The Broken Rifle

A soldier stood with a gun, wearing a face mask
Issue number
Militarised responses to the Covid-19 pandemic

Dear friends,

Apologies for the duplicate email - our original email for The Broken Rifle didn't contain two articles, one exploring the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in Brazil, and one from our friends at the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, exploring why pandemic is an opportunity for disarmament. We hope you enjoy the magazine!

Since the start of 2020, our world has completely changed. So many of the things we took for granted as part of normal life have become impossible, or much more difficult; socialising with friends, going to the shop, traveling even short distances from our homes (let alone around the world), gathering for parties (or protests!)...

And yet in so many other ways our world hasn't changed at all. As governments around the world scrambled to respond to the rapidly spreading Covid-19 pandemic, many reached for the old playbook; fear, violence, and militarisation. Even as communities around the world found a huge array of creative ways of responding tho the pandemic, building resilience and connection even as the fear and confusion took hold, governments used their military strength to violently enforce lock downs and take advantage of the situation for their own political gain. As always, it has been the most disadvantaged and marginalised communities who have most directly impacted.

For this edition of the Broken Rifle we have reached out to activists around the world, asking them to describe the diverse ways that the covid-19 lock downs have been militarised, and argue that the militarised responses to the Covid-19 pandemic show how deeply embedded militarism has become. At the same time, the covid-19 crisis is an opportunity for our movements, to reflect, reevaluate, and regroup.

We're also excited that this is the first edition of The Broken Rifle that will be printed and distributed for a long time! For several years The Broken Rifle has been an online-only affair, but we feel now is the time to again explore opportunities for other ways of distributing the magazine. We hope this will mean that producing and distributing The Broken Rifle will, eventually, contribute to WRI's finances and supports our other work. If you would like to subscribe to receive the printed version you can find out how here: or email


You can also read the Broken Rifle in a magazine format on the Issuu website, here:

“Shoot them dead.” These were the orders of Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, on how the countries soldiers and government should use a “martial law-like” approach to enforcing the strict lockdown imposed to limit the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

In Chile in October 2019, a historic social uprising took place, unexpectedly for the vast majority. More and more people were joining the protests every day. The current government, tried to soften and ease the diffuse protests that occurred almost every day. Those attempts were so clumsy from a strategic and political point of view that finally a state of emergency and curfew were enforced. This resulted in the presence of the military on the street, reminiscent of the dictatorship era. In March, as these events continued to unfold, the first Covid-19 cases appeared. As the number of cases went up and fear overcame the population, the government saw a great opportunity to move attention away from the protests and toward the health emergency.

Israel is a highly militarised state with a highly militarised society, and the COVID-19 pandemic interacts with this militarisation in a variety of ways – from the way it has been used as a cover and an excuse for violence against Palestinians1 to the way it has served as a pretext for enhancing authoritarian trends in general.

This letter argues that humanitarian disarmament can lead the way to an improved post-pandemic world and calls on states, international organizations, and civil society to follow its lead to create a “new normal.” It is open for signature by civil society organizations.

$1,917,000,000,000. Or $1.9 trillion. Any way you write it, that’s a lot of money. All of which has been spent on militarism: on weapons production and development, on soldiers, on wars, on bases, on command and support systems, on repression.

Eight young Ugandan men swarmed the streets of a bustling-yet-militarized Kampala. They were banging empty saucepans to demand food, which the government had promised to distribute. For this June 17 noisemaking “crime,” police packed them into a tiny cell at Kitalya Maximum Security Prison.

The pandemic is a crisis that entails both a threat to marginalized communities and an opportunity for radical social change. To take that opportunity we need to rethink how we work in social movements, and carefully craft a strategy forward through broad alliances, mass mobilizations of direct action, and an understanding of "constructive resistance".

Up to now, Colombia’s response to the pandemic - the Common Enemy - has been one of a familiar nationalist and militarist rhetoric, a staunchly-upheld, militarized response that is unfolding in Colombia’s towns and cities.

The UK Ministry of Defence is using the Covid-19 pandemic to reverse a long-term recruitment crisis, which has seen it miss its enlistment targets for the past six years, and to repair damage to its reputation from the military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Brazil could have followed the path of several Latin countries in combating the covid-19 pandemic: the use of force. Surprisingly, there are no troops imposing quarantine on national territory during the COVID-19 pandemic.