My hands and spirit have been too impaired these past few days to write. I'll give it a shot now anyway.
Ed and Shoshana commented to my post "Pay Up, Or Else" and I've been meaning to find the time and strength to respond. Truthfully, the Smith/Nicole case has caused me no little anguish and anger. I've been trying to find some sympathy for the accuser, but I find it hard to dredge up even a little. My wife and her friends outright disbelieve and despise her, so perhaps a little of their disdain has rubbed off on me.
So why don't they believe her? Because they know how things really work here. This is a nation of opportunists, and knowing that, and after watching the trial drag out month after month and hearing all the behind the scenes gossip about her and her "handlers," they believe she is a fraud. Maybe she is and maybe she isn't. The question for me is "Did the evidence show beyond reasonable doubt that Smith raped her?"
In most places in North America the answer would be no. However, in a simplistic place like this obviously a different answer could be and was derived. Not to mention that for hypersensitive "uppercrust" locals with their renowned inferiority complex this wasn't a matter of "he said, she said." No, for many folks hereabouts they saw the trial as "the bigshot USA vs the lowly Philippines." Truth and justice and gradations of those things got lost as Americans were shown that "you can't come in here and do anything you want and get away with it."
Evidently, Smith and company didn't see the conviction coming. The kid was stunned by the verdict because he thought that if he didn't see his actions as rape, and if there was no evidence of the same then he would certainly be found innocent. "Welcome to the Philippines Daniel!" Way back in September I saw an interview between Smith and a local news woman and I could tell he was convinced of his own innocence, and truthfully, I found him sincere. Again though, his fate was in the hands of a judge who had other things to think about besides reasonable doubt and truth.
The judge said he wasn't tampered with or "influenced" by anyone or anything. If you know anything about this place then you know that if people in high places are speaking, chances are high that they are lying. The only time they aren't spouting falsehoods is when they aren't speaking. The man was certainly told by his "masters" how his verdict should go. That is a guarantee. Smith was going to be found guilty no matter what.
Ed, you invoke hindsight and knowledge accrued from experience and sobriety. Both Smith and "Nicole" were drunk and sexually "revved" and very young. He acted like a cad, no doubt about that; and she, it seems, finding herself in disarray the next morning and in search of an "excuse" for her own misguided drunken behavior opted for accusation. (I've learned that folks around here are likely to fix blame on others before looking in the mirror). Once on "that road," she had no choice but to pursue it to the bitter end. And what an end it is....
Smith, in my opinion, is an asshole. He had sex with a young lady after having just met her, and did so in the back of a van while his buddies snickered away in the front seats. After done with the deed he simply dropped her off in a state of dishelvment on the street. Knowing that, even if she originally agreed to intercourse, he proved himself no gentleman. Then again, I was a marine, and knowing the prevailing disrespectful attitude towards women, would I allow any of my womenfolk to be around them during their partying episodes? The obvious answer is a resounding "Hell NO!"
By the way, the American military has more than learned its lesson. Even when there are hundreds of US servicemen in country, as there were last month, there is very little chance that any locals will see them, especially any single women. That's unfortunate since most of us are good guys who would never dream of doing anything close to what Smith did, rape or not. I've read lots of stuff online about how abusive we Americans are to young Filipinas and that is a load of crap. Lots of us have fallen in love with these girls, married them, had children, and took great care of them. My observation is that the men most likely to abuse "pinays" are "pinoys."
Getting into some of the more important "particulars" on the Smith vs Nicole case, supposedly there was bruising in her "nether" parts, which leaves doubt as to his claims that the sex was totally consensual. Just the same, that could be explained away from the heat of passion and from the awkwardness of the place. (not that I would know anything about something like that!) But, as Shoshana intimated, once a woman says the words "stop" or "no" then any continuance on the part of the man means a rape has legally occurred. Thing is, the other witnesses in the van including the Filipino driver said that no such words were uttered by her. Basically, the judge disregarded their testimony. It seems the judge felt that her level of inebriation all by itself meant that she did not have the ability to say no, therefore, Smith is guilty of having sex with an unconcious woman? Seems like a judicial "leap" to me. Then again, the judge wasn't there, so it looks like he used his "special omnicient powers" that judges here are apparently empowered to use when there are no eye-witnesses around to corroborate their verdicts.
Shoshana, rape is a strong word. Like most things in life, there are shades of gray in this case. The judge whopped this kid with the stiffest penalty he could muster, 40 years, basically a death sentence. The best Smith can hope for is a sentence reduced for good behavior, or perhaps an early out through suicide. For me, I would opt for the latter. I am sure he is strongly considering ending his own life about now. I hope he doesn't, because as long as their is life there is hope. Still, prisons here are some of the worst in the world.
