortacracies

November 24, 2008

(First published May 11, 2006. Broken links will be recovered as previously published blogs are republished here)

As a result of an 8-year project I concluded some years ago, I defined the major 20th century mortacracies as those listed below.



But, since then I have increased some of the estimates, particularly for Mao’s China and colonialism., but had yet to change the above table. This was done by Jade in New Zealand, and with thanks I show below the table she sent me, with slight revisions I made in its format:



In the last century, governments have murdered 262,000,000 people. And that is not even counting mortacide (as defined in my recent post). With such a near absolute focus on the Holocaust in the media, with near total exclusion of reference to any other of these democides, one must ask how many Jews were murdered. I wrote a book on Nazi democide, and calculated that 5,291,000 Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Along with these Jews, however, the Nazi’s murdered 20,946,000 people, such as Poles, Russians, Czechs, Frenchmen, Italians, Bulgarians, and so on.

But even that horrendous total pales in comparison to the number murdered by communist regimes overall—148,000,000.

Yet, while our library shelves are filled with books on war, and it is a major topic of college political science courses on international relations, there is virtually nothing taught on the world’s democides, and for that matter, virtually nothing printed on it in the major media, including magazines, or journals (you will look in vain in such media as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Weekly Standard, The Reader’s Digest, National Review, American Political Science Review, and so on, for an article on such incredible democide). The sheer massive ignorance and denial of the 262,000,000 people murdered by government is revealed by these facts: this total is over 6-times those killed in combat in all domestic and foreign wars (including WWI and WWII, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars) over the last century, and laid head-to-toe the corpses of all these murdered would circle the earth about 10-times.

Consider this. With much horror, and thus stimulating decades of arms control efforts and many huge anti-nuclear demonstrations, strategic experts used to calculate that a Soviet-American nuclear war would cost…gasp…200,000.000 to 300,000,000 dead. But…the number murdered in the last century by governments is in the middle of this range. It is as though the world was devastated by a drawn out nuclear war, but one largely by dictatorships against their subjects.

Let us all weep for these poor souls and their surviving loved ones.