Monday, September 05, 2005

Bolstering the bigots

Remember how Michelle Malkin likes to claim that, while her book In Defense of Internment makes the case that the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II was perfectly justified, she's only making the argument for "limited measures" against Muslim Americans in the war on terror?

Heaven forfend, of course, that anyone else might use her "findings" to argue for anything harsher than that, right?

In which case, I'm sure she'll be eager to denounce a piece just published by the Center for Immigration Studies titled "Keeping Extremists Out: The History of Ideological Exclusion and the Need for Its Revival", authored by a Hoover Institute fellow named James R. Edwards.

Edwards, as Kynn Bartlett points out, argues from some of the darker corners of American history to justify a proposal to exclude "enemy aliens" from our shores based purely on their ideology. Among the historical policies of which he bases this argument are previous efforts to exclude Catholics, Quakers, and various races and ethnicities, including the Japanese.

Even more disturbing, he proposes that the current policy not be too specific, but cut an extremely broad swath:
[I]deological exclusion should be restored, allowing aliens to be excluded or deported not only for overt acts but also for radical affiliations or advocacy. Such grounds for exclusion and removal should be based on characteristics common to the many varieties of extremism, rather than target a specific ideology.

How broad? Well, Edwards explains:
Therefore, we should promote intelligence-gathering on aliens abroad and intense investigation by consular officers. The State Department should establish management policies that reward consular officers who ferret out fraud or identify visa applicants who are found to hold anti-American, anti-democratic, anti-Western, anti-Christian, or anti-Jewish views. All diplomatic personnel should be trained to look for such dangerous signs.

Of course, how often have we heard from the people now in charge (see, e.g., Karl Rove), as well as their chorus of right-wing-media sycophants (see esp. Rush Limbaugh), that merely being liberal is a sign of being "anti-American" and "anti-Christian"?

Edwards, as it happens, bases at least a portion of his argument on Malkin's text:
Even before the United States was drawn into World War II, the domestic threat became more serious. As tensions mounted, ideological exclusion and removal, as well as alien registration and control laws, became all the more important tools for the U.S. government to have at hand.

Secret intelligence operations by the U.S. military, known as MAGIC, intercepted and decoded Japanese diplomatic messages beginning in the late 1930s. These communications evidenced the extent of Japan's espionage on American soil. By late 1940, MAGIC unveiled Japan's plans for spying in the United States, directing the recruitment of agents from "our 'Second Generations' and our resident nationals" among others.

As it had been invoked in previous wars, the Alien Enemies Act served as the basis for designating German, Japanese, and Italian nationals as enemy aliens, along with prudential controls during World War II, such as prohibiting enemy alien travel into certain areas, restricting alien property ownership, and internment (not only of Japanese nationals, but other Axis nationals). The 1940 Alien Registration Act resulted in nearly five million foreign nationals registering with the government during World War II.36 The context of the times saw liberal columnist Walter Lippman writing in 1942:

The enemy alien problem on the Pacific Coast, or much more accurately, the fifth column problem, is very serious and very special. ... The Pacific Coast is officially a combat zone; some part of it may at any moment be a battlefield. Nobody' constitutional rights include the right to reside and do business on a battlefield.

German fifth columns had assisted Hitler's European conquests, thanks to "German citizens and Nazi sympathizers" living in such nations as Poland, Belgium, Holland, and France. Thus, the perceived threat was realistic.

The shoddiness of this argument is readily apparent to anyone familiar with the facts, to wit:

-- The "MAGIC" encrypt that he cites actually prioritizes the recruitment effort by the Japanese agencies involved in a telling fashion: Highest on its list are African Americans; next come white supremacists, particularly William Dudley Pelley's Silvershirts. At the bottom of the list are Japanese Americans, who were in fact widely mistrusted as "traitors" by the militarists in Tokyo. Anyone arguing that the intercepted message was reason for ethnic-based incarceration would be arguing that blacks and Caucasians should be first on the list.

-- Nearly all of the "enemy alien" Japanese incarcerated during World War II -- that is, the first-generation Issei immigrants -- had been in America for at least 18 years (immigration from Japan was shut off entirely in 1924), and many for as long as 40 years. The primary reason these immigrants still were citizens of Japan was that they were forbidden to naturalize. Most of them, by virtue of their extended tenure on these shores, had long established themselves in their respective communities as fully contributing members of society and, by most standards, good Americans in intent, if not officially.

-- Some 70,000 of the 120,000 Japanese incarcerated during the war were not "enemy aliens" at all, but American citizens.

-- Lippman's column was riddled with the classic errors of the time, particularly the failure to distinguish between citizens and aliens. And the reality of the matter was that the West Coast never, at any time, at risk of becoming an actual "battlefield" in the war.

-- Finally, Edwards cites the real threat of espionage and sabotage posed by Nazi sympathizers on the East Coast -- but neglects to observe that this threat did not result in the internment of the entire population of German-Americans on that seaboard.

Edwards' piece, as you can see from reading it, is not only problematic for its grotesque distortions of history, it's positively chilling in its call to relive some of the darkest chapters of our history -- repeating mistakes that most of us believed we had long since put behind us. Edwards not only wants to revive ideological exclusion, he wants to make it so vague that one need only hold views critical of the current government to be excluded from entering the country.

