Thursday, July 17, 2008

Repeating history with a difference (and a vengeance)

[Waring: this is a LONG but IMPORTANT post about a current court ruling that EVERYONE should know about. Feel free to skim the first part of this post, but PLEASE make sure you read the last part]

I know it's a cliche to say that history repeats, but sometimes cliches have grains of truth that are hard to ignore. And while I find it hard to believe that we won't learn lessons from certain historical events by NOT repeating them, I do think that we do repeat patterns, we just do them with a slight difference, and in the case of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, with a particular vengeance.


As some of you regular readers know, I'm working on a book chapter about the Japanese American Internment/Incarceration. For people whose knowledge of this particularly shameful period may be a bit scanty, in a nutshell FDR signed Executive Order 9066 which allowed the military to designate portions of the nation as military zones and allowed the military to target people they believed were threats to national security--pretty much carte blanche. There is NOTHING in the language of Executive Order 9066 that claims a particular region of the U.S. (or the world for that matter because we went into South America to detain people we thought were a threat and we brought these people to the West Coast) and there was nothing in the language that designated ethnicity or race. Of course, as MANY academics and other researchers have uncovered, there was really one and one and only group of people that the U.S. had any intention of detaining, evacuating, and incarcerating: people of Japanese ancestry.


Yes, German, Italian, and Japanese nationals (largely men) were all rounded up and put in detention centers. But no other ethnic group was rounded up en masse: men, women, children, citizens and non-citizens, young, old, infirm, pregnant, and mixed-race people of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast of the U.S. (or in parts of Alaska and South America) were targeted and put into concentration camps, many for the duration of World War II.



[By the way, if you are curious about my use of terminology, like "concentration camp" and "incarceration" you can read this post from a few months back. And a great site for a more thorough look at the Japanese American Incarceration is Densho.]

OK, fast forward a few decades. There is an active reparations and redress movement underway--Japanese Americans and other allies band together to demand an apology from the U.S. government, to acknowledge the unconstitutionality of Executive Order 9066, and to receive monetary retribution for the pain and suffering and humiliation of this HUGELY SIGNIFICANT event that was a trampling of the constitutional rights of ALL PEOPLE LIVING IN THE U.S. DURING WORLD WAR II. Because while the government decided to only target people of Japanese ancestry, the truth is, the military could have decided that Italian and German Americans were also a threat and detained and incarcerated them as well.

HR442 passes; Ronald Reagan signs it and issues an official apology; Japanese Americans still alive receive reparation payments, but perhaps even more importantly, there is an official apology--an acknowledgment that what the U.S. government did was WRONG, and there is money set aside to educate the public about this shameful part of U.S. history.

Now, you may ask, what does this history lesson from the past have to do with me NOW?


This is taken from The New York Times yesterday:

"President Bush has the legal power to order the indefinite military detentions of civilians captured in the United States, the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., ruled on Tuesday in a fractured 5-to-4 decision."

That's right. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the President of the United States has the right to detain, indefinitely, any civilian captured in the U.S. and to hold that person without producing any proof of WHY this person should be held, other than the desire to do so. NYU Law Professor, Jonathan L. Hafetz called the ruling "deeply disturbing" and observes that

“'This decision means the president can pick up any person in the country — citizen or legal resident — and lock them up for years without the most basic safeguard in the Constitution, the right to a criminal trial.'”

[To read the article in full, click here. To hear about it reported in NPR yesterday morning, click here]

Are you worried? You should be. And I'm not saying that you should be worried because someone is going to knock on your door any minute now and drag you from your home. You should be worried that the government is doing this AT ALL to ANYONE.

We are living in uncertain times, but this DOES NOT mean we give up our ideals. And it doesn't mean we forget history. We did this. We rounded up people and we put them in concentration camps and held them for an unspecified period of time. And we did this, not because they posed a real military threat but because there was public approval for doing so. Because it was reassuring to many in the U.S. at the time that the government was doing something that showed it was serious about securing borders and keeping Americans safe.


In his book Judgment Without Trial: Japanese American Imprisonment During World War II, scholar Tetsuden Kashima writes about two architects behind the Japanese American Internment/Incarceration: Edward Ennis, director of the Alien Enemy Control Unit and Attorney General Francis Biddle:

"In the 1985 interview, Ennis talked about his personal views on the internment episode and maintained that Attorney General Biddle had also taken this perspective. Ennis claimed that both he and Biddle were reluctant to pursue the internment policy but justified their actions on the basis of what he felt was prevailing public sentiment. He asserted that some measures had to be taken against the Japanese and Germans in America. The rationale for the arrests and internment is a significant part of his statement--not such earlier claims as the individual's alleged dangerousness or the prevention of espionage and sabotage, but rather public relations" (53).

