Hi Blog. Here’s an issue that is being fleshed out in a well-written, informative Kyodo article: that of historical revisionism within Japan’s military, and its cosiness with the right-wing. We had a general write a prize-winning essay (received from right-wingers, see below) denying that Japan waged a war of liberation against Asia during WWII. How Japan treats or is treated by its neighbors is of import to Debito.org, albeit tangentially, so let me reproduce Kyodo’s recap of the debate so far.
I was asked for my opinion earlier this month in the Comments section of my blog. In brief, this is how I answered:
–- Tamogami was forced to resign. Good. He did not capitulate. Fine with me (it is his opinion). But the media I’ve seen so far skirts the issue. It’s not a matter of whether what he said was appropriate for his position within the SDF. It is an issue about whether what he says is historically accurate. (It is not.) And until these historical issues are finally laid to rest (through, as UN Rapporteur Doudou Diene suggested, a history book of the region written and approved by scholars from all countries involved), this is just going to keep happening again and again. Exorcising the elephant in the room, i.e. the ghost of Japan’s wartime past (particularly as to whether it was a war of aggression or liberation), must be done sooner or later. It is still not being done and debunked, and that means the SDF person can just use “freedom of speech” as his cloaking device and compare Japan to the DPRK (as he has done) and just gain sympathy for the Rightists. There. Debito
Unfortunately, I don’t see any diversion from this path even as the debate, as Kyodo reports below, goes to the Diet. The debate has gone into issues of civilian control (meaning, to freedom-of-speechers on both sides of the political spectrum, mind control), and Tamogami is setting himself up to become a martyr to the right wing. Again, the tack should also include, is what he saying historically accurate? Again, it is not.
The honest study of the history of any country is going to reveal things that a nation is ashamed of, and one must include that as part of the national narrative. The Tamogamis, Obuchis, Abes, and Asos are just going to have to live with that. And part of the process is bringing historical fact of Japan’s conquering, Imperialist past into the debate. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
FOCUS: Unapologetic ex-general’s testimony fuels civilian control concern
TOKYO, Nov. 11, 2008 KYODO, Courtesy of the Club
Sacked air force chief Toshio Tamogami testified in parliament Tuesday over his controversial war essay but his unapologetic rhetoric only highlighted a large difference in perception with the government regarding Japan’s role in World War II.
His testimony also posed a question even among Self-Defense Forces officers about whether the 60-year-old former general was ever fit for the post of Air Self-Defense Force chief of staff and prompted politicians to have second thoughts about the effectiveness of their efforts to maintain civilian control of the defense forces.
”Did I do such a bad thing at the end of my career?” the outspoken Tamogami told reporters after pressing his case over the essay as an unsworn witness during a 160-minute session before the House of Councillors Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense.
Tamogami offered no apology or remarks that he would take a hard look at the release of the essay in which he denied Japan waged a war of aggression in other Asian countries before and during the war.
”I’m feeling good,” Tamogami said to TV camera crews and photographers on entering the parliament building earlier in the day for the testimony session.
”Mr. Tamogami has learned nothing (from this controversy),” a senior official of the Defense Ministry said. ”I cannot help doubting Mr. Tamogami properly understands the gravity of what he did as a top SDF officer.”
The Chinese and South Korean governments have expressed their displeasure over Tamogami’s essay although the dispute has yet to develop into a major diplomatic problem.
Adm. Keiji Akahoshi, the chief of staff of the Maritime Self-Defense Force, questioned Tamogami’s remarks in the upper house committee, telling a press conference, ”Again I recognized the gravity of the problem and that his releasing the essay was inappropriate.”
Tamogami was dismissed as ASDF chief Oct. 31, the same day as his essay, which the government says clearly contradicts the position of successive governments, was made public.
In the essay, Tamogami denied that Japan had waged a war of aggression in other Asian countries and challenged legal restrictions on SDF activities such as limits on the use of weapons overseas under the U.S.-drafted Constitution.
Setting aside the essay’s content, the issue also shed light on whether politicians can properly control the expression of opinions by SDF personnel while being mindful of freedom of speech.
Tamogami was known for his straight talk after becoming ASDF chief in March 2007 and wrote an article later that year in a magazine circulating only within the ASDF on the war and historical issues that contained views similar to those in the essay.
Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, a legislator, admitted that the then leadership of the ministry missed the article ”because that was an in-house magazine.”
This time, the essay Tamogami wrote while ASDF chief was made public as the winner of the 3 million yen top prize in a competition.
But an SDF officer tried to defend Tamogami saying, ”I heard it was well-known in the ASDF that Mr. Tamogami held such views on the history of the war as he expressed opinions to that effect on various occasions without being clearly advised not to do so.”
”He may be puzzled, feeling, ‘Why am I being criticized so strongly only this time?” the officer said.
Former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, known as a military wonk, has said that more SDF officers should come forward to express opinions from the viewpoint of defense experts to support the defense minister.
Tamogami has also come under fire for his failure to notify civilian officials in the ministry in writing of his plan to publicize the essay, breaking an intra-ministry rule on the expression of opinions by ranking SDF officers.
But Tamogami said, ”That should not constitute a violation of any rules,” arguing that writing the essay was not part of his official duties and that it was a product of his private studies on history.
At the beginning of the session Tuesday, Committee Chairman Toshimi Kitazawa from the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan urged members of the committee as well as Tamogami to be aware that sloppy civilian control over the old Imperial Japanese military forces resulted in the loss of more than 3 million lives in the war.
The ministry is set to pay Tamogami a retirement allowance worth around 60 million yen. He was dismissed as ASDF chief but allowed to leave the ministry with a status enabling him to receive the benefit.
”I’ll use the allowance because I will have difficulty making a living,” Tamogami said, brushing off mounting calls to voluntarily return all or part of the money to the state coffers.
But a top official of the ministry blasted Tamogami, saying, ”I hope he will better understand how much trouble he has caused for the ASDF for which he served for 30 something years and how seriously the already damaged confidence in the SDF has been lost.”
The top official, who asked not to be named, also said that Tamogami was unfit for the top post in the air force and his behavior could suggest problems in the education programs at defense academies.
”We know there are some junior SDF personnel who don’t want to easily follow government policies on various matters. It’s OK. They have freedom of thought. But we do not usually expect a four-star-general-class officer like Mr. Tamogami to challenge the government in public,” the official said.
Revelations about Tamogami’s cozy links with a nationalist real estate businessman who organized the competition was also among topics taken up by the committee.
The essay contest was organized by hotel and condominium developer Apa Group and its head Toshio Motoya, a friend of Tamogami. Apa Group is also known for its support of hawkish former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
On top of that, an orchestrated submission of essays by ASDF personnel is also suspected.
Tamogami also denied in the parliamentary session that he received any inappropriate benefits from Motoya’s side and that he had played a role in the organized submission of essays.
But the ministry has found that in addition to Tamogami, 94 of the 235 essay submissions came from the ASDF.
Another senior official of the ministry questioned the fairness of the essay contest saying, ”It must have been fixed.”