by Paul Craig Roberts
March 24, 2015


Andrew Cockburn has written a must-read book. The title is Kill Chain: The Rise Of The High-Tech Assassins. The title could just as well be: How the US Government and US Military Became Murder, Inc.

The US military no longer does war. It does assassinations, usually of the wrong people. The main victims of the US assassination policy are women, children, village elders, weddings, funerals, and occasionally US soldiers mistaken for Taliban by US surveillance operating with the visual acuity of the definition of legal blindness.

Cockburn tells the story of how the human element has been displaced by remote control killing guided by misinterpretation of unclear images on screens collected by surveillance drones and sensors thousands of miles away. Cockburn shows that the “all-seeing” drone surveillance system is an operational failure but is supported by defense contractors because of its high profitability and by the military brass because general officers, with the exception of General Paul Van Ripper, are brainwashed in the belief that the revolution in military affairs means that high-tech devices replace the human element. Cockburn demonstrates that this belief is immune to all evidence to the contrary. The US military has now reached the point that Secretary of Defense Hagel deactivated both the A-10 close support fighter and the U-2 spy plane in favor of the operationally failed unmanned Global Hawk System. With the A-10 and U-2 went the last platforms for providing a human eye on what is happening on the ground.

The surveillance/sensor technology cannot see human footprints in the snow. Consequently, the drone technology concluded that a mountain top was free of enemy and sent a detachment of unsuspecting SEALS to be shot up. Still insisting no enemy present, a second group of SEALS were sent to be shot up, and then a detachment of Army Rangers. Finally, an A-10 pilot flew over the scene and reported the enemy’s presence in force.

By 2012 even the US Air Force, which had been blindly committed to the unmanned drone system, had experienced more failure than could any longer be explained away. The Air Force admitted that the 50-year old U-2 could fly higher and in bad weather and take better pictures than the expensive Global Hawk System and declared the Global Hawk system scrapped.

The decision was supported by the 2011 report from the Pentagon’s test office that the drone system was “not operationally effective.” Among its numerous drawbacks was its inability to carry out assigned missions 75% of the time. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Congress that in addition to the system’s unacceptable failure rate, the drone system “has fundamentally priced itself out of our ability to afford it.”

As Cockburn reports: “It made no difference. Congress, led by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon and Democratic Congressman Jim Moran (whose northern Virginia district hosts the headquarters of both Northrop and Raytheon) effortless brushed aside these pleas, forcing the Air Force to keep buying the unwanted drone.”

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