Prime Minister Taro Aso in an Upper House session Thursday said it was “extremely inappropriate” for Mr. Toshio Tamogami, the recently dismissed Air Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff, to write an essay that contradicted the government’s official view on Japan’s war-making in the 1930s and ’40s.

In the essay, Mr. Tamogami tried to justify Japan’s aggression and colonial rule before and during World War II. Mr. Aso also said he will take all possible measures to prevent a recurrence. An important issue is whether Mr. Aso, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada and other government leaders are fully conscious of the inadequacies in the long-term education and supervision of SDF members that have led to the likes of Mr. Tamogami becoming the ASDF chief.

Mr. Tamogami’s essay won top prize in a recent essay contest sponsored by a private company. Ninety-four other ASDF members also submitted essays. Tamogami had published a similar essay in an ASDF publication in May 2007, but the ministry did not notice it. Earlier, in 2004, Mr. Tamogami published a separate essay, also in an ASDF publication, that deviated from the nation’s defense-only policy line, the basis of Japan’s defense posture. He wrote that the defense-only policy could not adequately protect the nation and that the SDF needed members who will “thoroughly consider attacks on adversary nations.” The then Defense Agency did not notice that essay, either.

While Mr. Tamogami served as head of the SDF’s Joint Staff College from 2002 to 2004, he inaugurated a course on the perception of history and a view of the state. Lecturers included those pushing revisionist history textbooks. It is appalling that the Defense Ministry did not know the content of the course.

A high-ranking defense official told Kyodo News that Mr. Tamogami’s thinking permeates the ASDF. If that’s true, it’s dangerous. The ministry should not only make public what was taught in the course but also drastically reform the education and supervision of SDF members. It may have to even rethink its earlier reform plan that gives more say to uniformed officials.

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