Tuesday, February 12, 2008


It never fails to amaze me just what kind of news stories make it through the international filters of CNN and local US stations; granted, I doubt most American citizens would be interested in a scandal involving food products sold after their expiration dates, but school bullying leading to suicides? The kind of statements politicians get away with over here? More to the point, the behavior of the military of the United States government...?

It wasn't too long ago I read a story courtesy of Japan Probe illustrating how crimes committed by members of US military were down in Japan:

...honestly, I'm amazed people are able to publish a story like that. Military crime is down. So what. It's not supposed to exist in the first place. If a country can't rely upon its citizens charged with the greatest responsibility of protecting it (however you may disagree it's implemented), then quite frankly, no one in that military or the country itself has any moral ground to stand on.

...from 2002 to 2006, there were fewer rapes, robberies, thefts and drug cases involving U.S. servicemembers, family members and civilian workers.

Excellent work, servicemen. Fewer of you have raped, pillaged, and plundered than in the past. You're right up there with the legions of Rome and the forces of Alexander the Great. So much progress in two thousand years; I can hardly believe it. You alone have managed to prove your civilized behavior by not raping every woman you see, beating the first man who looks at you the wrong way, and stealing everything in sight. Clap. Clap.

In one of the more ironic twists in news history, a Marine stationed in Okinawa was arrested for raping a 14-year-old girl. Less than 24 hours after the decrease in military crime story was released.

[The Marine, Staff Sgt. Tyrone Luther Hadnott] offered to take the girl home on his motorcycle.

The schoolgirl, he said, was walking with her friends and accepted Hadnott's offer.

This is what happened next, according to police:

Hadnott took the girl to a house, and later to his car. They drove to a park where he allegedly attacked her. On her cell phone, the girl called her friends, who notified police.

Hadnott told authorities he only tried to push the girl down and kiss her. The girl disputed his claims, and police told CNN they intend to file rape charges.

Just as the "amazing" statistics indicate, this is hardly the first time a rape has been reported involving Marines stationed in Japan. As recently as October of last year, a girl accused four Marines stationed at Iwakuni of rape... that incident also happened to fall on the first night of the Sake Matsuri in Higashi-Hiroshima. In 1995, the rape of a 12-year-old girl by three members of the US military in Okinawa prompted authorities to reduce their presence on the island.


Andrew said...

Let me first state that I’m an American who’s studied Japanese for 4 years, and I’ve been to Japan twice so far (and I love Japan too). That being said, I strongly disagree with your message in this post.

First, regarding the Iwakuni “rape” you mentioned at the end, that accusation was shown to be false and the Marines weren’t charged with anything. I fail to see how a false accusation is an indictment on U.S. servicemen and women at all.

Second, it’s not logical to expect a group of thousands of men between 18 and 40 stationed far away from home to do nothing at all inappropriate. To be sure, the leadership of the U.S. forces in Japan should expend great effort to reduce the number of all crimes committed, but no one’s ever going to be all to get rid of all crime. To think that’s possible is naïve.

Lastly, this recent sexual assault is terrible. I’m not defending the guy accused here, at best he’s an idiot and a pervert, and he sets a terrible example for the United States to the people of Japan. That being said, it hasn’t yet been proven that an actual rape occurred, nor is there any evidence of an actual rape occurring besides the testimony of the girl. I’m not saying she’s lying, but unfortunately due to the Japanese police force’s non-use of a rape kit on the scene, we’ll probably never really know.

All in all, it just seems to me that there aren’t really many facts here. Your example you brought up late is faulty, your expectations for behavior are naïve, and you’re jumping to conclusions, then treating those assumptions like facts. It’s unfair to stereotype like you’re doing here. I respect your right to your opinions, I just don’t think they’re correct in this case.

ターナー said...

I'm afraid you're just wrong, Andrew, but I will address each point clearly.

"Your example you brought up late is faulty"

Lateness aside, there is nothing faulty about drawing correlations between the 1995 rape in Okinawa, the alleged rape in Hiroshima, and the recent charges. For the sake of argument, let's say that the 19-year-old girl in Hiroshima was not raped, that she just made it up, whether this was just consentual sex or nothing happened. Either way you look at it, sometime in the cover of night three Marines were acting inappropriately for men in the armed forces by putting themselves in a situation which made this girl point fingers.

"your expectations for behavior are naïve... it’s not logical to expect a group of thousands of men between 18 and 40 stationed far away from home to do nothing at all inappropriate."

