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Another Okinawa Outrage

July 08, 2001|SHEILA K. JOHNSON | Sheila K. Johnson is editor of the Japan Policy Research Institute in Cardiff, Calif

In the early morning hours of Friday, June 29, just as Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was heading for his first meeting with President Bush at Camp David, yet another U.S. military man was accused of raping yet another Okinawan woman.

So, what's newsworthy about that, you may ask. Such rapes have been occurring on Okinawa ever since U.S. forces occupied the island in 1945. The number of rapes and other crimes committed by U.S. servicemen on Okinawa between 1972 and 2000 was 5,006, or roughly one every other day.

This rape, however, may become the outrage that will finally cause the Japanese government to get off its knees and demand the withdrawal of U.S. ground forces on its soil. The Japanese officials have been their usual obsequious selves. Although the Okinawan police knew almost instantly who their suspect was, they managed to stretch out their interrogations of him until Koizumi had safely left the U.S.

Only then did they issue an arrest warrant and ask the U.S. military to turn the man over to the Japanese authorities. (In NATO countries, U.S. military personnel suspected of a crime can be taken into custody by local authorities before such a request is made.) The Okinawans asked for the suspect on July 2. However, the U.S. military did not comply until Friday because it feared the suspect's rights would not be fully respected. The fact that the suspect is black will likely work in his favor because Japanese authorities usually bend over backward not to appear racist.

Various U.S. newspapers are suggesting that it's a case of "he said/she said" and that the sex was consensual. The Okinawan woman, age 20, is said to have been out drinking with the man who she now claims raped her.

As a woman, I find it highly unlikely that, had it been consensual sex, it would have taken place on the hood of a car with several other men looking on. It is not clear from the stories released so far whether the men were shielding the couple from view, cheering him on or, as some claim, coming to her aid. Several of them were witnesses and none has been implicated in the crime itself.

Another possibility the U.S. military may be considering is that the Okinawan woman entrapped the man. To this I say: "More power to her!" I wish every Okinawan woman dating an American military man would implant in his brain the thought or fear that she might send him to jail.

Marine Lt. Gen. Earl B. Hailston, who is currently the highest-ranking military officer on Okinawa, ought to be dismissed for his inability to maintain discipline among his troops. However, where his sympathies lie is obvious.

Earlier this year, in an e-mail to his fellow officers, he called Okinawan legislators "nuts and a bunch of wimps" for asking that U.S. troop strength on Okinawa be reduced after the last such incident.

Instead of being reprimanded, on June 26 Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld nominated Hailston to be commander of all U.S. Marines in the Pacific.

This certainly ought to show the Japanese, Okinawans and Koreans what the U.S. thinks of them and their hospitality.

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