Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Michelle Malkin, a syndicated columnist and the author of the New York Times best-seller, Invasion. She is the author of the new book In Defense of Internment: The Case for "Racial Profiling" in World War II and the War on Terror (available in Frontpage’s bookstore for a special offer of $19.95).
FP: Michelle Malkin, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Malkin: Thanks! A pleasure to be here.
FP: First things first, what motivated you to write this book?
Malkin: A few things compelled me to write the book. Ever since I questioned President Clinton's decision to award the Congressional Medal of Honor to Japanese-American soldiers based primarily on claims of racial discrimination in 2000, several readers have urged me to research the topic of the "Japanese-American internment." World War II veterans wrote to say they agreed with my assessment of Clinton's naked politicization of the medals, but disagreed with my unequivocal statement that the internment of ethnic Japanese "was abhorrent and wrong." They urged me to delve into the history and the intelligence leading to the decision before making up my mind.
I was further inspired by some intriguing blog debates last year between Sparkey at Sgt. Stryker and Is That Legal?. After reading a book by former National Security Agency official David Lowman called MAGIC: The untold story of U.S. Intelligence and the evacuation of Japanese residents from the West Coast during WWII, published posthumously by Athena Press Inc., I contacted publisher Lee Allen, who generously agreed to share many new sources and resources as I sought the truth.
The constant alarmism from Bush-bashers who argue that every counter-terror measure in America is tantamount to the internment was the final straw. The result is a book that I hope changes the way readers view both America's past and its present.
FP: Your book exposes many myths regarding the Department of Justice’s “internment camps”. Could you briefly tell our readers about a few of them?
Malkin: One myth is that all the enemy aliens who were interned were ethnic Japanese. Almost half the people in the internment camps were European or of European descent. The larger myth is that the internment of ethnic Japanese--as well as the evacuation and relocation of ethnic Japanese from the West Coast--was based solely or primarily on wartime hysteria and racism. As I show in the book, there were in fact legitimate national security concerns. Reasonable people can agree or disagree with what the Roosevelt administration did, but my book leaves little doubt that the principal decision makers were honorable men who were trying their best to protect the country under extremely difficult circumstances.
FP: Tell us a few legitimate national security concerns that motivated the Government to do what it did vis-à-vis the ethnic Japanese at this time.
Malkin: Decision makers at the top levels of the Roosevelt Administration had bona fide concerns about Japanese espionage on the West Coast. These concerns were strongly reinforced by the “MAGIC messages”—that is, top-secret diplomatic communications to and from Tokyo that had been surreptitiously intercepted and decrypted by America’s signal intelligence officers.
FP: You show that the $1.65 billion federal reparations law for Japanese internees and evacuees was a total disaster. Tell us why.
Malkin: The popular perception is that the evacuees received nothing until President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. In fact, Congress had already provided a reasonable remedy to affected evacuees. The American-Japanese Evacuation Claims Act of 1948 authorized payment of more than $37 million to ethnic Japanese who made any claim for damage to or loss of property because of evacuation or exclusion.
Unlike the 1948 Act, which considered each individual claimant's circumstances, the 1988 Act doled out money based on ethnicity alone. An evacuee who refused to take a loyalty oath, an evacuee who renounced his American citizenship, an evacuee who resisted the draft, and an evacuee who volunteered to serve in the U.S. military were all equally deserving of an apology and a check. A disloyal evacuee who terrorized other camp residents or a camp resident who renounced his American citizenship received the same payment as a patriotic evacuee who assisted military authorities in the relocation and war efforts.
Japanese enemy aliens individually arrested by the FBI immediately after the Pearl Harbor attack received compensation. But their German and Italian counterparts, many of whom lived side-by-side with their Japanese counterparts in Justice Department-run internment camps, did not.
The worst effect of the reparations law has been its effect on current homeland security policies. Civil liberties absolutists have invoked the “racist” World War II evacuation and relocation of ethnic Japanese to attack virtually every homeland security initiative, large and small, aimed at protecting America from murderous Islamic extremists. When every detention of a Middle Eastern illegal alien is tantamount to the “unjustified” internment of ethnic Japanese, there is no room for rationality. This absolutist resistance to wartime threat profiling, based on falsified fears of repeating the mistakes of World War II, reduces the security of our nation.
