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Mr. Toshio Tamogami, who was sacked as Air Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff over a controversial essay, testified Tuesday before an Upper House committee. His statements show that he does not understand what civilian control of the Self-Defense Forces means and how his essay could damage the reputation of not only Japan but also the SDF in the international community.

The essay was an attempt to justify Japan’s aggression and colonial rule of its Asian neighbors before and during World War II, contradicting the government’s official view.

Successive governments have inherited the position stated by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama on Aug. 15, 1995, when he expressed his “heartfelt apology” for the “tremendous damage and suffering” to the people of Asian countries that he said Japan’s “colonial rule and aggression” caused.

Mr. Tamogami said, “Since I think the Murayama statement is a political statement, I intended to emphasize that we (SDF members) have the freedom of speech.” This shows that he does not understand that SDF members, because of their duty, must adhere to the policy line articulated by the government.

It is outrageous that a person who headed the ASDF has forgotten that the existing Constitution, which SDF members must “respect and uphold” as public servants, is an expression of the Japanese state’s self-examination of the past mistake of not having subjected the armed forces to civilian control. It is worrisome that members of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Defense Division have expressed opinions sympathetic to the retired general. He even used his Diet appearance as a chance to call for changing the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution.

It has surfaced that the Defense Ministry failed to warn Mr. Tamogami over a similar essay he wrote for an ASDF publication in May 2007. Ninety-four other ASDF members submitted essays to the recent contest in which his essay won top prize. The ministry should not only review its internal management but also fully explain why it promoted Mr. Tamogami to the ASDF’s top position and why it let him retire with an allowance of some ¥60 million.

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