August 17th, 2010

A Century of Murder


photo credit: agitprop

The 20th century will be remembered throughout history for many things, such as the creation of the automobile, the computer revolution, and the globalization of industry. But while many important advancements and circumstances may compete for a spot in the history books, one simple word leaves all other considerations in the dust: death.

Death, of course, is a part of life. However, while tens of millions of individuals were sent to an early grave as a result of the many wars throughout the twentieth century, far more were likewise extinguished as a result of democide—government-sanctioned murder.

You wouldn’t know it from modern-day culture, though. Mass murderers today are referred to by top-ranking government officials as a favorite political philosopher, or are turned into fashionable iconography. Sure, we feign some amount of disgust in our general condemnation of all things Nazi, but how genuine are our protests when we ignore, downplay, or dismiss the much larger atrocities committed by those who are for some strange reason less known?

After World War II, many Nazis were prosecuted, executed, and run out of Germany. To this day, it remains illegal to display the swastika in Germany for any non-academic purpose. One can only wonder why a similar reaction has not been found in regards to the failed fascist, socialist, and communist nations which, throughout the twentieth century, murdered roughly a quarter of a billion people.

Let that marinate for a minute. Governments in one single century were the direct and intentional cause of killing around 250,000,000 individuals—men, women, and children whose very existence was deemed either illegal or illegitimate. This staggering number is about six times larger than the number of people who died in combat warfare during the same period of time. People refer to the 20th century as a century of war, but it would be better labeled a century of death, or more specifically, democide.

How will this century fare? Things appear to be better so far, despite the existence and power of several socialist/communist nations, but the flirtatiousness of many with the basic political tenets of these self-cannibalizing systems does not bode well for an attempt to prevent a recurrence of government-sponsored murder. That the President of the United States now claims the authority to order the assassination of American citizens without any trial or due process whatsoever suggests that democide is not reserved for the history books, but will be an ever-present reality of governments grown too large and powerful.

9 Responses to “A Century of Murder”

  1. Curtis
    August 19, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

    Some of our nation’s first actions sanctioned by Obama was the massacre of Afghanistan and Pakistani civilians. Government sanctioned murder is still alive an well today.

  2. Dave P.
    August 20, 2010 at 7:16 am #

    “A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.”

    “Kill a single man and you’re considered a murderer. Kill hundreds of men and you’re considered a hero.”

    As I’ve said to many of my friends, those responsible for all of these deaths are the ones whose sins we’re going to hear about the loudest come the day of judgment.

  3. Doug Bayless
    August 20, 2010 at 8:42 am #

    Thank you Connor. Lots of important perspective you’ve raised here.

    I particularly blanch at the nearly 1 million documented as being murdered in the colonization efforts of the United Kingdom. (Their wars in South Africa and South America for instance.) It’s easier for me to write off more seemingly foreign cultures in far-away places who were openly fascist and brazenly Imperial than it is for me to compare British efforts at “modernizing” and “bringing culture and order” to their foreign colonies to our current efforts to “re-make” the Middle East for instance.

  4. Connor
    August 20, 2010 at 9:08 am #

    Doug,

    You’re likely already aware of America’s escapades that rival the British tyranny you referred to. See, for example, the Philippine War, and be sure to read Will Grigg’s commentary on the matter.

  5. Doug Bayless
    August 20, 2010 at 12:59 pm #

    No, Connor, I hadn’t ever read much about our turn-of-the-century ‘liberation’ of our Philippine colonial gem. I almost wish I still never had now. I was vaguely aware of former General Smedley Butler’s reference to our “wars” there in his under-heralded treatise “War is a Racket” http://is.gd/esdd4 but yeah, I had no idea. That article by Grigg is particularly thought-provoking.

    I’m more aware of our “difficulties” with “civilizing” Afghanistan and Iraq (and Pakistan, etc.) Sadly, it’s “unpopular” to even make the citizen’s effort to be aware of what is being done “in our name” in those places right now. Somehow the “racket” PR machine seems to have gotten a hold of our nation’s soul and convinced a majority that asking questions and following the “Golden Rule” are both unpatriotic and unwise.

  6. Clumpy
    August 21, 2010 at 1:27 pm #

    Honestly I really feel that the single greatest detraction to Obama is his refusal to end these wars, and fight against the kind of “our team/your team” exceptionalism that created a climate where war and torture could happen. He makes little statements here and there, but I really think it needs its own State of the Union address after all of this.

  7. MarkinPNW
    August 31, 2010 at 6:41 am #

    Yea, When the 60th anniversary of the Chinese Communist victory in siezing mainland China was in the news, I made some comment about the many millions murdered by that regime, to which my wife immediately shut me up with a comment about the USA kiilling millions of our own babies to this day!

  8. Dave P.
    August 31, 2010 at 7:07 am #

    MarkinPNW,

    Oh it’s much worse than that because many of those people don’t even considered a fetus a living being and thus aborting one isn’t the same as murder. That’s the same argument that people have used to justify genocides in the past. “They aren’t really human. They’re inferior. They’re nothing but savages and heathens.”

    What’s the first tactic used by those who want to generate hatred against an entire group or race of people? Portray them as anything but human.

  9. Doug Bayless
    August 31, 2010 at 7:48 am #

    During the 2008 Presidential election season I happened to catch Ron Paul’s appearance on “The View”. One of the hosts started to lay into him on his politics regarding abortion. His response was rather interesting. He humbly explained that as a gynecologist, having delivered babies for decades, he was acutely aware of these children as people. Being aware of the political situation, however, he had come to the conclusion that we’ve been at an impasse too long because of the Roe vs. Wade decision. He explained that he was aware of what happens when activists try to get that overturned . . . the end result has continued to be the status quo. He felt like it was a better compromise to return the right to the various states. He said he realized that would create states where even late term abortion continued to be legal, and others where such things would be entirely contradicted. He pointed out that from his point of view that would still be an improvement.

    It seemed to me that the other consequence of returning that power to the States would be that those contradictions might cause people to think. How could it be that in, Kentucky (for instance), a 7 month-old fetus was recognized as a fellow human being but in New York (perhaps) that same person would be entirely devoid of any humanity. It kind of seems a William Wilberforce (the ‘Amazing Grace’ British anti-slavery crusader) thing to do. Restore a group’s humanity one place, and it causes people to think. But leave that group stripped of humanity generally and people are able to also leave their protective racist thoughts intact as well. (In Britain, one major victory was outlawing slavery in the homeland — a significant precursor to people understanding the horror of slavery abroad. Interestingly, turning a ‘blind eye’ to what was in their own backyard made them even less thoughtful and compassionate regarding far away abuses.)

    Bringing the conversation full circle, “dehumanization” is one of my biggest concerns regarding American Foreign Policy right now as well. We rule with an absolute iron fist in Iraq, Afghanistan, and even areas of Pakistan. Those people have no standing, no rights, and no “humanity”. If any U.S. analyst or field commander declares a group “hostile”, they are deemed hostile. If they declare any group “sympathetic to anti-U.S. forces” then that people are de-facto considered “foreign enemies” and anything done to their neighborhoods, their homes, their men, women, and children is simply “fog of war”, “collateral damage”, and “incovenient” — but never properly considered “unconscionable”.

    Such things, truly, ought not to be.

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