Spyhopping the Right.
David Neiwert is a freelance journalist based in Seattle. He is the author of Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community (Palgrave/St. Martin's Press, June 2005), as well as Death on the Fourth of July: The Story of a Killing, a Trial, and Hate Crime in America, (Palgrave/St. Martin's, 2004), and In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest (1999, WSU Press). His reportage for MSNBC.com on domestic terrorism won the National Press Club Award for Distinguished Online Journalism in 2000. His freelance work can be found at Salon.com, the Washington Post, MSNBC and various other publications. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Sara Robinson has worked as an editor or columnist for several national magazines, on beats as varied as sports, travel, and the Olympics; and has contributed to over 80 computer games for EA, Lucasfilm, Disney, and many other companies. A native of California's High Sierra, she spent 20 years in Silicon Valley before moving to Vancouver, BC in 2004. Her lifelong interest in the social effects of authoritarianism have most recently led her to pursue the MS in Futures Studies at the University of Houston. She's also a student member of the Association of Professional Futurists, and member of the Accelerated Studies Foundation advisory board on social and cultural issues. For fun, she raises kids and travels. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sara's recent series:
Cracks in the Wall: Parts I, II, and III.
Tunnels and Bridges: Parts I, II, III, and IV, plus a Short Detour.
Dave's recent series:
The March of the Minutemen
Intro: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Other books by Dave [limited availability]:
"The Rise of Pseudo Fascism": An essay
Available in Adobe PDF format here
Support independent journalism:
Suggested $5 donation
Original posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.
"The Political and the Personal"
"Bush, the Nazis and America":
Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.
Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An Exegesis
[Suggested $5 donation]
[In HTML: Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X,, XI, XII, XIII, XIV and XV. See explanatory note.]
[Also available in HTML, and with art, at Cursor.]
Orcinus Principium No. 1
Orcinus Principium No. 2
Saturday, January 18, 2003
Gosh, how could I have overlooked this one? Certainly Orwell would have approved:
"Stopping planned tax cuts is a tax increase."
I know it's something of a golden oldie, but they keep trotting it out there. I keep hearing it from the propagandists at Fox.
The Pickering dilemma
I think liberals may be headed for another political disaster, judging by their handling so far of the Bush administration’s, um, “bold” re-nomination of Charles Pickering to a seat on the federal appeals court (see the post below).
If the campaign against Pickering continues as it has begun, it’s likely to wind up with the same result as two previous nominations handled in similar fashion, namely, those of John Ashcroft and Ted Olson. That is, both now hold office, and both have played Sauron to the Democrats’ Hobbit-like agenda, mowing down everyone in their respective paths.
The Ashcroft case was particularly instructive. Because some opponents mainly raised his interview with the neo-Confederate Southern Partisan magazine as indicative of racist views, Ashcroft’s supporters actually seized on this woefully inadequate characterization as though it contained the heart of opponents’ accusations.
And it was relatively easy to smack down, of course. Republicans had an easy time characterizing the opposition as running a “smear” campaign, and that was that.
I’ve always been uncomfortable anyway about the ease with which liberals apply the “racist” label, particularly since I’m someone who has a background dealing with the genuine neo-Nazi-type article. Bandying the term about loosely (like “fascist” as well) makes it just about meaningless, and robs the word of the power it should have when talking about the Richard Butlers of the world.
Moreover, I think its easy use denotes a kind of intellectual laziness. We think that if it’s successfully applied, then we have managed to marginalize our opponent. Being “racist” makes someone de facto a bad person. But we haven’t bothered to engage their thinking, or refute their inevitably bad logic, because it’s just easier to dismiss them. That kind of argument may work for like-minded liberals, but it doesn’t cut it with the rest of the world.
