【PART 1】 Mystery of Okinawa: Military Bases and the Constitution
【15】 U.S. military helicopter crash at Okinawa International University
The most infamous example of the application of this agreement is the 2004 U.S. military helicopter crash at Okinawa International University.
On August 13 of that year, at 2:17 p.m., a U.S. military helicopter crashed on the grounds of Okinawa International University during a training session, causing it to go up in flames. (Shown in the bottom right of the photo on the next page are university buildings.)
A U.S. aircraft in the middle of a training session crashed on the premises of Okinawa International University, and at the moment of the crash, its fragments flew in all directions, to surrounding buildings belonging to the university as well as to private homes. One fragment smashed through the glass window of an apartment, and pierced the door of a room where a baby had been sleeping soundly until just before. It was such a huge accident that everyone agreed it was “a pure miracle” that no one had been injured.
What happened immediately after the crash shocked the locals even further. Dozens of U.S. soldiers climbed over the fences of the adjacent Futenma base, flooded the university with personnel, and sealed off the site of the crash.
I’d like the whole world to watch the video that a local Okinawan TV station (Ryukyu Asahi Broadcasting) shot at that time. Despite being the very ones who had caused the accident, U.S. soldiers shouted “Out! Out!” at the locals to drive them off the road in front of the university, and tried to forcibly confiscate video cameras from reporters doing their job. Meanwhile, the Japanese police entered the university grounds with permission from U.S. soldiers. The scene was reminiscent of a colonial landscape.
To sum up, if a U.S. aircraft causes an accident, regardless of where it occurs, U.S. Forces can seal the area off and deny access to the Japanese. This is legally permitted. No one can enter the area without U.S. Forces’ permission; not even the police, the fire department, governor, mayor nor legislator. It instantly becomes an extraterritorial area.
In short, it becomes a place where the Japanese Constitution has no effect. The people of Okinawa seem to be leading ordinary lives, but in emergency situations, the reality is exposed. When you watch the video of this entire crash event, it is evident that U.S. Forces are an extra-constitutional entity.
Moreover, watching this video initially makes you feel indignation and pity for the people of Okinawa. However, you should start to realize that their pitiful situation is exactly your own, back on the mainland.