Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Malkin, dual citizenship and profiling

Over at her blog, Michelle Malkin has posted a lengthy response (including a separate Word document) to her critics, primarily Eric Muller and Greg Robinson (your humble correspondent, evidently, has been designated a "lesser detractor" whose posts have been "mostly uninformed and irrelevant noise"; of course, I'll let my readers judge for themselves).

Muller, as always, can more than adequately speak for himself. But something Malkin writes in the response on her blog is especially noteworthy, because it gets to the core of what is wrong with her In Defense of Internment.

Malkin, somewhat correctly, is annoyed that some commentators have referred to her as "self-hating":
The idea that since I am an Asian-American who has defended the so-called Japanese-American internment, I must therefore hate myself, is absurd. What in the world does my ethnic heritage (Filipino) have to do with the book's thesis?

Of course, she's quite right that the presumption that because she's Asian American she "ought to be" opposed to the Japanese American internment is nonsense. However, the fact that she is of Filipino descent in fact has a great deal to do with her book's thesis.

Malkin, you see, makes great hay of the fact of "dual citizenship" among the Nisei as a clear indicator of "torn loyalties" and a cause to suspect them of potential sabotage or espionage.

But Malkin, as it happens, is a dual citizen herself.

Under Filipino law, any child born to Filipino parents, whether living abroad or not, is reckoned a Filipino citizen. Malkin was born in Philadelphia in 1970 to Filipino-immigrant parents.

This Filipino government site explains the details of this:
Dual citizenship is the status of a person who is a citizen of two or more states. For example, a child born in the United States of parents who are Filipino citizens is both a Filipino (since his parents are Filipinos at the time of birth) and an American (since he was born in the United States).

The only means by which Malkin could have shed her dual-citizen status would have been by filing for the "express renunciation of citizenship." Perhaps Malkin has done so, but considering the lengths at which she has discussed the significance of the failure of the Nisei to renounce their Japanese citizenship -- and the fact that she has not been shy about dicussing her personal background in the context of the book's theses -- it seems she'd have told us about it by now if she had.

Malkin discusses the dual-citizenship issue in the longer Word-doc response to Muller and Robinson:
4. Was dual citizenship among Nisei a "canard," as Robinson asserts? This is false. In February 1942, the overwhelming majority of adult Nisei (U.S.-born American citizens of Japanese descent who were 18 years or older) were dual citizens, meaning they were citizens of both Japan and the U.S. Robinson says the citizenship conferred by Japan on Japanese-Americans was "nominal." The fact that thousands of Nisei served in the Japanese military proves that many Nisei took their Japanese citizenship quite seriously. (See p. 24 of my book: Estimates of how many Nisei ended up joining the Imperial Army and Navy forces range from 1,648 to as high as 7,000, not including those who assisted the Japanese military in other capacities.) Robinson says individuals from many other ethnic groups were dual citizens as well, but provides no evidence to support this assertion.

The Issei

It might be useful at this juncture to examine more fully exactly what Malkin writes in her book on dual citizenship, particularly pages 23-24:
Another connection between most of America's ethnic Japanese and Japan was Japanese citizenship. With the exception of a small handful of World War I veterans who were granted citizenship through special legislation, all of the Issei were Japanese citizens because they were precluded by U.S. law from becoming U.S. citizens. For many Issei, the connection to Japan was naturally much stronger than the connection to the United States. [Malkin goes on to cite a couple of anecdotes regarding Issei loyalty to Japan, especially in Hawaii, as support.]

A few words about the Issei: There is little question that indeed many Issei remained loyal to Japan and never had any intention, let alone hope, of ever becoming American. While a certain amount of native loyalty certainly was at play in this syndrome, almost just as certainly the major factor in the persistence of this attitude lay in the very fact that the American government discriminated against all Asian races in refusing them the right to naturalize.

It's a classic one-two setup: Refuse citizenship to an entire nation's immigrants, then suspect them of disloyalty for not becoming citizens. Its use was a commonplace, especially in the letters to the editor, in the spring of 1942; what's surprising is that Malkin manages to dust off this tactic's mouldering corpse and prop it up long enough to make an argument out of it.

It's also worth noting that Malkin utterly ignores the role of racism in creating this situation. The reality is that, for the 40 years preceding Pearl Harbor, white supremacist beliefs about the "undesirability" of allowing "Asian blood to mix" with that of whites dominated American immigration policy regarding Asians. A typical expression of the supposed unassimilability of Asians in America was the phrase, "Oil and water don't mix."

