Biden pursues drone sales to dictators. Democrats say nothing.

Democrats are silent, but Joe Biden risks complicity in war crimes by selling drones to authoritarian regimes like the UAE.

When the Trump administration announced last July that it was loosening decades-old restrictions on the sale of military drones to authoritarian regimes, Democrats were quick to protest.

But now the Biden administration looks poised to keep this policy in place, allowing the sale of drones to countries like the United Arab Emirates, which Democratic and Republican administrations alike had refused to sell to since the 1980s. And what do we hear?


Amnesty International has called out U.S. drone sales for risking “complicity in likely war crimes in Yemen,” where the UAE has fueled a decadelong bloody civil war that’s killed nearly a quarter million people.

It was easy for Democrats to speak out on this horrifying policy when President Donald Trump was to... blame. But now that President Joe Biden is pursuing the same agenda, the voices that tried to block these sales under Trump are now silent.

At The Intercept, we know that the war machine soldiers on regardless of the party in power. We’ve covered the U.S. government’s indefensible drone policies from their origins in the Obama era to their escalation under Trump. And as long as Biden supports the use and sale of these weapons, we’ll cover that too.

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The expansion of U.S. drone exports not only increases the risk of civilian deaths, but also undermines an important international framework for curbing the global spread of deadly cruise missiles.

And last year, when the Trump administration proposed it, prominent Democrats spoke out loudly. Democrat Bob Menendez, then-ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a noted foreign policy hawk, warned that it would be “more likely that we would export some of our most deadly weaponry to human rights abusers across the world.”

But since news broke that the Biden-led National Security Council is looking to keep the change in place, and eventually form a new international agreement to guide drone exports, Menendez has said nothing — even though he’s now the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee.

As Philippe Nassif, the advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA, said, “The startling fact that the United States government continues its unflinching support of providing weapons that risk adding to the devastating toll of Yemeni civilians unlawfully killed and injured by U.S.-made weapons should shake to the core every person living in this country.”

And yet even some of the loudest Democratic critics of U.S. involvement in the civil war in Yemen, like Sens. Chris Coons and Chris Murphy, have fallen silent, possibly putting partisan loyalties over the lives of civilians.

The Intercept’s team of investigative journalists won’t stop reporting on U.S. support for authoritarian regimes, no matter who’s in the White House. Will you chip in to help support this critical reporting?


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