What needed to be said about Ashcroft wasn’t that he was a racist, but that he had a pattern of these kinds of associations, which included not just neo-Confederates but a number of dalliances with other extremists of a variety of stripes. These associations do not necessarily mean Ashcroft was an extremist himself -- but rather, that he displayed extremely poor judgment in making them. Essentially he let the good name of his office, which it is his public trust to protect, help legitimize extremist organizations of various kinds.
The nation expects better judgment than that out of its attorney general, just as it also expects better judgment than to mislead your president into making false assertions on an executive-privilege claim, as Ted Olson did in the 1980s, from its solicitor general. Those are the kinds of reasons that are persuasive to nearly anyone not addled by partisanship (which excludes nearly every Republican), and should have been the centerpiece of Democratic opposition to those nominations. Who knows? They might even have been able to generate a little bit of bipartisan support.
The same principle applies to Pickering. So far much of the opposition has been built around trying to demonstrate, a la Trent Lott, a predilection for hidden racist beliefs. This seems like a certain path to defeat.
Pickering is almost certainly not a racist, at least not the pernicious kind (like Lott) who make political careers out of pandering to the Dixie flag wavers. Building opposition to his nomination by trying to prove that he is seems counterproductive to me.
Republican politics in Mississippi for the past two decades has been divided between two factions: the Thad Cochran faction -- more enlightened white voters who sincerely are interested in racial reconciliation and attracting blacks to the party -- and the Trent Lott faction, which openly pandered to neo-Confederates and all-but-public bigots. Pickering, it appears, was somewhere in between the two -- he had a past similar to Lott’s (he was a segregationist in the 1960s), but he was more often aligned with the Cochran faction, and his record tends to reflect that. Pickering played an integral role in inducing the University of Mississippi to open an Institute for Racial Reconciliation, and he was reputed to be (privately, not publicly) involved in the campaign to get rid of the Confederate battle flag that remains in Mississippi's state flag.
I think it’s important in cases like this to get as much of a ground-level view as possible, so I have relied on a handful of friends and contacts in the South to try to get a closer view of what kind of person Pickering actually is.
Probably the most helpful has been my friend Jerry Mitchell, the reporter for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger whose name many of you may already know. Jerry is the journalist (immortalized in the otherwise awful Ghosts of Mississippi) whose work played a key role in breaking open the Medgar Evers case, and who has since done major work in exhuming the vaults of the old Sovereignty Commission and other unsolved murders from the Civil Rights era. (Check out this section of the Clarion-Ledger's Special Reports: Crimes of the Past. It's mostly devoted to Jerry's work.)
Here’s an excerpt from a story Jerry wrote Feb. 14, 2002 [the Clarion-Ledger’s archives are short-lived]:
State’s past haunts judge
History cited as reason Pickering nomination opposed
By Jerry Mitchell
Clarion-Ledger Staff Writer
Is it possible for the world to ever glimpse Mississippi without seeing the shadows of our past?
“Unfortunately not,” said David Sansing, professor emeritus of history at the University of Mississippi. “Mississippi is a convenient tool for both ends of the political spectrum. We have been used and will continue to be used.”
Sansing said U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering Sr. — who in the 1960s prosecuted members of the Ku Klux Klan — is being unfairly tarred with that broad brush of Mississippi’s past in his nomination to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
But some civil rights leaders describe Pickering as a product of that past, a past which haunted both the Magnolia State and a nation.
Joe Parker, a political science professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, said the past is difficult to avoid. “You can’t get away from it,” he said. “It’s kind of like your relatives.”
By writing about miscegenation laws more than 40 years ago at Ole Miss, Pickering opened himself up to future criticism, he said.
Charles Sallis, co-author of the history book Mississippi: Conflict & Change, said he has no opinion on Pickering’s nomination but believes people should be judged within the context of the times.
… “I would hate to be held accountable for something I believed 50 years ago,” he said. “My gosh, I’d be embarrassed. Mississippi has had bad public relations. We deserve most of it. But times have changed.”
