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Quaccheri e cristiani non evangelici senza chiesa

06.05.2021-Olivier Turquet

This post is also available in:Spanish,Italian

A free press up to the times

May 3 is International Press Freedom Day. On this day we are used to recalling the fact that, in many places around the world, freedom of the press is violated, journalists are murdered or intimidated and the critical press sidelined or strongly contested.

This occasion is absolutely necessary and worthy. What’s more, we would also ask ourselves how it is possible to take place today, in 2021. How could it be that the media cannot carry out its job of information and criticism that addressed them as the “fourth power”?

But, on this day, I would like to highlight another aspect that makes the fight for press freedom more meaningful and urgent.

I’ll just steer clear: since in the modern world we have begun to talk about journalism, the access to information has progressively increased to the…

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05.05.2021 – The Conversation

Two classes of trans kids are emerging – those who have access to puberty blockers, and those who don’t
Pronouns matter. Pronouns are important. Everyone is valid. She/Her, He/Him, They/Them, Ze/Zim, and many more. Don’t be afraid to ask which pronouns someone may prefer. (Image by Go to Sharon McCutcheon’s profile Sharon McCutcheon @sharonmccutcheon / Unplash)

For people who have never thought about it before, it might sound reasonable to require trans kids to wait until they’re adults before they can receive certain forms of care known as gender-affirming treatment – which is what legislation that just passed in Arkansas does.

But this type of legislation actually prevents kids from accessing treatment before and during a crucial period of development: puberty.

When I was researching my book “The Trans Generation: How Trans Kids and Their Parents are Creating a Gender Revolution,” I observed how not all trans kids can access the care they want or need during this critical stage of life. This unequal access to gender-affirming health care, which occurs across state lines and socioeconomic divides, could cause two “classes” of transgender people in the United States to emerge – those who are able to take hormone blockers, and those who aren’t able to do so.

Those in the latter group can endure more financial hardshipphysical pain and mental anguish later in life, while becoming much more vulnerable to discrimination and violence.

A paradigm shift in trans treatment

For decades, kids who didn’t conform to the gender expected of them were forced to endure treatments designed to “cure” their gender nonconformity. This form of therapy, called “reparative” or “corrective,” typically involved instructing parents – and sometimes teachers – to subject children to constant surveillance and correction. If a child acted in ways that didn’t align with gender-expected behaviors, psychologists told caregivers to withhold affection and mete out punishments.

For example, in the 1970s, a boy with the pseudonym Kraig was a patient at UCLA’s “feminine boy project,” a government-funded experiment that sought to evaluate ways to reverse feminine behavior in boys.

Kraig was subjected to shame-inducing treatments, with therapists counseling his father to beat Kraig when he failed to conform to masculine norms.

He ended up committing suicide as an adult.

In recent years, however, there has been what transgender studies scholar Jake Pyne has called “a paradigm shift” in treatment. An ever-expanding body of research shows that family support, social acceptance and access to supportive health care produce the best outcomes for transgender kids.

In 2011, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health took a position against gender-reparative therapy, stating that any therapy that seeks to change the gender identity of a patient is unethical. Changes to the law have followed suit. For example, in 2014, California passed the Student Success and Opportunity Act to ban reparative therapy and require schools to permit transgender children to participate in activities and to access spaces and facilities according to their self-determined gender categories.

Buying time

As corrective or reparative programs have lost legitimacy, publicly and privately funded gender clinics featuring affirming models of treatment for trans kids have sprung up across the U.S.

Affirming treatment focuses on enabling kids’ families to embrace their child’s gender identity, and supporting them in dealing with any resulting discrimination or mental health issues.

This treatment model doesn’t steer patients toward any particular gender identity. However, if a child makes the decision to transition to another gender, a number of medical interventions are available.

According to the clinical literature surrounding gender-affirming practice, the first goal of medical treatment is to buy time for the child or young person.

This is done through puberty-suppression therapy, via hormone blockers. The thinking goes that by delaying the onset of puberty, gender-nonconforming kids won’t be rushed into a decision before they experience the irreversible development of secondary sex characteristics.

The second goal is a more “normal” and satisfactory appearance.

A boy holding a trans pride flag / File:Dylan At Pride.jpg / CC BY-SA 4.0

To accomplish both goals, access to hormone blockers is crucial.

For example, most children who have been assigned female at birth and take hormone blockers will not need top surgery. Meanwhile, children who have been assigned male at birth and take hormone blockers won’t need to later mitigate or reverse characteristics spurred by puberty: a deeper voice, facial hair, and a visible Adam’s apple and other results of male puberty that cannot be reversed.

Having the opportunity to take hormone blockers has been linked to reduced mental health vulnerability in transgender adults.

Children who are taking hormone blockers can decide to stop doing so at any time. They will then go through puberty consistent with their assigned sex at birth.

A divide emerges

Transitioning is possible after going through puberty, but it’s much more difficult for trans people to look the way they want to look. It’s also a lot more expensive.

This is where the divide opens up. Not everyone has supportive parents, good health insurance or doctors who are able to provide puberty-suppression therapy. Nor does everyone live in a state with progressive legislation.

When conducting research for my book, access was a big theme that emerged.

At the age of 16, Nathan, for example, hated his post-pubescent body so much that he engaged in self-harm. (The names used in my book are pseudonyms, as required by research protocol.) The top surgery he so desperately needed was out of reach because his family simply couldn’t afford it. His mom, Nora, describes being terrified that Nathan would kill himself because of this lack of access.

“It’s all because of this damn top surgery,” she told me. “And I am literally terrified, because I know for a fact that once he gets this done he’s going to be a totally different child. And it kills me that I can’t do anything.”

Seven-year-old Esme, on the other hand, knew very clearly from a young age that male puberty was not what she wanted and felt able to communicate this to her parents. And because of her parents’ support and access to affirming health care, she told me she’s planning to take hormone blockers when she’s old enough. Later, she’ll take cross-sex hormones, which will result in the development of secondary sex characteristics consistent with her self-defined gender identity.

Whether Esme chooses to be openly transgender or not as an adult will be mostly up to her; her physical appearance won’t mark her as trans.

Then there are the ways poverty and race are intertwined. Because Black, Native American and Latino trans kids are disproportionately likely to be living in poverty, they’re less likely to have access to crucial treatments at a young age that will make it easier to be a transgender adult.

And trans kids who are nonbinary – meaning they don’t feel like they’re strictly male or female – also face challenges in accessing affirming health care. Many medical professionals continue to see trans health care within a binary model: Patients are transitioning to either male or female.

For example, Stef, who’s 14 years old and nonbinary, told me they had a far easier time accessing puberty blockers when they were asserting that they were a girl than when they subsequently adopted a nonbinary identity.

A matter of life or death

Ultimately, these disparities in access have repercussions.

For example, research indicates a significant improvement in quality of life among adult transgender women who have undergone facial feminization surgery, which involves surgically altering facial bones and soft tissue to conform to female gender norms.

However, this is an expensive and painful procedure that transgender girls can forgo by simply undergoing puberty suppression treatment. Of course, some trans people don’t understand themselves to be trans early enough to advocate for themselves. And that’s OK. But the majority of transgender children remain invisible – unable to articulate their feelings and longings because of unwelcoming and unsupportive environments.

Now, the availability of gender-affirming health care for teens is under threat in ways that go beyond insurance, cost and familial support.

In states like Arkansas, it’s a societal rejection of treatment that is, for some trans teens, a matter of life or death.

 The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

05.05.2021 – Manila, Philippines – Mona Gonzalez

2021 IUCN Report Says Pygmy Tarsiers (Once Believed Extinct) Are Decreasing in Number
Tarsier Tarsius sp., Grand Naemundung Mini Zoo, Tandurusa, Bitung, North Sulawesi Geography suggests this is not the w:Spectral Tarsier (Tarsius tarsier), but an undescribed species called Tarsius sp. 1 by Shekelle and Groves (2010). Source: Wikimedia Commons

The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN) has ranked the pygmy tarsiers from the mountains of the Sulawesi Island, Indonesia, as endangered, and their adult numbers are decreasing due to continued human intrusion into their habitat. The IUCN ranking was made in the year 2020.

The pygmy tarsier was considered to be extinct for 80 years,  since 1920.  In the year 2000 Indonesian scientists discovered a dead pygmy tarsier in one of its rat traps. Eight years later, primate ecologist  Sharon Gursky, a professor at Texas A&M University, climbed the Sulawesi island mountains with a team of scientists on a mission: to prove that the pygmy tarsier is extinct.

They waited for three months, 60 days of which were spent setting up mist nets commonly used to capture animals. The work was not easy. Pygmy tarsiers are nocturnal, and once it’s caught in the net, it has to be gently detached so it won’t get hurt.

The nets caught birds and 100 spectral tarsiers. The pygmy tarsiers were caught on August 29, 2008 — two males and one female — and a fourth pygmy tarsier escaped.

Gursky tried to put a radio lock on one of the tarsiers. These animals have huge eyes, too big to move their eyeballs. Instead, the head must make a 180-degree turn left and right to see either side. As Gursky struggled with the neck lock, the tarsier bit her finger.

Tarsiers are estimated to have been in the world for 45 million years.

Opportunity lost

 Last year, 2020, the IUCN report said no research or monitoring of these animals is being done, and there is no known protection of their entire specific habitat. Some pygmy tarsiers were seen in Lore Lindu National Park, a protected area, and in Mount Rantemario.

The Tarsius pumilus (its scientific name) is protected through international legislation, and trade controls, intended to protect the animal from being traded as pets or sold for consumption or other reasons to take it away from its habitat.

The pygmy tarsier is considered endangered because of its small area of occupation — 175 square kilometers, equal in size to three-tenths of Metro Manila, or is almost the same size as Washington D.C.

The human invasion

 As the human population grows, people have encroached on the montane forest areas that these pygmy tarsiers call home. They inhabit the montane forests and destroy trees that pygmy tarsiers inhabit, especially in South Sulawesi, where human population is concentrated. As their population grows, it is forecast by the IUCN that people will expand their territory, encroaching further on the forests of Central Sulawesi.

Trees are the tarsier’s daytime home. They cling to their tree in sleep, or crawl inside a tree trunk hollow. Pygmy tarsiers like nestling in large trees. They don’t make nests.

Pygmy tarsiers are also collateral damage in conflict zones, especially in Central Sulawesi. Factional fighting caused the dislocation of people who were resettled in refugee camps, including one camp situated en route to Rorekatimbu.

Finally, there have been ecosystem stresses. Former habitats, with the coming of humans, have been converted to grow agricultural crops. The use of pesticides also affects the animal’s feeding grounds. The growth of non-timber crops and changes brought about by small-holder farmers have also affected the quality of the habitat of pygmy tarsiers.

How they were discovered

When Gursky climbed the Indonesian mountains of central Sulawesi Island in 2008, she was on a mission to prove that pygmy tarsiers are extinct. She and her team set up 60 mist nets over a period of three months. The nets caught birds and 100 spectral tarsiers. Then on August 29 of that year, four pygmy tarsiers were seen on the net, but one of them escaped. That left them with two males and one female pygmy tarsier.

The pygmy tarsier always looks like it’s smiling, but don’t be fooled. One of them bit Gursky’s finger while she attached a radio lock to its neck. The radio collar minimizes impact on an animal’s behavior, while maximizing the scientist’s ability to track them.

