Friday, May 26, 2017

Book Review: 'We Kill Because We Can: From Soldiering to Assassination in the Drone Age' by Laurie Calhoun




Review: We Kill Because We Can – From Soldiering to Assassination in the Drone Age



Amazon Page
Amazon Page

Laurie Calhoun
4.0 out of 5 stars Cultural-Ethical-Legal-Practical Indictment of US Drone Assassination Program, November 23, 2016
This is one of three books on drone assassination that I am reviewing, the other two are Sudden Justice: America’s Secret Drone Wars (Terrorism and Global Justice) and Drones and the Future of Armed Conflict: Ethical, Legal, and Strategic Implications. I was limited in my choices to the books offered by a professional journal for whom I am writing an integrated review, if I had had unlimited choice I would have included Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins and The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program.
All three books — and I suspect the others focused on this topic as well — agree on three things:

01 Drone assassination is against both international law and the US Constitution;
02 We are murdering thousands of innocents and creating more enemies than we kill;
03 Drones are expensive, technically deficient tools (they cannot distinguish between a rifle and a shovel), that cannot be supported by our existing intelligence capabilities — nor can we process the terabytes of data they create.
This particular book is a deep culturally-rooted indictment of the drone assassination program, an indictment that excels in part because it demonstrates in a most compelling fashion that drones are a summary execution without trial — what tyrants do (the author’s words and analogy that I embrace). The author concludes that drones take courage and conviction out of warfare, and that drones represent the death of military virtue.
Among the key points in this book as distinct from the other two that I am reviewing at the same time, are these:
01 The US is assassinating people all over the world, in countries against which we have no Congressional declaration of war
02 Nineteen countries are at various stages of acquiring armed drones — this is a plague that is about to pop and it will be used against us
03 Deciding to kill rather than capture someone removes all forms of quality control, all checks and balances — Congress and the Courts have explicitly abdicated their role in controlling an imperial executive (to which I would add our military officers as well — they are violating their Oath to defend and support the Constitution against all enemies, domestic and foreign — they should consider all orders associated with the drone assassination program to be illegal orders that should be refused and reported to Congress for investigation).
04 Drones are a form of stalking against which there is no defense, no recourse –targeted killing is the ultimate crime against humanity, the observe of genocide
05 CIA “intelligence” used to target drones stinks — it is unreliable, incomplete, absolutely not a proper foundation for military self-defense, much less pre-emptive assassination
06 Drones are expensive — over 200 people are engaged in each drone operations — and they represent the failure of all other possible alternative measures including INTERPOL warrants of arrest and CIA clandestine assassination (one man, one bullet)
Although I take away one star because this book is overly long and very tedious, I am much taken with the author’s cultural, ethical, legal, and philosophical wanderings, including her equation of a US drone assassination with a “hit” by a Mafia assassin. Both far out side the law. The author excels at her critical commentary on how individuals are bring asssassinated based on how old they are, where they live, and who they associate with — this is the equivalent of sentencing me to death because I live next door to a pedophile that kills small children from Haiti for snuff movies.
Several quotes from this work:
QUOTE (8): When no soldier’s life is on the line, then killing by remote control cannot be literally construed as self-defense – certainly not on its face.
QUOTE (66): …the structural parallels between the modern military and organized crime are palpable.
QUOTE (85): A true test for genuine (nor Orwellian) imminence would be to answer this question: What act of murder would immediately ensue if this suspect were not killed? In the vast majority of cases, the answer is: None whatsoever.
The author takes special care to indict Barack Obama for crimes against humanity, explicitly noting that Barack Obama authorized the use of drones to carry out the extra-judicial assassination of US citizens and then other Westerners including Germans, and that Barack Obama’s logic is — in the author’s words, “Hitler’s logic.”
None of the three books adequately examine how drones are merely the latest tool in an ever growing array of very expensive very toxic military-industrial complex offerings that further Empire for the 1% at the expense of both the tax-paying US public and the victimized foreign publics. For such insights I would point readers to, among many others books, these four:
Donald Trump, our “accidental president,” has recently annoounced that he is taking General Jim Mattis, USMC (Ret) at his word, and forbidding the use of waterboarding and other forms of torture as counterproductive. I was one of the first CIA officers assigned terrorism as a full-time target in the 1980’s, and have published strong opinions on the criminal insanity of water-boarding. Assassination by drone is a form of rendition and torture that in my view should make every person from the President on down subject to trial from crimes against humanity. I dare to hope that Donald Trump will listen to those of use who are — for moral, legal, practical, and professional reasons — totally opposed to this program.


Editor's note: This review was written by Robert David Steele and has been reposted with permission. The original page can be found here. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right. 

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