Friday, February 19, 2010

On This Day in History…

National Archives
An exclusion order posted at First and Front Streets in San Francisco directing removal of persons of Japanese ancestry.

On Feb. 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. There was no mention of relocation centers in the EO, because initially none were envisioned. The purpose was for those of Japanese ancestry to relocate voluntarily, anywhere within the interior, away from the West Coast and areas of strategic military importance.

On April 25, 1992, as a UCLA student, I went by bus from campus on a pilgrimage to Manzanar, 230 miles northeast of Los Angeles on the 50th Anniversary of the internment of 110,000 Japanese-Americans into relocation camps during WWII.

As sympathetic as I am to the Japanese-American experience (my mom being Japanese, I identify more with ...Japanese-American culture than Thai/Thai-American), I'm going to go ahead and anger a lot of people and extol some of the non-PC merits of Michelle Malkin's book, In Defense of Internment: the case for 'racial profiling' in World War II.

Baby Ogata's Grave
The imposing beauty of the Sierra Nevada mountains, marred by having to see them through barbed wire fences.
Photo taken by Wordsmith

Whether you agree or disagree with Malkin's points in the end, I see nothing at all that is "racist" about her book, unless one knee-jerks into PC-induced sensitivities as substitution for thinking.

It is revisionist dishonesty (or unfortunate ignorance) for anyone to claim there were no instances of Japanese issei or nisei who displayed commitment to the ultra-nationalistic tradition of "doho" (unbending loyalty to the Emperor regardless of residence or citizenship status). Malkin provides a number of examples of where there was evidence of Japanese-American disloyalty.

Even moreso than racism and prejudice, the possibility of fifth column saboteurs and the dangers of further attacks on the West Coast were very real, and supported by the best military and civilian intelligence analysis at the time. This included the MAGIC messages which were intercepted diplomatic communications that revealed Japan's espionage activities in regards to the West Coast, Hawaii, and the southern border.

Throughout Europe and the South Pacific, there were instances of Japanese immigrants who consorted with their ancestral homeland, revealing where their loyalties lay. Same held true with Germans who no longer lived in Germany (which brings up the point that it wasn't just those of Japanese ancestry who were interned by the Department of Justice- of the 31 thousand enemy aliens from Axis nations, nearly half were European).

The conventional perspective, of course, is exemplified by the following passage from "Yankee Samurai", by Joseph D. Harrington- a perspective that rings heroic for me, with selfless patriotism, bitter sorrow, honor and conflicted loyalty, and unconditional love and service to country:

"Before leaving New Guinea, Walter Tanaka had faced up to a major crisis in his life. He had done everything he could to dissuade his angry and disappointed father from renouncing the U.S. and returning to Japan. This was not easy to do while soaking wet in a foxhole with the enemy shooting at you. The moisture on Walt's face was more than rain when he read what he feared was his father's last letter on a painful subject.

America had disappointed him. Tunejiro Tanaka told his son, as he recounted the family troubles. He intended to go back to Japan as soon as he could. But, he had other ideas concerning Walter. 'When a tiger dies, he leaves his skin,' Tunejiro wrote, quoting an old Japanese adage, 'but when a man dies he leaves only his name. America has rejected me, and I am going back to my native country, Japan. You, however, are to stay in America. It is your country. Defend it. I charge you not to do anything that will dishonor my name."

-Ch. 12, pg 258

And we are all proud of the selfless patriotism and heroism of Nisei who found themselves in the unfortunate circumstance of having to prove their loyalty, fighting for a country that uprooted and held their families in internment camps.

To my knowledge, the all-Japanese 442nd Regimental Combat Team remains the most highly decorated unit in American military history. And those Japanese-Americans who acted as translators for military intelligence played a large role in saving lives by winning/shortening the war.

Today, civil rights activists want to draw parallels between the Japanese-American experience of then to that of Muslim-Americans, today.

Vigilance against prejudice is ok; but we shouldn't be crammed with so much political correctness as to throw common sense out the window.

