Internment: A Tool in the War on Terror?
Michelle Malkin, February 15, 2005
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Millions of American schoolchildren have been taught that there was no evidence of ethnic Japanese disloyalty or espionage before, during, or after Pearl Harbor; that Franklin D. Roosevelt was hoodwinked by bigoted military leaders into taking draconian measures; and that the absence of espionage convictions of ethnic Japanese "proved" that the West Coast evacuation and relocation of ethnic Japanese was unnecessary and motivated primarily or exclusively by racism and wartime hysteria.
Attacks on internment policy
My book debunks these deeply held myths regarding the moving of 112,000 ethnic Japanese from the West Coast of the United States to the interior of the country on Roosevelt's orders in February 1942. The order affected first-generation Japanese resident aliens and U.S.-born Japanese-Americans, as well as a relatively small but significant number of non-Japanese residents (non-citizens and citizens alike).
"Internment" is actually a precise legal term for the centuries-old, worldwide practice of detaining non-naturalized immigrants during wartime. During World War I, some 6,300 European enemy aliens in America were interned by the War Department in prison barracks at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, Fort McPherson, Georgia, and Fort Douglas, Utah. During World War II, more than 31,000 enemy aliens from Axis nations were interned at Department of Justice camps—nearly half of whom were German or Italian.
Civil liberties absolutists have invoked the so-called Japanese-American internment to attack virtually every homeland security initiative against Islamic terrorism taken by the Bush administration to protect America from murderous Islamic extremists. When the Justice Department asked Arab and Muslim foreigners to volunteer to help provide investigative leads, commentator Julianne Malveaux complained: "It's beginning to look like the Japanese internment." When two men were removed from a Continental Airlines flight in December 2001 based on the plane crew's security concerns, the ACLU compared it to "the Japanese internment issue." Even within the Bush administration, transportation secretary Norm Mineta (who was evacuated as a child to a relocation camp during World War II) has absolutely opposed any use of racial or ethnic profiling.
Misguided guilt about the past continues to hamper our ability to prevent future terrorist attacks. We cannot win the War on Terror as long as we keep learning the wrong lessons about World War II.
Parallels with World War Two
There are parallels between World War II and the War on Terror, but the anti-profilers and internment alarmists fail to make the proper comparisons. The Japanese espionage network and the Islamic terrorist network exploited many of the same immigration loopholes and relied on many of the same institutions to enter the country and insinuate themselves into the American mainstream. Members of both networks arrived here on student visas and religious visas. Both used spiritual centers—Buddhist churches for the Japanese, mosques for the Islamists—as central organizing points.
Both used native-language newspapers to foment subversive tendencies. Both leaned on extensive ethnic- or religious-based fundraising groups for support—kais for the Japanese, Islamic charities for Middle Eastern terrorists. Both had operatives in the U.S. military. Both aggressively recruited American citizens as spies or saboteurs, especially (but not exclusively) inside their ethnic communities. Both were spearheaded by fanatics with an intense interest in biological and chemical weapons.
The Roosevelt administration supported many national security measures—not just the West Coast evacuation and relocation—that took race, ethnicity, and nationality into account. Before Pearl Harbor, the secretary of war and the secretary of the navy informed the president "that they were instituting a program of employment discrimination on a racial basis whereby they would assure that future civil service vacancies in defense installations in Hawaii would be filled by ‘selected citizens of unquestionable loyalty rather than by citizens generally of alien extraction whose loyalty may be questionable.'"
Ethnic Japanese were barred altogether from working within naval reservations. Immediately following the Pearl Harbor attack, about half of the nation's Nisei draftees were discharged amid espionage and sabotage concerns, no doubt because MAGIC messages had revealed Japanese spies had infiltrated the military. The rest were reassigned to noncombatant and non-sensitive duties. Soon after, the military stopped inducting Nisei. The creation of a segregated combat unit later permitted the demonstration of Nisei courage and loyalty to the world. That unit was barred from the Pacific theater of operations.
