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Cowardice, Racism and Lies: The Sinking of the Ehime Maru
by Jared Israel [2-16-2001]

It is now five days since the tragic sinking of the Japanese training trawler, Ehime Maru, by the U.S. submarine, Greeneville, off the coast of Hawaii. On board the trawler were crew members and students. Nine people, including four 17 year old students, are still missing and almost certainly dead.

You will recall that the U.S. Navy initially claimed the sinking was an unavoidable accident. The sub had been doing everything by the book:

"The Navy initially had said the submarine was within the 56-square-mile training area designated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and marked on nautical charts to caution commercial and recreational craft." ('Washington Post', 2-15-2001)

But subsequently the Navy's story changed:

"On Wednesday, the Navy acknowledged that the Greeneville was about 3,000 yards east of a submarine test and trial area when it surfaced underneath the Japanese vessel." (ibid.)

Let Them Drown

Initially the Navy claimed the crew did all it could to aid the victims. But the Captain of the stricken vessel disagreed:

'Hisao Onishi, captain of the sunken trawler Ehime Maru, told reporters that U.S. sailors did little while he and others flailed in the water.

"I could see several people on the [sub's] tower," he said. "They lowered a rope ladder ... but none of our crew members were rescued by the submarine ... They were just looking until the Coast Guard arrived."

Adm. Thomas Fargo, the Pacific Fleet commander, said 3- to 6-foot-high waves stopped Greeneville sailors from leaving their sub.

"Because of the swells, the crew was not able to open hatches and take available survivors on board," he said.

But the 26 survivors reportedly said that despite the choppy seas, no water entered their lifeboats.

It took more than 20 minutes before Coast Guard rescuers swooped in shortly after the 2 p.m. (Hawaii time) collision.('Daily News' (New York) February 12, 2001)

Why did the crew do NOTHING while it took 20 minutes - why 20 minutes? was there a delay before they were called? - for the Coast Guard helicopters to get to the scene, from nearby Hawaii?

The disaster was the fault of the submarine. The seas were warm. The most extreme measures should have been taken - up to and including risking sailors' lives (which would hardly have been necessary) to at least try to rescue the victims. Nothing was done.

Why? Because of racism? Cowardice? Arrogance - the idea that American lives are too precious to risk even when criminal negligence - or worse - causes a fatal accident?

Some U.S. media suggested the sinking was not a big issue in Japan:

"Most Japanese seemed to see Friday's accident as an isolated one." ('AP Worldstream', February 12, 2001)

But this was not true:

"Japan's Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori told the United States ambassador in Tokyo that Japan does not believe the explanation offered by the Navy for the sub's failure to rescue anyone immediately after the accident.

'"The Japanese people have developed a deep distrust' in the Navy's account, Mori was quoted by Kyodo News Agency as telling Ambassador Thomas Foley.

"Japanese anger was spurred by the Navy's explanation that the waves were too high for the sub to open its hatches and attempt to rescue anyone. The fishing boat's captain said the waves were not so high and did not even breach the life rafts."('St. Petersburg Times', February 13, 2001)

Not An Ordinary Procedure

The Navy claimed the Sub was doing nothing out of the ordinary. Not so, says retired sub commander Jim Bush, interviewed on the 'Lehrer NewsHour'. According to Bush the sub was performing a "rapid ascent", an emergency procedure employed only when absolutely necessary.

CAPT. JIM BUSH (Ret.): Well, a rapid ascent is a legitimate exercise for a submarine to do on rare occasions. It's unlikely that you would have to use a rapid ascent. However, if you're going to do that in peacetime, you have to make sure that there's absolutely no chance that you're going to hit a ship when you surface....If you wanted to be really certain, you could surface and use your radar to make sure that there were no ships in the area. Having done this, you then go down to whatever depth you want to practice your emergency surface from, and you surface from down there. But before you practice that emergency surface, you make absolutely certain that there is no possibility that there would be a civilian ship in the area.

...If you weren't absolutely certain that there was no ship there, you would not practice an emergency surface.

JIM LEHRER: Now, the sonar and the radar, those are back-ups, then, to sight? Would you agree with that?

CAPT. JIM BUSH (Ret.): Well, they're back-ups to sight, but radar could be very significant, significantly useful to determine whenever it's possible, even plausible, for a ship to be in the area.

JIM LEHRER: So, based on your experience, if the captain did everything along the lines you outlined before, it's almost impossible to have happened what happened over the weekend?