Profiling is not the worst evil in the world. It is a logical process of identification. You do this naturally in your everyday activity. If I see someone wearing a Grateful Dead t-shirt concert, the natural conclusion for me to reach is that, chances are, the guy's a fan of their music. I could be wrong, sure. But percentage-wise, I'm probably correct in my initial assessment, without yet verifying and confirming.

There are all kinds of profiling: Racial/ethnic, national, religious, behavioral...

The act of profiling doesn't mean you automatically are thinking "guilty before proven innocent".

If a certain terror cult had a strange fixation with wearing Casio F91W wrist-watches, it only follows that one should scrutinize those wearing the favored watch more closely than those without; it does not mean that ALL and even MOST people who choose to wear that watch are terrorists. It's just one clue on a list of potential traits to be on the lookout for.

The fear of racial/ethnic/religious/national profiling- of being labeled "racist"- failed to protect us against 9/11 terrorists. Ronald Kessler's The Terrorist Watch, pg 30-31, pg 33:

When he wrote the Phoenix memo, Williams was investigating an individual who was a member of the al-Muahjiroun, an Islamic extremist group whose spiritual leader was a supporter of bin Laden. The man was taking aviation-related security courses at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. Why was he interested in aviation security? Perhaps so he could hijack a plane, Williams thought. Others taking flight training could have the same nefarious purpose.

Headquarters passed the memo off to low-level analysts, who wondered whether interviewing Middle Eastern men taking flight lessons or aviation security courses would raise issues of racial profiling.


the FBI operated in a politically correct atmosphere that Congress, the Clinton Administration, and the media fostered. Focusing on Arab men was a no-no.

In Defense of Internment, pg XXVIII-XXIX:

Williams recommendation to canvas flight schools was rejected, FBI director Robert Mueller later admitted, partly because at least one agency offical raised concerns that the plan could be viewed as discriminatory racial profiling. "If we went out and started canvassing, we'd get in trouble for targeting Arab Americans," one FBI official told the Los Angeles Times.

To be sure, the Phoenix memo was not enough to warn of the 9/11 plot (Williams himself only marked the memo for "routine" attention and never dreamt of the possibility of hijackers flying planes into buildings); but what is revealed is the aversion to conduct the kind of profiling that would raise the hackles of civil rights groups.

And today, we are still hamstrung by our political correctness sensitivities and fear to offend, as demonstrated by the Ft. Hood shooting (and what have we here....5 U.S. soldiers plotting together?!). That one should have been preventable.

So long as this remains the case, we will treat grandmothers and young, Middle-Eastern men in their 20's with equal levels of scrutiny, taking off belts and shoes, and being prevented to bring aboard a simple gift like a snow globe. Because discrimination is such a naughty word and profiling an act of great evil and injustice.

When civil liberty activists hyperventilate about "That's profiling!"

My answer, in classic Cheney-fashion, is...


Cross-posted at Flopping Aces

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Blogger Chuck said...

The bottom line is that PC is literally killing us.

I find it sad that we interred the Japanese but I think to put to it in the context of the time it was inevitable.

I believe the majority of the Japanese-Americans were not a threat and were very American, but...

There are stories of Japanese eating lunch on the lawn in and around the base at Pearl Harbor pre-attack and relaying info home. If there was a case for interment, that was it.

We really need to take a page from history and apply it to Muslims now. This does not mean ban all Muslims from the US but it is not unreasonable to shut down schools that are effectively raising little terrorists, I do not believe they should be in the military (maybe as interpreters but far removed from the rest of the troops), finally they should be highly scrutinized if they are flying in from extremist areas.

I have never had a problem with profiling. If Middle Eastern men are almost exclusively responsible for terrorism now, why would we look at anyone else? I think we need to do it on a consistent and continuous basis and if they do not like it, they can go home.

I think one of the most incredible ironies of modern times is the notion that Muslims are bent about profiling and scream for tolerance from the US citizens. Imagine how you would be treated if you were in Saudi Arabia, or worse, imagine how your wife or mother would be treated.

Saturday, February 20, 2010 5:24:00 AM  
Blogger Tapline said...

Outstanding post! Unfortunately your reasoning does not fit with the present administration, as witnessed by their actions and appointments....stay well....

Monday, February 22, 2010 7:28:00 PM  

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