That's a given. I expect minor run-ins, confrontations, political ramifications. It's not naïve, however, to assume that a group of trained men charged with what some would say is the most honorable work can't restrain themselves from raping, stealing, and killing civilians. Wearing that uniform and representing what it stands for across the world should be a privilege, not a burden; if you don't believe that, you shouldn't be wearing it. Holding that as paramount is not naïve.

"...you’re jumping to conclusions, then treating those assumptions like facts. It’s unfair to stereotype like you’re doing here."

Yes, I admit I am doing a little of that, based on my experiences dealing with the Marines at Iwakuni and hearing from friends about their experiences in Okinawa. However, I'm not presenting these things as "just the facts, ma'am", simply stating on what I'm basing my opinions; I'm not a news source, just a blogger - readers are free to agree, disagree, or offer a third choice.

Josh said...

When a crime is committed in a parking lot that is literally across the street from my apartment, which strains relations between the top 2 national GDP on the planet, I tend to pay a lot of attention. Even when there aren't mass demonstrations demanding justice at the base that I live only 2 blocks from, where I do my banking & receive my mail & buy my groceries & check out my library books, I still pay attention, so you can imagine I'm trying to think through the most recent heinous atrocity my nation has committed on this wonderful island that I truly love. Needless to say, there is a lot of anger about this issue & some unrealistic denial & a LOT of over-simplification (nothing new, I know) that I'm reading & hearing & sometimes even tempted to agree with. But specifically as a member of the offended community & also as a citizen of the offender's nation, I have a few thoughts that I've begun posting on public forums, so why not right here too? My musings are as follows.

As an American citizen (though too often, including right now, not a very proud one), I feel like this type of absolutely reprehensible behavior is a real problem in US society at large, most likely a product of our flawed socioeconomic situation(s) & a collective lacking sense of healthy moral values, as a people group. Nowhere else in the world that I've lived & traveled in my 30 years thus far (that currently includes much of North/Central/South Americas, Western Europe & parts of East Asia) have I been as impressed with a nation's collective mindset towards how to live good, complete lives alongside many others, than right here on Okinawa & really in all of Japan, as a whole. The commitment to educating their children to respect & honor others is quite evident, not only in the extremely low violent crime rates (we often don't even lock our doors except when we remember the American degenerates too nearby), but also in their actions & attitudes towards us as we move about & interact. Yes, we had an unsecured $80 (new) bicycle taken from our parking lot downstairs but it was one of the homeless men that sleeps in the park across the street, so he didn't go far with it before we found it & reclaimed it as he lay passed out (it now sports a US$0.90 bike lock). That's the extent of the greed we've witnessed in a land that usually realizes well before we even do that we are strangers & we are vulnerable. That's impressive, my friends!!

So I am quite ashamed & saddened that my American brothers (who are here because the US military stationed them here) insist on tainting such a society with our very American perversions & illicit behaviors. Yes, there IS an extremely large number of US military personnel here (for reasons that are themselves EXTREMELY complex & have been so ever since the Japanese empire early last century began to seek to expand itself at the expense of other peoples) & this IS the southernmost prefecture of Japan (I do realize it's been Japanese for only a century so far) & the site of a horrendously bloody battle in an absolutely awful war that the US won. But these service members themselves are but a sampling of the larger US society & I can tell that the military has actually made a concerted effort to keep the young, most often offense-prone members (this man was 38; he defied the stats) on a much tighter leash than it does back in the US (where similar crimes are also committed WAY too often, I'd be shocked if the last very similar occurrence was over 12 years ago & not perhaps last year or even last week).

Thus, I propose that the real problem does not start & stem from within the US military culture (here or anywhere else in the world) nor from any lack of discipline or concern over its members' behaviors, but rather from issues that plague the entire US society today. The fact is that the US military offers an attractive option to almost every US citizen who has had big challenges in life (relative to the perceived majority of US citizens) or maybe made some bad choices, finding themselves with desires & a real opportunity to move past them. That is most often what military service offers to those that agree to sign over their lives, rights & freedoms in the prime of their physical maturity. Unfortunately, sometimes that also means that these citizens' "demons" enlist along with them, eventually revealing themselves & plaguing people in other nations where they are stationed, rather than among the people that allowed the demons to be created at all.

But I also ask you to consider something. Is Japan completely without dessert in this situation? Perhaps, had a greedy & egotistical empire not tried to take over the entire Asian & Pacific hemisphere over 70 years ago before then surprise attacking the US military & nation "preemptively" which led to an all-out horror-filled war involving the majority of the military forces on this planet, things might be different today. But it's not. We have those results of those decisions & actions & indeed many others of the past to explain the situations we face today. Okinawa is not Japan, I realize to be a popular & substantial argument. But really that's a whole different argument. With that premise, the problem will not be tackled starting with US military presence (which will be justified as long as this is still Japan) but with the sovereignty of Okinawa from Japan. As long as Okinawa is Japanese, there will be a place for some US military (yes, the presence can be reduced & the slow moving wheels towards that end are already creaking, but it'll be years before it happens).