Pygmy tarsiers vs. other tarsier species

 Pygmy tarsiers were once considered to fall within the species of the spectral tarsier, but some observations showed that the two are very different, and out of 18 species and subspecies, the pygmy tarsier is unique in its own way. For example:

  1. Pygmy tarsiers are less than half the size of other tarsiers. They weigh two ounces on average, and are the size of a mouse.
  2. Unlike other tarsiers, pygmy tarsiers have hair on their ears, head, and body, but not on their tail.
  3. Claws. They are the only tarsiers with claws that enable them to hang onto trees that are covered with slippery moss. All other tarsiers have nails.
  4. High pitch. Pygmy tarsiers regularly communicate at a vocally higher frequency than other tarsiers do within the same context, and they do so less frequently.
  5. Scent? It is not known whether they use scent markings, which haven’t been spotted. It may be because their scent markings are washed away with the rain. Other tarsiers regularly communicate by scent markers.
  6. Cool and mossy. Pygmy tarsiers, unlike all other tarsiers, live in the cool mountaintops of Indonesia, and can cling to mossy tree branches with ease. All the other species are lowland tarsiers that prevail in the forest where the climate is hot and tree trunks and branches are dry.
  7. Introvert? Pygmy tarsiers don’t communicate as frequently as other tarsiers, although they do make duet song vocalizations. Because of the high frequency of their voice, humans can’t hear what they’re saying, although Gursky has seen their mouths moving as if in conversation or song.

How was the pygmy tarsier believed to be extinct?

It’s very possible that the private nature of these tiny primates enabled it to go undetected for 80 years. Other reasons they successfully hid from humanity for so long could be:

  1. They can’t be heard. They make sounds that don’t fall within the frequency that can be heard by human ears.
  2. They are hard to see. They were only seen when they were captured by a mist net.
  3. They live in remote areas. Gursky found the three tarsiers high in the Sulawesi mountain, 6,900 ft. above ground, where the weather is very cold.
  4. They live in montane forests. These forests are harder to navigate because they grow on the mountain’s slope. This is why so far only small-scale human expansion has taken place. But as the human population grows, further encroachment on the pygmy tarsier’s territory puts them these animals at further risk.

Decreasing in number

The IUCN listed the pygmy tarsier as decreasing in number, and added that this animal is “data deficient”. Knowledge is based on a few museum specimens and the three live tarsiers that were found by Gursky. Another obstacle to studying pygmy tarsiers is their habitats, which are disorganized and fragmented.

What if there were no pygmy tarsiers?

 Pygmy tarsiers play a role in the food chain. They feast on insects, spiders, and lizards. They also host bedbugs, lice, fleas, roundworms, tapeworms, etc. They are eaten by wild cats, snakes, and birds such as hawks, eagles, and falcons. These tiny tarsiers do an awful lot of good in distracting bugs from people. And they keep the earth balanced. Their decreasing population will affect the ecosystems that interact with them. And even though those three pygmy tarsiers found by  Gursky in 2008 may not be around anymore, we must bear in mind that it’s not just a matter of one small group of creatures that are lost, but more a matter of yet another small group of creatures, one after the other. Because one day, extinctions will accumulate so much that we will reach the point that we can’t help but find ourselves living with the consequences.

The devastating impact of the pandemic on media, deplorable situation in India
Some of the Indian Journalists who have passed away during the covid pandemic

by Thakuria Navajyoti

Geneva/Guwahati, 30 April 2021: The Covid-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on the media, the Switzerland-based media rights and safety body Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) lamented last Friday in preparation for World Press Freedom Day on 3 May. The human cost of the pandemic is particularly high where over one thousand journalists have lost their lives due to novel coronavirus aggravated ailments. India recently lost over 50 journalists in 2 weeks (3.5 per day).

Journalists are engaged in a profession that is particularly exposed to the virus, as many have been forced to continue working in contact with the population. Until 29 April 2021, since March 2020, within 14 months, the PEC ( has counted more than 1,200 journalists who died from complications related to Covid-19 in 75 countries.

“This is an unprecedented slaughter and a great loss for the profession,” said PEC secretary-general Blaise Lempen adding, “On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, we call for honoring eminent colleagues of all ages who have not survived the pandemic.” He appeals to all concerned governments to take action to help the media most affected and support the families of the victims on this auspicious occasion.

PEC also considers there is a need to distribute vaccines equally all over the world, to stop the spread of the virus and its new strains in developing countries. Vaccine production is limited and it is available for the wealthiest countries, preventing access to journalists in South America and South Asia. As long as this situation continues, deaths will keep on increasing, it added.

The rate of deceased journalists accelerated further in April with the deaths of 126 journalists in one month or four media victims per day. Since the pandemic broke out in March 2020, four countries have been particularly affected with more than one hundred journo-casualties each including Brazil (more than 183 media corona-casualties), Peru (140 dead), India (122) and Mexico (106).

There is nevertheless a positive note that the number of journalists’ deaths slowed sharply in Europe and North America, thanks to effective protection measures and the progress of vaccination. By region, Latin America tops the list with more than half of the victims, 673 in 20 countries. Asia follows with 256 in 18 countries, then Europe with 175 in 19 countries. Africa comes next with 56 dead in 16 countries, ahead of North America with 47 in 2 countries.
India recently lost half a century of journalists within a fortnight to corona-complications, said Nava Thakuria, PEC’s country representative adding that the populous country might have lost more journalists than documented, as many media outlets in India prefer to tone done the corona casualties among their journo-colleagues. India neighbor Bangladesh recorded 52 journo-victims to Covid-19 followed by Pakistan (26 dead), Afghanistan (9) and Nepal (7). Other tiny neighbors Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Myanmar etc have not reported a single corona media casualty.

The robust Indian media fraternity has lately lost Rohit Sardana, Nilakshi Bhattacharyya, Aiyushman Dutta, Bhanu Prakash Rath, Manas Ranjan Jaipuria, Amjad Badshah, Sridhar Dharmasanam, Raju Mishra, Sadanand Shinde, Kakoli Bhattacharya, Kondra Srinivas Goud, Sammi Reddy, Akash Saxena, Khwaja Mujahiduddin, Anil Basnoi, Venga Reddy, Madiraju Harikrishna Giri, Syed Shabaz, etc to the corona-pandemic.

Goodbye friends and rest in absolute peace in the unseen world.

04.05.2021 – Manila, Philippines – Karina Lagdameo-Santillan

Salamat, Silo
Silo visiting a temple in Manila. Source:


May 4, 1969, more than 50 years ago, Silo gave his first public speech to some few hundred people high up in the Andes Mountains near Mount Aconcagua, entitled the Healing of Suffering. It was the first public exposition of his ideas, where he spoke about overcoming pain and suffering, violence, and the meaning of life.

I take some time to remember Silo with profound gratitude. He was my mentor, my guide and an inspiration throughout most of my adult life. For those who may never have heard of him, or have not read his writings, Silo founded a current of thought known as Universal Humanism. A movement based on his ideas inspired thousands of volunteers across all continents to initiate actions in the different fields as a contribution towards the building of a universal human nation.

A universal human nation where the human being holds the central value, whose needs stand paramount over and above any other value, be it money, the state, social systems, power and yes, even above religion and the gods.

Where all human beings would have equal access and equal opportunity to education, health, a dignified life and livelihood for the simple reason of being born a human being. Where human beings can live in peace by working with non-violent means to end all forms of violence—be it physical, economic, psychological,  racial, gender, or religious.

A world that respects diversity, anchored on non-discrimination of any kind.

A world where freedom of thought is given the widest latitude over and above the so-called absolute truths that hinder us from opening new paths and new horizons.

From the social-cultural and political fields, in centers of converging cultures and in stimulating humanist-centric studies to answer the burning questions of the day and issues of our times, to peace and non-violence initiatives that work towards total nuclear disarmament and ending armed conflicts and, finally even in the spiritual dimension, his thought has been translated into actions and organized initiatives that work towards making this aspiration of humanizing the earth, a reality.

To the end, Silo was ever the optimist. In spite of all the problems and crises our world faces—which seem to be getting worse each day—he believed that a new planetary and truly human civilization is indeed possible.  He believed that this is where the human race is headed, if enough people do their own small share, wherever they may be, towards building that better world.

I feel fortunate to have met Silo in my lifetime and to hear him speak personally. First at the Asian Conference held in Manila in 1980, then in Bombay where thousands gathered during a Public Act at Chowpatty Beach and finally, during the inauguration of the Punta De Vacas Center for Study and Reflection, at the foothills of Mount Aconcagua, Argentina in 2007. Just three occasions, but all three were experiences that have impacted me and are positive memories I treasure.

He may have departed from this time and space and, has gone towards the infinite worlds. But, his example– his wisdom, kindness and strength– continues to be a source of guidance for me, and for sure, for the thousands all over the world whose lives he has touched.

I feel fortunate to have this opportunity to be a part (albeit a small part) of this current, for it enriches me and continues to give meaning to my life.

To quote from the second book of Silo’s trilogy, To Humanize the Earth…

“Namer of a thousand names, maker of meanings, transformer of the world, your parents and the parents of your parents continue in you. You are not a fallen star but a brilliant arrow flying toward the heavens. You are the meaning of the world, and when you clarify your meaning you illuminate the earth. When you lose your meaning, the earth becomes darkened and the abyss opens.

 I will tell you the meaning of your life here: It is to humanize the earth. And what does it mean to humanize the earth? It is to surpass pain and suffering; it is to learn without limits; it is to love the reality you build.

 I cannot ask you to go further, but neither should it offend if I declare, “Love the reality you build, and not even death will halt your flight!”

Salamat, Thank you, Silo.

 Click here to view Silo’s speech: The Healing Of Suffering – Silo May 4th 1969

The Henry Borel Case : Death, Militias, And The Media In Rio De Janeriro 1
File:Allegory of Justice.jpg (Image by Wikimedia,org / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)

Luciane Silva, Tiago Abud, Eliz Rosa – Researches with the Núcleo Cidade Cultura e Conflito of UENF

The death of Henry Borel, a child of 4 years, has captured the attention of the researchers for the Núcleo de Pesquisa Cidade, Cultura e Conflito (NUC) of the North Fluminense State University (UENF). In this article we apply Content Analysis (CA), a technique that enables the study of feelings, positioning, and idealogies from disperse elements. CA can be performed based on the letters of soldiers fighting in wars, newspaper columns, police reports, and the lyrics of songs. The idea is to think of the material at hand as a dataset able to provide insight into a particular group with respect to feelings related to a professional category or even a society at a determined conjuncture. By using headlines, video channels, and discussion sites, this reflexive exercise strives to comprehend the evaluation of Fluminense residents (especially those living in Rio de Janeiro) regarding the Henry Borel case and investigate how this comprehension can play a useful role in investigating questions involving morals, democracy, and public security.

The Case

On March 8, Henry Borel, a resident of Barra da Tijuca was rushed to the hospital. Officials later announced that he had been dead on arrival. Claims made by the boy´s mother and stepfather that he had died falling from bed were inconsistent with the 23 lesions found on Henry´s body.

The Accused

The autopsy report refuted the allegation that the boy´s death had been caused by accidental domestic injury (a fall from bed while sleeping). The stepfather, Rio de Janeiro City Councilman and physician Jairo Souza Santos Júnior (“Dr. Jairinho”), and Monique Medeiros, Henry´s biological mother, have been detained as suspects in the crime of qualified homicide.