… Those who oppose Pickering should know that by Mississippi standards in the 1960s, the judge “was a damn near flaming liberal,” Parker said. “If they want to see some real racists, come on down, or we can send you some up.”
All that said, what is also clear in examining Pickering’s record is that, like Ashcroft and Olson, he has displayed a pattern of regular and very serious lapses in judgment. It is fair to say, again, that anyone nominated for a judicial position as powerful as the 5th District Court of Appeals should be able to display a consistent record of good judgment, and Pickering fails badly in several instances. Moreover, rather than coming clean about these failures and addressing them forthrightly, Pickering and his allies have attempted to obfuscate the facts and distort the reality of his behavior.
Particularly damning is his behavior in that now-infamous 1992 cross-burning case. As Uggabugga has neatly mapped out for us elsewhere, it is clear that Pickering inappropriately lobbied to get a mandatory sentence lowered for a person who declined a Pickering-approved plea-bargain and went to trial instead (a cornerstone of the plea-bargaining system is the understanding that a person who chooses instead to take his case to trial risks facing a much stiffer sentence).
As even one of Pickering’s most vocal defenders put it in Jerry Mitchell’s story:
The most devastating evidence against Pickering is when he called Justice Department officials with regard to a cross-burning case, Parker said. “I’m sure there’s an explanation, but boy, it is a damaging thing.”
Moreover, the victim in the cross-burning case has spoken out as well:
But Brenda Polkey has asked the Judiciary Committee to oppose Pickering's nomination to the higher court.
"My faith in the justice system was destroyed when I learned about Judge Pickering's efforts to reduce the sentence of Mr. Swan," Polkey wrote in a letter to the panel.
The cross-burning case is hardly isolated. Of course, there are the pro-segregationist writings in the 1960s, and the associations with Sovereignty Commission operatives as well. More disturbing are Pickering’s denials about those associations when he testified during his earlier confirmation hearings.
There is also this case, [PDF file], which indicates a hostility toward the majority/minority district system, something about which he needs to be questioned during the next round of Senate hearings.
Again, Pickering has a track record of poor judgment, especially in racially charged cases, all of which should combine to make a case that he is unfit for the appeals court. It would be much easier -- and infinitely more effective -- to make this case than to claim that he is a closet racist.
Olson Powers, International Man of Misery
"Hey baybee -- wanna see some real affirmative action?"
Newspeak of the week
Friday, January 17, 2003
"Opposing affirmative action is the pursuit of racial justice."
More right-wing terrorism
From my neck of the woods:
Was Someone Plotting To Kill Governor Locke?
They say Brailey, Jr. was a member of the Jural Society -- a group that does not believe in state or federal government. Instead, they believe in a "people's government" based upon Christian principles and common law. Brailey was elected "Governor of the State of Washington" at a Jural Society election in October of 1998.
I have no idea if James Brailey was one of the people I met, but I encountered the Jural Society while researching In God's Country -- it was wholly a Patriot organization, and the members I met appeared to be Christian Identity believers as well. (Those are the 'Christian principles' to which the KOMO piece above rather loosely refers.) Their primary mission was in selling Posse Comitatus ideology through the "common law" court scheme. This scheme is identical in the larger schema, though perhaps differing in some minor details, to that followed by the "Freemen" in Montana.
As I describe it in the book:
In the Freemen's world, not only are police authorities out of control, but the Federal Reserve is a Jewish hoax, money is merely counterfeit currency printed by the conspirators, taxes are an illegal form of blackmail by a renegade corporation that calls itself the United States, and the courts have placed themselves above God's law, thereby issuing a series of satanic and perverted rulings that are destroying the nation. Their solutions:
-- Declare yourself a ``sovereign citizen'' outside the reach of the federal government. Only white male property owners need apply.
-- Create ``common law'' courts comprised solely of ``sovereign citizens.'' These courts are the only really legal courts in the land, they believe. The body of law they hearken to includes not only the ``organic'' Constitution but also other laws ``common'' to Western civilization, especially the Magna Carta, and a bevy of outdated codes and federal rulings.