He elides, in fact, the very well-grounded reasons that "Congress effectively repealed ideological exclusion" -- namely, it was legally unsound and itself deeply unAmerican. It goes directly against the very clear and careful wording of the Fourteenth Amendment:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The amendment specifically refers to "any person" as distinct from "any citizen" because the intent was to include visitors to our country as well. It's an important distinction particularly in the areas of free-speech and free-assembly rights, because excluding visitors on the basis of their beliefs is noxious to the core principles of free speech itself.

What's next? Excluding all Muslims? Excluding "liberals" or environmentalists? This isn't just a slippery slope; this is diving over the cliff itself.

Of course, this perhaps shouldn't be terribly surprising. The Center for Immigration Studies, after all, is part of the John Tanton network of anti-immigration activists who are funded in no small part by old-line white-supremacist organizations, notably the Pioneer Fund. As the SPLC's damning report on Tanton illustrated, this network included several outright white-supremacist organizations, notably Jared Taylor's outfit, American Renaissance,, and the nakedly racist Council of Conservative Citizens (who, judging by their Web site, are currently leaping aboard the Dukesque "blame 'black culture' bandwagon" being promulgated by the extremist right).

I don't think it's likely, though, that Michelle Malkin will find much to disapprove of here. This is part of her team, after all (her immigration blog has blogrolled the CIS). It speaks volumes, of course, that she also writes regularly for VDare, designated by the SPLC as a bona fide "hate group" -- and if you read their report, it isn't hard to see why:
Fast forward to 2003. Once a relatively mainstream anti-immigration page, VDARE has now become a meeting place for many on the radical right.

One essay complains about how the government encourages "the garbage of Africa" to come to the United States. The same writer says once the "Mexican invasion" engulfs the country, "high teenage birthrates, poverty, ignorance and disease will be what remains."

Another says that Hispanics have a "significantly higher level of social pathology than American whites. ... In other words, some immigrants are better than others." Yet another complains that a Jewish immigrant rights group is helping "African Muslim refugees" come to America.

Brimelow's site carries archives of columns from men like Sam Francis, who is the editor of the newspaper of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, a group whose Web page recently described blacks as "a retrograde species of humanity."

It has run articles by Jared Taylor, the editor of the white supremacist American Renaissance magazine, which specializes in dubious race and IQ studies and eugenics, the "science" of "race betterment" through selective breeding.

Malkin's In Defense of Internment is likewise of a piece of this same willingness to indulge views that are by any measure bigoted, and in some cases, extremist, by ignoring the latent bigotry and its broader ramifications.

As I observe in the epilogue of Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community:
A thorough accounting of the entire historical record surrounding the internment clearly reveals that racism played a significant role at every key juncture. This is not to say, by any means, that racism or its associated hysteria constituted the sole cause of the internment. There were many factors that contributed to the decisions, and the resulting policy was in many ways the outcome of a tangled bureaucratic nightmare. Tetsuden Kashima, in his landmark 2004 study Judgment Without Trial: Japanese American Imprisonment during World War II, surveyed the broad range of intelligence gathering (not merely the MAGIC encrypts) as well as policymaking in the years prior to the war and found that the internment was the product not so much of hysteria as of the inexorable inertia wrought by policies that had been set in motion well before Pearl Harbor. However, even Kashima makes clear that racist attitudes toward Japanese Americans had a significant role in forming these policies, just as it likely colored the policymakers' interpretations of prewar intelligence about the Nikkei; certainly, the blurring of the distinction between American citizens and Japanese nationals -- a blurring based clearly on popular prejudices -- was prevalent during the entire course of these decisions.

That same blurring, it must be observed, occurs throughout Malkin's text. In dozens of instances, she refers to "ethnic Japanese" to describe her subjects, a phrase so broad it allows Malkin to lump American-born citizens in with Japanese-born spies. After repeatedly referring to the citizen Nisei as "ethnic Japanese," she uses the same phrase to describe Japanese-born operatives engaging in espionage from inside consulates. The unrelenting appearance of the phrase transforms Malkin's thesis into a 21st-century version of the hoary "Yellow Peril" truism reiterated by General DeWitt: "A Jap is a Jap."

Likewise, her claim to only be justifying "limited measures" while arguing in defense of mass incarceration simply does not hold water:
Malkin and her cohorts couch their defense of the decisions made in 1942 at least partially as a response to the critics of the Bush administration who have raised the specter of the Japanese American internment. To her own critics who charged that in doing so, she was opening the doors for post-September 11 internment camps, Malkin would refer to a key line in her text: "Make no mistake: I am not advocating rounding up all Arabs or Muslims and tossing them into camps, but when we are under attack, 'racial profiling' -- or more precisely, threat profiling -- is justified."

This is, however, more than a little disingenuous, since Malkin's text is not merely a rationalization for racial profiling but indeed one for mass internment based on ethnicity as well. Beyond the immediate question -- Why use a massive violation of civil rights to justify relatively limited measures such as those proposed? -- there is the effect this logic has on the discourse: Justifying an action may not be semantically the same as advocating it, but it can have the same effect. And indeed, within a few weeks, the discussion had shifted to the possibility of interning Arabs or Muslims. U.S. News and World Report columnist John Leo, while praising Malkin's book lavishly, concluded thus: "It's also reasonable and important to open an honest discussion of internment, past and present." Similarly, Daniel Pipes—a Bush administration appointee to the U.S. Institute of Peace—penned an op-ed piece likewise praising Malkin's text as reopening the way for an honest discussion of potential wartime measures against domestic enemies.

So it should be no surprise, then, that Malkin's text is being used to foment an assault on the equal-protection clause through "ideological exclusion" on behalf of a far-right agenda. That's the kind of thing fraudulent history is always good for.

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