Friday, May 02, 2008

What’s Up with US Military Criminal Suspects Now?

Nothing, really. Last week, CNN reports, the U.S. Military in Japan charged “Staff Sgt. Tyrone Luther Hadnott, 38,… with the rape of a child under 16, abusive sexual contact with a child, making a false official statement, adultery and kidnapping.*” Today, there’s aReuters report on a groping charge against a member of the US Air Force. And you know what? Life goes on, and the US military bases remain. Why?

Well, part of the reason may be that the crime rate for the US military and their dependents is noticeably lower than the Japanese population as a whole. That’s true for Okinawa, for sure. At least that’s what a Japanese website that linked to relevant crime statistics said. Rough, back-of-the-envelope calculations confirmed the website’s conclusions**. So I let the matter go, thinking that the issue would die down, until the next tabloid-worthy accusations. And here we are.

The low incidence of US military crimes in Japan is not that surprising. I’m sure that the average Okinawan is not any more criminally inclined than me, or the rest of the Japanese population. But US soldiers are by definition gainfully employed in a physically and psychologically demanding, highly regimented, workplace. Fulltime. Criminal records, until very recently, would have seriously hampered US citizens and citizenship-seeking residents in getting jobs in the US military. In other words, the US military tends to attract law-abiding men and women who are generally not in a situation to commit serious crimes. Moreover, there are no stressful battlefield situations in Okinawa to make you snap. Recidivism won’t be a problem either, unless US military personnel convicted of crimes are released back into the Okinawa population.

Then what was the meaning of all that attention to the military crime epidemic? Mainly because it was about Okinawa, where there’s a history that stretches back to its experience with the imperial army. And also because it was about the US military—it’s the “shark attack epidemic” effect. A rash of felonies, and the entire media forgets the law of averages.

Do not worry, Ambassador Shieffer, though; it’s not just your soldiers whose crimes catch the attention of the Japanese media. Any crime by any man (rarely if ever woman) in uniform is vastly more newsworthy than a crime of similar proportions by a run-of-the-mill civilian. A policeman leaves the force after five years of duty, kills a guy fifteen years later, he’s identified as an ex-cop: little else that he’s done since then matters. The same holds true for the Self-Defense Force.

Moreover, there’s another, related category of people who receive the same treatment—bureaucrats. Fifteen years from now, if I am arrested for criminal defamation, you can be sure that I’ll be identified not as an inveterate blogger but as an ex-METI official***. Which is why I double-check every single fact on this blog. Trust me.

As I said, life goes on. We haven’t gotten rid of the police. We haven’t gotten rid of the Self-Defense Forces. And the last time I looked, METI was alive and kicking. I don’t think we’ll be demanding that the Yankees go home any time soon. Not while North Korea or, for many people here, an authoritarian China is around.

Speaking of sex offender bureaucrats, this AP report says that a Kinokawa official was demoted for accessing porn sites more than 780,000 times over a period of nine months. The Kinokawa official making the announcement said that the disgraced official accessed porn sites 170,000 times last July alone.

Assuming that the official worked heroic 80-hour weeks and spent them solely on accessing porn sites, a conservative estimate says that the (obviously) guy had to access porn sites every eight seconds that he was on the job. I’m not sure that my fingers won’t drop off after one full day of that kind of activity. Is there some kind of automatic porn-downloading software that lets you do that? And if so, how does the software know that it’s obscene when it sees it?

* Note that the photo in the report came from the original February demonstrations. Note also that the report says “under 16” and “adultery”. The first hints suggests that my conjecture that a straightforward rape charge may not be sustainable under the Japanese Criminal Code (the age of consent under that law is 14) was more likely than not correct; the second tells you that there’s more that needs updating in the US military than the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule.

** I can’t be sure where I found it, it’s been quite awhile; but I think that thispost might be it. It appears to link to the relevant statistics.

*** Teachers and professors are fair game, but I don’t see suspects and convicted criminals identified as ex-teachers…. Maybe the media lose interest in educators as criminals once they leave the profession.

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