Remember the story of U.S. Marine Tyrone Hadnott, the 38-year-old stationed in Okinawa, Japan, who was accused of raping a local schoolgirl? Well, Okinawans are not taking this incident lightly: hundreds (many of them women) have been protesting across the island, and their anger was further inflamed this past weekend after allegations of drunk driving, trespassing and theft committed by U.S. soldiers were made. The United States has responded by instituting strict curfews on the military and civilian residents of Okinawa's Camp Courtney: According to the AP, soldiers will be restricted to bases, places or work or off-base housing. The U.S. has also declared February 22 a "Day of Reflection" for U.S. military in Japan and have constructed a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Task Force," but for many Okinawans, it's too little, too late.
Okinawa was held by the U.S. after WWII until 1972, when it was returned to Japanese rule, so an undercurrent of resentment likely existed even without American servicemen assaulting locals. But there are precedents with regards to violence against women: In 1995, a U.S. soldier was accused of raping a 12-year-old girl in a similar incident outside Camp Courtney, and, in 2002, a Marine named Michael Brown was accused of attempted rape, and eventually convicted of the slightly lesser charge of attempted indecent assault.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is visiting Japan next week, and this will certainly be a topic of conversation. The AP describes Camp Courtney as " a linchpin in U.S. military posture in Asia," but the larger question is why the U.S. has such an enormous presence in Asia to begin with. After the the Soviet Union collapsed in '91, the threat of military action from Japan and surrounding countries was basically quelled. Is our military presence in the rest of the world in place to prevent the "Axis of Evil" from working against us, or is it just part of a gross imperialist mission to control the world?