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The Twelve Worst US Presidents Based on Body Counts

Updated June 14, 2019 33.4k 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.
  • Photo: uploaded by dralcarroll

    The Worst President in US History: Richard Nixon

    Deaths directly caused by him: 512,000 to 612,000.

    Direct responsibility for 500,000 to 600,000 in the US-directed Cambodian genocide, partial responsibility for 1 million to 1.75 million deaths by the Khmer Rouge genocide.

    Direct responsibility for at least 10,000 deaths by torture in the Phoenix Program.

    Direct responsibility for over 2,000 deaths in the overthrow of the Chilean government.

    Chemical warfare, perhaps 200,000 deaths by Agent Orange and hundreds of thousands of deaths by napalm in the US-Vietnam War.

    Partial responsibility for 1.86 million to 4.72 million. 500,000 to 1.5million deaths by ideological blindness or incompetence.

    Partial responsibility for 300,000 to 3 million deaths ignored in the Bengali genocide.

    3,000 Kurds killed by betrayal, creating conditions for 100,000 deaths by Hussein's genocide.

    Partial responsibility for 30,000 to 60,000 deaths in Operation Condor.

    500,000-1.5 million deaths by incompetence and ideological blindness in the US-Vietnam War.

    Pardoning mass murderer Lt. Calley. Mitigated by: Disarmament treaties with the USSR. Biological and chemical weapons ban. Trade with China leading to a somewhat less repressive Communist state. Continuing and expanding civil rights and anti-poverty programs begun by Lyndon Johnson.
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    The Second Worst President in US History: Ronald Reagan

    Total deaths directly caused by him: 325,000.

    325,000 deaths by genocide in Guatemala, US sponsored Contra terrorism in Nicaragua, support for repression in El Salvador and Honduras, bombing El Salvador, and invasion of Grenada.

    Chemical warfare, Plan Colombia spraying of herbicide glyphosate, caused unknown number of Colombian and Ecuadoran deaths.

    Partial responsibility for unknown number of other deaths.

    Unknown number of deaths by ideological blindness and incompetence on the Cold War.

    Unknown number of deaths by ideological blindness on deregulation and drug wars.

    Selling biological and chemical weapons material to Saddam Hussein.

    Mitigated by: Nothing, no humanitarian accomplishments.

    Uncertain factors: Reagan suffered from Alzheimer's his last two years in office. How much he understood or even remembered what was done in that time is unknown.

  • Photo: uploaded by dralcarroll

    The Third Worst President in US History: Andrew Jackson

    Total deaths directly caused by him: 12,500-20,500.

    12,500-16,500 deaths by genocide against the Five Tribes. Perhaps 4,000 Black slaves also died.

    Slave trader, warfare against the Creeks as general and threatened invasion of Florida.

    Mitigated by: Nothing, no humanitarian accomplishments.


  • Photo: uploaded by dralcarroll

    Partial responsibility for 620,00-800,000 deaths.

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

    500,000 deaths by incompetence and ideological blindness worsening the Civil War.

    Mitigated by: Nothing, no humanitarian accomplishments.