Journalist Jane Mayer has recently written a book, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals, in which she notes that about 1/3 to 1/2 of the detainees at Guananamo are NOT terrorists--they are men who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or men who simply were of the right ethnicity and nationality and religion for the U.S. to target, to arrest without cause, and to bring to Guantanamo.

[To hear Mayer's interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air, click here]


And it's not just men. And not just men from Arab and Muslim nations in the Middle East who were being targeted. Women and children were also rounded up in days following 9/11--American citizens of Arab and Muslim descent. One such tragic family tale is recounted in performer and filmmaker Cynthia Fujikawa's extremely moving documentary short, Day of Remembrance.

And here's where we come full circle. Cynthia Fujikawa's father, Jerry Fujikawa, was incarcerated in Manazanar until his induction into the 442nd regiment. Years later, in an effort to uncover a family secret and to discover aspects of her father's life that remained clouded to her, Fujikawa developed her one-woman performance piece, Old Man River, which was eventually filmed and made its way through the film festival circuit. But what she did following 9/11 was to link the events of WWII and the Japanese American Internment/Incarceration with the abuse of civil rights against Muslim and Arab Americans, and she came up with a very moving documentary, Day of Remembrance, which you can see in full (it's 8 minutes long) by clicking here (you'll need to actually double click on the image of candles on the right to get the film playing).


The Enemy Combatant Ruling is something you should know about. And it's something we should all educate ourselves about and to take action on. To let others know. To write our legislators. To say, this is not OK. I do not want to live in fear. I believe in civil rights for all. And I will stand up for everyone's civil rights because their rights are intimately connected to mine.

12 comments:

bob said...

While your parallels are interesting - if a little tenuous - the decisions (there were two) are quite a bit more nuanced than you (and Liptak) portray. al-Mari's case is on fast-track to the SC, and involves a pretty important due process question for which there is little precedent and less case law.

NYT 'Standard' POV reporting sucks, anyhow, and Liptak is thin, thin beer comparing ever more disfavourably to Greenhouse.

spartakos said...

After reading the article, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I agree with you that the President should not have the authority to indefinitely detain civilians, simply on the executive branch's say-so. That said:

1.) Mr. Marri is not being held incommunicado or without opportunity to challenge his detention...he has apparently alread done so, and the 2nd paragraph of the article says he will have another opportunity. Granted, this is not due process by a jury of his peers, but I don't know enough about the case to know whether such a thing is guaranteed to Mr. Marri (is he a citizen? a foreign national? Immigrant?).
At any rate, it's not star chambers and secret prison.

2.) He still can (and apparently is) appealing to the SCOTUS, which may overturn the decision...that's due process, of a sort.

3.) The article pointed out that Mr. Marri is the only person on the American mainland being held in such a manner. That's hardly a sweeping use of these powers.

4.) This statement did trouble me: "The five judges who ruled that the president has the authority to detain people captured in the United States offered differing criteria for who might be subject to such detention." I think we need a clear-cut definition, limiting the scope of these powers.

In summary, I guess while I'm not comfortable with this ruling as it stands, I don't feel it represents a major erosion of our rights (I don't agree with the statement of Mr. Hafetz, for example). And I don't feel it's comparable to the travesty committed against Japanese-Americans during WWII, because of differences in scope (number of persons affected) and severity (degree to which they were mistreated). I just don't feel the slope is that slippery.

(all of the above is not to say that you are incorrect; merely explaining my differing opinion. And we do agree on some aspects.)

Jennifer said...

Bob & Spartakos,
Thank you for leaving comments--I always appreciate dialogue, especially from those who don't always see things from my perspective!

Bob, I don't see the parallels as tenuous at all--to me they seem quite clear cut, but perhaps that has to do with how much research I've done on the Japanese Internment. I'm not nearly as well versed on the Guantanamo Bay detentions, but I have friends (who are attorneys) who are, and in conversations with them, it's clear that some of the legal precendents used date back very clearly to EO9066 and particularly the Hirabayashi and Korematsu decisions (which were never repealed at the SCOTUS level).

I do agree that the particulars are more nuanced--they always are. But fundamentally--at its most basic level--this decision of such broad and overreaching executive power is frightening and in my opinion, wrong.