The Investigation

A task force was assembled by Henrique Damasceno, the police superintendent of the 16 th Police Delegacy in Barra da Tijuca. The Civil Police of Rio de Janeiro proceeded to conduct a rigorous state-of-the-art investigation making use of forensics, witnesses, high-tech tools, and crime simulations. The investigation´s final report is expected by the end of April. The two accused parties, Dr. Jairinho and Monique Medeiros, will very likely be formally accused of doubly qualified homicide and the use of torture on a defenseless victim.

1 We are grateful the NUC researches for the contributions made to this article

The Media Coverage

All the mainstream television and radio media outlets have been issuing daily reports on the case. The platform, however, that has multiple channels providing live coverage related to the investigation and crime, as well the public´s reaction, is Youtube.

Content Analysis of the Media and Youtube

Since the beginning of the case we have been analysing the content of manifestations appearing on television channels, blogs, newspapers, and other media platforms. Some of this content deserves special attention due to its ability to deepen understanding regarding reactions to the hurtful act and the meanings represented.

In the first place, Henry´s mother has seemed cruel and vain, and frequently seen as responsible for her son´s death. Thus, a maternal figure considered responsible for the family´s well-being has become a central figure in a crime in which one of the accused has a history of aggression and the use of torture against women and children.

In second place, the psychopath hypothesis reduces the events to the actions of evil people. Accepting this hypothesis ignores the regularity and intensity by which Brazilian children and teens are subjected to mistreatment. It fails to recognize the domestic violence unleashed on a child, violence frequently also applied to other family members. While it may seem more comforting to respond to the crime with hatred toward the couple, the killing of Henry reveals the vulnerability of children in our country. This fact cannot be addressed by assigning psychopathy to the adults of this case, because reductions in harm of this nature require public policies aimed at assistence and social protection. We do not stand before people suffering from mental impairment. We are confronted with social practices that are highly recognizable to a large segment of the public.

Thirdly, the coverage of the Henry Borel case and investigation place in stark relief the selective nature of State action depending on the profile of victims. This 23 rd day of April, 2021, marks four months since the unresolved disappearance of 11-year-old Fernando Henrique, 10-year-old Alexandre da Silva, and 8-year-old Lucas Matheus. The three boys were last scene playing in the street in Castelar, Belford Roxo. Family members assert that an investigation should have begun immediately afterward, something that failed to happen.

What Remains to be Resolved and What Would Resolving It Mean?

Lastly, it is worth noting the most interesting element of this case. An analysis of the published content from various media types reveals considerable public outrage with respect to the barbaric act committed against a child of 4 years of age. Accusations against Monique Medeiros have also been frequent. When criticism is leveled separately against City Councilman Jairinho, however, it typically involves characterizations of a corrupt political system. THE FACT THAT THE CITY COUNCILMAN HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED AS A MEMBER OF A MILITIA GROUP IS RARELY MENTIONED. Jairo Santos, the son of Colonel Jairo, was accused of torturing journalists of the O Dia newspaper in the favela of Batan.

Why is this Fact so Important to the Henry Case?

For decades Rio de Janeiro has been waging a war against drugs 2 . This war has come at the cost of thousands of lives anually – both those of civilians and agents of the State. Residents of both Rio and Brazil tend to associate any perceived evil in low-income areas with drug trafficking. Rio de Janeiro State Governor Wilson Witzel won an election using this narrative, fired shots from a helicopter, and commanded official strikes on favelas that caused the deaths of innocent children while failing to have any practical impact on the drug market. When he assumed office, the governor already knew the maps of the city of and state of Rio de Janeiro did not present trafficking as a major problem of public security.

It is noteworthy that Dr. Jairinho called acting governor Cláudio Castro on the day of the crime.  It is also significant that he tried to secure a quick solution to his legal problems through string pulling at the hospital (as if such a thing were possible). In an interview with Publica on January 29 th , 2019, researcher José Cláudio Souza Alves stated “in Rio de Janeiro the militia is not a power parallel to the State.  It IS the State” (our translation, with emphasis added). Alves has published books and given interviews detailing the tangled web the militia has cast within the State apparatus and its effects on legislative processes, such as the use of intimidation for the filling of key congressional committee positions and expanding influence through related institutions.

It is horrible to think that after having committed so many crimes, a child had to be killed for Jairinho to be arrested. It is terrible to think that the militia in Rio das Pedras gave newly elected Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes a public shout-out. And it is terrible to reflect that residents of the northern sector of the city have defended the Liga da Justiça, of which Colonel Jairo is considered a leader. This is no isolated incident, but rather a common practice of this group. It involves the repeated banalization of evil, catalyzed through the fear of its victims, a scenario that allowed Jairinho to continue torturing children for years.

It is terrible to think that we still don´t know who ordered the killing of Marielle.

All of these crimes converge within the same phenomenon. It must be called out and brought to the attention of each and every reader when discussing the case of Henry Borel. Militia groups are gaining ground, unopposed, and strengthening ties within the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of government.

This is the central question that has received insufficent attention in the mainstream press.

2 We are grateful for Rafael Barros Vieira’s insight and suggestions.

03.05.2021 – Buenos Aires, Argentina – REHUNO – Red Humanista de Noticias en Salud

This post is also available in: Spanish

Future Challenges in Health
(Image by Sasint Tiipchai)

The future has always been an unknown that is difficult to unravel and has generated different feelings depending on the present state of those who wonder about it.

By Jorge Pompei

Thus, with regard to health, some see an irreversible process of deterioration in the face of the increase in the age of the population associated with illness and disability.

Others, on the other hand, believe that advances in knowledge will allow a growing understanding that will lead to overcoming illness, reducing risks and improving the health of the years gained in life expectancy.

One way or the other, the future of health is presented to us as something new and changing that will confront us with new challenges that we will have to face.

To do this, we will start by developing a hypothesis based on a study of current trends in the field of health.

Thus, we will choose three aspects of the health universe and study the possible scenarios that could be presented to us.

These three aspects concern the concept of health, the treatment of illness and health in its community dimension.

The concept of health

Let us begin by asking what is health?

The first thing we see is that, in order to answer this question, we must place ourselves in time and space, since the idea of health changes with cultures and over time.

In other words, what we think about health is socially, culturally and historically determined.

The history of health and what is believed about it is as long as human history and it could not be otherwise because health has always been one of the most cherished values in any society.

Thus, in broad strokes, we can imagine different approaches to health at different times and places.

The first approach corresponds to a magical paradigm, where health was the result of the action of supernatural forces that “rewarded” or “punished” the actions of mortals. The response to this approach was the ritual treatment of illness, which sought to appease the “punishment”.

Some peoples developed a less ritualistic approach that emphasised the use of natural plant, mineral or animal products which, through trial and error, proved their efficacy over time and allowed each community to build up its own pharmacopoeia.

As Europe entered the modern age, we saw new visions that sought other explanations. In the 19th century, many scientists of the time defended miasmatic theories that found the origin of diseases in putrefactive substances in the environment.

This view changed with the experiments of Pasteur who, in the second half of the 19th century, successfully demonstrated that there was no such thing as spontaneous generation and thus opened the door to the discovery of the microbial agents causing the prevalent diseases of the time.

Let us recall the health impact at the time of tuberculosis, leprosy, cholera and so many other diseases that originated from bacterial infection.

This discovery, in turn, led to the development of antibiotics which, together with the change in living conditions, modified the epidemiological profile of European populations.

The idea of health associated with infectious diseases, which were caused by a single causative agent, became more complex as the role of the environment in which the agent-host relationship took place was understood.

Thus, improved living conditions and the use of antibiotics allowed for effective treatment of infectious and parasitic diseases.

From then on, the main determinants of illness and death were no longer infectious and contagious diseases, but the new protagonists, chronic degenerative diseases.

Today, the focus is on high blood pressure, diabetes and tumours, with heart attacks and strokes being the main causes of death.

To this must be added the deaths and disabilities resulting from accidents, violence and a series of causes that have their origin in environmental and social deterioration.

All of this makes the concept of health more complex and comprehensive.

From the single-causal view of the late 19th century, progress was made towards an ecological view that involves the environment. Later, in the mid-20th century, the WHO defined health as a state of equilibrium in which the biological, psychological and social aspects are involved, and not just the absence of disease.

This definition, which was a step forward at the time, must now necessarily incorporate the environment as a determinant of the utmost importance and must move on from a static view, placing it in process and considering how health changes and improves through the conquest of better living conditions.

In this sense, we believe that in the future, health will have to stop being an aspiration for improvement and become a fundamental human right.

Treatment of illness

With regard to the treatment of illness, in its clinical aspect, it is clear that care has changed significantly since the last century.

From general practitioners, often family doctors, there has been a shift to specialists.

This change came about as a result of the so-called Flexner report of 1910, which was promoted by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Abraham Flexner, an educator, carried out an investigation of US medical schools and concluded that teaching was very deficient and proposed changes that would end up being implemented by all Western countries and that transformed the way medicine was studied and practiced.

From then on, care was organized into specialties with a biological approach and a strong pharmacological component, oriented towards treating symptoms.

This gradually led to the diversification of consultations, requiring the care of several specialists for each patient and the chronic use of medication to treat the disease.

At the same time, the specialties and later subspecialties required increasingly sophisticated equipment for more precise diagnosis and therapy.

This was widely accepted by providers and patients who saw in this deployment a better quality of care.

If we add to this the ageing population with its burden of disease, we find that an important part of the life of the elderly is devoted to medical visits and the purchase of drugs.

At the same time, from the second half of the 20th century onwards, new concepts were developed that went beyond the field of illness and studied the risks of people who, although healthy, present conditions or situations that make them more prone to suffering harm and which must be attended to.

Thus, Leavell and Clark in 1953 described, based on what they called the natural history of the disease, the levels of prevention to be considered at the different stages of the health-disease process.

This led to the development of tools to anticipate the disease by treating the risks.

Finally, along with the prevention of disease, the idea of health promotion was developed, a fact that proposes a different concept to that of disease. An important concept is that of treating healthy people to strengthen their own capacity to stay healthy.

People are now looking for solutions that involve less investment of resources and time, so new specialties such as general practitioners and family doctors are being developed to solve most of the health problems that arise in the doctor’s office.

At the same time, the growing access to the internet, today strongly driven by the COVID 19 pandemic, spreads care strategies that are little recognized by academia and little known by the general population, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Tibetan Medicine, Orthomolecular Medicine, Neural Therapy, Anthroposophical Medicine and several others that have a holistic view that differs from that of the specialist.

All this leads to the challenge of creating new modalities of care that satisfy the needs and expectations of the patients, generating a first level of continent-wide care and a body of specialists for those who require it, but who are not the entry point to the system.

This will require the formation of a health team trained in a vision that integrates biological, psychological, environmental, community and spiritual aspects and the different strategies of different cultures.

Population health

It was in the 20th century, and especially after the Second World War, that a number of significant events took place in the field of health.

On the one hand, we witnessed an unprecedented demographic phenomenon. The world population, which by 1950 had slowly reached 2.5 billion inhabitants, had risen to 8 billion in 70 years.

On the other hand, life expectancy, which in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century was around 40 years, is now approaching 80 years, and we are already beginning to see the appearance of a generation of centenarians.

