US: Voices Raised to Glorify Disgraceful Moments in History (Back to the days Internment Camps?)
Andrei AKULOV | 25.07.2015 | OPINION

US: Voices Raised to Glorify Disgraceful Moments in History (Back to the days Internment Camps?)

Retired US General Wesley Clark suggested that radicalized youth in America and other Western nations should be segregated the way alleged Nazi sympathizers were held in camps during World War II. 

According to the former Democratic presidential candidate and top military brass hat who led NATO troops during the Kosovo war, America and its allies need to get tougher on young men, who may become radical Islamists. The comments were made in an interview with In with MSNBC’s Thomas  Roberts published on July 18 in response to the shooting at a recruitment camp in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that left four Marines killed. «We have got to identify the people who are most likely to be radicalized. We’ve got to cut this off at the beginning», the retired general said. »I do think on a national policy level we need to look at what self-radicalization means because we are at war with this group of terrorists». As he put it, «In World War II, if someone supported Nazi Germany at the expense of the United States, we didn’t say that was freedom of speech, we put him in a camp, they were prisoners of war», Clark added, «If these people are radicalized and they don’t support the United States and they are disloyal to the United States as a matter of principle, fine, that’s their right. And it’s our right and our obligation to segregate them from the normal community for the duration of the conflict».

Next month the US marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his «I have a dream» speech, that turned a page of history, and another anniversary to remember: 27 years ago the Japanese-American community celebrated a landmark victory in its own struggle for civil rights.

In 1988, President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act to compensate about 120,000 people of Japanese descent who were incarcerated in internment camps during World War II. The legislation offered a formal apology and paid out $20,000 in compensation to each surviving victim. The law won congressional approval only after a decade-long public campaign.

Due in large part to socio-political changes stemming from the Meiji Revolution and a recession caused by the abrupt opening of the national economy to the world market people began migrating from Japan in 1868 to find work. From 1869 to 1924 approximately 200,000 immigrated to the islands of Hawaii while some 180,000 went to the U.S. mainland, with the majority settling on the West Coast and establishing farms or small businesses. Japanese Americans contributed to the America agriculture by introducing irrigation methods that enabled the cultivation of fruits, vegetables, and flowers on previously inhospitable land. As the Japanese American population started to increase, European Americans on the West Coast resisted the new group fearing competition. By the end of 19th century several laws to slow immigration from Japan were introduced. The Immigration Act of 1924 effectively banned all immigration from Japan and other «undesirable» Asian countries.

On October 7, 1941, exactly two months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Report on Japanese on the West Coast of the United States written by Curtis B. Munson, a Detroit businessman commissioned as a special representative of the State Department, was submitted to the White House. The paper certified »a remarkable, even extraordinary degree of loyalty among this generally suspect ethnic group». A subsequent report by Kenneth Ringle, delivered to the President in January 1942, also found little evidence to support claims of Japanese American disloyalty.

The Pearl Harbor attack gave rise to fears of a full-scale landing on the US West Coast. Public opinion along the Pacific began to turn against Japanese Americans. People were nervous about the potential for subversive activity. Upon the bombing of Pearl Harbor and pursuant to the Alien Enemies Act, Presidential Proclamations 2525, 2526 and 2527 were issued designating Japanese, German and Italian nationals as enemy aliens. Presidential Proclamation 2537 was issued on January 14, 1942, requiring aliens to report any change of address, employment or name to the FBI. Enemy aliens were not allowed to enter restricted areas. Violators of these regulations were subject to «arrest, detention and internment for the duration of the war».

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which authorized military commanders to designate «military areas» at their discretion, «from which any or all persons may be excluded». These «exclusion zones», unlike the «alien enemy» roundups, were applicable to anyone that an authorized military commander might choose, whether citizen or non-citizen. Eventually such zones would include parts of both the East and West Coasts, totaling about 1/3 of the country by area. This power was used to exclude all people of Japanese ancestry from the entire West Coast, including all of California and much of Oregon, Washington and Arizona, except for those in government camps. Approximately 5,000 Japanese Americans voluntarily relocated outside the exclusion zone, and some 5,500 community leaders arrested after Pearl Harbor were already in custody, but the majority of mainland Japanese Americans were forcibly relocated from their West Coast homes during the spring of 1942. Sixty-two percent of the internees (120 thousand) were US citizens. The forced relocation and incarceration has been determined to have resulted more from racism and discrimination among whites on the West Coast, rather than any military danger posed by the Japanese Americans.