As for your last observation about the New York Times & Liptak, quite frankly I just don't understand it. First of all, I don't agree that NY Times Reporting "sucks"--I think that it may, at times, lack certain things, but in general, I think that the reporting is solid. Reporting that "sucks" seems to be journalism that is so biased it makes no attempts to hide its prejudices or to try to back up its claims with solid reporting facts (and Fox News clearly comes to mind--Michelle Malkin in particular seems to fit this descriptor quite well--as in "I think Michelle Malkin sucks").

"thin, thin beer comparing ever more disfavourably to Greenhouse"???

You got me--I literally don't know what you are saying.

Spartakos,
I do agree that the particular case of Mr. Marri seems to not be so heart plummeting as the other split court decision. And I am keeping my fingers crossed for when it hits the Supreme Court.

Do I feel that his case, in particular, is an erosion of our civil rights...well here's the thing. I don't think we can look at Mr. Marri's case in a vacuum--and I think my basic point at the end of the post isn't that what happened to Japanese Americans are going to happen to Chinese Americans or Lithuanian Americans or Muslim Americans in the same way.

BUT...if you talk to Muslim and Arab Americans in this country, there are VERY COMPELLING parallels to the climate of fear, anxiety, intimidation, anger, and frustration that they are living with NOW post-9/11 and a similar climate during WWII with Japanese Americans.

This is what I mean with history repeating with a difference. It's not going to look the same. We aren't going to make the same, exact, mistakes in the same way.

But a climate that is distinctly prejudiced towards Muslim and Arabs (American or otherwise), public opinion that does not seem troubled by torture at Gitmo or abroad in Afghanistan and Iraq, and men being held at Guantanamo who got swept up in raids across the nation and across the Middle East who are not terrorists but are ordinary men just trying to live their lives who may have a similar name to someone on a terrorist list or whose sister's brother's neighbor is a terrorist and therefore they attended a party with them once and gave them a ride home, or as in Fujikawa's film, a mother and daughter who had dark faces and Arab surnames.

It's not a slippery slope to think that the use of race connected with racial profiling and fear/anxiety that happened during WWII is happening now--it is, in my opinion, what is actually happening.

And that should make all of us worried. Because we should never promote or accept a climate of fear, anxiety, and inimidation connected with racism and racial profiling--and added to the god-like power of the executive branch to detain someone for an indefinite time without showing just cause...that's simply frightening and Orwellian to me.

jarheadrw said...

All that bleating and hand wringing about the WWII displacement & west coast removad of the Japs,Krouts & wops, but NOT one word about WHY......Please--one of you, especially "Jennifer" check into the expose book MAGIC------all about the "widespread" espioage and short wave radio activity from within the Japanese communities to Japan and the Jap submarines off shore, that were torpedoing our ships. AND also NO mention that our Army and Navy both insisted on the establishment of the west coast "red" zone and the removal of all suspictous enemy nationals and their children..........from sight of our military bases and harbors......you people seem to deliberately fail to mention such truths....And another great omitted truth : Michellew Malkin is a truly great American patriot. jarheadrw

Jennifer said...

Jarheadw,
Michelle Malkin is not a great American--she has spouted lies and malicious misinformation about the Japanese American Incarceration. Every reputable academic who studies the internment has laid waste to the shoddy scholarship in her book. In particular, you should check out the exchange by Professors Eric Muller & Greg Robinson. Their anaylses of all the misinformation in her work is thorough and supported by solid scholarship. And if you are looking for accurate scholarship, you should check out the works by Eric Muller, Greg Robinson, Peter Irons, Roger Daniels, and John Howard--all white men who have written brilliant analyses of the Japanese American internment (which proves that white allies in all fields are greatly appreciated).

Every reputable academic has disproved the significance of the MAGIC cables as related to the decision for the Japanese American internment. There have been thousands upon thousands of pages related to the decision incarcerating Japanese Americans.

The MAGIC cables were a recent disocvery in terms of a possible rationale for the internment (I believe they only came to light in the 1970s or 80s)--it did not factor into FDR and others' decision (read Greg Robinson's book). And it certainly did not influence DeWitt or Bendetsen--if it had, someone (someone reputable that is--someone who isn't invested like Michelle Malkin is, in spreading ideological lies based on half-baked ideas that are unsupported by any academic scholarship).

This is the last comment I'm allowing through that in any way maligns the scholarship related to the Japanese American internment or supports the position that the Japanese American Incarceration was justified. This site is not going to support this type of misinformation. In Asian American circles, the comments of someone like Jarheadw is somewhat equivalent to the Holocaust denialists or people who say the Transatlantic slave trade wasn't all that bad and that the numbers of slaves who died are exaggerated. There are plenty of sites that you can go to that will support the kind of perspective that believes that the Japanese American incarceration was justified. This isn't a point of debate, for me and many others. I'm sure I'm not going to convince you and you are not going to convince me, so we will agree to disagree--but I just want to make clear, any future comments that start to use Michelle Malkin's work or anyone else who supports the MAGIC cable rationale for supporting the racism of the Japanese American internment are not comments that will be published.