Between the years 1912 and 1924, a concerted campaign by whites on the Pacific Coast to completely drive out all Japanese immigrants and return them to their homeland was one of the major subjects of the public discourse in the West. Riding a wave of "Yellow Peril" conspiracy theories -- which, among other things, posited that the Japanese immigrants actually were secret shock troops sent by the Emperor to act as an immediate fifth column for a long-planned invasion of the Coast -- most of the Western states, beginning with California, passed a series of "Alien Land Laws" which sought to deprive the Japanese immigrants of the right to own land. Even a brief review (and especially a more detailed one) makes unmistakably clear the nakedly racist nature of this campaign. "This is a white man's land!" was one of their chief rallying cries.

Indeed, underlying all of the anti-Japanese campaigns of the early 1900s were the bedrock principles of white supremacism. The widespread belief that white people were the consummate creation of nature, and that they were destined to bring the world civilization and light, went essentially unquestioned. And it was supported by popular literature and self-proclaimed "scientists" who used the questionable methodology of the day to lend an academic veneer to longstanding racial prejudices.

Among the most popular of the time were Lothrop Stoddard and Madison Grant, who boasted credentials from Harvard and Yale universities respectively. They approached the matter of race ostensibly from anthropological and biological perspectives, but in fact largely did little more than clothe white supremacism in pseudo-scientific language. Wrote Grant, in his 1916 text The Passing of the Great Race:
"We Americans must realize that the altruistic ideals which have controlled our social development during the past century, and the maudlin sentimentalism that has made America 'an asylum for the oppressed,' are sweeping the nation toward a racial abyss. If the Melting Pot is allowed to boil without control, and we continue to follow our national motto and deliberately blind ourselves to all 'distinctions of race, creed, or color,' the type of native American of Colonial descent will become as extinct as the Athenian of the age of Pericles, and the Viking of the days of Rollo."

And as Stoddard would later write in The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy -- a 1922 work complete with admiring introduction from Grant -- the real threat was not blacks in the South, but Asians: "There is no immediate danger of the world being swamped by black blood. But there is a very imminent danger that the white stocks may be swamped by Asiatic blood."

Both of the men's books were national bestsellers (sound familiar?) that underwent multiple printings. And their core arguments -- which became entwined with deeply cherished beliefs about the nature of race -- provided an intellectual and "scientific" veneer to the campaign to exclude the Japanese. Ultimately the issue was couched, like many racial issues of the preceding century, in the terminology of eugenics, a popular pseudo-science that saw careful racial breeding as the source of social and personal good health. Thus many of the campaigns against non-whites cast the race in question as not merely subhuman but pernicious vermin who posed a serious threat to the "health" of the white race. As James Phelan, arguing for exclusion in California, put it: "The rats are in the granary. They have gotten in under the door and they are breeding with alarming rapidity. We must get rid of them or lose the granary."

These people called themselves "exclusionists," and after passing a succession of Alien Land Laws, they won their greatest victory in 1924 when they succeeded in passing a federal law -- known as the "Asian Exclusion Act" -- forbidding any further Japanese emigration.

The United States Supreme Court seems to have been affected by this mindset as well. Its 1922 ruling in Ozawa v. United States officially sanctioned the exclusion of all Asian races. A Japanese immigrant named Takao Ozawa -- arguing that he had been almost entirely raised and educated in the United States, was a product of its universities, and was a Christian who spoke English in his home -- sought to overturn a district-court ruling that denied him the right to seek citizenship. And though the Court agreed that he was "well qualified by character and education for citizenship," it denied his appeal on the grounds that immigration laws limited naturalization to "free white persons and aliens of African nativity."

The decision was settled well within the parameters of the written law, which were largely inarguable. But even in this ruling -- issued, of course, at the apex of the agitation -- there is a hint of the underlying racism. Near the end of the text, the court says:
These decisions are sustained by numerous scientific authorities, which we do not deem it necessary to review.

It's a reasonable guess that those "scientific authorities" more than likely were along the lines of Lothrop and Stoddard.

Taken in isolation, these little acts of racial mean-spiritedness may have seemed of little moment. But in fact they had consequences that eventually exploded into the history books. In Japan, the public had been closely watching the passage of the Alien Land Laws with mounting outrage. And when news of the passage of the Asian Exclusion Act was announced, mass riots broke out in Tokyo and other cities. As Pearl Buck would later observe, the then-nascent movement for American-style democracy, which had been slowly gaining momentum in Japan, was effectively wiped out overnight. The military authoritarians who would control the nation for the next 20 years gained complete political mastery, and one of the cornerstones of their rule was a bellicose anti-Americanism that would finally reach fruition in late 1941.

Moreover, the attitudes engendered in America by the 1912-24 campaign remained powerfully embedded in the public mindset in 1941-42, especially the belief in the innate treacherousness of the Issei. Indeed, it was still widely believed they were only mercenaries who intended to return to Japan eventually; and consequently, it would be surprising if they were loyal.