Today, living conditions for the general population are not improving. The environment is rapidly deteriorating as a result, among other causes, of the uncontrolled action of industries that depredate the seas, forests, soils and the use of hydrocarbons as a source of energy.

At the same time, community life is also suffering from the fragmentation of the times, and although the world’s population is moving towards urbanization, which brings people physically closer together, personal conflicts and the feeling of loneliness are increasingly deteriorating human life in cities.

In summary, we can see that, although the life expectancy of populations is tending to increase, reaching situations that were unimaginable until recently, the deterioration of the natural and social environment is endangering the lives of large sectors of the population.

Health care involves allocating more and more economic resources, without which it is impossible for the health care system to function and for living conditions to improve. But the costs of the care model and the deterioration of the environment are increasing and threaten its sustainability.

Although in today’s society the right to health care and health is increasingly being taken into account and the population’s demands are being heard more loudly, there are still major problems with access to services.

To summarize. The concept of health must necessarily move towards a model that favors the maintenance of health rather than the treatment of illness.

The care of consultations should be resolved by health teams trained in a holistic view of the person and who can resolve the majority of consultations, leaving only a small percentage for specialist care.

It will be necessary to implement the incorporation of other practices and other non-traditional knowledge (such as traditional medicines) that are recognized and requested by the population.

We note finally that, despite all the existing impediments, progress will be made to the extent that health becomes a fundamental and effective human right that guarantees for all people universal coverage in equity with quality and opportunity and without any kind of discrimination.

30.04.2021 – Kabylia – Rabah Arkam

Kabylia: the Fate of a Nation Without a State for Autonomy and Independence
(Image by Rabah Arkam)

Kabylia is a mountainous region in North Africa. Its inhabitants call it in Kabyle “Tamurt Idurar” (Country of the Mountains) or “Tamurt Leqvayel” (Country of the Kabyles). It is part of the Atlas Mountains and is located by the Mediterranean Sea. Kabylia has seven administrative divisions: Tizi ouzou, Bejaia (Bgayet), Buira (Tubirett), Bordj Bou Arreridj, Jijel, Boumerdes and Sétif. It occupies a very special place in the whole of the contemporary Berber world. The importance and dynamism of its elites, its decisive role in the emergence of contemporary Berber consciousness and claims make it in all respects a key region of the Berber world.

By Rabah Arkam

Current and future trends in Kabylia will undoubtedly be decisive for the future and the very survival of Berber identity.It is inhabited by a dynamic and peaceful population which makes liberty the most sacred value of its existence. Land of all aspirations, it has seen many invaders.

Kabylia has a unique and characteristic culture, language, legal system, and history. Most of the Kabyle population is strongly anchored in the environment and attached to its land and its traditional territory. It has often, for generations, been stalked and subjugated, a victim of destruction of their culture, discrimination and widespread violations of their human rights. For centuries, it has suffered from the non-recognition of its political and cultural institutions, and the integrity of its culture has been undermined.

It has been supported by the persistence of the anti-Kabyle policy of the Algerian regime on a stigmatized population, and subjected to particularly violent state policies.
The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in “The Nation”, and yet after independence in 1962, Kabylia is misled by a pseudo-sovereignty that it thinks it holds precisely because it is “The State”.

Kabylia has remained a region apart, before and after, and always considered a rebel region, before and after historical events: opposed to the Romans, the Arabs, the Turks and then the French. In the fight against the colonizer, they hoped in return for recognition of their specificity within the Algerian nation. Socialist Algeria did not recognize their language, their culture, or even really the role played by their leaders in the war for the independence of Algeria. The Kabyles were marginalized in the upper echelons of the new power and successive presidents, Ahmed Ben Bella, Houari Boumediene, Bouteflika as well as Teboune today, guided by the generals of the Oujda clan, who continue to Arabize and Islamize this population.

All the error is there. An error maintained by the international community which sees States through the definition given by international law, leading to an obvious confusion between the State it recognizes, a collective of souls and an empty shell, without soul since without nation and therefore a land where democracy, failing to serve a nation, serves a handful of individuals constituted as a state.
Indeed, only belonging to a “nation” generates awareness of a national identity opposable to the State and its hegemony. This is the reason why the Algerian state, not having built nations, continues to dominate the peoples who, not constituted as nations, are ethnically divided.

In addition, Kabylia has suffered the adverse effects of development processes, which seriously threaten its existence. The free, prior and informed consent of the Kabyle people on issues affecting their lands, ancestral territory and natural resources was considered an essential condition for the realization of their right to self-determination, the preservation of their identity, their specific culture and language, reaffirmed by Article 3 of the United Nations Declaration.

Noting that the Charter of the United Nations, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action, affirm the fundamental importance of the law of all peoples to self-determination, a right by virtue of which they freely determine their political status and freely ensure their economic, social and cultural development.
Aware that nothing in this declaration can be invoked to deny a people whatever its right to self-determination, exercised in accordance with international law.

The Kabyle people frequently face marginalization and legal discrimination in their country, which makes them particularly vulnerable to human rights violations. Those who defend the rights of the Kabyle people face intimidation and violence, often supported by the Algerian regime.

Confronted with the protests of the Hirak (Arabic word meaning etymologically “movement”) in Algeria against the government, the Algerian government exploited this apparent difference between the regions: in addition to banning the Berber flag, the regime has also spread numerous rumors, accusing it of manipulating the protest. “The anti-revolutionary campaign uses Kabylia as an excuse”.

The pursuit of Arabity had as a corollary Islamity. The Algerian authorities have always relied on an Arabization policy because it enshrines the legitimacy of the State of which Islam was the depositary. Religion was thus used as an instrument to contain a possible progression of secular and democratic movements.

At the same time, the Algerian government has favored extremist Islamist movements and allowed them to increase their political influence to the point of threatening the existence of the Kabyle people, victims of Arabism and Islamism, which are nothing but masks of hypocrisy.
This fight is that of truth against lies, of nonviolence against violence, of democracy against an authoritarian regime, justice against injustice, and deprivation of liberty. Nonviolent resistance is here the privileged means of struggle in favor of human rights. Its general purpose is to work for more justice and freedom.

30.04.2021 – US, United States – World Beyond War

Why Drones are more Dangerous than Nuclear Weapons
(Image by Stock File)


Weaponized drones are probably the most troublesome weapon added to the arsenal of war making since the atomic bomb, and from the perspective of world order, may turn out to be even more dangerous in its implications and effects. This may seem an odd, alarmist, and inflated statement of concern. After all, the atomic bomb in its initial uses showed itself capable of destroying entire cities, spreading lethal radioactivity wherever the wind carried it, threatening the future of civilization, and even apocalyptically menacing the survival of the species. It changed drastically the nature of strategic warfare, and will continue to haunt the human future until the end of time.

By Richard Falk

Yet, despite the irrationality and war mentality that explains the diabolical unwillingness of political leaders to work conscientiously toward the elimination of nuclear weapons, it is a weapon that has not been used in the intervening 76 years since it was first unleashed on the hapless residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.[1] Further, achieving non-use has been a constant legal, moral, and prudential priority of leaders and war planners ever since the first bomb inflicted unspeakable horror and suffering on the ill-fated Japanese who happened to be present on that day in those doomed cities.

The second order constraints imposed over the intervening decades to avoid nuclear war, or at least to minimize the risk of its occurrence, although far from foolproof, and likely not sustainable over the long term, were at least compatible with a world order system that has evolved to serve the principal shared interests of territorial states.[2] Instead of reserving this ultimate weaponry of mass destruction for battlefield advantage and military victory, nuclear weapons have been largely confined in their roles to deterrence and coercive diplomacy, which although unlawful, morally problematic, and militarily dubious, presupposes that the framework of major international conflict is limited to the belligerent interaction of territorial sovereign states.[3]

Reinforcing these constraints are the complementary adjustments achieved by way of arms control agreements and nonproliferation. Arms control based on the mutual interests of the principal nuclear weapons states, the United States and Russia, seek increased stability by restricting the number of nuclear weapons, foregoing some destabilizing and expensive innovations, and avoiding costly weapons systems that do not confer any major deterrent or strategic advantage.[4] In contrast to arms control, nonproliferation presupposes and reinforces the vertical dimension of world order, legitimating a dual legal structure superimposed on the juridical and horizontal notion of the equality of states.

The nonproliferation regime has allowed a small, slowly expanding group of states to possess and develop nuclear weapons, and even make nuclear threats, while forbidding the remaining 186 or so states from acquiring them, or even acquiring the threshold capacity to produce nuclear weaponry.[5] This nonproliferation ethos is further compromised by linkages to geopolitics, giving rise to double standards, selective enforcement, and arbitrary membership procedures, as is evident by the preventive war rationale relied upon in relation to Iraq and now Iran, and the comfort zone of silence accorded to Israel’s known, yet officially unacknowledged, arsenal of nuclear weapons.

This experience with nuclear weaponry tells several things about international law and world order that establishes a helpful background for considering the quite different array of challenges and frightening temptations arising from the rapid evolution of military drones and their spread to over 100 countries and several non-state actors. First of all, the unwillingness and/or inability of dominant governments–the vertical Westphalian states–to eliminate these ultimate weapons of mass destruction and achieve a world without nuclear weapons despite their apocalyptic implications. The requisite political will has never formed, and has over time actually receded.[6]There have been many explanations given for this inability to rid humanity of this Achilles Heal of world order, ranging from the fear of cheating, the inability to disinvent the technology, the claim of superior security when deterrence and strategic dominance is compared to disarmament, a hedge against the emergence of an evil and suicidal enemy, an intoxicating sense of ultimate power, the confidence to sustain the global domination project, and the prestige that comes with belonging to the most exclusive club joining together dominant sovereign states.[7]

Secondly, ideas of deterrence and nonproliferation can be reconciled with the virtues and thinking that has dominated the tradition of political realism that remains descriptive of the manner in which governmental elites think and act throughout the history of state-centric world order.[8] International law is not effective in regulating the strategic ambitions and behavior of stronger states, but can often be coercively imposed on the rest of states for the sake of geopolitical goals, which include systemic stability.

Thirdly, the international law of war has consistently accommodated new weapons and tactics that confer significant military advantages on a sovereign state, being rationalized by invoking ‘security’ and ‘military necessity’ to move aside whatever legal and moral obstacles stand in the way.[9] Fourthly, due to the pervasiveness of distrust, security is calibrated to deal with worst case or near worst case scenarios, which is itself a major cause of insecurity and international crises. These four sets of generalizations, although lacking nuance and example, provide a background understanding as to why the efforts over the centuries to regulate the recourse to war, weaponry, and the conduct of hostility have had such disappointing results, despite highly persuasive prudential and normative arguments supportive of much stricter limitations on the war system.[10]


Drones, as new weapons systems responding to contemporary security threats, have a number of features that make them seem particularly difficult to regulate, given the shape of contemporary political conflict. This especially includes the threats posed by non-state actors, development of non-state and state terrorist tactics that threaten the capability of even the largest states to uphold territorial security, and the inability or unwillingness of many governments to prevent their territory from being used to launch transnational attacks on even the most powerful country. From the standpoint of a state considering its military alternatives within the present global setting, drones appear particularly attractive, and the practical incentives for possession, development, and use is far greater than in relation to nuclear weaponry.

