Thursday, February 14, 2008


A U.S. active duty serviceman has been arrested in Okinawa Prefecture for assault of a sexual nature upon a 14 year old girl. Christopher Pelligrini over at Trans Pacific Radio has tried to put the case into context in a thoughtful essay on the prosecution of rape in Japan while Tobias Harris has examined the politico-military background to the case (here and here).

There is a limit to the level of sympathy anyone can extend to the accused: he has already admitted to forcible sexual assault upon a minor. His assertions that he did not engage in sex or know that the girl was not of legal age do not detract from his having forced his attentions upon a person who lacked the physical means to resist him.

Nevertheless, the rapidity of Staff Sergeant Tyrone Hadnott's transfer to Japanese custody, his immediate arrest on the incredibly flexible charge of bōkō (暴行)and the multi-ring media circus ever since leave little room for faith that he will be tried only for the crimes he has committed. More likely he will be tried for all the unprosecuted or insufficiently prosecuted rapes and murders of the occupation period and the U.S Defense Department's shielding of its warfighters and civilian personnel with the Status of Forces Agreement after the reversion.

The hopelessness of Sergeant Hadnott's situation was made clear in the first comment out of Foreign Minister Kōmura Masahiko's mouth as regards the incident. "Ii kagen ni shiro" ("Give me an effing break") he told the bank of cameras, explaining what the people should be feeling when they first hear of the story on the news.

When the two-time Minister of Foreign Affairs, the nation's top diplomat and the holder of a degreee in law, eschews the language of diplomacy in favor of an earthy, exasperated "What the hell? Again? Give me an effing break" locution--you can pretty much discount the "innocent until proven guilty" presumption.

Ambassador Thomas Schieffer and Marine Lt. General Richard Zilmer have gone before the cameras and sworn, solemnly--with either with complete incomprehension of the situation or with the coldest, most calculating of hypocrisies--to "cooperate fully with the investigation."

I must confess, I laughed. "Cooperate fully with the investigation? What investigation? You have already handed him over to He is in the hands of the Japanese legal system. They have already booked him for assault. What is left to investigate, aside from the length of his sentence?"

Why care? Why should anyone care that a jerk, an idiot, possibly a pedophile, possibly a rapist, is crushed beneath the wheels of the law? If that is the cost of keeping the alliance going-- that a fool is tossed under the wheels to excite the crowd even as his superiors proclaim the openness of their minds as to his guilt--then so be it, right? Is he not a soldier, ready to lay down his life for his country anyway?

We should all be pragmatic--let the law be used to settle old scores, clear old debts from old accounts. We also need to give the people a moment or two of righteous indignation since that makes them feel better about Japan's semi-colonial status.

Anyway, it too late to change anything. The judicial process has begun--the guy's toast. Why waste the resources and the energy? We ourselves could never do anything stupid that could be misrepresented or misunderstood...and the police and prosecutors would never imprison us in order to fulfill a quota or respond to political pressure to "do something!"

Think about the greater good.

Photo: Demons tormenting the damned
Detail from the Enma Scrolls of the Zendōji
Yorii City, Saitama Prefecture
February 11, 2008


Later: Many thanks to reader AC for the correction. According the timeline printed in the Asahi Shimbun evening edition of February 12, local police found Mr. Hadnott sitting in his car in front of his off-base home just after midnight on February 11. The officers convinced Hadnott to voluntarily come with them to the police station for questioning. They arrested him at the police station at around 2:10 a.m.

Even later: After reading the various accounts of the purported rape in the various major dailies, none of the actions or words of any of the main actors makes any sense at all.


Claytonian said...

To put it simply, he's screwed.

Anonymous said...

Well put, MTC. Even beyond the widespread assumption of his guilt (not entirely unreasonable as he confessed to forcing the girl down and kissing her, but denies rape), are the alacrity with which so many erstwhile critics of the Japanese justice system are willing to swallow their doubts when a Marine is involved and how many people are willing to view Hadnott's job and alleged crime as causally related.

In going back and reading the SOFA earlier today, I was struck by how even-handed it is, how much the fears of American servicemen being able to hide behind are irrelevant or long outdated. In a case such as this, the only right explicitly reserved by the US and, by extension, the only right guaranteed to Hadnott, is the right of the US to hold him in custody until formal charges are filed. (The other things, such as the guarantee of a speedy trial, adequate defense, competent interpreters, etc. are vague in practice.) This is important as the favored tactic of most Japanese police forces is to browbeat suspects into confession. Keeping him in American custody could reduce possible coercion. Furthermore, under the SOFA, the US has not only the right, but the obligation to participate in the investigation. Were the US to insist on that, and were the local police to have notified the USMC of the arrest at the earliest opportunity, as they are required to do (I don't know if they did nor not), important forensic evidence and a thorough investigation of the type for which Japanese police are not known could have been carried out.

All of that said, Hadnott should have known that the moment he tried to pick up a teenager, he was screwed (possibly in more than one way.)

Anonymous said...

"I must confess, I laughed. "Cooperate fully with the investigation? What investigation? You have already handed him over to the Japanese legal system."

