Commentary. A joystick, a screen, a cold drink on one’s desk, and people being blown to pieces thousands of miles away—perhaps guilty of something, perhaps not.

Arming its drones, Italy does not learn the Afghan lesson

What the Italian army was missing was armed drones to complete the militarization of Italian neocolonialism. After aircraft carriers loaded with F35Bs with vertical take-off capabilities, ships for amphibious landing, sixth-generation Tempest fighter projects and F35s to improve our nuclear bombing capabilities, our country will also now have its own unmanned combat aircraft.

The confirmation came from the Ministry of Defense’s 2021 Multi-Year Planning Document. Another €168 million will be sunk into the Italian Reapers, which, thanks to their new missiles, will go up in rank: from simple flying lookouts to “precision” killers. The results of that murderous precision have been seen (and widely denounced) in Afghanistan, where Obama (a former Nobel Peace Prize winner) got branded as “the drone president” for the massive amount of money he decided to invest in the program of targeted assassination conducted remotely. This program has led to a bloodbath of “collateral damage,” i.e. human civilians, adding to the enormous body count of a war of retaliation that has lasted for 20 years—a truth exposed by Daniel Hale, a young soldier from U.S. Air Force intelligence who was sentenced for “treason” just a few weeks before the withdrawal from Kabul, as Tommaso Di Francesco recounted in il manifesto.

A joystick, a screen, a cold drink on one’s desk, and people being blown to pieces thousands of miles away—perhaps guilty of something, perhaps not. No trial, not even double-checking, only a death sentence signed by the intrinsic goodness of exporting democracy and humanitarianism.

What have we, as a country, learned from that war? From an ethical and humanitarian point of view, nothing at all. On the contrary, we have learned a lot from the point of view of sheer unscrupulousness in waging war. Two pilots on a Mangusta attack helicopter might be reluctant to follow an order to open fire when faced with a scenario that doesn’t correspond to the information they received, but at a distance of thousands of kilometers, the same order is easier to execute.

In addition, a downed drone is much less of a win for the enemy in the scenario than shooting down a helicopter with two pilots. Some might even say that the armed Reaper drone program testifies to the great care that our Ministry of Defense displays (if nothing more) towards the rank and file.

But try telling that to the 7,500 former soldiers who have fallen ill and to the more than 300 who have died from exposure to depleted uranium during “peacekeeping” missions or at our training bases. In all these cases, the Ministry of Defense tried to dodge responsibility, and when it did end up paying compensation, it did so only after suffering defeat after defeat in Italian courts.

All ministerial and paternalistic rhetoric aside, armed drones are one of the many NATO technological standards to which our country has had to conform. A modern expeditionary corps, both volunteer and professional, cannot ignore this technology, just like any other weapons system designed for waging wars across borders. And we have many of those to wage: Italy is set to take command of the NATO mission in Iraq, then in the Sahel together with France, then Libya, etc.

And there is no more need to cover it all up with the tall tale of democratic and humanitarian export: ministers, CEOs and think tanks have changed tack, and now they no longer have any shame at all to talk about pursuing national interests with armed force, turning Article 11 of the Constitution into so much wastepaper.

And the Parliament is silent. The Minister of Defense(-Offense), Guerini, among the “best and brightest” of this government, is pushing through yet another helping hand for the national war industry, which has become a pillar of the foreign policy of the country. After two years of pandemic, it is worth remembering that health, transport and education, the pillars of that other kind of security, with a capital “S”, i.e. the social one, are still “in the crosshairs” when it comes to resources, assaulted from all directions by all the (GDP- and warplane-obsessed) governments of the last 20 years.

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