Drones are relatively inexpensive in their current forms as compared to manned fighter aircraft, they almost totally eliminate any risk of casualties to the attacker, especially in relation to warfare against non-state actors, maritime targets, or distant states, they have the capacity to launch strikes with precision in even the most remote hiding places difficult for ground forces to access, they can target accurately on the basis of reliable information gathered through the use of surveillance drones with increasingly acute sensing and snooping abilities, their use can be politically controlled to ensure restraint and a new version of due process that vets the appropriateness of targets in procedures of assessments carried on behind closed doors, and the direct casualties  inflicted and devastation caused by drones is miniscule as compared to other methods of counterterrorist and various types of asymmetric warfare. In effect, why should not the use of drones be deemed a morally sensitive, prudent, and legitimate type of warfare that transforms American counterterrorist policy into a model of responsible conflict management rather than be criticized and lamented for subverting international humanitarian law?[12]

There are two contradictory narratives, with many variations for each, analyzing the essential normative (law, morality) quality of drone warfare, and its dominant recent role in implementing the tactics of targeted killing of designated persons. On the one side of the dialogue, are the ‘children of light’ who claim to be doing their very best to minimize the costs and scale of war while protecting American society against the violence of extremists whose mission is to use violence to kill as many civilians as possible. On the other side, are the ‘children of darkness’ who are critically portrayed as engaged in criminal behavior of the most reprehensible kind to kill specific individuals, including American citizens, without any pretense of accountability for errors of judgment and excesses of attack. In effect, both narratives present warfare as a discretionary form of serial killing under state auspices, officially sanctioned summary executions without charges or with no principled justification or accountability even when the target is an American citizen.[13]

The comparison of drone use with nuclear weapons is revealing in this setting, as well. There never was an attempt to endorse the civilizing role that could be enacted through threats and uses of nuclear weapons, beyond the provocative contention, which can never be demonstrated, that their mere existence had prevented the Cold War from becoming World War III. Such a claim, to be credible at all, rested on the amoral belief that their actual use would be catastrophic for both sides, including the users, while the threat of use was justifiable to discourage risk taking and provocation by an adversary.[14] In contrast, with drones, the positive case for legitimating the weaponry is associated exclusively with actual use as compared to the alternatives of conventional war tactics of aerial bombardment or ground attack.


The children of light version of drone warfare was given canonical status by President Barack Obama’s speech delivered, appropriately enough, at the National Defense University, on May 23, 2013.[15] Obama anchored his remarks on the guidance provided to the government over the course of two centuries in which the nature of war has changed dramatically on several occasions but supposedly never undermining fidelity to the founding principles of the republic enshrined in the Constitution, which “served as our compass through every type of change. . . . Constitutional principles has weathered every war, and every war has come to an end.”

Against this background, Obama continues the unfortunate discourse inherited from the Bush presidency, that the 9/11 attacks initiated a war rather than constituted a massive crime. In his words, “This was a different kind of war. No armies came to our shores, and our military was not the principal target. Instead, a group of terrorists came to kill as many civilians as they could.” There is no attempt to confront the question of why this provocation might have better been treated as a crime, which would have worked against launching the disastrous pre-9/11 ‘forever wars’ against Afghanistan and Iraq. Instead, Obama offers the bland, and rather disingenuous claim that the challenge was to “align our policies with the rule of law.”[16]

According to Obama, the threat posed by al-Qaeda a decade ago has greatly diminished, although not disappeared, making it “the moment to ask ourselves hard questions—about the nature of today’s threats and how we should meet them.” Of course, it is revealing that the crowning achievement of this type of warfare was not a battlefield victory or territorial occupation, but the execution in 2011 of the iconic al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, in a non-combat setting that was essentially a hideaway with little operational significance in the broader counter terrorist campaign. Obama expressed this sense of accomplishment in terms of striking names from a kill list: “Today, Osama bin Laden is dead, and so are most of his top lieutenants.” This outcome is not a result, as in past wars, of military encounters, but rather a consequence of unlawful targeted killing programs and special forces operations violating the sovereign rights of other states absent their official consent.

It is in this setting that the Obama speech turns to the controversy generated by the reliance on drones, the use of which increased dramatically since Obama came to the White House in 2009. Obama affirms in vague and abstract language that “the decisions that we are making now will define the type of nation—and world—that we leave to our children. . . . So America is at a crossroads. We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us.” In an effort to refocus the struggle against global terrorism, Obama offers some welcome downsizing language: “. . . we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror,’ but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle the specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.” Yet there is no explanation offered as to why the struggles for political control in far flung places such as Yemen, Somalia, Mali, even the Philippines should be considered combat zones from the perspective of national security unless the global reach of American grand strategy is encompasses every country on the planet. Surely, to introduce American military power in what appear to be struggles to control the internal political life of a series of foreign countries does not create grounds in international law for recourse to war or even for threats and uses of international force.

It is not that Obama is rhetorically insensitive to these concerns[17], but it is his steadfast unwillingness to examine the concrete realities of what is being done in the name of America that makes his rosy picture of drone warfare so disturbing and misleading. Obama asserts that “[a]s was true in previous armed conflicts, this new technology raises profound questions—about who is targeted, and why, about civilian casualties, and the risk of creating new enemies; about the legality of such strikes under U.S. law and international law; about accountability and morality.”[18] Yes, these are some of the issues, but the responses given are little better than bland evasions of the legal and moral concerns raised. The basic argument put forward is that drone warfare has been effective and legal, and that it causes fewer casualties than other military alternatives. These contentions are subject to severe doubts that are never addressed in concrete terms that would be appropriate if Obama really meant what he said about confronting hard questions.[19]

His defense of legality is typical of the overall approach. Congress gave the Executive broad, virtually unrestricted authority to use all necessary force to address the threats unleashed after the 9/11 attacks, thus satisfying domestic constitutional requirements of separation of powers. Internationally, Obama sets forth some arguments about the right of the United States to defend itself before asserting, “So this is a just war—a war waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense.” It was here that he could have raised some skeptical questions about the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon as being regarded as ‘acts of war’ rather than crimes of such severity as to be ‘crimes against humanity.’ There were alternatives to recourse to war accompanied by a claim of self-defense against the transnational terrorist network that al Qaeda appeared to be that might have been at least explored, even if not actually adopted, back in 2001. Such a reclassification of the security effort as of 2013 could have re-raised the fundamental question or, more modestly, deescalated the counter-terrorist undertaking from war to a global fight against transnational crime carried forward in a genuinely collaborative inter-governmental spirit in a manner respectful of international law, including the UN Charter..

Obama failed to seize such an opportunity. Instead, he presented a deceptively abstract set of responses to the main public criticisms of drone warfare as concept and practice. Obama claims, despite the growing body of evidence to the contrary, that drone use is constrained by “a framework that governs our use of force against terrorists—insisting upon clear guidelines, oversight and accountability that is now codified in Presidential Policy Guidance.” It followed similar lines to those taken by John Brennan in a talk at the Harvard Law School a year or so earlier. Brennan was then serving as Obama’s chief counter-terrorism advisor. He stressed the dedication by the U.S. Government to adherence to the rule of law and democratic values that have given American society its distinctive shape: “I’ve developed a profound appreciation for the role that our values, especially the rule of law, play in keeping our country safe.”[20]Brennan, while claiming to do all that can be done to protect the American people against these threats from without and within reassured his law school audience in a manner that includes “adhering to the rule of law” in all undertakings, with explicit mention of “covert actions.” But what is meant here is clearly not to refrain from uses of force prohibited by international law, but only that the covert undertakings that have become so much a part of Obama’s ‘war on terror’ do not exceed “authorities provided to us by Congress.” With a rather sly sleight of mind, Brennan identifies the rule of law only with domestic legal authority while seeming to rationalize uses of force in various foreign countries. When it comes to the relevance of international law, Brennan relies on self-serving and unilateral constructions of legal reasonableness to contend that a person can be targeted if viewed as a threat even if far from the so-called ‘hot battlefield,’ that is, anywhere in the world is potentially part of the legitimate war zone.[21] Such a claim is deeply deceptive as drone use in countries such as Yemen and Somalia are not only far from the hot battlefield; their conflicts are essentially entirely disconnected, and so-called ‘signature strikes’ treat as proper targets individuals acting suspiciously in their particular foreign setting.

The claim of the Obama presidency is that drones target only those who pose a threat, that great care is taken to avoid collateral civilian damage, and that such a procedure produces less casualties and devastation than would result from prior approaches to such threats that relied on the cruder technologies of manned aircraft and boots on the ground. Obama addressed the awkward question of whether it is within this mandate to target American citizens who are acting politically while resident in a foreign country. Obama used the case of Anwar Awlaki, the Islamic preacher, to explain the rationale underlying the decision to kill him, pointing to his alleged connections with several failed attempted terrorist acts in the United States: “. . . when a U.S. citizen goes abroad to wage war against America . . . citizenship should no more serve as a shield than a sniper shooting down on an innocent crowd should be protected from a swat team.”[22] Yet such an explanation does not respond to critics as to why prior to the assassination no charges against Awlaki were put before some sort of judicial body, enabling a court-appointed defense, to ensure that ‘due process’ within the group deciding on targets was not just a rubber stamp for CIA and Pentagon recommendations, and certainly why there cannot be a full post-facto disclosure of evidence and rationale.[23]

More disturbing, because it suggests bad faith, was Obama’s failure to bring up the even more problematic drone targeting of a group of young people in a different part of Yemen than where the drone stuck Anwar Awlaki. The targeted group included Awlaki’s 16-year old son, Abdulrahman Awlaki, a cousin, and five other children while they were preparing an open air barbecue on October 14, 2011, three weeks after the drone killed Abdulrahman’s father. The grandfather of Abdulrahman, an eminent Yemeni who was a former cabinet minister and university president, tells of his frustrating efforts to challenge in American courts the reliance on such hit lists and the absence of accountability even in such extreme cases. It is this sort of incident that highlights why the whole claim of effectiveness of drones is under such a dark cloud of incredulity. The younger Awlaki seems to have been the victim of what is labeled in military jargon as a ‘signature strike,’ that is, a hit list made up of designated individuals but comprises a group that CIA or Pentagon analysts finds sufficiently suspicious to justify their lethal elimination. Notably, Obama never mentioned signature strikes in his talk, and thus cannot commit the government to end such targeting. This undermines his whole claim that targeting is responsibly conducted under his personal direction and done in an extremely prudent manner that limited targets to so-called ‘high value’ individuals posing direct threats to U.S. security and to arranging any attack so as to eliminate to the extent possible indirect damage to civilians. This type of rationalization is deceptive even if accepted on its own terms as drone strikes and threats by their nature spread deep fears to entire communities, and thus even if only the single targeted individual is killed or wounded, the impact of a strike is felt much more widely in space, and for a long duration in time. The ambit of state terror is inevitably wider than the avowed target of the approved target unless the targeted person is living in rural isolation.

There are two other matters in the Obama speech that warrant attention. His central logic is one of giving priority to protecting the American people against all threats, including the homegrown ones of the sort illustrated by the Fort Hood shooting and Boston Marathon bombings, and yet he affirms that no American president should ever “deploy armed drones over U.S. soil.”[24] First of all, what if there is a protection or enforcement imperative? Secondly, there is a seeming approval given, at least tacitly, to unarmed drones, which means surveillance from the air of domestic activities of individuals under suspicion.

