Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Major Acts of Terrorism and Civilian Deaths in Recent Times

The graphics speak everything. I've taken some of the high profile cases in the recent past. There are many other events which I've ignored not with any particular intention or prejudice. The events I've considered seemed to be sufficient for the context in which I wanted to see the various acts of terrorism in the recent past and the civilian casualties in each case. I include genocides perpetuated by states or terrorist organizations alike in the list as from the human perspective, both are same. I've excluded full fledged wars. Finally these numbers are predominantly from post World War II period, with a preference to more recent events.

One thing that's very striking is the predominance of the various Arab and African countries massacred by tyrannical dictators. Saddam Hussein comes closest to Hitler or Stalin in terms of ferocity and the extent of the terrorism he had inflicted on his own people. He has killed at least 1 million people in Iraq.

Jean Kambanda killed a whooping 800K people in Rwanda and Idi Amin 300K in Uganda. Omar Al-Bashir killed 200K people in Sudan and Bashar al-Asad 180K in Syria. Taliban killed 400K in Afghanistan before the US strikes, after which they killed 16K.

Having killed only 5K and 10K people respectively, the Al Qaeda and Gaddafi look like kids in front of the others.

50K civilians were killed in the thirty years of conflict between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan state. It's not easy to say how many of these 50K were killed by LTTE and how many by the state. In terms of sheer number, given the size of Sri Lanka, this is indeed huge.

In the Israel-Palestine conflict, a total of 90K Palestinians have been killed till date, since the 1920s. The toll on the Israeli side is 25K. In the recent Israeli offensive against Palestine, only 50 Israelis have lost their lives against a whooping 1000 Palestinians.

In the East the massive genocides were by Pol Pot in Cambodia, killing 17 million people (couldn't be included in the chart as it would go out of bounds), Suharto in Indonesia, killing 500K, and Ho Chi Min in Vietnam killing 200K, against 70K killed by the US president Richard Nixon in the Vietnam War.

What intrigues me is why there wasn't this much of protest against Iraq or Libya or Syria in the recent times as we're now seeing against the Israeli offensive. It's not that we were not aware of Saddam's killings. But India had cordial ties with Iraq all throughout. Why wasn't there any protest from any quarter in all those decades when Saddam continued to be a friend of India? Why wasn't there any protest against the killings of so many people in Libya or Syria? Why do people awake only when Palestinians are killed in their ongoing conflict with Israel? Just because here, the Muslims are being killed by Jews and there, Muslims were killed by Muslims, are we concerned more about the Palestinians? What standard or code of morality are we following?

My friend Raja says, the question on Palestine-Israel conflict has historically gained attention because of multi-dimensional view around it - religious, racial, geo-political, strategic and the media emphasis on all of these. Countries opt to support or remain silent for (stupid) political reasons - India's silence on Myanmar for decades is well known as an example. The other main reason is relatively indifferent attitude towards region/people in the less 'fortunate' and poor areas - like many countries in Africa.

Atanu adds, we should demand upon ourselves an ethical equivalency in our response to all crises and suffering across the world. However we should start with our own personal responses before demanding it on others.

Debraj brings in a new spin. He says, such deaths/killing are natural outcomes of over population - nature's way of maintaining equilibrium. It is not obvious, however, with more population, there is an fiercer underlying competition of access to resources, which finally ends up in such killing under various religious or caste or ideological names. I agree this is too simplistic, but I think this angle needs some research...

  1. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/26/weekinreview/the-world-how-many-people-has-hussein-killed.html
  2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ali-a-rizvi/picking-a-side-in-israel-palestine_b_5602701.html
  3. http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2010/aug/10/afghanistan-civilian-casualties-statistics
  4. http://npsglobal.org/eng/news/29-non-state-actors/1034-al-qaeda-attackss-death-toll-more-than-4400-lives.html
  5. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/jan/14/al-qaeda-hurts-muslims-most/?page=all
  6. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Terrorism/palterrortoc.html
  7. http://www.scaruffi.com/politics/dictat.html
  8. wikipedia

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