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Post Death Tolls from Herod to Stalin; from Gary Moore
Created by John Eipper on 10/18/18 3:31 AM

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Death Tolls from Herod to Stalin; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA, 10/18/18 3:31 am)

Gary Moore writes:

My thanks to Harry Papasotiriou (October 17) for his reply on the number of infants King Herod is said to have killed--resonating with David Duggan's informative post on Kiev the same day (more below).

In line with what Harry said, historians seem to agree that the small size of Bethlehem had to mean that any killing spree by Herod must have been very small--and only Matthew noted it at all. Web-speak often chortles about the way the numbers swelled over subsequent centuries, to 14,000 killed as per the Greek Orthodox Church and 64,000 in the Syrian Church--but who, exactly, said this? The Web blurbs say it was "tradition," then fall silent (Harry pointed out that the Greek liturgy for Holy Infants Day does not mention a number). Whatever the "traditions" are, they seem to be deeply hidden in non-English or local texts, if written down at all.

David Duggan's post brought up a much larger Numbers Game historical controversy, the Holodomor, or 1930s' famine in Ukraine. David said the Stalin-era famine was "state-instigated and enforced." Scholarship seems to be tending toward a less directly vindictive picture of that horror--a deeply contested position. I'm curious as to which of the numbers on the famine's death toll David sees as persuasive.

And this segues into the great panorama:

How many people, overall, did Stalin's regime kill? And even larger, how many killed by the general phenomenon of twentieth-century communism, as a whole? I seem to remember some WAIS mentions of this. I hope the viewpoints can be restated now.

JE comments:  100 million?  That's just a guess.  Let us not overlook Mao's unparalleled harvest of death, so movingly described in George Zhibin Gu's WAIS posts of recent months.

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  • And the Demented Nobel Goes To... (Paul Levine, Denmark 10/18/18 2:32 PM)
    The question of who is history's greatest monster (see Gary Moore, 18 October) is macabre, like a bizarre Oscar or a demented Nobel.

    Ian Johnson takes up the challenge in the New York Review of Books. The winner is easily Mao Zedung.

    For a more nuanced view, read the entire article here. It is hard to argue with.


    JE comments:  The tally for Mao, according to Johnson, is at least 42.5 million.  Other sources go as high as 70 million.  If we throw in the Terrible Triumvirate's other two members (Hitler and Stalin), 100 million is not an exaggeration.

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    • Well-Intentioned Dictators? Time to Leave (Tor Guimaraes, USA 10/20/18 4:49 AM)
      Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich's latest post posed some facts logically devastating about the probably good intentions for imposing sanctions. Consider the grim reality of the results, such as the death by sanctions of 500,000 children in Iraq in a futile effort to prevent the proliferation of WMDs, or the reason why the US and some NATO nations trade extensively with Israel, India, and Pakistan (rogue, nuclear-armed states) while sanctioning other rogue states.

      From Gary Moore we have another sobering post about also well-intentioned dictators like Hitler, Stalin, and Mao (they just want their nations to be more powerful under their tyranny). Hitler's intentions for the rest of mankind were so bad that he had to be destroyed along with his nation. Stalin and Mao, despite the millions they killed and tortured, were and continue to be admired by many of their own people. These bad boys are in a separate category from Hitler. They were treated with respect by our own leaders, even while vilified by armchair intellectuals.

      We seem to be talking about people who we judge to be good or bad, who are powerful and have very good intentions from their own perspective, only they have produced the destruction of hundreds of thousands and millions of people. Then, what is the difference?

      Gary Moore asked: Is a brutal, murderous regime effective at building a fortress state? Historically it seems to be but fortunately they have not lasted forever. My advice is if you are smart to see one coming, get the hell out to a more civilized nation.  I understand that unfortunately there are many reasons why one may not be able to leave.

      JE comments:  Well-intentioned?  Hitler, Stalin, and Mao?  I'll have to think about that one.  In any case, Cameron Sawyer (next) argues that a murderous regime never benefits in times of war--all human capital is desperately needed.

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