In appearance on far-right TV, U.S. official calls Okinawa base protests ‘hate speech’


In an appearance on a Japanese rightist TV network last month, a senior official with the U.S. military branded anti-base demonstrations in Okinawa as “hate speech.”

Robert Eldridge, deputy assistant chief of staff of government and external affairs for the U.S. Marine Corps, made the comments in Japanese during a show on the Okinawa branch of Channel Sakura on Jan. 8. While discussing what he called the unpleasant experiences encountered by some Americans in Okinawa, he explained to the presenter, “As you know, near Futenma there are people (committing) many kinds of hate speech.”

Eldridge’s comments were apparently aimed at residents engaged in demonstrations against the unpopular Futenma Marine Corps base in the city of Ginowan.

Channel Sakura, which styles itself a Japanese culture channel, is widely known for its glorification of Japan’s role in World War II and for airing shows that deny the Japanese military forced Korean women into sexual slavery. In 2007, its founder, Satoru Mizushima, directed the movie “The Truth About Nanjing,” which labeled the 1937-38 massacre — in which, according to mainstream historians, tens of thousands of Chinese were killed — a fabrication. Eldridge also appeared on Channel Sakura last September.

The U.S. Embassy referred requests for comment to U.S. Forces Japan. At the time of publication, neither USFJ nor Eldridge had responded to requests to confirm who had authorized the appearance on the TV network.

Manabu Sato, a professor in political science at Okinawa International University, criticized Eldridge’s comments.

“When the weak protest against the strong, that does not constitute ‘hate speech’ — no matter how painful the truth sounds to the ears of the U.S. military. By appearing on such a TV network, the USMC is ruining the little goodwill Okinawa people hold toward it.”

Eldridge’s accusations of hate speech are the latest in a recent string of gaffes from senior officials affiliated with the U.S. military in Okinawa. On Feb. 9, The Japan Times reported comments by Capt. Caleb Eames, deputy public affairs officer for the Marine Corps Installations Pacific, in which he accused demonstrators in Okinawa of faking their injuries in clashes with the police and Japan Coast Guard.

Eames later asserted that the comments were not an official statement.

Meanwhile, on Feb. 13, Japanese media reported that Maj. Tim Kao, the commander of Camp Gonsalves in northern Okinawa, had accused demonstrators in Okinawa of being “paid by the Communist Party.” The comments, which were apparently made on Feb. 5 to a visiting research student, angered local residents who have been attempting to block construction of Pentagon helipads in their community since 2007.

At a news conference Friday, Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga expressed his indignation at the comments by U.S. military officials. “They are very far from being good neighbors. I have serious doubts about what is at the root of such thinking,” he said.

Have your say: community@japantimes.co.jp

  • MacTire

    I am myself a “rightwing” Japanese citizen and am convinced that in the long run Japan should not depend on foreign powers to defend itself. But in the meantime Japan needs American support…Anyone acquainted with Robert Eldridge knows him to be wise, learned, and witty, with a deep love of this country. One can agree or disagree with his characterization of the protest demonstrators’ verbal behavior as “hate speech” (I am not qualified to do more than guess), but I fail to see how the voicing of his opinion can be called a “gaffe”–unless one has the hypersensitive ears of the politically correct.

  • JSS00

    It just goes to show the the right-wingers and American hawks/neocons are in bed with each other. No wonder Hatoyama lost the fight.

  • Eric Gray

    Perhaps I look at things in too simple a manner, however screaming profanities at women and children, jumping on people’s personal vehicles, reaching in windows and grabbing people, and throwing objects at people are certainly not characterized as ‘peaceful’ in any honest definition.

    Further, releasing balloons in the flight path of approaching aircraft and aiming lasers at the cockpits of approaching aircraft at night isn’t ‘peaceful’ or responsible activity either.

    Let’s have an open and honest discussion about the US presence in Japan and carefully consider the pros and cons. The US strives to be a good neighbor and normally achieves that aim. Yes, the past didn’t always live up to the current goal, however I would suggest that Okinawa gains much from the US presence in both economics and security.

  • http://www.thevenusproject.com Eric Garland

    In my opinion, the anti-base protesters in Okinawa have been quite reserved in their campaign against the Futenma relocation. Years of military thuggery, rape, noise pollution, property damage, environmental damage, and straight-up political repression at the hands of pro-base authorities, and now comes a USFJ crony complaining about protesters committing “hate speech.” If the far-right were to take a brief glimpse into the annals of world history, they should considered themselves BLESSED that the situation in Okinawa has not devolved into Tehran ’79!