-- File liens against the ``phony'' public officials who may interfere with the functioning of the ``common law'' courts. If they continue to interfere, the courts may convene trials and, if these officials are found guilty of treason, they may be hung.
-- Freemen are free to use those liens as collateral to back up phony money orders printed at the ranch. These money orders are then cashed for Federal Reserve notes or used to purchase items, often for much less than the amount of the money order, and the company filling the orders then reimburses the Freemen for the remaining amount with cash of their own.
One of the myths that's been circulating in the mainstream press the past couple of years is that the "militia movement" is dead. Problem is, that story is wrong -- and it's misleading the public about the continuing threat to the rest of us posed by right-wing extremists.
The far right has always worked in cycles, and there's little question we are currently in a down cycle -- recruitment is down, organization is down, numbers and intensity are way down. Some reports out of the SPLC and other far-right monitors have corroborated this trend, and those reports have translated into the myth of the militia movement's demise.
Of course, there never really was a "militia movement" -- rather, organizing militias was merely one of the strategies of the broader "Patriot" movement. Another was organizing "common law" courts and promoting "sovereign citizenship" -- strategies that have had a far longer life, while the "militia" strategy fell into disfavor. In any case, the SPLC certainly ascertains that the Patriot movement is very much alive and kicking.
Moreover, while mainstream recruits may drift back -- especially when you have a president like George W. Bush, who constantly makes gestures that serve to encourage far-right voters (see the University of Michigan brief) -- the True Believers never really go away. Indeed, during the downcycles, they often become demonstrably more radical. These kinds of beliefs are also closely associated with a spiral of increasing violence.
So we should probably brace ourselves for a few more of these kinds of incidents, as the remaining True Believers begin acting out their beliefs.
Everything you needed to know about the 'new' GOP
From the Los Angeles Times:
Racially Charged GOP Feud Escalates
"I, for one, am getting bored with that kind of garbage," Ridgel wrote. "Let me offer this suggestion to Mr. Reeves: 'Get over it, bucko. You don't know squat about hardship.' "
Ridgel added: "I personally don't give a damn about your color ... so stop parading it around. We need human beings of all human colors in our party to pull their weight, so get in without the whining or get out."
Ridgel, a retired white rancher from rural Lake County, also endorsed an essay suggesting that there would have been an upside to a Confederate victory in the Civil War.
I dunno about the rest of you, but coming from Idaho ... well, that's the GOP I know and love.
Keep this story handy. The next time a Republican whines to you about how 90 percent of blacks vote Democratic -- as though there were no justification for it -- trot it out.
An eyebrow raiser
Guns, anti-tank weapons seized from rented storage unit
... ATF agents said the arms found Thursday are not linked to any known terrorist operation.
Instead, they were owned by a Boston man -- an ex-convict from Arizona -- who divulged the location of the Queen Creek arsenal after he was arrested last month in Massachusetts as part of an investigation into machine gun trafficking.
Of course, this is the same milieu in Arizona that Tim McVeigh, Terry Nichols and the Fortiers cavorted among. I wouldn't be so certain there wasn't a terrorist connection -- just not the Middle Eastern brand.
White supremacy on the march
From Medford, a smallish town in south-central Oregon:
Police look for two men after string of assaults
Wednesday, the investigation took a curious turn when two of the young black men who had been chased were arrested near South Medford High School on charges of unlawful possession of a firearm.
Police spotted them cruising the area, made a traffic stop, and discovered a .38 caliber revolver and a .22 caliber semi-automatic handgun in the car. Clinton Taylor, 18, of Central Point, was lodged in the Jackson County Jail and his 15-year-old passenger was cited and referred to Jackson County Juvenile Services, police said.
Newell, who made the traffic stop, said police were concerned Taylor and his friends were seeking retribution for the earlier incident, though they denied it.
