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Ryukyushimpo, Japan

Drunk Driving in the American
Military: The Danger of Soldiers
Who Can’t Follow the Laws

Translated By Stephanie Chiu

14 February 2013

Edited by Lau­rence Bouvard

Japan - Ryukyushimpo - Original Article (Japanese)

In Okinawa, both American soldiers and civilians in military employ are getting arrested one after another in rear-end collisions caused by drunk driving. The majority of the perpetrators are in their 40s. Instead of thinking “again?” the question “is there nothing we can do?” stands out first in our hearts. Many Okinawans are stunned by these incidents.

Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima has asked, “What’s happening to the effectiveness of military decisions?” but there’s no institution more at risk than one whose members don’t even follow the law.

A 41-year-old senior master sergeant of the United States Air Force was found having an alcohol level six times the legal limit and was arrested under suspicion of driving under the influence. The time of the accident was before midnight, and there is a possibility he was breaking curfew.

On top of drinking at home, he stated that he also drinks on the way to work. If we interpret the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement at face value, which favors U.S. military members, he would still have been drinking and driving on duty if he was commuting at the time.

Another 46-year-old civilian employee drank and caused an accident in broad daylight, and was arrested after attempting to escape.

In America, a person would be handcuffed if they got arrested for DUI. If they were in their home country, would military personnel still drink and drive to work?

Regarded as an island acquired by the blood of American soldiers, Okinawa and the lives of its citizens are looked down upon. Has the American mindset been stained by its time as an occupying power? Numerous doubts and suspicions like these have surfaced.

This behavior needs to be corrected. These countless incidents and accidents of the American military will be remembered as koukishukusei, or “tightening discipline and eliminating corruption among government officials” in Kojien and other dictionaries. The “discipline” of American military officials in Okinawa shows no signs of improvement, instead reflecting empty orders that cannot restrain these accidents.

A curfew was imposed upon American military personnel in Japan after the rape of a woman last October by two sailors, the assault of a middle school student and the breaking and entering of his house by a Marine, among other incidents.

This time, the two people arrested live off-base, illuminating the problem of how to discipline off-base residents who slip through the cracks and dodge the rules.

The problem of exterminating drunk driving has brought Okinawan society together. Not just the prefectural police but even the prefectural citizens are putting pressure on the American military to abstain from drunk driving.

If drunk-driving-related scandals continue after this, the people of Okinawa will likely regard the military base as the root of all evil. If the American soldiers in Okinawa cannot properly uphold even the most basic of laws, then they lack the qualifications needed to be the “good neighbor” they themselves fuss about.



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