With few exceptions, Nisei volunteers were prevented from choosing the branch of service they preferred. The navy, marines, coast guard, merchant marine, and air force for the most part did not accept Nisei into their ranks except on temporary duty as Military Intelligence Service specialists. With virtually no exceptions, Nisei soldiers were barred from participating in any cryptographic operations.
It was prudent, while fighting a war against Japan, to apply heightened scrutiny to ethnic Japanese in the military. It is also prudent, while fighting a war against Muslim extremists, to apply special scrutiny to Muslims working in sensitive areas, including law enforcement, the prison system, and the armed forces.
The Islamist infiltration of key institutions is as perilous now as the infiltration of Japanese loyalists would have been sixty years ago. America's military and civilian commanders made no apologies for putting security over diversity during World War II. Yet, out of fear of being labeled jackbooted racists, today's politically correct Pentagon and prison officials have rejected singling out Muslim soldiers and clerics for extra scrutiny.
New arguments against profiling
In the wake of September 11, savvy opponents of profiling have shifted away from arguing against it because it is "racist" to opposing it on alleged national security grounds.
University of Toledo professor David Harris, for example, makes the bizarre case that allowing profiling based on race, ethnicity, or religion would "enlarge the suspect pool," requiring "all of those in the suspect category . . . to be stopped, questioned, searched, and investigated, even when their behavior would not have pointed to any reason to do this." But allowing airport security officials to take a passenger's ethnicity into account is not a mandate to stop every person of that ethnicity. Profiling is just one discretionary investigative tool among many to narrow the suspect pool, not to expand it. It is far from an infallible aid, but if law enforcement officials were permitted to use only foolproof techniques, they would be left with no tools to fight terrorism at all.
As for the claim that profiling alienates minorities, the argument conveniently ignores post–September 11 polling that showed broad support among minorities, including Arab-Americans, for heightened scrutiny of those who appear to be of Middle Eastern descent. A poll conducted in October 2001 found that more than half of Arab-Americans agreed that law enforcement officials are justified in asking extra questions or conducting extra inspections of people who appear to be Middle Eastern. Separate polls showed strong support for racial profiling of Arab-Americans among blacks and other minority groups.
On this issue, civil rights absolutists argue out of both sides of their mouths. They condemn homeland defense measures that use narrowly targeted criteria such as nationality (e.g., the special registration program, which required temporary visa holders from Muslim-dominated countries deemed to be of "elevated national security concern" to submit to fingerprinting, photographing, and stricter exit controls). Yet they complain just as bitterly when the government eschews narrow profiling policies in favor of broad security programs (such as the Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, for citizens and non-citizens alike, to be used at airports).
They argue against racial profiling in favor of behavioral profiling. But when airport officials announced the adoption of behavioral profiling measures at Boston Logan (from which two of the September 11 terrorist flight crews departed), American Civil Liberties Union official Barry Steinhardt complained that it "likely will result in new forms of racial and ethnic profiling."
Some might argue that profiling is so offensive to fundamental American values that it ought not be done even if it jeopardizes the nation's security. Yet many of the ethnic activists and civil liberties groups who object most strenuously to the use of racial, ethnic, religious, and nationality classifications during war strongly support the use of similar classifications in peacetime—to ensure "diversity" on college campuses, to guarantee business contracts for minorities, and to achieve socially engineered "parity" in police departments and public works projects.
Encouraging public universities to assign "plus" factors to individuals according to their skin color is praiseworthy, in their view. But allowing an airport screener or consular official or deportation officer or FBI agent to assign "negative" factors on the same basis is a human rights abuse.
The civil rights opponents of profiling have never met a "compelling government interest" for using racial, ethnicity, or nationality classifications they didn't like—except when that compelling interest happens to be the nation's very survival.
We are at war with stateless enemies abroad and Islamist infiltrators at home who will not stop plotting to kill us unless we kill them first overseas and nab them preemptively on our own soil. Both my first book Invasion and my latest book arrive at the same conclusion: Political correctness is the handmaiden of terrorism.