Incorrect. The US never "handed him over" because the US never had custody of him. The suspect lived off-base and was apprehended directly by local police.

MTC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MTC said...

AC -

Thank you for making me go back and look at the original reports.

Garrett -

From the printed accounts, police impounded the car to preserve any evidence of a crime.

Everything about this case is out of whack. What fourteen year old IN OKINAWA would accept a ride at night ride on the back of the motorcycle from a 38 year old Marine she does not know? Some innocent from Gunma or Fukui, maybe, but a teenager from Okinawa? Like she has not been told every day of her life, "Never get in a car with a Marine."

None of this makes any sense.

Anonymous said...

"We also need to give the people a moment or two of righteous indignation since that makes them feel better about Japan's semi-colonial status."

It's not about Japan's "semi-colonial status." It's about Okinawa's colonial status: first vis a vis Japan, then the US, then Japan again.

MTC said...

matthew -

Agreed. It is about Okinawa's status vis-a-vis the Hondo.

Either way, the narratives spun off by the media and politicians, both domestic and foreign, since this small-town incident occurred have been obliterating from the public consciousness the misunderstandings, bad communication, distorted priorities and just plain old stupidity that are the root causes of the tragedy.

It is a story that begs for a Japanese Faulkner or E. M. Forster -- will one rise up to write it?

Noah Smith said...

I'm sorry, but this is going a bit too far. Hadnott has admitted to doing things that constitute sexual assault on a minor. There's no excuse for that - not even an eloquently written one.

MTC said...

Mr. noah -

Are we ever sure what happened in the Malabar Caves? And is not the genius of Faulkner that all of his protagonists are imperfect?

This is not a fairy tale. Mr. Hadnott is a deeply flawed and foolish individual. The child has issues with honesty, self-projection and recklessness.

Life is not always pretty or simple. To shut down lanes of inquiry because "so-and-so is a bad man who did a bad thing" is to surrender to higher authorities or to mobs one's right to try to understand why something happened--and pass judgment thereafter based upon one's own thinking.

What has come about is a collision of cultures, races, sexes, generations and domestic and international politics. It is a worthy subject of inquiry...and it takes a great literary talent to look at the despicable and make it comprehensible.

Noah Smith said...

To be blunt:

1. Mr. Hadnott's crime was not being a "flawed and foolish" person. It was taking a specific violent action. Flawed and foolish people have every right to be flawed and foolish people; no one has a right to rape anyone.

2. People who have "issues with honesty, self-projection and recklessness" do not deserve to be raped any more than people without such issues.

3. You're quite right that "this is not a fairy tale." It's not a Faulkner novel either. If it was your daughter Mr. Hadnott had raped, I somehow doubt you would adopt the same detached literary tone. Now imagine your teenage daughter had just been raped, and a blogger laconically described the case as "a collision of cultures, races, sexes, generations and domestic and international politics" and a "worthy subject of inquiry." How would you feel?

So far, you've come pretty close to defending rape. Let's see how much closer you want to get.

MTC said...

Mr. noah -

First, rape has a specific legal meaning. To my knowledge I have not come close to defending it. To my knowledge, I have not defended assault, either. For you to make such an accusation is libel.

You are correct, this is not about my own teenage daughter. No doubt if it were I would be consumed with a desire for vengeance.

But that is the privileged response of the parent. You and I are observers, third parties--our concern is not vengeance, but justice.

Given that that is our concern, how is it possible that you have already come to a decision as to what happened on the evening of February 10, 2008? Were you there?

We have heard neither from the girl nor her representative. We have not heard from Mr. Hadnott, except for the snippets transmitted to the media via the police. The only persons directly connected to this tale from whom we have received statements are police spokespersons.

To the Police Agency's credit, the quotes it has released from Mr. Hadnott's interrogations have all had Mr. Hadnott protesting that he did not commit the crime of rape and that he had was not aware that the young woman was indeed a child in a legal sense.

My personal interest is not the defense of Mr. Hadnott. My personal interest is that he be tried and convicted of the crime or crimes that he committed, not something dreamt up by some prosecutor and rubber-stamped by some judge.

For justice to be done you need the facts--and there are too many actors in this tragedy who have a vested interested in obscuring the facts.

Noah Smith said...

Well, you're absolutely right that justice should be carried out in the fairest and most impartial way possible. And no, the Japanese justice system doesn't usually do that. But most of the people who suffer under that rotten system are Japanese.

But at any rate, in discussing this issue, you've spent a lot of time discussing - and speculating on - the personal failings of the victim. That is an attitude that I find quite common among those who trivialize and/or defend rape (i.e., "she was asking for it"). And so you'll understand that that's an attitude that instantly turns people off to what you're saying (though come to think of it, Ota Seiichi might be sympathetic).

If you can't look at what you've written and see how it could easily be construed as trivializing the crime of rape, then I really have nothing more to say on this issue. A shame, too, since I think your commentary on most issues is spot-on.

As for me being libelous, either go ahead and sue me, or look around the Web and realize that as blog comments go mine are rather tame...

MTC said...

Mr. noah -

Thank you for your concessions and your criticisms. I will keep them both in mind.

Anonymous said...

Looks like your prudence was the correct tack, MTC.