Gee, I can't imagine why two young black men who had been chased and threatened with retribution by white supremacists in lily-white Medford would resort to obtaining a gun.
History repeating, via Kafka
Wednesday, January 15, 2003
“... It therefore follows that along the vital Pacific Coast over 112,000 potential enemies, of Japanese extraction, are at large today. There are indications that these are organized and ready for concerted action at a favorable opportunity. The very fact that no sabotage has taken place to date is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will be taken.”
-- Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt, memorandum of Feb. 14, 1942, declaring that internment of Japanese-Americans was a "military necessity"
"Another way to look at it is this; that the fact that the inspectors have not yet come up with new evidence of Iraq's WMD program could be evidence in and of itself of Iraq's non-cooperation."
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, DoD briefing, Jan. 15, 2003
[Many thanks to Atrios for running down the Rumsfeld quote.]
The Michigan Project
Of course, smack in the middle of the Bush decision to combat affirmative action at the University of Michigan is none other than Solicitor General Ted Olson:
Bush Opposes U. of Mich. Admissions Policy
Both administration officials and conservative opponents of affirmative action said yesterday that Bush's position was a political compromise forged amid intense negotiation. Justice Department lawyers, led by Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, lobbied the president hard for a brief that would categorically declare that not even diversity can justify the use of race. White House political adviser Karl Rove and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, sensitive to the need to expand the Republican base to include minorities, pushed in the other direction, the officials said.
Good God, Olson manages to make Karl Rove look like a moderate.
Tuesday, January 14, 2003
A fellow named Trevor -- evidently he is an Army captain -- offered this post in Atrios’ comments:
I am willing to stake our civil liberties on the possibility of another attack, because those civil liberties were never the cause of the problem. The problem in this and many other intel arenas is not a lack of information but an inability to process it - an inability that is exaggerated by failure to cooperate among our intel agencies and fatheadedness within those agencies (didja notice that the FBI director most fingered for 'intel failures' got a big fat bonus in December?).
Registering all Muslims, just like interning Japanese, or probably more relevant, just like racial profiling, is really just a way to avoid thinking about the issue at all (kinda like blaming Clinton). Oh look! We did something about those damned terrorists! Never mind that nothing gathered would identify a terrorist any more than it would identify an Iranian coffee-shop owner whose permanent green card application got lost by the INS. The Iranian fiasco has been truly sickening (see original post), and highlights my feeling of what this country should NOT be about.
What this problem poses is not questions about how to deal with immigrants, but how to coordinate and understand the intel we have. And if another terrorist incident occurs on our soil (assuming the North Koreans don't get us first), it will be the failure of our intelligence agencies, not the failure of our free society.
This is a point that can’t be stressed enough.
There’s a fantasy that lingers out there that perhaps the Japanese-American internment might have actually prevented at least some sabotage. Certainly there’s a lingering belief the Nikkei community hosted at least some vestige of a fifth column; it shows up, after all, in that specious scene in the recent Pearl Harbor showing devious Japanese-American saboteurs at work in Hawaii.
But this is highly unlikely, in fact, considering the weight of the postwar evidence against any kind of potential sabotage from either Issei or Nisei immigrants. The overwhelming weight of evidence is that the internment prevented very little, if any, sabotage or espionage. Put it this way: There were 14 people arrested on U.S. soil by the FBI during the war for spying for Japan. None of them were of Japanese descent.
Moreover, even beyond its transparent unjustness, the damage to the integrity of the Constitution, and the dangerous precedents it set, the internment of the Japanese-Americans was an unfathomable waste. It demonstrably undermined the war effort, and proved not to be worth a penny of the billions of taxpayer dollars it wasted.
In addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars the actual enterprise itself cost -- rounding up 120,000 people by rail car and shipping them first to “assembly centers”; building ten “relocation centers” in remote locales, and then shipping the evacuees into them; maintaining and administering the centers for another three years, which included overseeing programs to help internees find work outside the camps; feeding the entire population of internees during this time; and then helping them to relocate near their former homes once the camps closed -- there were millions more in initial reparations costs, and then hundreds of millions more in the later reparations approved by Congress in the 1980s
At the same time, the Japanese population on the Pacific Coast actually was responsible for the production of nearly half of all the fresh produce that was grown for consumption on the Coast (the Japanese also shipped out a great deal of produce to the Midwest and East). Indeed, Nikkei farms held virtual monopolies in a number of crops, including peas, green beans and strawberries, and a nearly 80 percent of the lettuce market.
When these farmers were rounded up and interned, a handful of enterprising whites decided to try running their farms with the hope of making a killing from the crops. But labor was so short that not one of these enterprises lasted beyond about five weeks, and none of them had a successful harvest. Nearly all of these farms lay fallow for the next four years. This major loss of production of fresh vegetables clearly harmed the national war effort, and played an important role in triggering the rationing that came during the war years.
It’s hard to compare precisely, because of course the economic circumstances are different, but there is a high likelihood that a Muslim-American internment would be every bit as wasteful, and probably as fruitless.
Noxious logic alert
From the Chicago Tribune:
Schools ban gay-safe-zone signs
Bowing to pressure from a small but vocal group of parents, Rich Township High School District 227 board members in Olympia Fields voted Monday night to remove multicolored triangles signifying safe zones for gay and lesbian students from more than 100 classroom doors.
The 5-1 vote came after some parents at recent meetings had accused the district of promoting homosexuality and discriminating against students who are not gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender by allowing the triangles.
Kind of like the folks who claim that laws against gay-bashing infringe on their rights.
Monday, January 13, 2003
First, here's an excellent FindLaw piece regarding the whole "enemy combatant" issue vis a vis the Supreme Court rulings of 1943-44 on the internment, and the associated Constitutional issues:
Do Hamda and Padilla need company?
Also, here's an excerpt from a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Roger Daniels, who is probably the nation's premier historian on the internment. It ran Feb. 15, 2002 and was titled "Detaining Minority Citizens, Then and Now":
Today, we once again read about the detention of resident aliens for questioning; about plans to bypass normal legal procedures and create military tribunals to try "any individual who is not a United States citizen"; about federal requests to colleges and universities for the names of all foreign students. But when compared with what was done to Japanese Americans during World War II, government actions before and after September 11 do not seem to amount to very much. Indeed, many media commentators have objected that even to mention them in connection with the massive violations of civil liberties by the Roosevelt administration is inappropriate.
That is an evasion: the kind of evasion that has allowed us to offer apologies for the actions we have taken against those whom we perceive to be outsiders, and then do the same thing to a different group. Time and again, scholars (if not the government) have eventually acknowledged that we, as a nation, have violated the spirit of our Constitution. Time and again, we have gone on to violate it again.
Moreover, private groups like airlines have forced citizens and aliens who look like the "enemy" to leave flights for which they had tickets -- sometimes even winning praise for doing so. "I was relieved at the story of the plane passengers a few weeks ago who refused to board if some Mideastern-looking guys were allowed to board," Peggy Noonan, a contributing editor, wrote in The Wall Street Journal. "I think we're going to require a lot of patience from a lot of innocent people. ... And you know, I don't think that's asking too much."
Optimists assure us that a mass incarceration of American citizens in concentration camps will not recur. But reflection on our past suggests we ought not to be so sanguine. To be sure, it was not just the disaster at Pearl Harbor, but the subsequent sequence of Japanese triumphs that triggered Executive Order 9066. But shouldn't we then ask, If successful terrorist attacks hadn't abated after September 11, would the current government reaction have been so moderate?
