Michelle Malkin, San Francisco Chronicle, SFGate.com, Sep. 5
Sixteen years ago, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act, proclaiming it “a great day for America.” It provided $1.65 billion in restitution to 82,000 individuals of Japanese ancestry who had been subjected to evacuation, relocation and internment during World War II.
Although it was almost universally hailed at the time, the decision was one of Reagan’s biggest blunders. In a rare capitulation to political correctness, Reagan ignored the advice of his own military and legal experts who opposed wartime reparations for ethnic Japanese evacuees and internees. The road to reparations was paved with injustice, intellectual dishonesty and incompetence. The panel created by Congress to assess whether the evacuation and relocation of West Coast ethnic Japanese were militarily necessary didn’t include anyone with a military or intelligence background. The 500-page report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians devoted just 10 pages to intelligence.
Worse, the commission failed to acknowledge the existence of long-declassified MAGIC cables — which revealed Japan’s extensive espionage activities on the West Coast — until after it had published its famous indictment that wartime relocation and internment were the result of “race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.” The commission’s legal counsel hastily dismissed MAGIC’s importance in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s decision to approve Executive Order 9066 and the West Coast evacuation.
Several commission members expressed strident anti-relocation sentiments before and during the panel’s 20-day hearings. The few witnesses who were invited to testify in defense of the evacuation and relocation were berated, ridiculed and cut off by commission members. Audience members booed and hissed reparations opponents.
The reparations law created a special entitlement for evacuees and internees of Japanese ancestry, including American citizens, dual citizens, permanent resident aliens and even those who renounced their American citizenship and returned to Japan. Eligible recipients included West Coast residents who evacuated on their own after Pearl Harbor but before Executive Order 9066 was signed; 4,300 students who left relocation centers or tens of thousands who left camps to live and work outside the West Coast; and 5,918 babies born in the relocation centers during the war.
Also eligible were 450 Aleut residents evacuated from their home islands by the United States when the Japanese attacked and invaded the Aleutian Islands at Kiska and Attu in June 1942. They received $12,000 each despite the commission’s acknowledgment that “the evacuation of the Aleuts was a rational wartime measure taken to safeguard them.”
Japanese permanent resident aliens who were interned at Justice Department camps received compensation as well. Their German and Italian counterparts, however, received nothing. According to Immigration and Naturalization Service statistics, nearly half of all enemy aliens held in Justice Department internment camps were of European ancestry.
In October 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court refused without comment to hear an appeal by retired U.S. Air Force major Arthur Jacobs, U.S.-born son of a German internee, who lived with his family at the Crystal City, Texas, internment camp alongside Japanese internees. Jacobs had argued pointedly that the reparations law unconstitutionally discriminated against non-Japanese internees in violation of the Equal Protection clause. A lower court had dismissed his argument, citing the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians’ conclusion that ethnic Japanese evacuees and internees were singled out exclusively because of their race and without any military justification.
Perhaps 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 the United States 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.
(Posted on September 7, 2004)