The Italian government will become the second U.S. ally to have its Reaper drone aircraft fitted with U.S. missile launching capabilities, White House sources told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.
Congress had 40 days to review the sale and raise objections, but the report noted that no member raised concerns. Going forward, the House and Senate would need to issue a joint resolution condemning the sale for it to be put on hold.
The first U.S. ally to obtain robotic warfare capabilities was Britain. The U.S. also recently agreed to sell unarmed drones to Iraq to keep a constant monitor on key offshore oil rigs.
President Barack Obama has utilized drone aircraft strikes more than any of his predecessors, heavily favoring robotic warfare over sending ground troops to dispatch enemies. Despite the tendency to kill civilians, Obama defended his administration’s preference in January by explaining that “drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties.”
“It is important for everybody to understand that this thing is kept on a very tight leash,” he said during an Internet video conference earlier this year. “It’s not a bunch of folks in a room somewhere just making decisions. And it is also part and parcel of our overall authority when it comes to battling al-Qaeda. It is not something that’s being used beyond that.”
The use of drone aircraft has been especially pronounced in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, where strikes have killed hundreds of enemy fighters and civilians. In the last three days alone, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has confirmed at least 13 kills in Afghanistan and Pakistan from drone strikes, including one individual they characterized as al Qaeda’s “second most senior figure in Afghanistan.”
The sheer volume of the Obama administration’s drone attacks has led to criticism that the president has taken the path of bombings and assassinations over actually taking prisoners in order to keep the population of installations like Guantanamo Bay down to a minimum.
“If Bush, the Bush Administration, didn’t like somebody, they’d kidnap them and send them to torture chambers,” U.S. intellectual Noam Chomsky said earlier this month. “If the Obama Administration decides they don’t like somebody, they murder them, so you don’t have to have torture chambers all over.”
That criticism is likely to grow louder still thanks to a New York Times report on Tuesday which claimed that Obama personally oversees a “kill list” of terrorist suspects nominated for assassination by counter-terrorism officials during secret video chats with the White House.
The Times added that Obama personally signed off last year on the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaqi, an American citizen who joined al Qaeda and became a vocal mouthpiece for the terrorist organization. Obama hailed the killing as a success for the U.S. intelligence community, and Attorney General Eric Holder insisted that in times of war, killing an enemy combatant is never technically considered “assassination,” which is illegal under U.S. law.
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