Thursday, July 21, 2005

Reviews from here and there

My new book, Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community, just got its highest-profile review in a paper I've harshly criticized on many occasions in the past: the (ulp!) Washington Times.

Nonetheless, Tom Carter's piece is not just a strong review, but a good read in its own right. Carter, you see, grew up in Bellevue:
Growing up in the 1950s in a suburb of Atlanta "coloreds only" and "whites only" signs on water fountains and public toilets were fairly common. It never occurred to me that white people might have similar feelings toward "Orientals" until we moved to Bellevue, Wash., a suburb of Seattle in 1962. I remember my parents bewilderment at the openly hostile neighborhood reaction when a Japanese family tried to buy a house in our Mockingbird Hill development.

Riding our bicycles on Bellevue streets, walking to school, swimming in nearby Lake Sammamish, Bellevue was a white and middle-class. We knew nothing of the history, that Bellevue was a small farming suburb hewn from the wilderness, stumps removed, fields made workable and then planted by Japanese immigrants in the early 1900s. And after Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, it was one of many West Coast cities depopulated of Japanese by government order, a forced evacuation that sent hundreds of Bellevue Japanese to internment camps -- ultimately clearing the way for white suburbia.

Be sure to read it all.

And, while I'm at it, it's worth noting that the reviews for the book at the Amazon link were invaded earlier this week by the execrable "Bob," a onetime regular commenter here who not only liked to argue (a la Michelle Malkin) that the internment of Japanese Americans was justifiable but necessary, but eventually, he developed a habit of posting personal smears about local Nikkei, which earned him a deletion and a ban. Then he went away.

Eric Muller recently posted some information about "Bob", who is evidently closely associated with a Bainbridge Island figure named James Olsen (if he isn't in fact Olsen himself). Olsen and his wife, Mary Dombrowski, have been badgering the Bainbridge school district about its history curriculum regarding the internment, a campaign that has, unsurprisingly, earned Malkin's endorsement.

Unfortunately, Amazon deleted Bob's review of my book. I say "unfortunately" not because I endorse Bob's views, of course, but because I do believe in the free exchange of ideas. It's useful to have Bob's explanation of why the internment was justifiable out there in black and white so that anyone can see exactly how thin and, ultimately, groundless -- not to mention profoundly amoral -- their argument really is.

As it happened, I preserved a copy of his review, and so I'll reproduce it here:
Absolute Garbage! Neiwert's a race-baiting flake!, July 14, 2005

Reviewer: Bob - See all my reviews

It is well-documented that the evacuation was motivated, not by racism, but by information obtained by the U.S. from pre-war decoded Japanese diplomatic messages "MAGIC" and other intelligence revealed the existence of espionage and the potential for sabotage involving then-unidentified resident Japanese aliens and Japanese-Americans living within the West Coast Japanese community.

You can read about MAGIC and it's subseqently being ignored by the reparations commission here.


The actual declassified MAGIC intercepts are here.

The U.S. Congress immediately passed legislation providing enforcement provisions for FDR's Executive Order, unanimously in both the House and Senate, provided under Article 1, Section 9 of the United States Constitution.

Only persons of Japanese ancestry (alien and citizen) residing in the West Coast military zones were affected by the evacuation order. Those living elsewhere were not affected at all.

It is not true that Japanese-Americans were "interned. Only Japanese nationals (enemy aliens) arrested and given individual hearings were interned. Such persons were held for deportation in Department of Justice camps. Those evacuated were not interned. They were first given an opportunity to voluntarily move to areas outside the military zones. Those unable or unwilling to do so were sent to Relocation Centers operated by the War Relocation Authority.

At the time, the JACL (Japanese American Citizens League) officially supported the government's evacuation order and urged all enemy alien Japanese and Japanese Americans to cooperate and assist the government in their own self interest.

It is misleading and in error to state that those affected by the evacuation orders were all "Japanese-Americans."

Approximately two-thirds of the ADULTS among those evacuated were Japanese nationals--enemy aliens. The vast majority of evacuated Japanese-Americans (U.S. citizens) were children at the time. Their average age was only 15 years. In addition, over 90% of Japanese-Americans over age 17 were also citizens of Japan (dual citizens)under Japanese law. Thousands had been educated in Japan. Some having returned to the U.S. holding reserve rank in the Japanese armed forces.

During the war, more than 33,000 evacuees voluntarily left the relocation centers to accept outside employment. An additional 4,300 left to attend colleges.

In a questionaire, over 26% of Japanese-Americans of military age at the time said they would refuse to swear an unqualified oath of allegiance to the United States.

According to War Relocation Authority records, 13,000 applications renouncing their U.S. citizenship and requesting expatriation to Japan were filed by or on behalf of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Over 5,000 had been processed by the end of the war.

After loyalty screening, eighteen thousand Japanese nationals and Japanese-Americans were segregated at a special center for disloyals at Tule Lake California where regular military "Banzai" drills in support of Emperor Hirohito were held.

The Supreme Court of the United States upheld the Consitutionality of the evacuation/relocation in Korematsu v. U.S., 1944 term. In summing up for the 6-3 majority, Justice Black wrote:

"There was evidence of disloyalty on the part of some, the military authorities considered that the need for action was great, and time was short. We cannot -- by availing ourselves of the calm perspective of hindsight -- now say that at the time these actions were unjustified."

That decision has never been reversed and stands to this day.

It should be noted that the relocation centers had many amenities. Accredited schools, their own newspapers, stores, churches, hospitals, all sorts of sports and recreational facilities. They also had the highest percapita wartime birth rates for any

More history for you to consider regarding the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians:

Consider that of the nine commission members, six were biased in favor of reparations. Ishmail Gromoff and William Marutani, relocatees themselves, sat in judgment of their own cases. Arthur Goldberg and Joan Bernstein made sympathetic, pro-reparation statements publicly before hearings even began. Arthur Fleming had worked closely with the JACL (he was a keynote speaker at its Portland convention in the '70s). Robert Drinan was a co-sponsor of the bill establishing the commission.

Consider that notices of when and where hearings were to be held were not made known to the general, non-Japanese public.

Consider that witnesses who gave testimony were not sworn to tell the truth.

Consider that witnesses who were pro-reparation were carefully coached in their testimony in "mock hearings" beforehand.

Consider that witnesses against reparation were harassed and drowned out by foot-stomping Japanese claques, that the commission members themselves ridiculed and badgered these same witnesses.

Consider that not one historian was asked to testify before the commission, that intelligence reports and position papers contrary to reparations were deliberately ignored.

Consider that as a result of the above, the United States Department of Justice objected strongly to the findings of the commission.

Lastly while we've all been educated on the doctrines associated with the rise of Nazism, I would be curious to know if courses are provided teaching the history of the doctrines of Japanese militarism, a belief system similar and equally as insidious as Nazism?

Any clasess on the kokutai? Hakko Ichiu? Any reading of Kokutai no Hongi? Shimin to Michi? The role of Nichiren Buddhism and Japanese "Language Schools" in teaching these doctines of Japanese racial superiorty to ethnic Japanese colonies throughout the word prior to Pearl Harbor?

Those of you learning this history at your public schools and universities should understand you are being taught an extemely biased and partial version of what really happened and why. I would urge you to go beyond the politically correct version of this history as propagated by the Japanese-American reparations movement.

I understand that publishing Bob's remarks helps him circulate those views. But I also believe that seeing them in print helps people understand how these folks think -- and a careful examination reveals their utter bankruptcy.

Ironically, nearly every one of the points Bob raises is in fact addressed and specifically refuted in the text of Strawberry Days, including the very real role of racism in the drama; the actual significance of the MAGIC encrypts; the demographic makeup of the internees; the military signup debate; what was really taught in those Japanese schools; and the significance of the Supreme Court rulings and the fact that Korematsu has never been overturned. (I don't discuss the behavior of some audience members at the Wartime Relocation Commission hearings, but then, it doesn't strike me as particularly significant. Strange, though, how "Bob" isn't equally outraged by the treatment that was afforded anyone who dared speak out against the evacuation at the Tolan Committee hearings in the spring of 1942.) Oh, and incidentally: I have no connection to any "Japanese American reparations movement."

So, how odd is it to post a review of a book whose text specifically refutes everything in your review?

Well, that doesn't matter to people like "Bob" and James Olsen and Michelle Malkin. They are True Believers, and no evidence -- not even a mountain of it -- will move them to admit that they are wrong. (Not that "Bob" will have bothered to actually read the book.) Nor, it seems, do they possess enough self-awareness to recognize just how morally repugnant the upshot of their argument (to wit: those Japanese really were untrustworthy and deserved to be locked up en masse) really is.

The rest of us can judge for ourselves.

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