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2008年11月13日 (木)


(Mainichi Japan) November 12, 2008

Diet testimony by ex-ASDF chief of staff highlights need to better train SDF officers

社説:前空幕長招致 隊内幹部教育の実態究明を

Former Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) Chief of Staff Toshio Tamogami was summoned to testify before the House of Councillors Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense on Tuesday as an unsworn witness over his prize-winning essay that is inconsistent with the government's view on Japan's wartime atrocities.


The questioning of Tamogami and Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada highlighted the fragile nature of Japan's civilian control on the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) and problems involving the education of SDF personnel.


Tamogami published a similar essay in the ASDF in-house magazine "Hoyu," denying that Japan was a wartime aggressor, shortly after he assumed the top post in the force. Hamada admitted that he had failed to check its contents.


While he was in the post over a year and seven-month period, Tamogami frequently visited ASDF bases and made speeches to its members. Tamogami said he thinks that one speech he delivered at the Kumagaya base in Saitama Prefecture in January this year was similar to what he wrote in his prize-winning essay. However, the defense minister said the ministry has not confirmed the contents of all of Tamogami's speeches.


It is unacceptable that the defense minister failed to notice that Tamogami had repeatedly made statements and wrote about his interpretation of the history of Japan's wartime aggression and colonial rule, which deviates from the government's position.


Tamogami told the Diet panel in his testimony that his latest essay was only called into question because many people learned of its contents and made a fuss about it. He meant that he had repeatedly expressed the same opinion in the past, but he was dismissed this time because the media reported on his prize-winning essay.


One cannot help but say that civilian control of the SDF was lacking under the administration of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which appointed Tamogami -- despite the fact that he was well known within the ministry as a person who had expressed unusual opinions -- to the top post in the ASDF, and under the administrations of former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and Prime Minister Taro Aso that kept him in his post.


The Diet panel raised the issue of the curriculum of the SDF Joint Staff College that was worked out when Tamogami headed the institution. The college is known as a stepping-stone for colonel- and lieutenant colonel-level officers who are aspiring to be generals and members of the staff offices of the ASDF, the Ground Self-Defense Force and the Maritime Self-Defense Force.



The college still runs a course on views on history and the state, which was established in fiscal 2004. Tamogami, who headed the college from December 2002 to August 2004, said he established the course. Outside experts have mainly been invited to lecture for the course. In-house documents of the Defense Ministry show that the interpretation of the Greater East Asia War and the Tokyo Tribunal of War Criminals are among the topics taught in the course.


The defense minister told the Diet panel that he does not know the details of what are taught in the course. "We haven't confirmed its contents. We'd like to confirm them." The ministry has withheld the names of the lecturers who teach in the course, but one cannot help but suspect that views on Japan's wartime aggression similar to those of Tamogami have been advocated in the course.


If so, such a biased historical perspective has been implanted in the minds of a large number of top ranking officers of the SDF, creating an environment in which more officers like Tamogami will come to the fore. It is the responsibility of the Aso administration to immediately launch an investigation and take measures to rectify the situation.


Some politicians in both the ruling bloc and opposition parties think that the Diet questioning of Tamogami was a kind of ceremony for laying the groundwork for the passage of a bill that would allow the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) to continue its mission in the Indian Ocean to refuel foreign military vessels engaged in the war against terror. As if to reflect such a view, questions posed by opposition Democratic Party of Japan members were not sharp enough.


The questioning was far from sufficient in clarifying problems involving civilian control and the education of SDF personnel. The Diet should deliberate on the issue with the presence of Prime Minister Aso. The Diet should also consider summoning Tamogami again to testify before the Diet.


毎日新聞 20081112日 004


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