CAPT. JIM BUSH (Ret.): That's exactly correct. If he had taken every precaution possible, it was almost impossible for that to have happened. ('The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer',  February 12, 2001, )

As a 'Washington Post' story (link below) shows, even the crew members - and the invited guests(!) - make no claim that radar was used before the ascent. They refer only to a periscope check. The 'N.Y. Daily News' made the common sense observation:

"More baffling is how the submarine's sensitive navigation equipment could have missed a 151-foot, 499-ton fishing trawler floating directly above it. "

Fun in the Sub

Initially the Navy admitted there were civilians on board the sub at the time of the accident but claimed they were only observing. Doesn't that sound a bit shaky? What are civilian observors doing on a submarine war vessel?

Be that as it may, it is nothing compared to the truth, or should I say, that part of the truth which has emerged so far. First, the Navy claims the sub was on a training mission, but wouldn't it make sense, during a training mission, to use all the procedures called for under navy regulations? This would include active radar; yet active radar was not employed.

The answer is simple. According to civilian VIP guests interviewed on NBC's "Today" show, the rapid ascent was carried out to entertain those VIP civilians, at least some of whom had Indeed one of the civilians, a certain John Hall, was at the controls when the sub hit the fishing trawler.

"'I was to the left in the control room, and I was asked by the captain if I would like the opportunity to pull the levers that start the procedure that's called the blowdown,' John Hall told NBC's "Today" show.

'"I said, 'Sure, I'd love to do that,'" he said.

"Hall said the nearest crew member was 'right next to me, elbow to elbow. I mean, what's important to know here is you don't do anything on this vessel without someone either showing you how to do it, telling you how to do it, or escorting you around.'" ('Washington Post', 2-15-2001)

This is beyond belief.

Bush Fiddles, Japan Burns

Questioned about the submarine personnel's failure to help the Japanese victims, Bush National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice sidestepped. '"I'm sure that it was a difficult and confusing time,' she said". ("Daily News," 2-14-01).

Indeed it must have been, for the men and women struggling in the water. But what about the submarine commander? What kind of officers are these, trusted with nuclear weapons, who stand and watch people drown in warm water and do nothing?

Amidst growing evidence that his Navy and cabinet subordinates were engaged in covering up a crime, President Bush responded mainly by calling for prayer. On Thursday, Mr. Bush did finally comment on the revelation that a civilian (was he sober? were any of them sober?) was at the controls when the sub smashed into the trawler. What did Bush say? Did he call for the arrest of the officers in charge? Did he suspend everyone (including his national security adviser) who had double-talked the press?

'''I think what's going to be necessary is for Secretary Rumsfeld and the Defense Department to review all policy regarding civilian activity during military exercises,'' Bush told reporters at the White House Thursday." ('AP Worldstream', 2-16-2001)

Apparently this review of policy is to proceed at a leisurely pace:

"Civilians are still being allowed to take trips on U.S. submarines, Navy spokesman Cmdr. Greg Smith said Thursday night. He declined, however, to comment on a New York Times report that the Navy had already ordered submarine commanders not to allow civilians to sit at the controls, at least until the investigation is over, or to come aboard subs conducting emergency training maneuvers." (my emphasis, 'AP Worldstream', 2-16-2001)

This has been too much for the Japanese government, whom ordinary citizens blame for the Imperial arrogance of the US towards Japan:

"In a terse phone call to Washington, the Japanese Foreign Minister, Mr Yohei Kono, criticised the flow of information from the US to Tokyo, telling the US Secretary of State, Mr Colin Powell, it was regrettable his Government had learned through the media that civilians had been at the submarine's controls. Mr Kono also pressed Mr Powell over the refusal of the US military to hand over a Marine from its Japanese-owned Okinawa base suspected of a number of arson attacks on the island. Okinawans, incensed over an email leaked last week from the US military commander on the island describing anti-base opponents as "nuts and wimps", are furious the suspected arsonist has not been handed to local police." ('Sydney Morning Herald', February 16, 2001)

Not to Worry: Racist Monster In Charge

As if to make the connection between Imperial U.S. arrogance on the high seas and in Okinawa, it turns out that the civilian tour of the Greeneville had been arranged by "a former commander of U.S. military forces in the Pacific, retired Adm. Richard Macke."

"[Commander] Macke was forced to apply for early retirement in 1996 after he suggested that three U.S. servicemen who rented a car to allegedly abduct and rape a 12-year-old girl in Okinawa, Japan, should have hired a prostitute instead." ('Washington Post', 2-15-2001)

That's the news from what Madeline Albright called the 'Indispensable Nation,' example to the world. -- Jared Israel, 2-16-2001

***

Some of the research for this article was done by Rick Rozoff.

The 'Washington Post' article can be read at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/aponline/20010215/aponline093819_000.htm

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Further reading -

How the media lied about the bombing of a Sudanese pill factory in August, 1998

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