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And most importantly, How do we reckon with the power and dangers of the modern state?

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The goal of looking into this dark mirror is to ask: How do we understand ethics and responsibility in the context of a highly elaborate structure of power? Who has the responsibility to object? Who has the power to refuse?

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The Vietnam War is striking for how many of its lead architects held deep moral or political reservations about the war, yet kept diligently making it deadlier and longer.

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But also at how people can resist as well as succumb to this pressure.

The memoir Secrets, of how @DanielEllsberg@twitter.com was moved to leak the Pentagon Papers, is the lead example in the course.

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Bureaucrats are expected to comply with superior orders, "even if the order appears wrong to him… Without this moral discipline and self-denial, in the highest sense, the whole apparatus would fall to pieces," as Max Weber wrote.

We look at how disastrously this can go wrong.

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The role of professions and professionals in amoral compliance, and thereby (given the right orders) atrocities is pretty much the hinge point of this course.

So, Arendt on Eichmann and Kafka's The Trial.

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The other challenge is to balance looking crimes against humanity in the face and showing how non-compliance and disruption have overcome them.

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New elements of that balance are parallel study of the Holodomor famine in Ukraine and Victorian-era famines in colonial India.

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This course is a careful balance among critiques of liberal/colonial, Nazi, and Soviet states, because most people believe that only other's political ideologies are responsible for unfathomable cruelty.

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The premise of the course is to examine deliberate but disastrous policies like airplane crash investigators.

What do they reveal about the machinery of state that allowed them to happen? What methods do people have to avoid them in the future?

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One month from now I start my class, States and Their Secrets, with a renewed focus (in light of Ukraine) on deliberately orchestrated famine, secret wars, and nationalism within and against empire.

Human rights group @Reprieve@twitter.com reported in 2014 that two prior drone strikes attempting to kill Ayman al-Zawahiri had resulted in 105 deaths. theguardian.com/us-news/2014/n

h/t @voiceinwild@twitter.com

When the USA sends two rockets to kill al-Zawahiri, but millions of dollars of weapons to an Egyptian regime thst still runs the same torture prisons that radicalized him, these actions do not make me safer.

Needless to say, reciprocally permitting attacks on retired war criminals in their residences would have shocking consequences for Western cities and suburbs. 5/5

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Even less do they match the requirements nominally mandated by the Obama administration for drone killings: a target constituted a “continuing imminent threat to U.S. persons.”

Instead this was a punitive execution of a retired terrorist. 4/5

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Both the US and the UN therefore clearly and publicly assessed al-Zawahiri's activities, and these were not "directly participating in hostilities" in the sense required by International Humanitarian Law for a lawful strike. casebook.icrc.org/glossary/dir 3/5

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The UN and US intelligence publicly concluded that al Qaeda in Afghanistan "is not viewed as posing an immediate international threat … lacks an external operational capability" (UN) and "will focus on maintaining its safe haven" rather than organizing strikes (US ODNI). 2/5

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Per info in Washington Post reporting, the drone strike on Ayman al-Zawahiri violates law of war criteria for a legal target. (Though the @washingtonpost@twitter.com certainly doesn't draw this conclusion.) 1/5

Global télécommunication enables this level of detail, nuance, and context on every flashpoint in the news.

And yet.

RT @UnaHajdari@twitter.com

There isn’t a conflict or escalation brewing in Kosovo atm. Kosovo Serbs set up roadblocks towards two main border crossings with Serbia in the north, in opposition to a move by the 🇽🇰 gov’t whereby Serbian citizens need special certificates when entering the country. twitter.com/goncharenkoua/stat

🐦🔗: twitter.com/UnaHajdari/status/

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