Anyone else who wants to argue for the Japanese American internment/Guanatano Bay parallels are free to post--and I can, of course, continue to agree to disagree with you or we can hash out certain details. Or, if you are so annoyed by my perspective, you can read another blog. After all, this is a free country and the blogosphere is huge so you shouldn't have a hard time finding a site that will agree with your particular perspective.

Jennifer said...

Also, I don't know how many times I have to say this:

The ONLY ethnic group targeted for mass removal under Executive Order 9066 were Japanese Americans.

Also, Jarheadw, I should have banned your comment for use of inflammatory language towards Japaneses American, German Americans, and Italians Americans. Your use of ethnic slurs greatly offends me--as I'm sure it does others. I mean c'mon! "Kraut" and "Wop"??? You have to be kidding me.

We're living in the year 2008--the only reason to use those slurs is to make people upset or to actively offend.

Which makes me wonder why...why do you want to cause offense? I mean, I understand that you have a different perspective--it's not one I agree with, and personally it's one I find potentially dangerous.

But deliberately using ethnic slurs? That seems that you are just being mean. Why be mean? Why have so much anger in your heart?

And really, at the end of the day, why do you care so much about this period in history? I know why I care--I work on issues of race and I believe that the events of the Japanese American internment have repercussions that we are still feeling politically.

But why do you care? Or why do any of the people and sites dedicated to denying the Japanese American internment care so much about targeting blogs on the internet and using language of hate and misinformation?

Actually, I'm going to write about this because I think that it's something I've been wondering about for a while.

So thanks, Jarheadw for helping me get to my next post! And I hope that you have a good weekend--I mean that without any sarcasm. I don't think you are a bad or evil person. But I do hope that you have other activities and friends and family in your life that can fill the space of hatred that seems to be spilling over in the form of ethnic slurs and reading people like Michelle Malkin.

You may want to try reading something more politically neutral--how about EAT PRAY LOVE? by Elizabeth Gilbert. Or Barbara Kingsolver's latest book ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE: A YEAR OF FOOD LIFE. Or a really wonderful book I just finished by Michael Chabon THE YIDDISH POLICEMAN'S UNION. They are all great books and may help you get to a better and happier place.

Or how about a classic like Tolstoy's ANNA KARENNINA? At any rate, take care of yourself Jarheadw--and if you would like to keep reading, great--I welcome you to enjoy this site. But I won't publish anymore inflammatory messages, especially ones that use derogatory language towards ethnic groups. I don't think my Italian and German American friends are going to feel good about seeing your hate speech any more than my Japanese American friends--and quite frankly, I think most people regardless of whether they are German, Italian, or Japanese American are pretty offended by that language.

I mean, c'mon--this site is so clearly lefty-liberal pc--you had to know that those slurs are going to offend.

bob said...

Malkin writes and advocates with/from a POV, selecting and massaging facts and tenuous connections (no matter how random or outlier)to support her POV.

In that aspect, she is much like MRA; that she does not ban inflammatory posters is a difference.

The issue of getting sooooooo frothy and bubbly over non-PC lockstep language (as I see it)is that some widely-held, seriously-believed, fully understandable views are foreclosed.

The left tends, unfortunately but predictably and without fail, to equate offensive, pointed language as evidence of incompetent thought - both shame and pity - for gaining knowledge and insight is an abrasive process.

jarhead had some good points about the temperature and belief of the times, albeit not well developed, and obscured by his purposeful fire-starting and button-pushing.

my dos pesos (not to be racial, or anything, you understand)

Jennifer said...

Actually, it's a straw man argument to say that Michelle Malkin and the blog Mixed Race America are alike because they each have their own pov to make their own points.

Of course every blog has its own pov to make their own points. The difference is that Malkin's book has no scholarly facts supported by any reputable academic sources.

Also, I detect, Bob, a certain *tone* about me "banning" certain povs?

Also, I don't know what you mean by "not to be racial"--are you worried that you will be perceived as racist?

I have to say that in parsing your comment I detect a lot of judgment (of the negative variety)--words like "lockstep" -- and I also disagree that there was anything in jarheadw's comment that warranted engaging with because he so clearly wants to be polemical for polemics sake.