Getting back to the judge, he is obviously a simpleton. That was my own judgment of him based on his hyperbolic description of "the crime," which he used to rationalize his ridiculously harsh sentence. A "good" judge is supposed to be thoughtful, thus, before levying such a terrible fate upon someone all extenuating circumstances are supposed to be considered. First of all, he believed nothing from Smith's side, while on the other hand he gave "Nicole" every benefit of the doubt. Smith has no record of ever having done anything violent to anyone before. In most "civilized" places to give 40 years, or life, as punishment, means the judge believes the convicted is likely to do the crime again, yet there is nothing on record or in Smith's demeanor that would lead to such a conclusion.
Smith's new legal team (he fired his original attorney) is now starting into the appeals process. Personally, from what I've seen and from what I know of the justice system here, unless his people pay someone off Smith is doomed.
To give this thing perspective, in the States virtually no one is even aware of this case. Here, everyone knows about it. Its a "little picture" event everywhere outside of the Philippines. Here, its not a case of a 21 year old American male who is supposed to have taken advantage of a 23 year old female. In the US it is at most a topic of passing human interest, while here, it is a subject of great interest all the way to the president. By the way, she's already expressed her "satisfaction" that "justice was done," even before all the appeals hoops have been jumped through. You can't tell me that after hearing the "top dog" voice such a thing that any appeals judge isn't going to be influenced.
After seeing all this played out, after seeing the extreme dislike and resentment displayed in much of the government for Americans, if I had my way, I would end all military affilation and aide to this place. Half of what we donate is pocketed anyway, and virtually none of our military consel is listened to or acted upon. The war on terror be damned. Who needs this shit?
It’s entirely possible that LCpl Smith actually raped his accuser. I don’t know—I wasn’t there. Marines, and other young men, have pushed themselves on young ladies before and this won’t be the last time, if that is indeed what happened. But the evidence that I read about used to sentence the 21-year-old to 40 years in a hellish Philippine prison cell probably wouldn’t have even resulted in a trial in most places in the US and Europe.
Still, I shrug, since many ex-pats living out here pretty much knew that Smith was considered guilty by most Filipinos in power long before the protracted trial ever even began. After all, it was imperative that they "show" the Philippine public that they wouldn't allow the United States to "push them around," irrespective of the facts and eye-witness accounts. So, if the life of a young marine had to be sacrificed to prove how unintimidated they are, so let it be done.
A blogger buddy, SF Forever, just informed me that these days, even in the States, men are being found guilty of rape for simply having sex when the woman was drunk during the “event,” even if it was for most of the night and even if multiple “events” occurred. Recent judicial rationale is that after a few drinks consent is no longer possible by the woman. It was the alcohol that said “yes,” not her. Having observed all that though, I have to snicker and roll my eyes at the official comments from Philippine government officials that the 40 year verdict is proof positive of the fairness of Philippine justice. What an ironic joke those statement are.
All the verdict really shows is that when one "plays the game" above board by not paying off witnesses, police, prosecutors and judges that the result WILL be jail time. That is standard knowledge among those of us who live here.
The verdict also goes a long way, I hope, in warning foreigners, especially sex tourists, not to come here, or to think twice before doing so. I live here mostly because my wife’s family is here, but most tourists come here because of the beautiful and “willing” women. A marine on leave for exactly that reason recently had to “acquire” his own Philippine justice when he brought a young lady from a bar to his hotel room. In short order a policeman knocked on the door, and upon entering, informed the man that the girl with him was just 17. The marine sex tourist had no way of knowing her “true” age, since all the girls working in the bar were “advertised” as being at least 18. If not for an extensive amount of moolah sent to him by family he would still be languishing in a local jail, probably waiting for more than a year for a docket date. Instead, he paid his “fine,” and without ever having to suffer through what passes for a trial in these parts, he is now safe and sound back where he belongs. His story is NOT unique and still the sex tourists come here, exactly like lambs to the slaughter. Idiots!
Here’s some cryptic advice for all you guys coming to the Far East to “meet” beautiful ladies: Go to Thailand.
Another American was recently released from the local “gulag” after a year behind bars. Imagine more than a dozen men crammed into a cell half the size of your bedroom. He too was accused on trumped up sex charges, but he refused to pay off the local officials, which would have easily “proven” his innocence. It seems he finally wore them down, because he was set free after it was declared that there was not enough evidence against him. So much for a speedy trial. By the way, other than the lack of a jury system, jurisprudence rules here supposedly mirror ours almost exactly.
