Okinawa mass suicide
Don’t allow politicization of textbook screening
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Based on its basic view of what occurred in the 1945 Battle of Okinawa, the Textbook Authorization Council on Wednesday recommended that Education, Science and Technology Minister Kisaburo Tokai approve applications from six textbook publishers to revise references to mass suicides that took place in the battle. The ministry immediately approved the applications.
The applications for revisions to high school textbooks on Japanese history to be used from the next academic year did not directly contradict the opinion on the Japanese military’s role in the Battle of Okinawa released this spring by the screening panel, based on which it made its recommendation to the ministry on textbook approval. But the latest move indicates that problematic revisions were made out of political motives.
The description, “People were driven to commit mass suicide,” written in line with the panel’s instructions after the spring screening, has been changed to “People were driven to commit mass suicide using hand grenades and other items that had been distributed to them with the involvement of the Japanese military.”
The newly revised description was justified on the claim that the mass suicides were prompted by education and propaganda that encouraged residents to commit suicide en masse rather than be taken as prisoners of war.
The initial revision applications contained the sentence “There were people who were coerced to commit mass suicide by the Japanese military.” But in line with the panel’s instruction, this sentence was toned down.
Revisions made too easily
To screen the revision applications, the Textbook Authorization Council heard opinions from nine experts and settled on the view that it “could not confirm” that the mass suicides were committed under orders of the Japanese military. It said there were “various factors” behind the suicides.
Litigation is continuing on the issue of whether the Japanese military ordered the mass suicides. Taking this into consideration, the panel admitted there was military “involvement,” but that it was unclear whether there was “coercion.” This observation did not deviate from spring’s opinion.
However, in the revision applications, a claim that the Japanese military gave hand grenades to residents saying, “Use these to commit suicide,” was approved. The approval was made based on testimonies of residents, although some experts have questioned the credibility of these witness accounts.
One of the textbooks also added the fact that the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly adopted a resolution to demand that the panel retract its spring screening opinion. This textbook was approved.
If revisions are allowed to be made to already authorized textbooks in such an easy manner, the school textbook screening system could be shaken by domestic and overseas political pressure.
Rally swayed govt decision
What pushed the government to accept the revision applications was a mass rally on Sept. 29 of Okinawa Prefecture residents demanding the withdrawal of the spring screening opinion.
The rally’s organizer put the number of participants at 110,000. However, a major Tokyo-based security company estimated the number at between 18,000 and 20,000 based on its analysis of an aerial photograph.
The curtain rose on the “drama of revision” when the organizer gave an estimate of the crowd size that was five times that of the security company, putting the government on its back foot.
The government should never repeat the stupidity of allowing political intervention in the textbook-screening process.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 27, 2007)
(Dec. 28, 2007)