FP: You demonstrate how both Japanese American and Arab/Muslim American leaders have united to weaken America's security. Give us the highlights please.
Malkin: Virtually every homeland security initiative implemented or contemplated by the Bush Administration has been opposed by Japanese-American, Musliam-American, and Arab-American leaders intent on preventing a replay of the events of 1942.
Within weeks of the Sept. 11 attacks by 19 young male Islamic terrorists, Japanese-American activists rushed to comfort Arab and Muslim Americans who felt unfairly targeted by the War on Terror. “War on Terrorism Stirs Memory of Internment,” the New York Times decried. “Japanese Americans Recall 40s Bias, Understand Arab Counterparts’ Fear,” read a Washington Post headline. “Japanese Americans Know How It Feels to Be ‘The Enemy,’” the Seattle Times reported. “Japanese Americans See History Repeating,” a Yahoo headline warned. “Reaction Reopens Wound of WWII for Japanese Americans,” the Los Angeles Times noted.
When the Justice Department began requiring young men from 25 high-risk countries simply to check in with immigration authorities during their temporary stays on tourist, business, and student visas, San Francisco Chronicle writer Annie Nakao wrote ominously of the program’s “haunting echoes of Japanese internment. John Tateishi of the Japanese American Citizens’ League told Nakao: “It echoes something from our own experience in 1942. It is really about racial identity, racial profiling.”
When immigration officials began allocating scarce detention space to political asylum seekers from high-risk countries rather than those from low-risk countries, Tateishi again played the internment card: “As one segment of the population that has gone through this before, we are determined that it won’t happen again.”
When immigration officials detained 762 illegal aliens (mostly Middle Easterners) being investigated by the FBI for ties to terrorism—a common sense step in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks—legal scholars Susan M. Akram and Kevin R. Johnson wrote that “the September 11 dragnet carried out by the federal government resembles the Japanese internment during World War II.” Georgetown University Law School professor David Cole lamented that the post-Sept. 11 response involved “the same kind of ethnic stereotyping that characterized the fundamental error of the Japanese internment.”
The confinement of American citizens José Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi and the imprisonment of foreign jihadists at Guantanamo Bay also evoked contemptuous comparisons to the World War II evacuation and relocation. “One of the darkest and most painful chapters of American history is repeating itself,” proclaimed law professor Jonathan Turley. Columbia University historian Alan Brinkley called the administration's plan to try some enemy combatants in military tribunals "one of the most extraordinary assaults on civil liberties" in American history since internment. (The constitutionality of military tribunals has since been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.)
One of those who filed petitions on behalf of Hamdi and the Guantanamo Bay prisoners was Fred Korematsu, who was the subject of the 1944 Supreme Court case that upheld the exclusion of ethnic Japanese from the West Coast.
FP: Where do we draw the line between protecting civil liberties and national security?
Malkin: One of the themes of my book is that civil liberties are not sacrosanct. While we should never be contemptuous of civil liberties, we ought not make a fetish of them either. When we are at war, certain infringements (e.g., military tribunals for suspected al Qaeda operatives), while regrettable, are justified.
FP: President Bush calls you tomorrow and asks your advice on homeland security policy aimed at protecting America from Islamic extremists. He asks how you think his administration is doing and also what it should do. What would you say to him?
Malkin: I would tell him he is doing a fine job waging the War on Terror overseas but that his efforts here at home are seriously deficient. I would advise him to fire Norm Mineta and replace him with John Lehman or someone else who supports racial, religious, and nationality profiling in airport screening. It is long past time to get serious about border security. I would tell him to fire Tom Ridge and replace him with Tom Tancredo. Above all, I would advise him that if he is re-elected he should re-appoint John Ashcroft as Attorney General. Bush should go out of his way to praise Ashcroft. Often.
FP: Ms. Malkin thank you, it was a pleasure.
Malkin: Thank you Jamie.