Editorial: U.S. Colonel’s remark comparing cars to military aircraft shows military’s unchanged arrogant sense of authority


January 24, 2018 Ryukyu Shimpo



Colonel Darin Clarke, who manages the Marines’ government and external affairs in the Pacific, made a comment in response to the protest resolution from the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly about consecutive U.S. military aircraft accidents and related concerns. He mentioned cars have failures, too, and finding these issues before something happens is tough.


His statement was obstinate, taking the viewpoint that U.S. military aircraft failures are to be expected, without moving to protect against accident occurrences. This is completely unforgivable and strongly objectionable.


The colonel’s remark is a manifestation of the still deep-seated, arrogant sense of authority in the U.S. military today from before Okinawa was returned to Japanese sovereignty.


When a B-52 bomber crashed and exploded on Kadena Air Base in November 1968, the U.S. Department of State Japan Country Director Sneider responded to strong resistance from Okinawans by saying that cars, passenger planes and such also have accidents. The comment by Sneider and the recent statement by Clarke are very similar, showing the same striking lack of common sensibilities.


In terms of the dangerous situation put on Okinawan people, we should say this exposed that the U.S. military lacks any feelings of guilt whatsoever, and has not changed its perspective toward Okinawa over the last 50 years.


Regardless of whether or not a U.S. military aircraft is carrying a bomb or not, if there is a failure mid-flight it could potentially be a great disaster. It is absurd to consider a failure in a military aircraft on the same level as failure in a car driving along the ground.


Cars are indispensible to Okinawan people’s daily lives, but U.S. military aircraft expose them to danger and make noise that negatively affects their lives. To Okinawans the U.S military is an uninvited guest, and Colonel Clarke should understand that.


Clarke has also said that accident incidence is decreasing. However in reality it is the opposite. According to the Ministry of Defense, accidents and trouble caused by U.S. Forces, Japan (USFJ) airplanes and helicopters has increased 2.27 times from 11 incidents in 2016 to 25 incidents in 2017. On what basis does Clarke say that accidents are decreasing? His statement would be true if the majority of accidents that happened before 2017 were not officially announced.


In regard to the issue of three helicopters from Futenma Air Station that flew in the sky over Futenma Daini Elementary School, the colonel showed track data on an aerial map, denying that the flights went directly over the school. Since he remarked that aircraft failures occur as a matter of course, apparently he only doubts a failure would occur in the device recording track data.


An observer from the Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) verified that the flights were in the sky over the school. Several Daini Elementary cameras caught it, too. ODB Director-General Koichiro Nakajima asserted that the helicopters were in the sky overhead without a doubt, and that this is not a matter of whether they flew directly over the school or grazed around it. The ODB also measured the track data, and the director-general definitively concluded that they clearly flew overhead.


Colonel Clarke claims that the flight path was between Daini Elementary School and Daini Middle School. The schools are only about 20 meters apart, so if an aircraft were to crash, it would be a catastrophe. Even if the flight was not directly over the school it is still an issue.


The colonel also says that failures are inevitable. However, just avoiding flying over the school is not enough. Okinawan people residing all throughout the area are strongly requesting suspension of flights.



(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)



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