And check out this scam. A retired American who has spent much of his life helping children and young people by schooling them in the martial arts was approached by the local gendarmes and informed that he should either pay up or be charged. Charged with what? Well, there is an ordinance that no foreigner is to provide money or free stuff, including karate classes, to minors without first getting written permission from parents. His protest that he was not aware of that law and that he would cease and desist immediately until he had the required permissions in hand was dismissed. He was given the choice of paying immediately or going through a long-drawn-out time in court, including possible pretrial jail time. He was also informed that he not tell anyone of this or all bets were off. Rather than calling their “bluff,” if it was one, he paid some big bucks. So, in this case a well-meaning permanent resident foreigner finds out the hard way what justice means in these parts.
Letters from Bootcamp, Installment VIII (The Gas Chamber)
It’s been a while since I posted my last bootcamp letter, so here’s another. In it I describe what it was like training with our gas masks with real tear gas. It was a horrible experience to say the least, and I didn’t tell the fam about the DIs taking us back into the gas Quonset hut at the end of the training for some “SI.” Those bastards made us do jumping jacks, bends-and-thrusts and pushups. The deck was so slippery with snot and puke that our hands would not stay under us in the slickness. Most of the gas had dissipated, but enough was still in there that we could not really breathe well while we exerted. Still, I don’t fault our drill instructors for doing this to us. War is a lot worse and it certainly made us realize that no matter how nastily “uncomfortable” a situation is you can always keep going and take even more if necessary. My critique: it was good training, very worthwhile.
I went through similar training many times after that during my 22 years in the Air Force and it didn’t come close in “miserability” (is that a word?). The AF also provided me gas chamber training but it always seemed milder, perhaps less concentrated than what I received in the marines. I could almost breathe it in like "real air," while the version of gas I received in the marine gas chamber immediately caused a violent bodily reaction. As soon as it hit the airways and eyes my respiratory system refused to have any part of it. At the end of the letter I remark about the African, Bayi, who broke the mile track record. I loved track and field and followed all the world’s best runners, especially the milers.
Aug 19, 1975 - Dear Folks and anyone else reading this letter:
Urgent: I’m down to my last few stamps, send some please. We’re not due another PX call for quite a while yet.
Yesterday the platoon went down to the phone center for a call. This time I was determined to get one through. I got in line in front of the booths and waited and waited and waited. Finally it was my turn. There was only one guy in the booth in front of me. Then the DI glanced at his watch and said it was time to go. So, no phone call. That means I won’t have a chance to make one now till 3rd phase, which starts about the beginning of September. Maybe it’s better that way. I won’t get so homesick. Actually, I haven’t been homesick since around 1st phase, back in July.
Today was the big day. I went into the gas chamber and died. All those stories I heard about it didn’t come close in describing what it’s really like. When I took that mask off, the first thing I noticed was that my eyes refused to stay open for more than a fraction of a second. My skin burned and itched and my nose and throat felt even worse, like the air was on fire. We had to recite our name, rank serial number and hometown and state. All 30 of us had to do it separately before we could leave as a group. The only thing that kept me running out was the thought of having to do it again until I did it right. Most of us we’re crying like babies and actually throwing involuntary tantrums. You can’t help it. The floor was covered with spit and saliva and puke making the footing very slippery indeed. We were the last platoon of the day. I spent most of the time gagging and dry heaving. You should have heard me burp when I came out of there. My lungs refused to accept the gas, so it all went into my stomach. Oh well, it only lasted for about 5 minutes and all of us survived. Chalk it up as another unforgettable experience. And I do mean unforgettable.
After chow we double-timed about 3 miles out to a range for a weapons demonstration. We saw mortars, anti-tank weapons and other very loud things in action. It was pretty cool.
I’ve included in this letter an article and some stamps I want put in my room please. The article I took out of the LA Herald Express I found this Sunday in the squad bay. It really surprised me that Bayi’s mile record was broken so quickly and so much was taken off of it, about 1.5 seconds…Outstanding!
P.S. Don’t forget those stamps. I won’t be getting any mail calls here at ITS, but keep sending them anyway. We’ll get them back at MCRD pretty soon anyway.
An Air Force brat born in Japan in the late 50's. Attended more than a dozen schools before graduating from high school. Immediately joined the US Marines, after 5 years transferred to the US Air Force, retired in 2002 after 27 years of service. Now lives in the Philippines.