Spinless Worm Watch
Another reason never to let Trickless Dick near the presidency:
Gephardt sidesteps flag issue on S.C. visit
I see [via Atrios] that Glenn Reynolds is joining the chorus of conservative voices that are leading us toward interning Muslim-Americans. This is a dangerous trend that very well could repeat one of the really tragic mistakes of American history.
In this post today, Reynolds tries to suggest that maybe there might be some rationale later on down the road for a blanket internment of Muslims:
The wrongfulness in the World War Two internments, after all, wasn't that they happened, but that they were unjustified. Had significant numbers of American citizens of Japanese descent actually been working for the enemy, the internments would have been a regrettable necessity rather than an outrageous injustice.
In other words, if someone establishes by some "official" means that a "significant number" (could we be more vague?) of Arab-Americans is actually working for Al Qaeda, that might justify rounding up and interning Arab-Americans. (Or will it be Muslim-Americans? Hard to tell.) Thus we slide merrily down a slope already proven by history to turn quickly into a sharp cliff.
Like Reynolds' correspondent, Eric Muller, I also happen to know a great deal about the Nikkei internment, since I've also written a book (due out for publication sometime next year, from University of Washington Press) about that episode in history.
Reynolds' logic crashes on the rocks of history. There are many problems with the Japanese-American internment, only one of which was that it was unjustified. The mere fact that it happened, and more precisely, the circumstances under which it occurred -- which are being replicated today -- are perhaps the biggest problems of them all, especially in the context of the Constitution.
The centerpiece of the Japanese-American internment was FDR's Executive Order 9066, which set a precedent that has never been overturned: It gave to the U.S. military, for the first time in history, the power to control entire populations of citizens -- to arrest and intern them in concentration camps, if necessary. All that needed to happen was that the Pentagon needed to make a finding of military necessity.
And of course, the problem with FDR granting this power is that the military's procedures were accountable to no one else. With virtually no oversight -- and with the open assistance of a provost marshal intent on giving the army the power to round up civilians, regardless of their race -- the commander of the Western Defense Command was able to make a finding of "military necessity" based on not a single shred of evidence, but rather on a web of race-baiting stereotypes that made all Japanese-Americans out to be traitors.
As it happens, the Bush administration has made precisely the same move: It has empowered the military to arrest, interrogate and imprison U.S. citizens it deems to be "enemy combatants," and it is doing so without any kind of oversight or accountability outside of the secret courts that are part of the military system.
Finally, it is worth remembering that the courts (in the Hirabayashi, Yasui and Korematsu cases) specifically upheld the terms of the internment, a precedent that has never been overturned. Moreover, the courts' precedent in conceding to the judgment of the military in its power over citizens has never been overturned. As Frank Chuman puts it: "After 1943 the national policy of the United States government would be grounded on the legal precedent that whether military intentions be good, wicked, or merely capricious, the actions of the military, if based on 'findings' of 'military necessity,' would be upheld by the United States Supreme Court."
If Reynolds or anyone else wishes to confirm this, they could do themselves the favor of consulting the main texts on the legal aspects of the internment: Peter Irons' Justice at War:The Story of the Japanese-American Intermment Cases and Frank Chuman's Bamboo People: The Law and Japanese-Americans. Another important text is Roger Daniels' The Decision to Relocate the Japanese-Americans.
Now, the Nikkei internment was a fait accompli within about six months of Pearl Harbor, and clearly we are not yet duplicating the circumstances, though we are edging close enough that we are probably only another terrorist attack away from making it a reality. What's really of concern, as much as the fact that the Bush administration has put into place the mechanisms for pulling off another internment, is the kind of Muslim-bashing rhetoric that is really starting to proliferate on the right.
In this regard, I was struck by this passage from a letter writer Reynolds cites:
This is in stark contrast to many Muslims (not all) who howl about perceived civil rights violations and yet refuse to assimilate American values and culture, treat their wives and daughters as slaves and seek to supplant religious freedom with Islamic tyranny.
