praise for We Kill Because We Can

‘The drone assassination campaign is the most extraordinary global terror campaign yet conceived and executed. This chilling and comprehensive survey more than amply demonstrates that drone strikes are war crimes, and that this new technology is not only an effective device of mass murder at a distance, but that it also eliminates barriers for commanders to “prosecute wars at their caprice”. That the technology will sooner or later be directed against the perpetrators is hardly in doubt, as the cycle of violence takes its predictable course.’

Noam Chomsky

‘By far the best book on drone warfare and the ethics of targeted assassinations to date. Powerful and eloquent, Laurie Calhoun elucidates a set of convincing arguments as to why drone killing is ethically indefensible and strategically counterproductive – but also why it is so seductive to our governments. It should be required reading for politicians, military planners and journalists.’

Richard Jackson, Director of Research at the National Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies, University of Otago, New Zealand, and author of Confessions of a Terrorist

‘Targeted assassination through the use of Predator drones has become the most dramatic military novelty of the 21st century. Laurie Calhoun’s brilliant enquiry into the mindset of its perpetrators and supporters is a chilling reminder of how far we have strayed from the concept of “a just war”.’

Richard Gott, author of Britain’s Empire: Resistance, Rebellion and Revolt

‘A comprehensive and shocking survey of the dirty consequences of US drone strikes. Calhoun provides important information on civilian casualties, which puts the lie to the CIA’s denial of such losses. This important work will be helpful in any re-examination of drone policy.’

Melvin A. Goodman, former CIA analyst and author of National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism

‘In We Kill Because We Can, Laurie Calhoun poses worrisome questions that our government should be forced to answer, such as how an unarmed person can pose an imminent threat, and whether drones have inspired more terrorist attacks than they have prevented. Calhoun also makes some very searing but well-reasoned analogies between our government and the mafia; Bush, Obama and bin Laden; and targeted killings as simply assassinations. The book forces the reader to question our government’s policies in terms of efficacy, adherence to law and, most painfully, moral grounds. It is a clarion call to reverse course if we ever want to see an end to our military adventures abroad and what the author refers to as our “single-minded obsession with lethality as a solution to conflict”. Read it and act!’

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK for Peace and author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control

‘When a drone-launched Predator missile killed six supposed terrorists driving in Yemen in 2002, praise for the strike was widespread in America. As American drone attacks on suspected terrorists continue, American observers object on both moral and practical grounds, but they appear to remain a minority. Political assassination has occurred throughout history, often ordered by paranoid autocrats who proclaimed they were acting in national self-defense. Calhoun maintains that the “war on terror” declared by President George W. Bush is no different, with drone operators sitting at their consoles acting as the professional killers. Though U.S. leaders have proclaimed the right to kill anyone outside America whom they deem a threat (including U.S. citizens), this has not proven to be a perfect deterrent to those who oppose the U.S. Calhoun also connects the spread of drone warfare to the “perpetual motion” of defense-industry economics. This is a dense, detailed, and relentless chronicle of the dismal consequences and (so far) minimal benefits of targeted killing; opponents of drone warfare will find plenty to bolster their arguments…’

   –Publishers Weekly

“A fresh, well-researched and well-written book by Calhoun provides an occasion to think about the deep implications of killing people through drones and hopefully to act to stop this high-tech barbarian practice.”
           –Open Democracy
“The title of this book makes its tone and thesis clear. Calhoun’s criticism of targeted killing is relentless, and this position certainly needs to be heard.”



Review Essay Excerpt:

“In We Kill Because We Can, Laurie Calhoun presents a book that is dynamically well written, with a language that is accessible and clear to her reader. Writing to those who advocate the use of weaponized drones is a fundamental step toward creating a dialogue. The arguments used against such destructive policy are, throughout the text, very well illustrated with historical facts that support her claims. Furthermore, Calhoun provides a lucid and grounded reflection on the sheer violence that permeates the policies related to the use of unmanned combat aerial vehicles…. In the face of the barbarity, it is very reasonable, if not fundamental, to remind her target audience—those who support the use of drones—of moral codes in order to contain the spiral of violence that the U.S. martial policy is generating… It is very clear that Calhoun appeals to the humanity and compassion within each person involved in the death business…. Overall, Calhoun presents a brave book that deals with very dark matters in a way that skillfully pushes the reader towards a peace perspective. This left me wishing to hear more from her. I eagerly await her next book. We Kill Because We Can is a must read for anyone interested in the debates over war and U.S. politics.”

Peace Review (reviewed by Egidio de Bustamente) Full essay.

Review Essay Excerpt:

‘Laurie Calhoun’s book, which brings a moral and ethical perspective to drone warfare, makes for vital and compelling reading. Focusing on the development and use of drone technology, Calhoun shows how this particular practice of modern warfare has moved out of the arena of undercover ‘black ops’ and into mainstream US foreign policy… Calhoun explains in detail how the US global ‘war on terror’ continues to flout all international rules of engagement in warfare. For example, international legal frameworks such as the Geneva Convention and the Charter of the United Nations (1945), do not allow the killing of non-combatants in war. The US administrations of Bush and Obama simply bypassed this by re-defining victims of drone bombs as ‘unlawful combatants’… Similarly, the concept of ‘imminent threat’ in war which would justify ‘first strike’ and self-defence responses has been redefined by US administrations to refer to some unspecified threat in the future. In the context of drone war, if all suspects are seen as potential terrorists at some indeterminate time in the future, this justifies the use of killing as a first rather than a last resort (again, contrary to international rules of engagement). By these linguistic sleights of hand, as well as changes in the legal framework since 9/11, remote controlled killing is carried out against unarmed persons; not aware that they are under surveillance; in a country with which the US is not formally at war; by drone operators whose lives are not in any danger and therefore subject to self-defence arguments. Calhoun uses this reality to expose the hypocrisy of US arguments about the attacks of 9/11. The outrage sparked by those appalling attacks rested on the fact that US civilians (not soldiers) were targeted and that they had no chance to defend themselves.… Far from defeating terrorism, the use of drones has served to radicalise more people who are then more inclined to look to political forces that are fighting against the US, for example, ISIS, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. … Calhoun refutes the argument that drone technology is so advanced that it can focus in on ‘terrorists’ using ‘surgical strikes’ and avoid ‘collateral damage’. … Decisions on who, when and where to strike are shrouded in secrecy and ‘kill don’t capture’ becomes the underlying rationale. She exposes and challenges the way in which the US, while espousing the principles of civil rights and legal freedoms as a democratic society, does not uphold these values in practice. … Warfare and drone weaponry are discussed in the wider context of the privatisation of the military… Another aspect of warfare has been that billions of dollars of ‘aid’ and weapons ended up in the hands of the insurgents in Afghanistan and Syria. Calhoun also notes that billions of taxpayers’ money is used to research and create more lethal weapons that are sold to regimes abroad which are either themselves repressive regimes (Israel; Somalia; Yemen) or when arms are sold to allies that are later defined as enemies, as was the case with Saddam Hussein. In this way, US taxpayers are supporting: ‘… both sides of everyone’s wars, allies and enemies alike’ (p.242)… The startling, but not surprising, examples of the hypocrisy of the western powers are a powerful aspect of the book… Drone technology appears to have taken on a life of its own, directing policy rather than the other way round… this is a powerful book which subjects drone warfare to moral scrutiny and cannot but expose the lies and hypocrisy of the US. Her work vividly confirms the argument that bombing leads to greater political instability; a less safe world order and increased risks of radicalisation.’

Counterfire (reviewed by Lindy Syson). Click here for full essay.

Review Essay Excerpt:

Author Laurie Calhoun, a philosopher and cultural critic, has penned a robustly argued and disturbing work that presents an analogy between the US government’s ‘targeted killings’ and the mafia’s hitmen murders…Calhoun likens suspects chosen for the growing weekly ‘kill lists’ to a stay on death row, with no provision for an appeal or re-examination of the evidence that led to the conviction… Calhoun also offers a scathing critique of the military-industrial complex and its phenomenal growth since former US Vice President Dick Cheney began privatizing and outsourcing to contractors during the occupation of Iraq. The military machine virtually guarantees the continued use of drones and the self-justifying killings as part of a burgeoning ‘terror factory.’… Calhoun is highly critical of the role of news media in failing to expose the Orwellian mythology and ‘just war’ terminology shrouding GWOT, and of also failing to provide greater transparency about the drone industry; the inherent conflicts of interest; the dangers of exporting the killing technology to other countries and the role played by targeted killing in unleashing revenge acts by jihadists. She ultimately argues that the indifference demonstrated by the US towards the ‘thousands of nameless victims, [or] the corruption caused directly by war’ risks inviting another terrorist atrocity equally as audacious as 9/11.”

Pacific Journalism Review (reviewed by David Robie). Click here for full essay.

Review Essay Excerpt:

… We Kill Because We Can by Laurie Calhoun is the best but also the densest of the three books, providing a deep cultural and philosophical perspective. Among the key points in this book as distinct from the other two books, are these:

a) The US is assassinating people all over the world, in countries against which we have no Congressional declaration of war;

b) Nineteen countries are at various stages of acquiring armed drones therefore, this is a plague that is about to spiral out of control and it will assuredly exact a toll on the West;

c) 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 that abdication we can add another – US military officers are violating their Oath to defend and support the Constitution against all enemies, domestic and foreign because they accepting orders to kill abroad without Congressional authorization;

d) Drones are a form of stalking against which there is no defense, no recourse. Targeted killing is the ultimate crime against humanity, the micro-manifestation of a form of genocide. Drone assassination is without question an atrocity;

e) CIA “intelligence” used to target drones is pathetic — it is unreliable, incomplete, and absolutely not a proper foundation for military self-defense, much less pre-emptive assassination; and

f) 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).

The author provides an eclectic and even engrossing cultural, ethical, legal, and philosophical potpourri, including her equation of a US drone assassination with a “hit” by a Mafia assassin. Assassination in any form – whether by drone with White House authority (but lacking Congressional authority) or by hand of a criminal assassin – is far outside all prevailing cultural, ethical, and legal standards.

The author excels at her critical commentary on how individuals are bring assassinated based on how old they are, where they live, and who they associate with — this is the equivalent of sentencing you, gentle reader, to death because you live a block away from a pedophile that kills small children from Haiti as part of a Satanic ritual. In London and Washington, D.C., that may well include all of us…. The author of We Kill Because We Can 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… All three books in combination are an indictment of “the American way of war” as well as confirmation of the emptiness of American democracy. There is absolutely nothing about the five trillion dollar war on “terrorism” that is in any way pro publica. Drones are the epitome of the military-industrial complex and its financial backers – Wall Street and the City of London – being able to make permanent war on everyone, with impunity, a profit center.”

Intelligence and National Security (reviewed by Robert David Steele).



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