The living conditions in American internment camps were very hard for the Japanese because of housing, food, and the daily experiences they went through. Japanese citizens were given approximately 48 hours to evacuate their homes, and they were only allowed to take few possessions. At the camps, sometimes entire families lived in small, one room cells or barracks. Also, meals were distributed three times a day in mess halls where portions were small and dull. Several people died in these camps due to stress and lack of medical care.

In 1944, the US Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the removal limiting its decision to the validity of the exclusion orders.

The Japanese American Citizens League and redress organizations mounted pressure to make President Jimmy Carter open an investigation in 1980 to determine whether the decision to put Japanese Americans into internment camps had been justified by the government. The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) to investigate the camps was appointed to study the issue. The Commission's report, titled »Personal Justice Denied», found little evidence of Japanese disloyalty. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Civil Liberties Act to apologize for the internment on behalf of the government and authorized a payment of $20,000 to each individual camp survivor. 

The legislation admitted that government actions were based on «race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership». Eventually, the government disbursed more than $1.6 billion in reparations to 82,219 Japanese Americans who had been interned and their heirs. Bestselling author Richard Reeves provides an authoritative account of the internment of more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese aliens during World War in his Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese-American Internment in World War II.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team and 522nd Artillery Battalion manned by US Japanese (mainly from Hawaii) served in Europe to suffer great casualties. Those people were fearless soldiers. The story is well known thanks toHawaii, the famous novel and bestseller by renowned American writer James Michener. Daniel Ken «Dan» Inouye was a US Senator from Hawaii from 1963 to 2012. A Democrat, he was President pro tempore from 2010 until his death, making him the highest-ranking Asian American politician in U.S. history. He never lost an election in 58 years as an elected official. The Senator fought in the ranks of the 442d Infantry Regiment. Inouye lost his right arm to a grenade wound and received several military decorations.

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Apparently Wesley Clark, the former top US and NATO commander and Democratic presidential candidate, learned little from history. He believes the time is right to forget the suffering of 120,000 Japanese-Americans who were deprived of their freedom without doing anything wrong and put behind barbed wire. 

These are not the ravings of just another Tom, Dick and Harry. Pronounced by a figure of Clark’s pedigree, the idea is not just another botched statement. No doubt Mr. Clark reflects views widely discussed within the ranks of US upper crust. As supreme commander of NATO, Clark held one of the most senior and politically influential posts in the US military. He oversaw the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, Operation Allied Force, and beginning in March 1999. 

In both the 2004 and 2008 presidential campaigns, Clark was considered among the Democratic Party’s leading contenders. He would likely have gained a senior position in the incumbent administration had he not backed Hillary Clinton after dropping out of the 2008 race. His role as a high-profile supporter of Hilary Clinton’s latest presidential bid suggests, however, that Clark’s political ambitions have only been placed on hold. Under a Clinton presidency, Clark could well get the chance to implement his proposals for mass «segregation» of dissidents.

In recent weeks, US military units have conducted training exercises, practicing military internment and crowd control techniques at mock internment camps, with military personnel posing as detainees. Under the circumstances, was it an occasion that last week the Senate Intelligence Committee approved legislation granting the US government new powers to demand regular reporting from social media platforms about individuals suspected of ties to «terrorist activity»? Does the idea of internment camps dovetails with the ideas expounded by US founding fathers? Is it what one would call striking a happy medium between necessary security measures and individual freedoms the state has to protect? No doubt, Wesley Clark has brought these issues to the forefront of US public discourse.

Tags: Asia-Pacific  Japan  US 

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