In Defense of Internment: The Case for "Racial Profiling" in World War II and the War on Terror (Anglais) Relié – octobre 2004
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In 1942, I was arrested and convicted for being a Japanese American trying to live here in the Bay Area. The day after my arrest a newspaper headline declared, "Jap Spy Arrested in San Leandro."
Of course, I was no spy. The government never charged me with being a spy. I was a U.S. citizen born and raised in Oakland. I even tried to enlist in the Coast Guard (they didn't take me because of my race). But my citizenship and my loyalty did not matter to the federal government. On Feb. 19, 1942, anyone of Japanese heritage was ordered excluded from the West Coast. I was charged and convicted of being a Japanese American living in an area in which all people of my ancestry had been ordered to be interned.
I fought my conviction at that time. My case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, but in 1944 my efforts to seek protection under the Constitution were rejected.
After I was released in 1945, my criminal record continued to affect my life. It was hard to find work. I was considered to be a criminal. It took almost 40 years and the efforts of many people to reopen my case. In 1983, a federal court judge found that the government had hidden evidence and lied to the Supreme Court during my appeal. The judge found that Japanese Americans were not the threat that the government publicly claimed. My criminal record was removed.
As my case was being reconsidered by the courts, again as a result of the efforts of many people across the country, Congress created a commission to study the exclusion and incarceration of Japanese Americans. The commission found that no Japanese American had been involved in espionage or sabotage and that no military necessity existed to imprison us. Based on the commission's findings and of military historians who reconsidered the original records from the war, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, declaring that the internment of Japanese Americans was unjustified. Finally, it seemed that the burden of being accused of being an "enemy race" had been lifted from our shoulders.
But now the old accusations are back. Fox News media personality Michelle Malkin claims that some Japanese Americans were spies during World War II. Based upon her suspicions, Malkin claims the internment of all Japanese Americans was not such a bad idea after all. She goes on to claim that racial profiling of Arab Americans today is justified by the need to fight terrorism. According to Malkin, it is OK to take away an entire ethnic group's civil rights because some individuals are suspect. Malkin argues for reviving the old notion of guilt by association.
It is painful to see reopened for serious debate the question of whether the government was justified in imprisoning Japanese Americans during World War II. It was my hope that my case and the cases of other Japanese American internees would be remembered for the dangers of racial and ethnic scapegoating.
Fears and prejudices directed against minority communities are too easy to evoke and exaggerate, often to serve the political agendas of those who promote those fears. I know what it is like to be at the other end of such scapegoating and how difficult it is to clear one's name after unjustified suspicions are endorsed as fact by the government. If someone is a spy or terrorist they should be prosecuted for their actions. But no one should ever be locked away simply because they share the same race, ethnicity, or religion as a spy or terrorist. If that principle was not learned from the internment of Japanese Americans, then these are very dangerous times for our democracy.
Fred Korematsu was awarded the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medial of Freedom, in 1998. He and his wife, Kathryn, continue to live in their longtime hometown of San Leandro.
Fortunately, Eric Muller, a law professor at UNC -- Chapel Hill, revealed that Malkin's arguments were entirely unsubstantiated and willfully falsified. As historian Greg Robinson observed, "there were no reports of sabotage or espionage" following Pearl Harbor or before Japanese-Americans were unlawfully imprisoned. Allied forces maintained a Germany-first strategy because they considered Japan to be a lesser threat, in part because it did not have absolute control of the Pacific Ocean. Moreover, internment camps were established in June 1942, after the Battle of Midway, in which Japan's defeat greatly diminished its threat to the US mainland.
Despite the great deal of criticism she received, Malkin refused to budge from her position that MAGIC cables established the military necessity of internment camps. She underscored how important MAGIC was to her argument by dedicating her book to David Lowman, whose "research" on MAGIC she borrowed extensively from. However, James C. McNaughton, Command Historian of the US Army, Pacific, declared that Lowman's work on MAGIC to be of no merit and dismissed Lowman's "polemics ... as symptomatic of the lingering bitterness stemming from Pearl Harbor and the emotions raised by apologies and compensation."
Even the Historians' Committee for Fairness proved that Malkin's book represented "a blatant violation of professional standards of objectivity" -- "decades of scholarly research, including works by the official historian of the US Army" have contradicted every one of her intellectually dishonest claims. Following a report by the US government Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, President Reagan authorized that compensation be paid because the denial of civil rights to Japanese-Americans had been "motivated by racism" instead of veritable military concerns. As the noted biographer Jean Edward Smith pointed out, during their internment, Japanese-Americans lost more than $400 million from 1942 to 1945, a sum when adjusted for inflation equated to almost $5 billion. These financial losses were never fully or adequately recouped.
Lastly, it should be noted that the segregated Japanese-American 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team became the most highly decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of the US Army. When the European Theatre finally ended, the 100th/442nd had received 7 Presidential Unit Citations, and its members were awarded numerous decorations for valor and competence, including 21 Medals of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560 Silver Stars, 4,000 Bronze Stars, and 9,486 Purple Hearts. Their sacrifice was astounding because they suffered a casualty rate of 314 percent, which meant, on average, every man was injured more than three times.
For example, the book purports one of the basic, underlying reasons for internment was the Japanese espionage "threat" on the West Coast. However, Japanese Americans during WWII were among the most loyal to America, and many served valiantly for the U.S. during the war.
