In the article Was Andrew Jackson one of the world’s biggest mass murderers??, a list is presented of the greatest mass murdering regimes. I found several problems with this list. Perhaps the problem is not with Cecil, but with his source, a certain R.J. Rummel. The most striking error was this:
There are two problems with this assertion, namely (1) even if the highest figure of deaths is granted, this is not the highest percentage of deaths in a population, even in the same decade, and (2) these figures are wildly over-exaggerated.
As for point (1), even granting the figure of 2.4 million killed by the DK, the 1/3 of the population of East Timor killed from 1975-1990 is higher, as a percentage of the population. Indeed, as a percentage of population, the slaughter in East Timor must count as one of the worst mass murders of all time (all carried out with U.S. support, by the way, which provided about 90% of the arms during the peak of atrocities, but that is another story.)
The second point deals with the actual numbers killed by the Khmer Rouge. The figure of 2 million killed by the Khmer Rouge was fastened on by the U.S. media (and hence has become historical fact) after a fabricated quote by a writer by the name of LaCoutre was widely circulated, in which he claimed that a high Khmer Rouge official “boasted of having killed 2 million.” LaCoutre himself even admitted that the figure was off by a factor of between 100 and 1000, but this didn’t stop the figure from becoming historical fact. According to the CIA, the Khmer Rouge killed between 50,000 - 100,000 after their takeover in 1975. Several hundred thousand more died of starvation (which was predicted by U.S. government sources even without the Khmer Rouge), and during purges and internicine warfare in 1977-8 in the course of the war with Vietnam.
The point is not to say that the Khmer Rouge wasn’t a brutal regime that killed many people, but the figure of 2 million + killed by the Khmer Rouge is a ridiculous exaggeration. Furthermore, it is often presented as if the Khmer Rouge just came in and started killing people in a class war, which is a childish over-simplification. Several thousand people, maybe tens of thousands, were killed by the Khmer Rouge in the course of “cleansing” after the 1975 takeover. But, to lay 2.4 million corpses at the feet of the “Paris trained Marxist” Pol Pot is just propaganda.
Furthermore, you will notice that the deaths are all counted from 1975 on, leaving one with the idea that before 1975 nothing was really going on, as if the U.S. didn’t kill a couple hundred thousand people through bombing and support for Death Squads.
Another point I found troubling was the figures attributed to the USSR and China. It is asserted, for example, that the PRC killed 35 million from '49-'87. Since Cecil claims that the famine caused by the Great Leap Forward and warfare are left out, I am mystified as to how this figure was arrived at. Likewise for the 43 million attributed to Stalin.
Like I say, the problem is probably with Cecil’s source, R.J. Rummel. I did not have any familiarity with Rummel, so I did a search on the web, and found his website, here. Judging from his website, he does not seem to be a very credible source. For example, he states,
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Democracies often attack each other. In fact, there is virtually no correlation between the degree of internal freedom of a state and its external behavior. Even going back to antiquity, the most democratic state was Athens, which was also a brutal imperialist state.
And, in this century, the U.S.–a very free state internally–has attacked numerous states without provocation. For example, the U.S. attacked the democracy of Nicaragua in the 1980’s, killing more than 30,000 through its proxy forces the Contras; the U.S. attacked Vietnam in 1961 specifically to prevent a democratic settlement, leading to about 50,000 American and 4 million Indochinese deaths; the U.S. attacked Libya, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, etc. In addition to the outright attacks, the U.S. colluded in the overthrow of democratic governments in Iran and Guatemala in the 1950’s, Congo in the 1960’s and Chile in the 1970’s, and has colluded with coup plotters attempting to overthrow the democratically elected government of Venezuela in 2002.
All this clearly shows that democratic countries, while they may be free internally, do, in fact, attack other countries when they see something to be gained. The only reason there has been no war between the major powers since WWII is that there is a realization that such a war would be the last.