The truth, of course, was a great deal more complicated. The depiction of Japanese immigrants as essentially mercenary probably was true of the first wave of immigrants from Japan, who mostly arrived between 1896 and 1900. These men were largely mizonumi, or lower-class laborers and tradesmen with a very loose and often nonexistent familial structure. But the pattern of Japanese emigration to America proved identical to the internal migration patterns within Japan for the preceding centuries: After the mizonumi came honbyaksho, or middle-class and family-oriented emigrants, who became more settled and turned new commerce centers into actual communities. So in America after 1900, the majority of Issei were people who were far more inclined to see their new home as a permanent one.

Indeed, the reality was that by 1942, the large majority of long-term resident Issei who remained had been here since at least 1924, and likewise the vast majority of those emigrants were loyal to the United States, not Japan. The oral histories are full of stories told by Nisei of their Issei parents' silent hopes that one day their adopted home would finally accept them as citizens. (It finally did, by the way, in 1952, with the passage of the Walter-McCarron Act, which included a section allowing for naturalization of Japanese immigrants.) For an especially moving account of the complextiy of Issei attitudes about America, see Louis Fiset's excellent Imprisoned Apart: The World War II Correspondence of an Issei Couple.

'Divided loyalties'

Malkin gives the old mythology about the Issei a fresh life here, and her abbreviated description of the situation of the Issei of course serves a polemical purpose. It's all part of her theme of divided loyalties, which she believes were rampant among Japanese Americans -- including the Nisei.
The overwhelming majority if Nisei adults were citizens of both Japan and the United States (that is, dual citizens). Children born to Japanese fathers before 1924 were automatically given Japanese citizenship, no matter where they were born. Beginning in 1924, under the Japanese Nationality Law, children born in the United States retained Japanese citizenship only if their parents registered them at the Japanese consulate within two weeks of birth. This same law also made it easier for dual citizens to renounce their Japanese citizenship. By December 1941, few had done so, according to the ONI.

This paragraph is correct, insofar as it goes. However, it must be noted that by limiting her sample to "Nisei adults", Malkin elides the fact that only a quarter of all Nisei were dual citizens.

Now undoubtedly, some Nisei were fully aware of their dual citizenship and what it meant. But the vast majority of Nisei were so Americanized that they scarcely gave it a passing thought. Many remained utterly ignorant of their dual-citizenship status and were stunned to discover that it was something being held against them.

The reality is that most Nisei -- like Michelle Malkin herself -- gave the fact of their dual citizenship little or no thought, if they were even aware of it. Taking the effort to renounce it was unlikely, unless it became an issue under familial or other circumstances -- including, of course, war. (And when asked, later during the war, to renounce their Japanese citizenship, the vast majority of both Issei and Nisei in fact did so.)

I try to describe what daily life was like for the Nisei in Strawberry Days: The Rise and Fall of a Japanese American Community [due spring 2005 from Palgrave/Macmillan]. Here's a brief extract:
Children being the innocents they are, it was common for Japanese youngsters to play with their Caucasian neighbors. However, the amount that the children mixed tended to depend on how well their parents had acclimated to life in the United States. Those who spoke only Japanese in their homes tended to lead more insular lives, associating only with other Japanese, while those fluent in English or -- like the Matsuokas -- Nisei parents tended to be more comfortable with their neighbors, and their children were more likely to feel integrated.

It wasn't until later, when she was a teenager, that Rae Matsuoka realized that there was something setting her apart from her classmates. "See, I don't think I realized I was different. ... When we went to school, we just considered ourselves American. And, we didn't differentiate between myself and a Caucasian classmate. I guess I realized fairly soon that I wasn't exactly Caucasian, and of course, we found out for sure when the war broke out. But before that I am sure that someplace along the way you get exposed to attitudes and, of course, prejudices. And you learn from that. So we absorbed that, but on the whole, I was more friendly, more close, to some of the Caucasian kids."

Conversely, the youngsters whose parents spoke little or no English often remained cocooned in the Japanese community until they reached school age. Mitsuko Hashiguchi says that when first enrolled, she was acutely aware of her difference from other children: "Like when I first went to school at first grade, I couldn't talk English. I couldn't even write my own name, to tell you the truth. Of course, then, after that, I became an American.

"But we were Japanese until a certain age, and then after that, maybe about second grade, I began to Americanize right away. Because I had my American friends. Oh, there were Japanese girls to play with, but that would be your neighbor friends. As far as activities in schools, I was involved with American friends."