According to the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians in a report entitled, "Personal Justice Denied", it stated that "not a single documented act of espionage, sabatoge or fifth column activity on the mainland was committed by an American citizen of Japanese ancestry or by a resident Japanese alien on the West Coast." This view has been substantiated consistently by independent scholars and researchers for almost 50 years since WWII.
Two of my uncles, although interned, volunteered to enlist in the U.S. Army in the 442nd Regimental Combat Unit. One of my uncles in the unit earned a REAL Purple Heart after he sustained extensive damage to his ear when an enemy grenade exploded near his head while fighting for the U.S. in Europe during the war.
The 442nd suffered huge numbers of casualties and is the most decorated combat unit in American history. They were credited for saving a Texas unit trapped behind Nazi lines, although a significantly larger number of Japanese American U.S. soldiers lost their lives rescuing them than the total number of soldiers that were in the Texas unit.
My mom, a U.S.-born American citizen, was also interned during the war. She felt as if she were without a country. Yet she never, ever considered turning her back on this nation she calls "home". She, along with my family, proudly display American flag decals on our clothes and our cars.
Yes, I strongly believe America needs to continue to vigorously fight for freedom here in our homeland and abroad, and defend itself against terrorism. I also have confidence that America, through prayer, wise decision-making and courageous, measured action will pro-actively prevent the mistakes of the past and implement much more innovative and effective means of fighting 21st century terrorism rather than even considering reverting to the extreme, heinous act of wholesale incarceration of innocent people without due process.
1. The sailings reported were in cities/ports where Japanese Consulates were located while in peacetime. It was very easy for a consulate member to arrange to get info by just going to said harbor and watch the goings on for that matter just going to a local store they could hear scuttlebutt. This happened with other countries also. Remember the Japanese while building the Yamato had to arrange for a huge curtain to conceal details of her construction from foriegn observers? What happened pre-war with Japanese Consulates reporting ship movements which could be easily observed,aircraft manufactorers reporting renovations which probably were in the papers or talked about freely in public , troop movements which were reported freely in the papers or talked about openly in public is hardly surprising. Now what happens in wartime? Those embassies & consulate get shut down but more importantly their powerful radio transmitters are silenced so what then? Well the Japanese wanted to establish operations in Central or South America when their consulates were closed however as MAGIC shows there were a host of problems for one theose governments under pressure from the US were making it difficult for the Japanese to operate there ,for instance Mexico basically started preventing Japanese,Germans and Italians from crossing & re-crossing it's border with the US that would make it extremely difficult for the Japanese to base out of there. Another thing is other then Argentina most of the telegraph services in Central & South America had strong financial ties to either the UK or US which made their use problematical. So IMHO it's easy to conclude there was reports coming out of the Japanese consulates in the US during peacetime but to think they could keep recieving reports when war broke out ,their consulates closed and countries surrounding the US would be hostile to Japan is a bit of a reach.MAGIC also shows the financial problems the Japanese were having in setting their espionage rings because of the US freezing accounts in the US . Furthermore Mis Malkin seems left our refernce to one government documents that says as of 12/4/41 that the Japanese Espionage rings wasn't fully up & running while another document talking about the Japanese on Oahu states that internment for all of them wasn't necessary because the feeling was once you picked up the ring leaders the other individuals would be powerless against the internal security.
2. Now also in MAGIC most who support internment don't report is the fact that the Japanese themselves were looking for agents who were White,Union Members, Negroes and non-Japanese Nationals since they knew their own race would be harrassed and watched very closely in the US. MAGIC also tends to show that the Japanese were having trouble getting capable recruits in the US.
3. Now as to the military neccessity issue in the Pacific Coast there were a couple of ship sinkings,the Battle of Los Angelos which involved shooting down a weather ballon suspected of being a Japanese air raid ,and one refinery being shelled. Now at the same time in the Atlantic U-Boats were decimating shipping right in plain sight ,a few refineries shelled and there was a feeling at the time that Agents ashore were helping the U-Boats.
4. Further in regard to to Germans & Italians getting interned there were 600,000 Italian Aliens & 300,000 German Aliens in the US all being investigated ,finger printed and such so evidently there was enough time to do all of this to 900,000 German-italian aliens but not enough time to investigate 120,000 Japanese Aliens & Japanese Americans . As per German internment only 11,507 got interned all judged on an individual basis onl;y 254 were evicted fron coastal areas despite the U Boat carnage on the US East Coast even though it was felt the U Boats were getting some help from agents ashore. As per Italian internment only 1,881 were interned and 47 moved from coastal areas all this being decided on an individual basis. The numbers speak for themselves .
I see from other reviewers' comments that Michelle Malkin is Filipina. I wonder if Michelle Malkin would be willing to have her property stripped from her and live behind barbed wire in a tent in the desert, watched by armed guards, should the U.S. government determine that persons of Filipine descent constituted a terrorist threat to the general populace. It wouldn't be all bad: She could organize schools for the imprisoned children, eat free Army issue food, take some time off from her career, socialize in the communal latrines while she cleaned them, and publish her own newspaper. Maybe Michelle Malkin could even get the chance to swear an oath of fealty in exchange for a trip out of camp as a migrant farm worker, picking potatoes for less than minimum wage. Michelle Malkin: Will you show us your patrotism by giving up your rights? I'd be happy to provide the barbed wire and MREs.