This passage nearly duplicates the very arguments raised by a lot of the people who were agitating for the Japanese-American internment at the time. Probably the most popular rationalization for internment in the spring of 1942 came from truisms about the Nikkei that had been established over forty years of racial propaganda. Primary among these were that the Issei -- who actually were forbidden from naturalizing as a matter of American law -- were still "loyal" to Japan by force of their citizenship; that they came to this country and never intended to return; that their clannishness and insularity were indications of potential treason among all Japanese; and that their children were being "indoctrinated" into emperor-worship at the Nikkei communities' Japanese-language schools.
All of these truisms, as it happens were either demonstrably false or only partially true and ultimately gross distortions of the real nature of the immigrant community. Many Issei indeed emigrated fully intending to stay here. Many considered themselves loyal Americans who harbored the hope that through their hard work and good citizenship, one day the prejudice against them would subside and they would be granted the right to become citizens. And certainly their Nisei children were deeply if not fully Americanized, and certainly were patriotic citizens. The schools existed almost solely for the purpose of helping the Nisei children, for whom English was their primary language, communicate with their Issei parents, who often themselves were poorly educated anyway and found English a nearly insurmountable mountain to climb.
Finally, Reynolds cites the overt patriotism of the Nisei during the internment horror, embodied by the Japanese-American Citizens' League's rather public cooperation with authorities, and contrasts it with the alleged combativeness of the Muslim-American community. But when I turn to the Web site of the most prominent Muslim-American organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, I find plenty of evidence of overt pro-American patriotism. Certainly there has been no shortage of denunciation of radical Islamists. See, for instance, the Muslim condemnation of the 9/11 attacks that is advertised with a large graphic button on the site.
Moreover, as his friend Eric Muller well knows, the JACL has for many years had to grapple with the fact that its opposition to the internment was so flaccid, and that its cooperativeness was not by any means an altogether good thing. That is, after all, an important subtext of his masterful book, Free to Die for their Country: The Story of the Japanese American Draft Resisters in World War II.
I'm working on an article on this subject for Salon. Look for more details there, though obviously I'll announce a link here when it runs.
Since we've been hearing about how Bush's every action -- economic plan, war strategy, judicial nominations -- is each so freaking "bold," let's add to the GOP Newspeak collection:
"Singleminded partisan ruthlessness is boldness."
(With a tip o' the Hatlo hat to Bob Somerby and reader Kevin Hayden.)
More Rush racism
Media Whores Online today begins tackling the sticky subject of Rush Limbaugh's racism. Sticky not only because Rush is such an icon of mainstream conservatism now, but because he's canny enough not to make it too blatant -- while still serving up great winks and nudges at the racists out there in his audience.
Conservatives always sputter when you bring this stuff up. It's not naked racism, they say. Perhaps not, if you live in a cocoon. But out in the real world, those of us who have spent any time around bona fide racists (and I'm not just talking about neo-Nazis, but the working-class and white-collar racists we all know about) know exactly how this kind of talk is perceived. It is an unofficial -- but high-profile -- endorsement of their own private views.
Most of the examples MWO cites fall into this category. As does one of the more egregious instances I witnessed (there are no links, BTW, because no one archives Limbaugh's material, which is one of the main ways Limbaugh insulates himself from being called to account for his words).
It came on Limbaugh's thankfully short-lived TV program. Limbaugh promised to show his audience footage of everyday life among welfare recipients. He then ran video of the antics of a variety of great apes -- mostly orangutans, gorillas and apes -- hanging about zoos.
The audience, of course, applauded and laughed.
Limbaugh is important, by the way, not merely because he now is one of the primary drivers of the conservative agenda. He also has played a significant role in the transmission of ideas and agendas from the extremist right into the mainstream over the past 10 years.
I've been promising to tackle the problem of the growing commerce between the extremist right and mainstream conservatism, and will do so more this week. Limbaugh plays an important part in all this.