    After all the BS the Okinawan people had to put up with in the past half-century of de facto US military occupation, they haven’t actually resorted to any serious violence. At least no one in recent memory was crazy enough to go torch any of the ammo depots strewn about, nor has anyone tried rigging pipe-bombs onto US convoys, let alone outright assassinating USFJ officials such as Robert Eldritch. That will be the day when Okinawa will have officially gone to hell. Profanities, balloons, and laser pointers should be the very least of the onlookers’ concerns!

    P.S. the absurd claim by Tim Kao that the protesters are being paid by the Japanese Communist Party is comedy gold, considering that the JCP is a grassroots organizations that does not accept corporate donations and refuses government funding, yet somehow seems to be pulling the strings in a movement that has long transcended party lines. Then again, it was SCAP that tried to boot the JCP out of Okinawa during the de jure US occupation, so it’s only logical for the USFJ to follow daddy’s footsteps and try to pin the blame on the communists.

  • Chuck

    Having spent 9 years on the island (beginning in 1957) I’m not surprised that the commies are still trying to convince the Okinawan people that the US is destroying their beautiful island. I know that ignorance is bliss but it’s hard for me to believe that the average people of that island don’t understand where they would be in this day and time without US guidance and financial help over the years. What the Okinawan people need to remember is that they ARE NOT Japanese and would be much better off without the guidance they receive from the north. They must remember that the Japanese have always looked upon them as second class citizens and always will. Can’t they understand that they are being used just to provide Japan with protection from China. So the next time they choose to demonstrate against their protectors maybe they should have second thoughts.

  • bwprager123

    The USMC spokesperson here is intentionally mischaracterizing political speech – in this case, popular resistance to a project of both the US and Japanese states – as “personal” and or “cultural” – “hate speech.” The principal reasons this base is being built is because of inter-service rivalry; the marines refuse to share command with the airforce – having been driven out of Futenma by the violent outrage of the Okinawans. They demand a base of their own in Okinawa, on top of the coral reefs, against the will of the Okinawan people. The U.S. and its partners in Tokyo have utilized cash bribes to buy politicians and rightwing thugs to beat down the Japanese and Okinawan resistance for decades. Now we see a new round of outrages committed against them, and resistance to re-entrenchment of the US occupation. The Okinawan people deserve to have their democratic rights returned to them, rather than having them denied by the U.S. and Japanese governments. But U.S. officials put their hands over their ears and start screaming at every mention of renegotiation of the deal. The U.S. government has nothing but contempt for Japan; it is a pawn and a tool to them, and the manifestation of this in Japan’s corrupt and remote political regime is obvious. Japan’s ruling circle obliges them with this crackdown.

  • Facebook User

    The US marines can’t be trusted they enlist criminals and then allow them to kill and rape! In America we know how horrible they are and they are a joke to our citizens!
    Look at all they have done for decades!

    Www theusmarinesrape com

  • Starviking

    ““When the weak protest against the strong, that
    does not constitute ‘hate speech’ — no matter how painful the truth sounds to
    the ears of the U.S. military.”

    If you shout out that people with certain views or from certain backgrounds should be killed, it certainly ticks the ‘hate speech’ box for me.

  • http://www.thevenusproject.com Eric Garland

    In my previous comment, I did not actually condone acts of terror to be committed by Okinawan protesters (I wrote the comment with the 1970 Koza riots in mind), but to suggest that acts of terrorism are “beyond imagination” is to essentially give credit to actual terrorists for their heinous acts.

    The article mentions how Sakura Channel founder Satoru Mizushima directed the revisionist documentary “The Truth About Nanjing”, which insists that the events of the Nanking Massacre of 1937-38 are largely fictitious, essentially lending itself to the “unimaginable” nature of terrorism.

    You can keep saying that Robert Eldridge is a “respected scholar” as many times as you want, Mr. Harding, but that doesn’t make him immune to criticism by other scholars such as Manabu Sato, nor does it cleanse Eldridge of possessing biased political agendas or even serving one-sided political ambitions on behalf of an organization such as USFJ.

  • Ernest Schaal

    As an ex-company commander of troops in Japan, I know that these statistics only cover crimes occurring off-base. Crimes committed on-base are not part of the Japanese criminal law system. Since much of the troop’s time is spent on base, the statistics present a rosier picture than reality.

  • Japanese Bull Fighter

    “rightist TV network?” I could not find it among the scores of television channels offered by my cable provider. Far from being a “TV network,” it appears to be a YouTube video site coupled to a few hours of purchased satellite TV time. The Japanese language Wikipedia article about it notes that it has gone bust and been restructured several times.