Saturday, January 29, 2005


Internment Is Wrong

In the 1998 movie “The Siege,” terrorist acts bring about martial law and the roundup and interment of young male Muslims in a stockade, reminding the viewer of the shameful internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Innocent people were rounded up like criminals and put in camps, their assets seized. Decades later, the US government finally admitted to having acted on war hysteria and racial prejudice, and paid reparations.

But some people still think internment of certain groups is a good idea. Two of them are Daniel Pipes and Michelle Malkin.

Pipes is well-known for his belief that Muslims in the US should be profiled, and put in camps as ethnic Japanese were if deemed necessary. He says that lots of Americans agree with him, but that people are afraid to openly advocate this position because of a “revisionist interpretation” of the Japanese-American internment.

A major question is: Why were ethnic Japanese targeted, but ethnic Germans and Italians not? Malkin offers the flimsy explanation that “Japan was the only Axis country with a proven capability of launching a major attack on the U.S. Neither Germany nor Italy had any aircraft carriers at the time. Neither country was even remotely capable of pulling off a major attack consisting of heavy aircraft carriers, surface ships, and airplanes like the ones Japan carried out in December 1941 in Hawaii and elsewhere in the Pacific.

“In short, as far as hit-and-run attacks are concerned the risk was from Japan only.

“In the event of a such an attack, which ethnic group was most likely to assist Japan? Germans? Italians? Hungarians? Or Japanese?”

Such ludicrous reasoning must surely elicit laughter from thinking people. How exactly would ethnic Japanese have “assisted”? By swimming out to Japanese warships and signing up for duty? Or perhaps she means that they would have been become spies or saboteurs, but ethnic Japanese were no more likely to do that than ethnic Germans or Italians were. In fact, the latter two groups would have been more dangerous in that respect because they blend into the general population, whereas Asians are more conspicuous because of their physical features. Further, German U-boats operated right off the US Atlantic coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, far closer to the mainland than the Japanese ever came (and they sank many ships), so why weren’t German-Americans rounded up and sent to internment camps to prevent them from “assisting”? Malkin’s argument is therefore contradictory and specious.

In Operation Northwoods, American military leaders planned actions that could have resulted in property damage and the deaths of their own citizens in order to incite war. Were the planners arrested? And right now, George W. Bush and the neocons are prosecuting a disastrous war based totally on lies and running America into the ground both militarily and economically. It is ironic that their patriotism is not questioned. Of course the patriotism of the rich and powerful is not to be questioned.

Looking for scapegoats for America’s ills and boogeymen to spook the populace and keep them scared is what this is about, right? Picking out an easily identifiable minority for persecution is easy to do. In WWII the Japanese were one of the enemies and the ethnic Japanese population was readily identifiable. By contrast, ethnic Germans and Italians were white, of European descent, and Christian. And now when Muslims are supposedly the “enemy” and the Bush regime bombards us daily with color-coded alarms about Middle Eastern terrorists and bearded guys planning grand attacks from caves (Hey, Dubya! Where’s Osama today?), Middle Easterners are a handy target and boogeyman. Despite all the fear mongering by the US government, there are still no jury convictions for terrorism. The way Team Bush is running the country (into the red and into the ground), it is obvious we have more to fear from our own government.

It’s easy to back internment programs if those in favor feel they are not part of a group that might be chosen as a scapegoat/boogeyman. Further, the internment of Japanese-Americans and the insistence that we should profile Middle Easterners for this purpose both fit in with the racist nature of American society. Are Pipes and Malkin racist? I don’t know, but I will say that all Americans are willy-nilly affected by racism at least unconsciously.

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