It's a complex situation. Definitely sad & flawed in far too many ways, but definitely not easily quantifiable to just 1 or 2 core issues that we can just throw into a jail cell & be rid of tomorrow, if only we just decide to be. Now I'm not saying that Japan needs constitutional reform to provide their own national defenses by men & women who will respect & honor the people they serve, but if they don't, I'm not sure they'll ever be free of all of the American scum that enter the military & fool their superiors into thinking they're in line & playing nicely, until that one evening when they're on their motorcycle cruising off-base in central Okinawa & a group of short-skirted (or is it just me that thinks so?) junior high school girls gives their demonic selves some desperately wanted attention. Those demons are real, my friends, & they aren't always easy to detect until they bite.

Andrew said...

It’s untrue and unfair that America has a “collective lacking sense of healthy moral values” compared to other countries. America has its own problems, to be sure. Our crime rate is higher than Japan’s, on the whole, though Japan still has violent crime as well if you watch the news.

But Japan has problems that aren’t as big here as well. Japan’s suicide rate is much higher than that in the US, due largely to the effects of the Japanese culture’s emphasis on honor/shame. I’m not saying that the Japanese culture is wrong, I’m just saying that any culture has its pros and cons.

Also, sexism is more prominent in Japan than in the US. I know from speaking to many women in Japan and in the States that they often feel less restrained by gender norms and more free to just be a human being in the US. And how many Japanese CEOs and COOs are women? Not as high a percentage as in the US, that’s for sure. This isn’t a comprehensive list of what’s better or worse, by any means, but I’m just saying that both cultures are good in their own ways and they each have their flaws. It’s unfair to paint one as inherently bad and the other as inherently good like you’ve done.

But the most saddening thing you believe is that US servicemen and servicewomen are generally not good people. They’re doing dangerous jobs that neither you nor I could do or are brave enough to do, and they deserved to be praised for that. If, say, a conflict with China arose, any of these Marines could be sent into combat to protect you and me, as well as the people of Japan. When you divide the total number of incidents by the number of Marines who’ve been in Okinawa, it’s really not a large number at all. Those who commit crimes, especially heinous crimes like sexual assaults, should be punished severely to the fullest extent of the law, but it’s unjust and disrespectful to make a sweeping generalization that the majority of US Marines are of poor character. You should instead thank those who haven’t done anything wrong for protecting your freedom.

Josh said...

I guess I wasn't clear enough, if I came across as saying that service people (who I work & interact with here every day) are generally scum. My point was actually that they are a slice of larger Americana, no more or less likely to be bad apples, only that their demons are shipped to foreign nations where they commit offenses, unlike the rest of our public. I actually made that point that for a rape to be committed here (& publicly acknowledged) in a 12 year interval is probably much lower than in US society. Every rape is deplorable ESPECIALLY when the forces that are here to protect a public (again, my point, why do you act like I said anything differently?) instead violate its members. I'm perplexed at your complete misrepresentation of what I said about my friends that serve their country (& apparently the rest of the globe) here & elsewhere. The closest I came to decrying service people above the rest of my nation's society was when I mentioned what I've gathered is one reason that people with these heinous demons enter the service at all, but I sure thought I was clear that THOSE PEOPLE ARE ONLY A PRODUCT OF THE SOCIETY THEY CAME FROM.

And I can't agree more than Japan is no nirvana. It's quite obvious that sexism, ethnocentrism & other prejudices/phobias are much more prevalent than in western society, although it does seem to be inevitably shifting towards a more equality-friendly mindset, per my probing of those I can communicate with.

But to compare suicide to rape/murder rates (completely out of control in the US, I believe) is not apples to apples if you ask me. I hate suicide & think it's a horrible problem to face in a society, but the violation of rights that occurs when one takes their own life vs when someone forever invades the life of another are completely different animals.

I'm sorry, but if you aren't concerned about America's current rate of violence, then you have much lower standards for your people than I do. Compare it to most other economically stable nations & I strongly believe you'll see alarming trends in that department.

When you say that Japan has crime, that just doesn't further the conversation. I never said that crime has been eradicated in Japan. I don't remember asking how the US can imitate their perfection? Did I? Why reduce & deflect the issues/points to oversimplified statements like that?

ターナー said...

Apparently the incident in Hiroshima is no longer speculation: