War Isn't This Century's Biggest Killer by R.J.Rummel
     Our  century  is  noted for its bloody wars.   WW1 saw 9   million  people
killed in battle,  an incredible record that was surpassed within a few decades
by  the  15  million battle deaths of WW2.   Even the numbers  killed  in 
20th century  revolutions  and civil wars have set historical  records.   In 
total, about 35,654,000 people have died in this century's international and 
domestic wars, revolutions, and violent conflicts.
     Yet,  even  more  unbeliveable than these vast numbers killed in war is  a
shocking  fact.   The  number  of  people killed  by  totalitarian  or  extreme
authoritarina  governments  already  exceeds  that  for  all  wars,  civil  an
international.   Indeed, this number already approximates the number that might
be killed in a nuclear war.
     The  table  provides  the relvent totals and classifies them  by  type  of
government  (definitions  provided by Freedom House,  a New York  based 
human-rights group) and war.   By "killed" is meant the direct or indirect
killing by government  officials,  or  government acquiesence in the  killing 
by  others.  Excluded  from the totals are those people executed for what are
conventionally considered criminal acts (murder,  rape, spying, treason, and 
the like).  Those included  in  the totals were killed apart from the pursuit
of any  continuing military action or campaign,  or as part of any conflict. 
The Jews that Hitler slaughtered  during  WW2  are counted,  since their 
merciless  and  systematic extermination was unrelated to and actually
conflicted with Hitler's pursuit of the war.
     The totals in the table are based on a nation-by-nation assessment and
areminimum figures that may underestime the true total by 10% or more.  
Moreover, they  do not even include the 1921-1922 Soviet famine and the
1958-1961 Chinese famine,  which caused about 4 million and 27 million deaths,
respectively.  The Soviet  famine  was  mainly due to the imposition  of  a 
command  argicultura economy and forced requistions of food by the government;
the latter was sholly caused by Mao's destructive collectivization of
     However, the table does include the Soviet government's planned starvation
of  the  Ukraine  that  was  begun in 1932 as  a  way  of  destroying  Ukranian
nationalism and breaking peasant opposition to collectivization.  As many as 10
million  may  have  been  starved to death or succumbed  to  to  famine-related
disease;  I estimate eight million died.   Had these people all been shot,  the
Soviet government's moral responsibility would have been no greater.
     The  table lists 831,000 people killed by free democratic  governments,  a fact  that  should  startle most readers.   This  figure  includes  the  French
massacres  in  Algeria  before  and  during the  Algerian  War  (36,000  killed
minimum),  and those Eastern Europeans killed by the Soviets. after the Western
democracies forcibly repatriated them during and after WW2.
     It  is apalling that the democracies,  particularly Britian and the  U.S.,
turned  over  to  Soviet  authorities  more  than  2,250,000  Soviet  citizens,
prisoners of war, and Soviet exiles (who were not Soviet citizens) found in the
Allied zones of occupation in Europe.   Most of these people were terrrified of
returning and refused to cooperate;  often whole families preferred suicide. An
estimated 795,000 of those repatriated were executed or died in or traveling to
slave-labor camps.
     If a government is held to be held responsible for those prisoners who die
in frieght cars or in camps from privation, surely those democratic governments
that turned helpless people  over to totalitarin rulers with the  foreknowledge
of their peril also should be held responsible.
     It  is  sad  that  hundreds  of  thousands of  people  can  be  killed  by
governments  with hardly an international murmur,  while a war killing  several
thousand  people  can  cause an immediate world  outcry  and  global  reaction.
Contrast  the  international  focus on the relatively minor  1982  war  between
Britian  and Argentina with the widescale lack of interest in Burundi's killing
or  acquiesence  in  the killing of some 100,000 Hutu  in  1972,  of  Indonesia
slaughtering a likely 600,000 people accused of being "communists" in 1965 and
of Pakistan's eventual killing of from 1 to 3 million Bengalis in 1971.
