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The Twelve Worst US Presidents Based on Body Counts

Updated June 14, 2019 32.8k views12 items

List RulesPresidents are ranked as worst based on: 1. How many people they ordered killed deliberately. 2. Followed by how many were killed by a president's incompetence.

Lists of best and worst presidents are usually popularity contests based on the politics of the ones doing the ranking. The new book Presidents' Body Counts: The Twelve Worst and Four Best American Presidents Based on How Many Lived or Died uses a humanitarian standard, not a political one. Nixon, Reagan, and Jackson all played a direct role in genocide against Cambodians, Central Americans, and Native tribes. Polk, Fillmore, Clinton, and Ford all ignored genocides against California Indians, Rwandans, and East Timor. Truman, McKinley, GW Bush, and Andrew Johnson all caused huge numbers of deaths by incredible incompetence in the Cold War, the Filipino War, the Iraq and Afghan Wars, and Reconstruction.
  • Partial responsibility for 139,000-319,000 deaths.
     

    120,000-300,000 deaths by making California Indian genocide possible.
     

    19,000 deaths by provoking the US-Mexico War including at least 1,000 civilian atrocities.
     

    Starting the US-Mexico War expanded slavery and partly contributed to the eventualCivil War.
     

    Slave trader.
     

    Mitigated by: Nothing, no humanitarian accomplishments.


  • The Sixth Worst President in US History: Millard Fillmore
     

    Partial responsibility for 120,000-300,000 deaths.
     

    120,000-300,000 deaths ignored in the California Indian genocide.


     Being a presidential candidate for Know Nothing terrorists.
     

    Mitigated by: Nothing, no humanitarian accomplishments.


  • The Seventh Worst President in US History: Bill Clinton
     

    Partial responsibility for over 300,000 to 600,000 deaths.
     

    800,000 deaths ignored in the Rwandan genocide. Likely three quarters of the deaths could have been prevented. Even Clinton admits 300,000 could have been saved.


    Unknown number caused by ideological blindness on deregulation, leading to Great Recession.
     

    Incompetence in Somalia invasion leading to 2,000 deaths.
     

    Incompetence leading to the deaths of 80 Branch Davidians.
     

    Incompetence leading to greater number of deaths by right wing terrorism in US.
     

    Mitigated by: Delayed North Korean development of the A-bomb by almost a decade.
     

    Partial credit for intervention, though late and not effective at first, to stop atrocities in Bosnia.
     

    Partial credit for the peace process ending terrorism in Northern Ireland.


     Though the number of deaths Clinton ignored or caused by incompetence is more than double that of Polk or Fillmore, they did nothing good to mitigate their records.


  • The Eighth Worst President in US History: Gerald Ford
     

    Partial responsibility for 20,000 deaths or more.
     

    200,000 deaths ignored in genocide in East Timor. Diplomatic intervention, arms embargo, and offering refuge could have saved at least one tenth.
     

    Continuing Operation Condor begun by Nixon. Unlike Nixon we have no evidence of his direct approval, only his administration's, and his own failure to stop it.
     

    Some would argue his pardon of Nixon adds to his poor record. But this is true for humanitarian reasons only if Nixon had been facing charges forCambodia. Congress dropped those charges.
     

    Mitigated by: Continuing arms control agreements begun by Nixon.