From Volume 38, Issue 41 of EIR Online, Published October 21, 2011
Asia News Digest

Obama's Drone Attacks Are Killing Machines

Oct. 10 (EIRNS)—The number of deaths inside Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, where the Obama Administration is involved in declared or undeclared warfare, is growing rapidly. Although Washington claims that the drone attacks are killing only the terrorists, there is no doubt that hundreds of civilians have become victims of this killing machine. Where next?

The Obama Administration has two drone programs: one in declared war zones such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, and in undeclared war zones, including Somalia and Yemen; and another program, directed by the CIA and not publicly acknowledged, operating mostly in Pakistan.

Obama's government launched 44 distinct drone strikes in Pakistan in 2009, far more than in previous years. The "pinnacle" of America's drone achievements was in August, when they killed Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Baitullah Mehsud. Pakistan claims that these drone attacks killed as many as 700 civilians as well. Since then, the number of drone attacks have grown rapidly, causing deaths and destruction.

The number of civilian deaths caused by drone strikes is hotly contested. What is important to note is that drone attacks have increased steeply during the last two years on President Obama's watch. In June 2011, John O. Brennan, Obama's top counterterrorism advisor, said that for almost a year, "there hasn't been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities we've been able to develop." Brennan later backed off that statement somewhat, but other officials say that that claim still holds. Since May 2010, CIA officials believe, the drones have killed more than 600 militants and not a single noncombatant.

This assertion has met with deep skepticism from many independent experts. Assessments of the results of the attacks differ. Daniel Byman from the Brookings Institution suggests that drone strikes may kill "10 or so civilians" for every militant killed. In contrast, the New America Foundation has estimated that 80% of those killed in the attacks were militants. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which claims extensive research on the subject, found that at least 385 civilians were among the dead, out of a total of between 1,658 and 2,597 killed.

See InDepth for "Unmanned Aerial Drones: Weapons of War, or Tool of Repression?"

Precursor: Japan Quake May Have Struck Atmosphere First

Oct. 10 (EIRNS)—"Before finding this phenomenon, I did not think earthquakes could be predicted at all," Hokkaido University geophysicist Kosuke Heki told OurAmazingPlanet. "Now I think large earthquakes are predictable."

The phenomenon to which Heki referred, is that the devastating earthquake that struck Japan on March 11 this year may have rattled the highest layer of the atmosphere even before it shook the Earth. The discovery could one day be used to provide warnings of giant quakes.

The magnitude 9.0 quake that struck off the coast of Tohoku in Japan ushered in what might have so far been the world's first complex megadisaster, as it unleashed a catastrophic tsunami, and set off microquakes and tremors around the globe. Scientists recently found that the surface motions and tsunamis this earthquake generated, also triggered waves in the upper atmosphere. These waves reached all the way to the ionosphere, one of the highest layers of the Earth's atmosphere.

But now Heki reports that the Tohoku quake also may have generated ripples in the ionosphere before the quake struck. Disruptions of the electrically charged particles in the ionosphere lead to anomalies in radio signals between global positioning system satellites and ground receivers, data that scientists can measure. Heki analyzed data from more than 1,000 GPS receivers in Japan. He discovered a rise of approximately 8% in the total electron content in the ionosphere above the area hit by the earthquake—about 40 minutes before the temblor. This increase was greatest around the epicenter, and diminished with distance away from it.

Heki concluded that this means earthquakes may be forecast, if nations are able to monitor changes in the ionosphere near earthquake regions in real time.

Obama Issues Threats to North Korea; Lee Offers Development

Oct. 14 (EIRNS)—There was a clear contrast between President Obama's imperial war-mongering and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's effort to bring "peace through development" in regard to the North Korea issue during their joint press conference on Oct. 13.

The two Presidents praised the close U.S.-R.O.K. relationship and the passage of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS-FTA) in the U.S. Congress this week. But when it came to North Korea, Obama said they "continue to pose a direct threat to the security of both our nations," and that their "provocations will be met not with rewards, but with even stronger sanctions and isolation."

During his opening statement, President Lee said simply that "we will continue to work towards denuclearization in the peninsula," but when asked by a Korean reporter about the high-level discussions by the Russians with both North and South Korea on building a gas pipeline through the North to the South, Lee took the opportunity to expound at length on the importance of the project, and the great benefits for all parties involved:

"Now we are discussing, right now, with the North Koreans whether the Russian gas, which is quite affordable, can travel through North Korea and be imported and be used in South Korea. This is beneficial, first of all, for Russians because they can sell their natural resource. For North Korea it would be beneficial because they could use this natural resource and also beneficial for South Korea as well."

Lee made several caveats, that the issue is far from settled, but, in a diplomatic manner, rejected Obama's confrontation in favor of cooperation.

Sources in the Blue House in Seoul have confirmed to EIR that the renewed Russian initiative to bring Russia, North Korea, and South Korea (and implicitly China as well) together as part of the regional development of the Far East, coheres with the interest of Seoul to shift the entire strategic situation in East Asia through joint economic development.

Clinton Points to America's Asia-Pacific Future

Oct. 11 (EIRNS)—Last week the Obama Administration told the World Trade Organization that 200 Chinese subsidy programs violated WTO rules, and today the U.S. Senate voted 63-35 to impose duties on imports from China if the President finds they are "manipulating" their currency. Both Obama's policy and the Senate action contrast sharply with the policy posed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a major article in Foreign Policy magazine published Oct. 11: "Some in our country see China's progress as a threat to the United States; some in China worry that America seeks to constrain China's growth. We reject both those views. The fact is that a thriving America is good for China and a thriving China is good for America."

Clinton writes that one of the "most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade" is to "lock in a substantially increased investment—diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise—in the Asia-Pacific region. The Asia-Pacific has become a key driver of global politics."

She contrasts this orientation to America's traditional ties to the "transatlantic network of institutions," writing that, "The future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the center of the action."

Also, Kurt M. Campbell, U.S. Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, speaking in Bangkok on Monday, made a similar argument. "The United States is in the process now of one of the most important transitions, that is, repositioning and rebalancing American foreign policy priorities in our history ... [towards] Asia and East Asia as a whole."

Campbell visited Beijing today as part of an Asia tour.

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