All successes notwithstanding, much of human history is largely an orgy of violence and murder. It seems that the lowest and most primitive parts of us have led us into an evil spiral of power and greed, resulting in the enslavement, rape, and murder of millions of people. History provides us with many examples of this: the empires of Alexander the Great, the Mongols, and the Romans are some, but also Spain, Portugal, Prussia, and especially Russia and Britain have had enormous empires. During and after the conquest of these empires, millions of people have been subjected to terrible atrocities. Yet, these pale in comparison to what was to come.

The 20th century undoubtedly represents the darkest chapter in human history, where two world wars and countless conflicts and wars, especially in the aftermath of the Cold War, claimed enormous amounts of lives and suffering. The First World War claimed over 15 million lives, while the Second World War saw a staggering 60 million lives lost. In addition to this, there are all the millions who died in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, as well as the countless conflicts and wars fought in South America, Africa, and the Middle East.

Professor Milton Leitenberg, who has written and contributed to a dozen books and published over 180 journal articles, including European Perspectives, Great Power Intervention in the Middle East, and The Wars in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, 1945-82, presents statistics on the number of deaths in wars and conflicts between 1945 and 2000 in ”Deaths in Wars and Conflicts in the 20th Century.”

Among other things, he showed that 600,000 people died during Vietnam’s struggle for freedom against France between 1945-54, that 1 million died in Algeria’s struggle for freedom against France from 1954-62, and that 2.4 million died during the Vietnam War from 1960-75.

The total number of deaths in all wars and armed conflicts between 1945 and 2000, according to Professor Leitenberg, is estimated at 41 million. However, this does not include the abuses by regimes that have led to the execution of citizens. We will soon delve into research that shows that these atrocities have claimed more victims than the wars themselves – but let’s first look at the concept of genocide.

The word ”genocide” (from the Greek ”genos” = race or tribe and Latin ”cide” = kill, in Swedish, ”folkmord”) was coined by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish-Jewish law professor, in his work ”Axis Rule in Occupied Europe,” 1944. Rudolf Joseph Rummel, an American Professor Emeritus of Political Science, has dedicated over 50 years to researching and collecting data on violence and wars with the aim of finding ways to eliminate them. Professor Rummel writes:

”Genocide is horrific, it is an abomination for our species and wholly unacceptable. It is an obscenity, an evil in our time that all good people must work to eliminate. At its core, there is no doubt about what this evil is; everyone realizes that the Nazi program to kill all Jews was genocide. There is also no doubt that the Bosnian Serb massacre of Bosnian Muslims is genocide.

But was the massacre of helpless villagers in Sudan by government forces suppressing a rebellion, the Indonesian army’s purge of communists, the killing of political opponents by the nationalist government on Taiwan, executions of landowners during land reform in the Soviet Union, or the prisoners who died in Vietnamese reeducation camps, genocide?

What about non-lethal acts that have been called genocide, such as the assimilation of one culture into another and when diseases spread to natives through contact with colonists or the forced displacement of a people or African slavery?”

In 1946, the United Nations (UN) declared:

”Genocide is a crime under international law that the civilized world condemns, and according to the principles of the Commission and others involved, is punishable.”

This international treaty, which was eventually signed by a majority of states, established that genocide is a punishable crime under international law and defined genocide as any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group:

(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.

Rummel writes:

”Note that the convention is consistent with Lemkin’s definition. The key thing for both is that genocide is the intent to destroy a group wholly or partly. One way to do this is to kill members of the group, but genocide also includes the intent to destroy a group wholly or partly in other ways, such as by preventing births within the group or causing serious mental harm. This means that the definition of genocide does not necessarily have to include killing.”

This has led to a lot of confusion, Rummel explains. In the early years of using the term genocide, it was almost entirely applied based on the Jewish Holocaust, but researchers have increasingly come to realize that if you limit the killing aspect of the concept to those who were murdered because of their group membership, it cannot be applied to the millions of others wiped out by the Nazis. He writes:

”How can we conceptualize government killing of protesters, dissidents, reprisals against innocent villagers, killing farmers, or the indiscriminate bombing of civilians? How can we conceptualize those tortured to death in prison, worked to death in concentration camps, or allowed to starve to death when such killing is done out of revenge, for an ideology, or other reasons that have nothing to do with the social groups to which these people belong?”

Rummel coined the term Democide (killing of an individual or people, including genocide and mass murder committed by governments). His research shows that six times as many people died from Democide in the 20th century as from all wars combined during the same century. Rummel has written 24 scholarly books and published his major findings in Understanding Conflict and War (1975-81).

He then spent 15 years refining the underlying theory and empirically testing it with new data against the empirical results of others and on case studies. In 1990, he published ”Lethal Politics: Soviet Genocides and Mass Murders 1917-87,” where he described the heinous deeds of the Soviet regime. The following year, he released ”China’s Bloody Century: Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1900,” detailing the grotesque violence perpetrated by Chinese leaders.

In the book ”The Unknown Story” by Chang & Halliday, the authors demonstrate that Mao not only knew about mass starvation but intentionally triggered it, leading to history’s worst famine disasters. In 1992, Professor Rummel published ”Democide: Nazi Genocide and Mass Murder,” followed by ”Death by Government” in 1994 and ”Statistics of Democide” in 1997.

In the book ”Power Kills,” published in 1997, Rummel summarizes his research. Excerpts from the books, as well as tables, sources, and information about the calculations, are available for free on Professor Rummel’s website.

Professor Rummel defines Democide as:

Government actions that are:

(1) intended to kill or cause the death of people.

(1.1) because of their religion, race, language, ethnicity, national origin, class, political speech, or acts deemed opposition to the government, sabotage social policies, or their relationship to such persons;
(1.2) to fulfill a quota or conscription system;
(1.3) to promote a system of forced labor or slavery;
(1.4) massacres;
(1.5) by imposing deadly living conditions;
(1.6) by targeted attacks on non-combatants during war or violent conflicts.

(2) that cause deaths due to intentional or consciously reckless and depraved disregard for life (constituting practical intent), as in

(2.1) deadly prisons, concentration camps, forced labor, war prisoners, or recruitment for camps;
(2.2) deadly medical and scientific experiments on humans;
(2.3) torture or abuse;
(2.4) encouraged or tolerated murder or rape, looting, and pillaging when people are killed;
(2.5) a famine or epidemic during which authorities withhold aid or deliberately act in a way to make it more deadly;
(2.6) forced expulsions and deportations causing deaths.

Rummel’s research shows that 141 state regimes have committed some form of Democide. After studying over 8,000 reports of deaths caused by governments, he has arrived at the staggering figure of 262 million victims of democide in the last century. This means that six times as many people have died as a result of democide compared to those killed in combat.

In ”The Blue Book of Freedom,” Rummel writes:

”As a species, we have killed each other in the millions in war after war throughout history. Now, at last, we have the power of knowledge to put an end to, or at least sharply reduce, all this human slaughter.

Freedom provides us the answer. Until all people everywhere enjoy this freedom, we must encourage at least some freedom where none exists to diminish mass slaughter through war. War is evil, and the fact that it has been fought necessarily by free people to preserve freedom does not make it any less so. What shall eliminate this evil must be the morally good.”

Democide has killed more than war



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