Obama’s way of acknowledging that American diplomats face security threats that exceed those faced by other countries seems dubious, explaining that “[t]his is the price of being the world’s most powerful nation, particularly as a war of change washes over the Arab world.” Again the vague abstraction never yields to the concrete: why are American diplomats singled out? Are their legitimate grievances against the United States, which if removed, would enhance American security even more than by making embassies into fortresses and carrying out drone attacks anywhere on the planet provided only that the non-accountable president signs off? Are America’s imperial claims and global network of military bases and naval presence relevant to the legal assessments of threats or uses of international force? What about the global surveillance program disclosed in the government documents released by Edward Snowden?

Again the abstractions are fine, sometimes even clarifying, on their own detached plane of discourse, unless and until compared to the concrete enactments of policies, which are enveloped in darkness, that is, deprived of light. In encouraging tones, after providing a rationale for continuing a wartime approach, Obama does observe at the end of his speech that this war “like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises, that’s what our democracy demands.” He finishes with an obligatory patriotic flourish: “That’s who the American people are—determined, and not to be messed with.” Brennan chose almost identical words in ending his Harvard Law School speech: “As a people, as a nation, we cannot—and must not—succumb to the temptation to set aside our laws and values when we face threats to our security…We’re better than that. We’re Americans.”[25] The sad point is that the abstractions are decoys. What we have done in the name of security is precisely what Obama and Brennan say we must never do with respect to law and the values of the country, and such sentiments have been more recently repeated by Biden and Blinken. This tendency of American top officials to romance international law is utterly detached from the implementation of foreign policy when it comes to ‘security’ or grand strategy. We tell ourselves and lecture others to join us in observing a rule-governed world, yet our behavior suggests patterns based on discretion and secrecy.


Turning to the counter-narrative in which the reality of drone warfare is presented in an entirely different mode. This does not necessarily imply a total repudiation of drone warfare, but it does insist that such tactics and their current implementation are not fairly or honestly reported, and as such, cannot be readily reconciled with constitutional or international law or with prevailing moral standards. The critics of the mainstream Washington discourse can be faulted for tending to presume that there is no way to scale back reliance on drones in a manner that is sensitive to the limitations of law and morality rather than to dwell only on the abusive and dangerously dysfunctional ways in which drones have been and are being used by the U.S. Government. In other words, if the basic fallacy of the pro-drone children of light discourse is to keep the focus on an abstract level that ignores the existential challenges posed  by actual and potential patterns of use, the complementary fallacy of the children of darkness scenario is to limit their commentary to the concrete level that neglects the legitimate security pressures that motivate reliance on drones and their counterparts in the domain of ‘special operations’ with a lineage that can be traced back to World War II, if not earlier. An appropriate discourse on drones would involve a synthesis that took some account of the security justifications while recognizing the normative tensions of undertaking a borderless war rather than defining the threat as one of borderless crime, as well as worried about the implications of validating reliance on robotic approaches to conflict where the human connection with acts of war is broken or rendered remote.

This adaptation to threats from non-territorially specific actors is undoubtedly what Dick Cheney was referring to when he somewhat ominously gave his opinion that for the United States to regain security in a post-9/11 world require actions on ‘the dark side.’ The initial disseminators of the ‘children of darkness’ discourse were actually unabashed in their embrace of this imagery and accompanying policies. Indeed, Cheney articulated the positive rationale lawlessness in a September 16, 2001 interview on Meet the Press: “We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows of the intelligence world . . . That’s the world these folks operate in, and so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.”[26] What this meant in real time was reliance on torture, black sites in foreign countries, and kill lists, and the sidelining of legal constraints or a readiness to warp relevant legal norms them out of shape to validate policies.[27] This meant reliance on ‘black sites’ in a series of friendly countries that would allow the CIA to operate their own secret interrogation centers free national regulatory constraints, and there would be no questions raised. It led to ‘extraordinary rendition,’ transferring suspects to governments that would engage in torture beyond what was evidently acceptable as ‘enhanced interrogation’ under direct American auspices. Donald Rumsfeld’s apparent motivations for a vast expansion of the Pentagon Special Access Program for Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) was partly to avoid further dependence on the CIA because dark side initiatives were in his words being “lawyered to death.”[28] When the PBS TV documentary Frontline presented its depiction of the war on terror associated with the neoconservative presidency of George W. Bush in 2008, it chose the title “The Dark Side,” as did Jane Mayer in her searing critique of the tactics employed by the Cheney/Rumsfeld designers of the governmental response to 9/11.[29]  It is not surprising that Cheney was even seemingly comfortable with being cast as the personification of evil in the popular culture by way of the Star Wars character of Darth Vader.[30]

As is well known by now, 9/11 facilitated a prior resolve by Cheney and Rumsfeld to concentrate war powers in the presidency and to project American power globally on the basis of post-Cold War strategic opportunity and priorities without regard for the territorial limitations of sovereignty or the restraints of international law. Their goal was to preside over a revolution in military affairs that would bring warfare into the 21st century, which meant minimizing conventional weapons and tactics, which produced casualties and domestic political opposition to an aggressive foreign policy, and relying on technological and tactical innovations that would have surgical capacities to defeat any enemy anywhere on the planet. 9/11 was at first a puzzle as the neocon grand strategy was devised to achieve quick and cheap victories against hostile foreign governments on the model of the Gulf War in 1991, but with an increased willingness to be politically ambitious in imposing the kind of political outcomes that would enhance U.S. global dominance. What had not been anticipated, however, and struck fear in many hearts, was that the main hostile political actors would turn out to be non-state actors whose forces were dispersed in many places and lacked the kind of territorial base that could be targeted in retaliation (and as such, not subject to deterrence). Adapting to that kind of security threat is what brought the dark side tactics front and center, as human intelligence was indispensable, the main perpetrators could hide anywhere including within the United States. Because their presence was often intermingled with the civilian population, there would either have to be indiscriminate violence or precision attained through targeted killing.

It was here that special operations, such as the killing of Osama Bin Laden, are emblematic, and drone warfare so often became the tactic and means of choice. And it is here that the counter-terrorist, despite being shrouded in a cloak of darkness, himself becomes a deadly officially sanctioned species of terrorist. The political extremist who blows up public buildings is not essentially different from the governmental operative who launches a drone or goes on a kill mission, although the extremist makes no claim of targeting precision and refuses to accept any responsibility for indiscriminate killing.

In reaction to the degree of continuity exhibited by the Obama presidency despite its reliance on the ‘children of light’ discourse, liberal critics have tended to focus on the behavior of the state as characterized by its reliance on dark side tactics. Authors such as Jeremy Scahill and Mark Mazetti discuss the degree to which the essential features of the Cheney/Rumsfeld worldview have been sustained, even extended, during the Obama presidency: a war in the shadows; a global battlefield; surveillance of suspects that are defined to include anyone, everywhere; a conception of imminent threat as potentially anyone (including American citizens) within or without the country; accelerated reliance on drone strikes as authorized by the president; and targeted killing as ‘the battlefield’ acknowledged by Obama pointing to the execution of Osama Bin Laden as the high point of his success in the war against al-Qaeda and its affiliates.

There are some refinements in the conduct of the war on terror: the emphasis is placed on non-state adversaries, and regime-changing interventions against hostile state actors is avoided if possible; torture as a tactic is pushed deeper into the darkness, meaning it is repudiated but not eliminated. (e.g. force-feeding controversy at Guantánamo.) In other words, the children of darkness still control ‘the real’ conflict, dramatically confirmed by Obama’s harsh responses to such whistleblowers as Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. The liberal discourse of the children of light calms American society, but evades the fundamental challenges being directed at international law and world order by the ongoing tactics of the Obama approach to a continuing war in response to 9/11 (that is, to date, implicitly sharing the Cheney view that it would be a gross mistake to treat ‘terrorism’ as a crime rather than as ‘war.’).


The central debate about drone warfare focuses on issues of style and secrecy, and downplays matters of substance. Both children of light (representing the Obama presidency and liberal supporters) and children of darkness (the Cheney/Rumsfeld cabal) are unapologetic advocates of the military use of drones, ignoring the problematics of such weaponry and tactics from the perspectives of international law and world order. To underscore this contention, the introductory references to nuclear weapons are relevant. For drones, the idea of first order constraints of drones based on unconditional prohibition and disarmament to ensure non-possession seems outside the scope of debate. Given the rise of non-state political actors with transnational agendas, the military utility of drones, and. their arms sales potential, is so great that any project seeking their prohibition at this stage would be implausible.

The same situation pertains to second-order constraints associated with controls on their dissemination comparable to the nonproliferation approach. Already drones are too widely possessed, the technology too familiar, the market too vibrant, and the practical uses for a range of states too great to suppose that any significant sovereign state or non-state actor with an extremist political agenda would forego the advantages associated with the possession of drones, although the deployment of attack drones may lag for a short period of time depending on the perception of security threats by various governments. Therefore, the best that can be hoped for at this time are certain agreed upon guidelines relating to use, what might be called third-order constraints similar to the way in which the law of war has traditionally impacted upon the conduct of hostilities in a manner that is vulnerable to the changing perceptions of ‘military necessity’ as weapons and tactical innovations bring about changes in the modalities of warfare.

The world order issues have also been evaded in the unfolding debate on the use of drones, never being mentioned in the Obama speech of May 23rd, and only acknowledged indirectly in the Cheney/Rumsfeld view of the post-9/11 terrain of warfare. In short, the treatment of the 9/11 attacks as ‘acts of war’ rather than ‘crimes’ has more enduring significance than the attacks themselves. It leads almost thoughtlessly to viewing the world as a global battlefield, and to a war that has no true end point as has been the case in past wars. In effect, it submits to the logic of perpetual war, and the related acceptance of the idea that everyone, including citizens and residents, are potential enemies. This logic of forever wars has been controversially challenged by Biden’s hedged commitment to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan after 20 years of costly and fruitless military engagement by the anniversary of 9/11. The political right and top military commanders counseled against such a move, and Biden has left himself room to reverse course in ways other than boots on the ground.

Since the identification of security threats is fueled by intelligence gathering, which is done secretly, the primacy given to protecting the nation and its population gives to political leaders and unaccountable bureaucracies a license to kill, to impose extra-judicial capital punishment without the intervening due process steps of indictment, prosecution, and trial. As time passes, this authoritarian nexus of governmental power as it becomes normalized undermines both the possibility of ‘peace’ and ‘democracy,’ and necessarily institutionalizes ‘the deep state’ as standard operating procedure for contemporary governance. If linked to the consolidation of capital and finance in plutocratic patterns of influence, the advent of new variants of fascism becomes almost inevitable, whatever the shape of the global security system.[31] In other words, drones reinforce other trends in world order that are destructive of human rights, global justice, and the protection of human interests of global scope. These trends include large investments in secret global surveillance systems that scrutinize the private lives of citizens at home, a wide range of persons abroad, and even the diplomatic maneuverings of foreign governments on a basis more extensive and intrusive than traditional espionage. Private sector interests in inflating procurement of weaponry and sales abroad create state/society links that justify high defense budgets, exaggerated security threats, and sustains global militarism discouraging all developments toward accommodation and sustainable peace.


There are certain specific effects of drone warfare that exert a strain on the efforts of international law to constrain uses of force and regulate the conduct of war. These have been discussed by some ‘children of light’ critics of the official policies as to scope of permissible use of drones. In effect, drones are not challenged per se, but only their mode of authorization and rules of engagement pertaining to use.