     A most noteworthy example of this double standard is the Vietnam war.  The
international  community  was outraged ar the U.S.  efforts  to  prevent  North
Vietnam from taking over South Vietnam and ultimately Laos and Cambodia.  "stop
the killing" was the cry,  and eventually the pressure of forgeign and domestic
opposition  forced  an  American withdrawl.  The overall number killed  in  the
Vietnam War on all sides was about 1.2 million people.
     South  Vietnam  was eventually conquered by the North,  and  Cambodia  was
taken over by the communist Khmer Rouge,  who in trying to recreate a primitive
communist agricultural society slaughtered from 1 to 3 million Cambodians.   If
we  take 2 million as the best estimate,  then in four years the government  of
this  small nation of seven million alone killed 64% more people than  died  in
the  10-year  Vietnam War.  Overall,  the best estimate of those killed by  the
victorious  communists  in Vietnam,  Laos and Cambodia is  2,270,000.  And  the
killing still goes on.
     To view the double standard from another perspective, both world wars cost
24  million  battle  deaths.  But from 1918  to  1953,  the  soviet  government
executed,  slaughtered, starved, beat or tortured to death, or otherwise
killed some  39.5  million  of its own people (estimates vary from between  20 
to  83 million).  In China under Mao Tse-Tung, the communist government
eliminated, as an  average figure between estimates 45 million people.   The
number killed  in just these two nations is about 84.5 million,  or a lethality
of 252% more than both  world  wars together.  Yet,  have the world community
and  intellectuals generally  shown anything like the same horror or outrage
over there Soviet and Chinese megakillings as has been directed at the much 
less deadly world wars?
     However,  as large as the number of people killed by communist governments
is, it is nearly the same as for other non-free governments. This is due to the
masacres  and widescale killing in the very small country of East Timor,  where
since  1975  Indonesia  has  eliminated  (aside  from  the  guerrilla  war  and
associated  violence)  an estimated 100,000 Timorians of of  a  poplulation  of
600,000.  Omittin  the  country alone would reduce the average killed  by 
non-communist, non-free governments to 397 per 10,000, or signicantly less than
the 477 per 10,000 for communist countries.
     In  any case,  we can still see from the table that the more freedom in  a
nation,  the fewer people killed by government.  Freedom serves as a brake on a
governing elite's power over life and death.
     This  principle appeared to be violated in the two special cases mentioned
above.  One was the French government's mass killings in the colony of Algeria.
There the Algerians were considered second-class citizens and lacked the  right
to  vote  in French elections.  In the other case the Allied democracies  acted
during and just after wartime,  under a regime of strict secrecy,  to turn over
foreigners to the Soviet Union.  These foreigners,  of course, had no rights as
citizens that would protect them in the democracies.  In no case have I found a
democratic  government carrying out maddacres,  genocide and mass executions of
its  own citizens;  nor have I found a case where such a government's  policies
have  knowingly and directly resulted in the large-scale deaths of  its  people
though privation, torture, beatings and the like.
     Absolutist  governments  (those that Freedom House would classify  as  not
free)  are not only many times deadlier that than war,  but are themselves  the
major factor causing war and other forms of violent conflict.  They are a major
cause  of  militarism.  Indeed,  absolutism,  not war,  is mankind's  deadliest
scourge of all.
     In  light  of  all this,  the  peaceful,  nonviolent  fostering  of  civil
liberties  and  political  rights must be made mankind's  highest  humanitarian
goal. Not simply to give the grestest number the greatest happiness, not simply
to  obey  the  moral  imperative of  individual  rights,  but  because  freedom
preserves peace and life.
     Mr. Rummel is a professor of political science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

   CAUSE            TOTALS    AVERAGES
             (in millions)  PER 10,000
   GOVERNMENT       119.4          349
     Communist       95.2          477
     Other non-free  20.3          495
       "    "  omitting Indonesia  397
     Partially free   3.1           48
     Free              .8           22 
   WAR               35.7           22
     International   29.7           17
     Civil            6.0           26
  Note: all figures are rounded