By Stephen Schwartz
The propaganda campaign waged in the American mainstream media (MSM) against the war on terror includes falsification of history and the recycling of myth. One particularly egregious case involves both: continuing revisionism about the relocation of enemy aliens during the Second World War. As I shall seek to demonstrate, hysterical legendary about wartime relocation, usually miscalled “internment,” may be employed to discourage U.S. law enforcement from consequential action today against terrorists and their supporters.
In 1942, some 120,000 ethnic Japanese residing on the U.S. West Coast were ordered removed to relocation camps. In addition, about 22,000 ethnic Japanese were relocated inland in Canada, and around 2,300 ethnic Japanese from Latin America were deported to centers in the U.S.
At the same time, up to 5,000 German Nazi sympathizers and 250 Italian fascists were interned in the U.S. About 10,000 Italian Americans were evacuated from strategic zones of the country, and some thousands more were told to return home before a curfew each night.
Legal and political opinion in the U.S. long ago determined that the wartime relocation of the ethnic Japanese was unnecessary. A short time after the Pearl Harbor attack, federal authorities, using previously-compiled watch lists, rounded up the small number of verifiably-active Japanese agents in the U.S. And while ethnic Japanese made up at least a fifth of the population of the Hawaiian Islands, no ethnic Japanese were removed from or relocated in Hawaii. Even on the U.S. mainland, ethnic Japanese living outside the Western exclusion zone were unaffected. Federal Bureau of Investigation director J. Edgar Hoover opposed the relocation of the ethnic Japanese on the grounds that, as others observed, they were overwhelmingly loyal to the U.S.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had authorized the wartime relocation of the ethnic Japanese in February 1942, rescinded the action even before the conflict ended, in 1944. Within four years, President Harry S. Truman signed the Japanese-American Claims Act, which settled 23,000 demands for compensation involving property and business losses suffered in the relocation.
But the story did not end there. The Soviet Union and its Communist supporters in America inaugurated a campaign to identify the wartime relocation program with a system of “concentration camps.” This was a double evil: it was intended to divert attention from the brutal Russian Gulag system of forced labor and prison camps, while also suggesting that the American relocation of ethnic Japanese was morally equivalent to the Nazi Holocaust. Articles, pamphlets, and books asserting this repellent distortion of fact began to circulate widely in the 1960s.
And thus it was that the issue of compensation for the relocated ethnic Japanese, which should have ended in 1948, was revived with such vigor that, incredibly enough, new payments to them were issued by the U.S. government in 1968, and again in 1988. It appeared that the specter of wartime relocation could not be laid to rest – because America’s enemies found it a useful stick with which to beat our democracy.
The “reparations” bug was, in addition, contagious, and by 2000 the descendants of Italian fascists began demanding a Justice Department review of their alleged mistreatment. But while ethnic Japanese on the West Coast had been relocated en masse, only a small number of the huge Italian-American population in the U.S., numbering in the millions, was touched by wartime internment and relocation. Some 10 percent of U.S. veterans of the war were Italian Americans; they had the highest casualty rate of any ethnic group.
The claim that Italian fascists in America were owed some “reparations” was ridiculous. Yet in 2000 President Bill Clinton signed the Wartime Violation of Italian American Civil Liberties Act, which called on the Justice Department to assess the purported denial of blackshirt rights in America. Furthermore, one in four Americans was of German American ancestry in 1940, but only 5,000 were arrested as Nazis. By 2002, however, Democrat Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin had introduced a bill in which the absurd idea of “an independent review of the treatment of German Americans” in the Second World War was embodied.
Well, the Italian fascists and German Nazis interned by the U.S. authorities never got the extensive monetary compensation or repeat apologies afforded the ethnic Japanese. But bad ideas have a long life, and the ethnic Japanese issue has once again surfaced to undermine the reputation of the United States. Two Congressmen, Xavier Becerra, Democrat, and Dan Lungren, Republican, both of California, have introduced yet another breast-beating bill, H.R. 662. The latest legislation calls for a new review, this time of the relocation of the 2,300 ethnic Japanese from Latin America (mainly Peru), who spent the war interned the U.S.
What is the point of this nonsense? Survivors of the Latin American Japanese group must be very few in number; even someone born in detention would now be at least 63. Why is it appropriate for the U.S. to keep apologizing and paying for a brief mistake in which, let it be known, nobody was killed, tortured, or otherwise seriously abused?
The answer is simple: the more the Second World War and its relocation policies can be publicly invoked, the more politicians can pander to elements in the American Arab and Muslim communities, and radical leftists, that have spent the five years since September 11, 2001, spreading irresponsible rumors about an impending roundup of them. In addition, the accusation that the Guantanamo detention facility is a nest of civil-rights violations and atrocities gains influence. And finally, U.S. government officials may be so frightened by the allegation that they intend to violate the rights of Arabs and Muslims “the way it was [allegedly] done to the Japanese” that they may be discouraged from pursuing terror investigations. Thus myths about the Second World War become obstacles to defending the homeland today.
Relocation or internment of American Arabs and Muslims has not been a policy option taken up by anybody in the U.S. government, and it is highly unlikely it ever will be. Numbers are decisive: there were only 120,000 West Coast ethnic Japanese in 1942 and there are 3-5 million Arabs and Muslims currently in the U.S. Nevertheless, adherents to the Saudi-financed Wahhabi sect of Islam, which inspires al-Qaida and controls up to 80 percent of America’s main Sunni mosques, should be reminded of another, forgotten particle of American history during the Second World War. The U.S. then closed Shinto religious shrines that were owned by the Japanese government. Saudi-Wahhabi interference with American religious life has a substantial history, and the moment may well come when governmental action against a foreign-directed sect is the only adequate means to end it.