Recourse to War

A prime effort of modern international law has been to discourage recourse to war to resolve international conflicts that emerge between sovereign states. In many respects, that undertaking has been successful in the relations among major states with respect to international wars as distinct from internal wars. The destructiveness of war, the diminishing importance of territorial expansion, and the rise of a globalized economy ensure that this idea of war as a last resort is an important achievement of the latest phase of state-centric world order. Such an achievement is now at risk due to the rise of non-state transnational violence and the response by way of drones and special forces that operate without regard to borders. What this means is that international warfare becomes more and more dysfunctional, and the war mentality is shifted to the new wars waged by a global state against non-state political actors. And these wars, which are largely conducted behind a thick veil of secrecy, and with low risks of casualties on the side relying on drone attacks, make recourse to war much less problematic on the home front: the public does not have to be convinced, Congressional approval can be achieved in secret sessions, and there are no likely U.S. military casualties or vast diversions of resources. These one-sided wars of an asymmetrical character become cheap and easy, although not for civilian populations subject to barbaric violence of extremist political actors. This assessment is quickly eroding due to the rapid proliferation of drone weaponry, including to non-state combatant actors and the accelerated development of drone technology.

In recent instances, Azerbajan has used attack drones effectively against Armenian tanks in the 2020 outbreak of war in the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. The Houthis have responded to Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen with devastating drone attacks in September 14, 2019 on Khurais Oil field and the extensive Aqaiq oil processing facilities. It seems that all the major actors in the Middle East now possess drones as integral parts of their weapons arsenals. Undoubtedly, an arms race involving various types of drones is already underway, and likely to become feverish, if not already so.

State Terror

There had always been some tendency for the tactics of warfare to involve explicit reliance on state terror, that is, military force directed at the civilian population. The indiscriminate bombing of German and Japanese cities during the last stages of World War II was one of the most extreme instances, but the German blockades of Soviet cities, rockets fired at English cities, and the rise of submarine warfare against ships carrying food and humanitarian supplies to civilian populations were other prominent examples. Yet the type of ‘dirty wars’ undertaken after 9/11 embraced state terror as the essence of the dark side conduct of the effort to destroy the al-Qaeda network, and indeed undertake the destruction of so-called terror networks of global or regional reach. As American operations in Yemen and Somalia suggest, the notion of ‘global reach’ has been replaced by armed movements or groups with a jihadist identity even if the scope of their ambitions is confined to national borders, posing no threat, imminent or otherwise, to American national security if conceived in traditional territorial terms.

This tension between treating anti-state ‘terrorists’ as the worst form of criminality that suspends legal protections while claiming to engage in comparable forms of violence is to deprive international law of its normative authority. Until the Cheney/Rumsfeld embrace of secret war by assassination, the United States did not follow Israel’ s adoption of terror to fight armed resistance that had evolved from the shadows of Israeli policy to an outright avowal of legality in 2000 (after years of disavowal). In addition to the tactical adoption of a terrorist approach to weakening the enemy, there is the terrorizing of the society as a whole that is the scene of drone attacks. That is, it is not only the targeted individual or group, but the experience of having such drone strikes, that creates acute anxiety and severe disruption within the communities that have been attacked.[32]

Targeted Killing

Both the international human rights law and the international law of war prohibit extra-judicial executions.[33] The insistence is made that such targeting is legal if the threat is perceived as substantial and imminent, as determined by secret procedures, not subject to post-facto procedures of investigation and potential accountability. The reliance on such a process for the legalization of practices associated with drone warfare and special operations does two types of damage to international law: (1) it situates targeted killing beyond the reach of law, and dependent on the non-reviewable discretion of government officials, including the subjective appreciation of threats (such a rationale is basically one of ‘trust us’); and (2) it substantially erodes the prohibition on targeting civilians not engaged in combat operations, and at the same time eliminates the due process arguments that those charged with crimes are entitled to a presumption of innocence and right of defense.

As a result, both the customary international law distinction between military and non-military targets is weakened and the human rights effort to protect civilian innocence is completely disregarded. Also, the underlying contention that extra-judicial targeted killing is done sparingly and in the face of imminent threat as underpinning the claim of ‘reasonableness’ is unreviewable because of the secrecy surrounding these uses of drones, and the critical independent assessments of actual patterns of use by journalists and others do not support government claims of responsible behavior. That is, even if the argument is accepted that the law of war and human rights law must bend in relation to novel imminent security threats, there is no indication that such constraints have been or will be observed in practice. The criterion of imminence, even if interpreted in good faith, is notoriously subjective.

Expanding Self-Defense

The most fundamental argument with respect to drone warfare is that given the nature of the threats posed by political extremists pursuing transnational agendas and situated anywhere and everywhere, preemptive tactics should be authorized as components of the inherent right of self-defense. Reactive tactics based on retaliation in the event that deterrence fails are

ineffective, and since the destructive capabilities of non-state actors pose credible major threats to peace and security of even the strongest of states, preemptive strikes are necessary and reasonable. Such subjectivity pervades threat perception, and as applied in relation to drone warfare, undermines the entire effort to limit international uses of force to objectively determined defensive claims that can be reviewed as to reasonableness and in relation to objective criteria such as are embodied in Article 51 of the UN Charter. The central ambition of the Charter was to restrict to the extent possible the scope of self-defense under international law. The abandonment of this effort represents an unacknowledged return to an essentially discretionary pre-Charter approach to recourse to war by sovereign states.[34]

The Logic of Reciprocity

An essential feature of the law of war is the idea of precedent and the acceptance of the reciprocity principle that what is claimed as legal by a dominant state cannot be denied to a weaker state.[35] The United States established such a controversial and harmful precedent by recourse to atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, failing to voice complaints when other countries, including France, Soviet Union, and China, later tested their own weapons, thereby respecting the logic of reciprocity. It did this although by that time other countries were making atmospheric tests the United States was limiting its own testing to underground sites with less damaging environmental effects.

With patterns of drone use, however, the world would be chaotic if what the United States is claiming is lawful for its undertakings with drones is undertaken by other states or political movements. It is only a geopolitical claim by the United States in relation to uses of force that can be projected into the future as a sustainable basis of world order, and as such, it implies a repudiation of Westphalian notions of the juridical equality of states, as well as the right of states to remain neutral in relation to conflicts to which they are not a party. The drone debate has been so far implicitly embedded in a legal culture that takes American exceptionalism for granted. With the spread of drone weaponry this kind of preferential option is foreclosed. Westphalian notions of order based on sovereign states requires the total disarmament of drones or the criminalization of their use outside combat zones.

The Global Battlefield

In significant respects, the Cold War converted the world into a global battlefield, with the CIA managing covert operations in foreign countries as part of the struggle against the spread of Communist influence (‘warriors without borders’ or uniforms). After 9/11 this globalization of conflict was renewed in a more explicit form, and directed particularly at the security threats posed by the al Qaeda network that was declared to be based in as many as 60 countries. As the threats emanated from non-territorial bases of operations, secret intelligence, sophisticated surveillance, and identification of dangerous individuals living ordinary lives in ‘sleeper cells’ amid civilian society became the prime focus of interest. Foreign governments, most notably Pakistan and Yemen, were allegedly induced to give their confidential consent for drone strikes within their own territory, which were the subject of enraged denials and protests by the governments in question. Such patterns of ‘consent’ eroded the autonomy of many sovereign states, and generated intense distrust in the relations between the state and the people. It also raises questions about what might be called ‘representational legitimacy.’ It is questionable whether this muffled form of deniable consent provides adequate justification for such erosions of the political independence of sovereign states.

The American claim has been that it has the legal option to use drones against targets that pose a threat if the foreign government is unwilling or unable to take action on its own to remove the threat, with the underlying legal presupposition being that a government has an obligation not to allow its territory to be used as a launching pad for transnational violence. What becomes clear, however, is that both the globalizing of conflict, and of threats and responses, are incompatible with a state-centric structure of law and effective global governance. If a legal order is to persist under these conditions, it must be globalized, as well, but there is an insufficient political will to establish and empower truly global procedures and institutions with such effective authority.

As a result, the only alternatives seem to be an inchoate geopolitical regime of the sort that presently prevails, or an explicit global imperial regime that repudiates in explicit form the logic of reciprocity and the juridical idea of the equality of sovereign states. To date, neither of these alternatives to Westphalian world order has been established or would be accepted if proclaimed. Many states could contend, with reason, that the territory of third party states is being used as a safe haven for enemies. Cuba could put forward such an argument with respect to the United States, and it is the inequality of states more than the inhibitions of law, that keep the militant Cuban exile operations in Florida free from attack.

One–Sided Warfare

Drone warfare carries forward various tactics of warfare that are virtually without human risk for the more technologically powerful and sophisticated side in armed conflict, and have assumed recent prominence due to the tactics and weaponry employed by Israel and the United States. A pattern of one-sided warfare has resulted that shifts the burdens of warfare to the adversary to the extent possible. To an extent, such a shift reflects the nature of warfare that seeks to protect one’s own side to the extent possible from death and destruction, while inflicting as much damage on the other side. What is distinctive in the recent instances of military intervention and counter-terrorism, the two main theaters of combat, is the one-sidedness of the casualty figures. A series of military operations are illustrative of this pattern: Gulf War(1991); NATO Kosovo War(1999); Iraq Invasion (2003); NATO Libya War (2011); and Israeli military operations against Lebanon and Gaza (2006; 2008-09; 2012; 2014). The increasing use of attack drones in Afghanistan is a culminating example of one-sided warfare, removing the drone operational crew from the battlefield altogether, executing strikes by commands issued from remote operational headquarters (e.g. in Nevada). The repudiation of torture as an acceptable tactic of war or law enforcement partly reflects the one-sidedness of the relationship between the torturer and the victim as morally and legally objectionable aside from liberal arguments contending that torture is ineffective and unlawful.[36] An analogous set of reactions to drone warfare exists, including the liberal contention that the rage and resentment of a population subject to drone attack encourages an expansion of the very kind of political extremism that drones deployed against, as well as alienating foreign governments.

Of course, with the spread of drone weaponry, the advantages of asymmetry are quickly evaporating.

Futuristic Drone Warfare

While the politicians are preoccupied with responding to immediate threats, the arms makers and Pentagon advance planners are exploring the technological frontiers of drone warfare. These frontiers are synonymous with science fictions accounts of robotic warfare with ultra-sophisticated weaponry, and massive killing machines. There are possibilities of drone fleets that can conduct belligerent operations with minimal human agency, communicating with each other to coordinate lethal strikes on an enemy, which may also be armed with defensive drones. The reliance on drones in current patterns of warfare has the inevitable effect of devoting attention to what can be done to improve performance and to develop new military missions. Whether the technological momentum that has been released can be controlled or confined seems doubtful, and again the comparison with nuclear military technology is instructive. Yet it is important to keep in mind that drones are widely considered to be usable weapons, including for legal and moral reasons, while so far nuclear weapons are treated as non-usable except conceivably in ultimate survival situations. A disquieting recent development is increasing talk of breaching the informal taboo on the use of nuclear weaponry with the design and development of nuclear warheads intended for use against underground nuclear facilities or naval formations.


