Kill Chain: Drones and the Rise of High-Tech Assassins explores a subject of deep and enduring fascination, assassination by drones. It is a page-turning narrative on the history of drone warfare by Andrew Cockburn, the acclaimed author of Rumsfeld, exploring how this practice emerged, who made it happen, and the real consequences of targeted killing.
Yet few understand how and why the use of drones has become America’s principal way of waging
war. Kill Chain uncovers the real and extraordinary story; its origins in long-buried secret programs, the breakthroughs that made drone operations possible, the ways in which the technology works and, despite official claims, does not work.
Taking the reader inside the well-guarded world of national security, the book reveals the powerful interests – military, CIA and corporate – that have led the drive to kill individuals by remote control. Most importantly of all, the book describes what has really happened when the theories underpinning the strategy — and the multi-billion dollar contracts they spawn — have been put to the test.
In its review of Kill Chain, The Washington Post
reports that in 2009, President Obama ramped up the use of “killer drones” as a mainstay of U.S. counter terrorism policy. Since 9/11 and primarily under Obama, more than 500 drone strikes have killed nearly 4,000 individuals both in hot war zones, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, and in countries containing terrorist havens — including Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
“For years, critics have railed against the injustice and capriciousness of killer drones, citing the lack of due process in selecting targets, the collateral civilian casualties that invariably accompany the strikes, and the backlash from the growing numbers of families and communities that have been radicalized by experiencing the strikes. But beyond these tangible consequences, the combination of technology and the policy of targeted killing has challenged some of the more basic ways in which human beings and political powers exist in relationship to one another.
“According to Andrew Cockburn’s Kill Chain, the problems with drone warfare only begin with the pitiful ratio of terrorists killed to civilian casualties. Cockburn pulls back the camera to provide a wider historical perspective, setting the policy of targeted killing via drones within the larger context of the American military-industrial complex. From the repeated failures of the stealth bombing campaigns in the Kosovo and Vietnam wars, to the way in which the drug wars stepped in to perpetuate the security bureaucracy of the Cold War, Cockburn sees America’s killer drone policy as the culmination of a historical pattern of lies, deception and greed in the deployment of lethal military force around the world. Failing miserably to achieve the country’s stated goal of enhanced security, according to Cockburn, the policy simultaneously undermined the democratic process.”
Andrew Cockburn is the Washington Editor of Harper’s magazine and the author of many articles and books on national security, including the New York Times Editor’s Choice Rumsfeld and The Threat, which destroyed the myth of Soviet military superiority underpinning the Cold War. He is a regular opinion contributor to the Los Angeles Times and has written for, among others, the New York Times, National Geographic and the London Review of Books