Not that any genocide is less hideous because fewer were murdered, but it appears the biggest genocidal killer ever was King Leopold of Belgium. He killed 15 million Congolese in his imperialist bloodlust for money and power.
In the late 1800’s, Leopold seized what is now the Congo, instituted a reign of terror, torture, and murder, literally working inhabitants until they dropped dead from exhaustion.
To cash in on the opportunity the Congolese labourers are squeezed further still. Local chiefs are required to supply men to collect the so-called ‘rubber tax’, with wives and children being held hostage and chiefs imprisoned until the men return with their quotas. The amount of rubber needed to meet the tax requires the men to work for up 25 days each month harvesting the wild rubber vines in the Congo forests. Failure to supply the quotas results in floggings, torture, and death.
He never lived there, and cynically manipulated a corrupt US President, Arthur, along with Congress into recognizing his sickening regime. He needed a fig leaf of respectability and no European country would give it. So he got it from the US. According to King Leopold’s Ghost which Sue is reading now, his backers in the US saw this as a wonderful investment opportunity.
Leopold and his supporters rationalized their genocide as bringing Christianity to those ignorant savages, Y’see, they were just doing the Lord’s work. Looking at it now, it’s clear who the savages were and that such pious excuses for greed and murder continue to this today.
The Congolese fought back against these atrocities using guerrilla warfare tactics. Belgium responded with a program of "pacification." The tactics of imperialists haven’t changed much in one hundred years, with the same thing being done in Vietnam, and now in Iraq.
Mark Twain calls LÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©opold the slayer of 15 million Congolese and a "greedy, grasping, avaricious, cynical, bloodthirsty old goat". His dark and graphic satire ‘King LÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©opold’s Soliloquy: A Defence of His Congo Rule’ is published in pamphlet form by the American Congo Reform Association in September 1905.
Meanwhile, Arthur Conan Doyle publishes ‘The Crime of the Congo’, his account of how under LÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©opold’s rule the Congolese have been "robbed of all they possessed, debauched, degraded, mutilated, tortured, murdered, all on such a scale as has never, to my knowledge, occurred before in the whole course of history."
Over the time of LÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©opold’s rule the population of the Congo has declined from an estimated 20-30 million to less than nine million.
Leopold got away with this because he was royalty and couldn’t be touched. He was an extreme example of the rapacious capitalism and imperialism that plundered Africa, of an economic system that cares not about people, only about profits. And he was an extreme example of that system, not an aberration from it.