Former President George W. Bush rejected a request from former Mexican President Felipe Calderon to use armed drones to curb the growing influence of drug cartels, the Washington Post reported Saturday.
In a story examining the United States' role in the intelligence war against Mexico's drug cartels, the Post's Dana Priest details how Calderon reached out to Bush for help ahead of his 2006 inauguration. Bush agreed to commit U.S. resources to help with the growing problem, launching the $1.9 billion Merida Initiative to combat the violence resulting from the drug trade.
However, Bush reportedly drew the line at providing Calderon with armed drones to carry out strikes on the cartels. The Washington Post reports:
As the Mexican death toll mounted, Calderon pleaded with Bush for armed drones. He had been impressed by the results in Iraq and Afghanistan, two former U.S. officials said. The White House considered the request, but quickly rejected it. It was far too likely to result in collateral damage, they said.
The drone program, which began under the Bush administration in 2002, has greatly expanded under President Barack Obama. While polls find broad public support for the targeted strikes abroad, the "collateral damage" feared by the Bush White House remains a sticking point with the program's opponents. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks CIA drone strikes, estimates between 423 and 946 civilians have died in confirmed strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.
The Huffington Post's David Wood reported:
A second deep concern is the civilian death toll from drone strikes. In the enormous violence unleashed in war, civilians always suffer. After more than a decade of war, military targeters have gotten pretty good at designing attacks to minimize or eliminate civilian casualties. But not perfect. Drone operators can watch a proposed target for days or weeks to establish patterns of life, augmented by spies and cultural experts. Targeting software like Bugsplat, which models the effective kill zone and collateral injury and damage of a proposed strike, can help. "You use the full range of intelligence," said Army Brig Gen. Rich Gross, who as legal counsel to the Joint Chiefs of Staff reviews strike execution orders.
The recent use of "signature strikes" or "crowd killings," which are said to target a group of unnamed and unidentified suspects, appears to violate international law even more egregiously.