Four lines of conclusion emerge from this overall assessment of the impact of drone warfare, as practiced by the United States, on international law and world order. First, it is not plausible to eliminate drones from the warfare so long as the security of states is based on a military self-help system. As a weapons system, given the current threats posed by non-state actors and the memories of 9/11, drones are regarded as essential weapons. In any event, the technological momentum and commercial incentives are too great to halt the production and spread of drones.[37] As a result, such first-order international law constraints as an unconditional prohibition of drones as adopted in relation to biological and chemical weapons, and proposed in relation to nuclear weapons, is not plausible.

Secondly, the debate on the legality of drone warfare has been carried on within an American context in which the risks of setting precedents and the dangers of future technological developments is accorded minimal attention. This debate has been further trivialized by being conducted mainly between those who would cast aside international law and those who stretch it to serve changing national security priorities of American foreign policy. In other words, legal restaints are either cast aside or so interpreted as to permit drone to be used as ‘legal’ weapons.

Thirdly, the debate on drones seems oblivious to the world order dimensions of creating a global battlefield and coercing the consent of foreign governments. The precedents being set are likely to be relied upon by a variety of actors in the future to pursue goals antagonistic to maintaining international legal order. Drone technology has already proliferated to as many as 100 countries and countless non-state actors.

Fourthly, the embrace of state terror to fight against non-state actors makes war into a species of terror, and tends toward making all limits on force seem arbitrary, if not absurd.

It is against this background that the counter-intuitive argument is put forward seriously to the effect that drone warfare is, and is likely to become, more destructive of international law and world order than is nuclear warfare. Such a contention is not meant to suggest that reliance on nuclear weapons would somehow be better for the human future than the acceptance of the logic of drone use. It is only to say that so far, at any rate, international law and world order have been able to figure out coherent regimes of relevant constraint for nuclear weapons that have kept the peace, but have not been able to do so for drones, and will be unlikely to do so as long as the military logic of dirty wars is allowed to control the shaping of national security policy in the United States and elsewhere. It is too late, and was probably always futile, to contemplate a non-proliferation regime for drone technology.

[*] An updated version of chapter published in Marjorie Cohn, ed., Drones and Targeted Killing(Northampton, MA, 2015).

[1] But see definitive study that demonstrates convincingly that the avoidance of nuclear war was more a matter of luck than rational restraint. Martin J. Sherwin, Gambling with Armageddon: Nuclear Roulette from Hiroshima to the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1945-1962 (Knopf, 2020).

[2] On the workings of the state-centric world order, see Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society: A study of order in world politics (Columbia Univ. Press, 2nd ed., 1995); Robert O. Keohane, After Hegemony: Cooperation and discord in the world political economy (Princeton Univ. Press, 1984); the vertical axis of world order reflects the inequality of states, and the special role played by dominant states; the horizontal axis embodies the juridical logical of equality among states that is the foundation of the international rule of law. First order constraints would entail the prohibition of nuclear weaponry and a phased and verified disarmament process that eliminated nuclear weapons. For critiques of the failures of diplomacy to achieve first-order constraints, seeRichard Falk & David Krieger, The Path to Zero: dialogues on nuclear dangers (Paradigm, 2012); Richard Falk & Robert Jay Lifton, Indefensible Weapons: The psychological and political case against nuclearism (Basic Books, 1982); Jonathan Schell, The Fate of the Earth (Knopf, 1982); E.P. Thompson, Beyond the Cold War: A new arms race and nuclear annihilation (Pantheon,1982). See also Stefan Andersson, ed., On Nuclear Weaapons: Denuclearization, Demilitarization and Disarmament: Selected Writing of Richard Falk (Cambridge University Press, 2019).  

[3] For standard rationale of deterrence doctrine that played a role during the Cold War, even according to John Mearsheimer, preventing World War III. For the worldview that endorses such extreme political realism, see Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (Norton, 2001); see also Mearsheimer, Back to the Future, International Security 15(No. 1):5-56 (1990). It is true that for certain isolated smaller and medium states, nuclear weapons can operate as an equalizer and offset the vertical dimension of world order. There is also a role played by nuclear weapons in threat diplomacy that has been explored by many authors. See Alexander George & Willima Simons, eds., Limits of Coercive Diplomacy, (Westview Press, 2nd ed., 1994). Other authors pushed rationality to frightening extremes so as to find ways to take practical advantage of American superiority in nuclear weaponry. See Henry Kissinger, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (Doubleday, 1958); Herman Kahn, On Thermonuclear War (Princeton Univ. Press, 1960).

[4] The arms control regime, despite its managerial rationale, has always rejected any prohibition on first strike options, and thus casts doubt on the morality and practical contributions of such second order constraints.

[5] The nonproliferation regime, embodied in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) (729 U.N.T.S. 10485), is a prime instance of a vertical arrangement, allowing only the dominant states to retain nuclear weapons, and is the main form that second order constraints have taken. It is relevant to note that the International Court of Justice in its important Advisory Opinion of 1996 offered the view in its majority opinion that a use of nuclear weapons might be lawful, but only if the survival of the state was credibly at stake. In what seems a futile gesture the judges were united in their belief that the nuclear weapons states had a clear legal obligation in Art VI of the NPT to engage in good faith disarmament negotiations, suggesting a legalistic horizontal element that is likely to have no behavioral impacts. The nuclear weapons states, above all the United States, have treated this authoritative statement of the bearing of international law as essentially irrelevant to their attitude toward the role of nuclear weapons in national security policy.

[6] President Obama early in his presidency gave hope to those who had long sought the elimination of nuclear weapons when he spoke in favor of a world without nuclear weapons, but hedged his visionary statement with subtle qualifications that made it unlikely to proceed very far. See President Barack Obama, Remarks by President Barack Obama in Prague (April 5, 2009); the liberal realist view insists that nuclear disarmament is a desirable goal, but must not occur in the face of unresolved international conflicts. It is never made clear when the time will be right, which has the quality of a utopian precondition that precludes the morally, legally, and political compelling arguments for nuclear disarmament. For a typical statement of such mainstream liberal outlook, see Michael O’Hanlon, Skeptic’s Case for Nuclear Disarmament (Brookings, 2010).

[7] Among others, see Robert Jay Lifton, Superpower Syndrome: America’s apocalyptic confrontation with the world (Nation Books, 2002)for a reluctant endorsement of the nuclear weapons status quo, see Joseph Nye, Nuclear Ethics (Free Press, 1986).

[8] There are two extreme orientations toward normativity in world politics—the Kantian tradition of skepticism about international law, but affirmation of international morality, versus the Machiavellian tradition of calculative and self-interested behavior that rejects moral as well as legal authority in the conduct of state politics. A contemporary master of the Machiavellian approach was Henry Kissinger, an approach proudly acknowledged in Kissinger, Diplomacy (Simon & Schuster, 1994).

[9] Despite their increased participation in all aspects of international life, non-state actors remain on the outside of the circle of Westphalian political actors that limit membership in the United Nations and most international institutions to sovereign states.

[10] For views that international humanitarian law and the law of war generally are dubious contributions to human wellbeing as they tend to make war an acceptable social institution, seeRichard Wasserstrom, ed., War and Morality (Wadsworth, 1970); see also Raymond Aron, Peace and War: A theory of international relations (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1966); Richard Falk, Legal Order in a Violent World (Princeton Univ. Press, 1968).

[11] Chiaroscuro is usually defined as the treatment of light and darkness in painting; in the sense used here it refers to the contrasts of light and dark in the perceptions of the American global role.

[12] The political leadership of states is legitimized by free elections, law and order, development as measured by growth rates, and executive political skills, including communication with the public, and only secondarily by fidelity to law and morality. Such an observation is even more accurate when applied to foreign policy, and more so yet, if a state of war prevails.

[13] For classic exposition, see Reinhold Niebuhr, Children of Light and Children of Darkness (Scribners, 1960).

[14] See Kissinger & Kahn, Note 2, who, among others, contended in Cold War contexts that nuclear weapons were needed as an offset to the alleged conventional superiority of the Soviet Union in the defense of Europe, and that the human and physical costs of a regional nuclear war were an acceptable price to pay. This illustrates the extremes to which realist thinkers were prepared to go on behalf of strategic goals.

[15] President Barack Obama, Remarks by the President at the National Defense University (May 23, 2013) (transcript available at

[16] H. Bruce Franklin, Crash Course: From the Good War to the Forever War (Rutgers University Press, 2018).

[17] Lisa Hajjar, Anatomy of the US Targeted Killing Policy, MERIP 264 (2012).

[18] Obama, supra note 14.

[19] For instance, there is no consideration of the disruption of tribal society, as in Pakistan, through the use of drones or the ‘blowback’ in countries such as Pakistan from what appear to the public to be flagrant violations of national sovereignty. For important depiction of impact of drone warfare on tribal societies, see Akbar Ahmed, The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s war on terror became a global war on tribal Islam (Brookings Inst. Press2013); for general assessment of blowback costs of relying on drones, see Scahill, Dirty Wars: The world as a battlefield (Nation Books, 2013); along similar lines, see Mark Mazzetti, The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a secret army, and a war at the ends of the earth (Penguin, 2013).

[20] Before Brennan, it was Harold Koh, Legal Advisor to the Secretary of State, who set forth a legal rationale for reliance on drones in an address given at the American Society of International Law, March 25, 2010.

[21] John Brennan, Obama Administration Policies and Practices (September 16, 2012).

[22] Obama, supra note 14.

[23] See Jeremy Scahill on the non-indictment of al-Awlaki, Note 17.

[24] Obama, supra note 14.

[25] Supra note 19.

[26] Meet the Press: Dick Cheney (NBC television broadcast Sept. 16, 2001), available at

[27] For texts and commentary on torture during the Bush presidency, see David Cole, ed., The Torture Memos: Rationalizing the Unthinkable (New Press, 2009).

[28] See Scahill, Note 17, loc. 1551.

[29] Jane Mayer, The Dark Side (Doubleday, 2008); see also Laleh Khalili Time in the Shadows: Confinement in counterinsurgencies (Stanford Univ. Press, 2013).

[30] In this connection, it is worth noting that Richard Perle, the intellectual standout in the liliputian world of neocons was dubbed ‘the prince of darkness,’ which was treated in the media as part comedy, part opprobrium, and part honorific in view of his influence.

[31] For an analysis along these lines, see Sheldon Wolin, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Totalitarianism (Princeton Univ. Press, 2008).

[32] For detailed documentation, see Ahmed, Note 17.

[33] In the aftermath of the Church and Pike Congressional hearings in the 1970s, a series of executive orders were issued by successive American presidents prohibiting any assassination of a foreign political leader. See Executive Orders 11905 (1976), 12036 (1978), and 12333 (1981) for official enactment. Drone assassinations are treated as aspects of war rather than as assassinations in the sense of these executive orders, but whether or not the policies are compatible has not been convincingly addressed.

[34] More accurately, reliance on a discretionary approach to war is to revert to the status of war in world politics prior to the adoption of the Kellogg-Briand Pact (also known as the Pact of Paris) in 1928, which is primarily known for its “renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy.”

[35] See David Cole, A Secret License to Kill, NYR Blog (Sept 19, 2011, 5:30 PM),

[36] For elaboration, see Richard Falk, Torture, War, and the Limits of Liberal Legalityin The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse 119 (Marjorie Cohn ed., NYU Press, 2011).

[37] For useful discussion and documentation, see Medea Benjamin, Drone Warfare: Killing by remote control (Verso, rev. ed., 2013).

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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