The state is a powerful killing machine

The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario)
October 19, 2004 Tuesday Final Edition

The state is a powerful killing machine


To start off the 21st century, 9/11 of 2001 has become the most
notorious calendar date in the Western world. For most of the
remainder of this century, 9/11 will continue to stand out as a day
of horror, a day of attack by an enemy that is and was only hazily

How do you hit back at a perceived enemy which has no state borders
and supposedly operates elusively out of caves in the hills of a
mountain range separating Afghanistan and Pakistan.

One method is to personalize this hazy enemy. You order your troops
to get this guy, this Osama bin Laden, dead or alive. As commander in
chief, you command your military forces to blow up every mole hole in
“them there hills,” regardless of the collateral damage the killing
of innocent civilians.

When you can’t catch this Osama bin Laden, you start a second front,
a “war of liberation” against a people and a country ruled by a
brutal dictator which has no known connections with this al-Qaida
terrorist outfit. And what do you get? So far, a country in turmoil;
more than 1,100 dead American soldiers and more than 10,000 dead
Iraqi men, women and children. And how many more casualties — the
wounded, the missing and the kidnapped — have been tallied?

Recently, via our media we were again confronted with another callous
act of evil, the capture and deaths of schoolchildren in a place near
Chechnya — a part of the globe most of us cannot even locate on the
map, somewhere in or next to southern Russia.

The horror of such random killings is so effective upon the governors
of our “peaceable kingdoms” because the psychological need and
factual necessity to eradicate the wrongdoers is impossible. When one
random murderer is killed, another one pops up. Murder by terrorists
is nothing new. Brutal terrorist acts have occurred during nearly
every year of every decade over the past 100 years or more. Recall
the Irish Republican Army, the Red Brigades, the Baader-Meinhof Gang
in Germany, the assassins of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, the
blowing up of passenger airplanes, the terrorists supported by Libya,
and so on, sickeningly so.

But in sheer total numbers of killings there is no institution more
brutal and more bloodthirsty than the modern nation state. And the
more power that governments of nation states arrogate to themselves,
the more violence is inflicted upon its citizens.

Professor emeritus Rudolf J. Rummel of Hawaii has made a lifetime
study of mass murder by authoritarian government thugs. He wrote a
number of books, two of which stand out, namely Death By Government
and Statistics Of Democide. His numerous charts and calculations of
killings, slaughter, rapes, massacres, mass starvation of peoples
numbs the mind. His statistics cover up to the year 1987. His current
website address is

The following paragraph extracted out of Death By Government catches
the horror of all the killing of civilians during the first 88 years
of the last century when “almost 170 million men, women, and children
have been shot, beaten, tortured, knifed, burned, starved, frozen,
crushed, or worked to death; buried alive, drowned, hung, bombed, or
killed in any other of the myriad ways governments have inflicted
death on unarmed, helpless citizens and foreigners . . . It is as
though our species has been devastated by a modern Black Plague. And
indeed it has, but a plague of Power, not germs.”

The 170 million civilian deaths does not include soldiers who died on
the battlefield. He figures that the battle deaths during all wars of
the 20th century add up to only (only ?) 38.5 million troops, equal
to about 25 per cent of the civilians murdered during the same time

He computes the killings of the 15 most murderous nation states,
outside of war dead, and comes up with about 151 million innocent
citizens of these countries wiped off the map by their top guns. The
most absolute powers — former Communist Russia; Communist China,
China under Chiang Kai-shek, Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge, Vietnam,
Yugoslavia and former Nazi Germany — together account for about 128
million civilians murdered.

The real killers, however, are the brutal autocratic rulers who
controlled those security states, those countries; the autocratic
mass murderers who ruled absolutely and who killed absolutely — no
questions asked.

Stalin leads the list. He and his henchmen were responsible for the
murder of more than 42 million persons from 1929 to 1953.

Mao Tse-Tung of Communist China comes along in second place. He
killed about 38 million of his own people between 1923 and 1976.

Then there is Adolf Hitler, who from 1933 to 1945 was responsible for
exterminating 21 million humans.

And the list continues on: Chiang Kai-shek, more than 10 million
dead; Lenin, more than four million; Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge of
Cambodia, nearly 2.5 million out of a population of approximately
seven million. And during and after the First World War, the Turks
tried to kill every Armenian they could get their hands on. And the
murder statistics continue on ad infinitum.

The recent random killings by elusive killers, the terrorists, are
indescribably horrible, but, comparatively, their numbers of innocent
victims slaughtered do not even come into the gunsights of the
government authorized killers who murdered millions upon millions of
their own citizens.

The more power governments have, the more government violence is
perpetrated upon a country’s own citizens. The more freedom a
country’s people have, the more government violence upon its own
citizenry is kept in check. As Prof. Rummel states again and again:
“Power kills and absolute power kills absolutely.”

Richard Haalboom is a Kitchener lawyer.