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Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2008

Tamogami ups nationalist rhetoric

War justified, Constitution needs change, axed general tells Diet


By JUN HONGO and KAZUAKI NAGATA
Staff writers

Ousted Air Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff Gen. Toshio Tamogami appeared Tuesday before the Diet and defended his contentious justification of Japan's wartime past and upped the ante by calling for the Constitution to be amended to unfetter the military and allow the nation to engage in collective self-defense.

News photo
Oral defense: Fired Air Self-Defense Force chief Toshio Tamogami takes reporters' questions Tuesday in the Diet after testifying over his controversial essay. KYODO PHOTO

Tamogami, 60, who was sacked Oct. 31 after he won an essay contest with an entry that justifies Japan's wartime role and past colonial rule, reiterated his revisionist stance and made the controversial remarks regarding the Constitution while giving unsworn testimony before the Upper House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense.

"There should be opinions that see Japan as a country of good will, but I was dismissed for expressing such thoughts in my essay," he said. "Does that mean we must see Japan as a formidable foe?

"I believe the Constitution should be revised. Considering the split in opinions over this country's national defense, it's better to fix it," Tamogami said.

He said the Self-Defense Forces should have more freedom on when to decide to use force.

Asked his opinion about the facts he laid out in his essay, which caused a stir both at home and abroad, Tamogami said they were "not inaccurate" and maintained he has the right to state his thoughts freely.

He was told several times by the committee chair to keep his statements short, including when he tried to restate his constitutional rights to freedom of thought and speech.

"The right to freedom of speech should be granted even for the SDF. I question the democracy of this country if that is not the case," he said.

Tamogami later told reporters the 1995 war apology issued by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama is a "tool to suppress free speech." The Murayama statement is the government's official line on Japan's wartime responsibility.

Tamogami was fired Oct. 31 after claiming in the essay that Japan was "not an aggressor nation" and that the people have been misled by "erroneous education." He was retired on Nov. 3.

The essay accuses the U.S. of "trapping" Japan into attacking Pearl Harbor. Tamogami also argued that Japan's colonial rule brought prosperity to China and the Korean Peninsula.

He told the committee he was not concerned about any negative repercussions from his essay.

"People accuse me of causing unrest among the public, but a recent (Internet) survey said 58 percent of the people support me," he said.

Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada acknowledged during the committee session that Tamogami had written a similar essay in May 2007 for an ASDF internal publication.

"We did not check the contents," Hamada said, admitting the ministry missed a chance to avoid the latest stir.

Hamada, who was accompanied at the session by Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone and Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura, reiterated that Tamogami was sacked because his essay contradicted the official line on Japan's wartime responsibility.

But Hamada was chided for allowing revisionist education at the Joint Staff College of the SDF and for retiring Tamogami with a ¥60 million allowance instead of issuing a disciplinary dismissal.

Satoshi Inoue of the Japanese Communist Party said during the questioning that some lecturers at the Joint Staff College have openly sought a revision of the Constitution, and have denied that the Imperial Japanese Army was an aggressor during the war.

Hamada said it is essential when educating SDF officers to expose them to various opinions but added the ministry will investigate Inoue's charges.

Regarding Tamogami's censure, he said that swiftly retiring the general was the best course of action.

Tamogami told reporters after the session that he has no intention of returning his ¥60 million retirement allowance.

"I intend to use it because it has been difficult making a living," he joked.

A Defense Ministry investigation has revealed that the ASDF was aggressively involved in calling its officers to submit essays to the writing contest, held under the theme "True Modern History." The contest was sponsored by the Apa hotel and developer group.

Ultimately, 94 ASDF officers entered the contest, for which Tamogami took the top prize. However, Tamogami denied any effort on his part to pressure subordinates into entering the contest.

"If I had asked, there would have been more than 1,000 entries" by ASDF staff, he told the committee.



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