Finally, I don't think that I'm saying that jarheadw is an idiot because he engages in racial slurs--quite a few intelligent people engage in racial slurs. I just don't like that kind of language on my blog and don't think there's a place for it here.

Again, if people don't like my policies or what I write, start your own blog or go to another one--there are plenty out there who have open policies and people can be as mean and nasty as they want. But that's not what I'm aiming for here. Civilized discussions, preferably without people baiting others for the sake of baiting.

bob said...

Had I made any mention of Malkin's v. your scholarship, you would have been correct. That would have been setting up a straw man.

However, there was no straw man. I compared her and your blog and your common techniques of constructing a full-blown, white-knuckled curtain-climb from one thin reed. In that aspect - speaking only to this post - they are identities.

Jarhead espoused (and I am curious why you ever approved such a screed, unless you wished to use him as a foil) a number of 'factoids' endorsed and believed by a significant number of ordinary people.

His are not the only both: factual and counterfactual bits & orts of alt-history, and continuing history believed and endorsed by significant minorities. Vice:

- Oswald was not alone.
- Armstrong did not really go to the moon.
- Gore really won.
- The CIA was behind 9/11.
- Americans systemically practice torture at Gitmo.
- The earth is really, really flat.
- etc.

My experience is that excessive PC-lockstep - i.e. dictatorial control of the language of discussion - impedes the free flow of ideas. So, yes, I tend to have less respect for those who are either intimidated or infuriated to incoherence by emotive words.

Your mileage may, of course, vary.

dos pesos ... was a jibe, of course, and perhaps a poor one, but I have other tools in my box besides a hammer and recognise all things that stick out are not nails.

I do wish to note that you have not addressed my significant points, either on this blog, or in our private exchanges.

Jennifer said...

Bob,
Again, I think we will agree to disagree. I do not think that Malkin's arguments and my arguments in this post are the same--I'm relying on well established scholarship and journalism. You may feel The New York Times is poor journalism--it is your right to read other news outlets. I like The New York Times and I think it is a reputable news source. Certainly I stand behind my citation of Tetsuden Kashima and the DENSHO website as excellent sources of scholarship--and I stand behind Cynthia Fujikawa's short documentary and the analyses contained therein.

So I disagree that my assertion that there is a parallel between the racial climate of fear and hatred in WWII and the climate of fear and anxiety created by post 9/11 "war on terror" is tenuous.

I find racial slurs and ethnic slurs to be offensive and I should have banned jarheadw's comment -- but I know that there are some people invested in denying that racism was behind the Japanese American internment, so that was the one comment I wanted to let through as an example of comments I would not continue to let through -- it was a teaching tool if you will -- and it was also a good one to show that I don't appreciate slurs against European Americans any more than non-European Americans.

Finally, I really don't understand what you mean by not addressing your main concerns--and as far as private email communication goes, I think if you have something you want to discuss on my blog that's fine but I don't feel the need to continue private email communication with you.

I welcome your reading this blog and continuing to post your opinions. I sense that I do not share your pov all of the time--which is fine. But I think this thread's utility is worn thin--I also think that it's not helpful to me or this blog for you to write privately to me for pre-approval of things you want to write in this comment thread. As you can see, I've posted all your comments and will continue to do so so long as I feel they don't violate the sense of decorum.

I appreciate your readership Bob, but I am puzzled by your insistence that I'm not answering your questions or engaging with you thoroughly since in my opinion I am.

Again, I think we agree to disagree. You can continue to post comments on this thread, but it's really grown far afield from the topic of the Japnese American internment and the Enemy Combattant ruling, so I am done with these meta issues.

jarheadrw said...

Jennifer---I am thinking of HOW I can become a member of your Choir ?I hate wasting my time (and yours?)when realizing this is all a waste of time......YOUhave been through the brainwashing period of your life. Why don't you now--grow up--and face the truth !?jarheadrw

JARHEADRW

Jennifer said...

Woops! Totally hit the wrong button accidently and published Jarheadw's comments.

I don't know how to delete it after publishing so it should stand.

And Jarheadw, I'm so sorry that you are wasting your time sending comment after comment to me. Please--there are other things you can do with your time. I clearly trouble you--life is short--truly, go do something happy with your time rather than being frustrated by reading my posts and comments.

Or if this is how you enjoy yourself, then I'm asking nicely and respectfully for you to stop sending me comments that I am not going to publish.

Of course, it's pretty ingenious sending me stuff because you think I may accidently hit publish rather than reject.

But I will be more diligent now! And Jarheadw, go enjoy the flowers and plants and other happy things in life. Go spend time with friends and family. Go be happy.