Barriers tended to fall away once the children picked up the language and acclimated to their schoolmates. In school at least, the Nisei in Bellevue felt they were largely accepted as equals.

"Oh, yeah, I was part of the school," says Hashiguchi. "And my neighbor was a German family, over the fence -- it went that way, north of me, were German people, and so we went over there and grew up with Mary all the time. Everything we did was with Mary there. So I think I became Americanized quicker than my other Japanese friends for some reason, I don't know. I really don't know. Our family was that way, I guess."

And in truth, many of their Caucasian neighbors thought highly of their Japanese neighbors. "I think most people admired them because they were so industrious, and they were so honest, and the children -- apparently the parents put a lot of value on education, so the children were very good students," says Pat Sandbo, who returned to Bellevue after she graduated from high school and taught in the Bellevue schools. "I think we admired them. ... They were just as American as the next kid."


... Despite being told at every turn—sometimes even inadvertently, amid acts of kindness -- that they could never hope to really fit in, the young Nisei children wanted desperately to be considered normal Americans like everyone else. They worshipped Gary Cooper and Mary Pickford, Sonja Henie and Babe Ruth, just like their classmates, and wore clothes and hairstyles like them too. And secretly, they wished they weren't Japanese.

"I am very dark compared to most Japanese, and so I was teased about that," says Chizuko Norton. "Well, I have to admit that I did a lot of complaining about being different and also having that called to my attention by my Nisei friends as well. Because to be dark was ... I still think it's not all that much appreciated among the Japanese. And I remember sticking adhesive tape all over my hands. You know, when you tear off the tape, your skin is light. Well, I thought that that would keep light for longer than just a few seconds. And the other thing is ... praying to be white for just one day."

"To be white, that was my thinking," recalls Kiyo Yabuki, who was born in 1923 in Yarrow Point. "Ah, I wished I were white. I put the white on a pedestal. Even though I would criticize or condemn, maybe, I still had that mentality where I wished I were white. It may have been that I was ashamed of my own features."

A dinner at the home of a favorite teacher drove home the point to Michi Nishimura, the daughter of Asaichi Tsushima. When she sat down at the dinner table, she was confronted for the first time in her life with a steak -- and eating such a thing with a new kind of utensil.

"I had never had a steak before," she recalls. "And I had the hardest time cutting it. The kids -- they had children -- they would sit there and snicker at me. Mrs. Cash said something; I remember her talking to them, saying, 'That's not polite.'

"There were so many things like that which -- it's not things that we would think of now as what our children would go through. It was something foreign to us, to eat with knives and forks, because we ate with chopsticks all the time. Things that ordinarily you wouldn't think about, and yet they made us different from our Caucasian friends.

"I think a lot of us were ashamed of our parentage at times. There were times when I must have thought: I wish I weren't Japanese."

The Nisei "dual citizens" rarely thought of themselves as subjects of Japan. Many of them attended Japanese language schools, learned Japanese arts and generally cherished their heritage. However, the desire to Americanize was overwhelmingly part of the Nisei experience.

Along these lines, another "Yellow Peril"-related belief lingered in 1942: The notion that the language schools were centers for "indoctrination" where the young Nisei were disciplined in worship of the Emperor. This was a base canard supported by only the scantest evidence; the vast majority of these schools in fact were simply part of the immigrant communities' internal-support system.

Nonetheless, Malkin resurrects this old nugget:
Japan's Department of Education supplied Japanese-language schools with textbooks reminding ethnic Japanese youngsters of their citizenship ties to Japan. "The objective of Japanese education, no matter in what country it may be, is to teach the people never to be ashamed of their Japanese citizenship," said one junior high school textbook. "We must never forget -- not even for a moment -- that we are Japanese."

In contrast, I describe in Strawberry Days the real-life nature of these schools. Another extract:
The Issei were also concerned about the growing gap between them and their children. Since many of the immigrants themselves had little education and were nearly helpless when it came to learning English, their first solution was to educate their children in Japanese language and culture as a way of strengthening communication as well as ties to their heritage. A Japanese language school had been started in Bellevue in 1921, but was shut down amid the Alien Land Law agitation.

Though the main intent of the Issei was simply to close the language and cultural gap between themselves and their children, the schools consistently were a source of suspicion in Caucasian communities along the Pacific Coast, in no small part due to anti-Japanese propaganda claiming that the Nisei children were being indoctrinated into emperor worship and forced to swear loyalty to Japan. Those suspicions, at least in Bellevue, were utterly groundless; none of the Nisei can recall any lessons even remotely approaching such topics, other than geography and history lessons about Japan incidental to learning the language.

A second language school opened in 1925 and held at an Issei home in the Downey Hill area until 1929, when community leaders organized the first Japanese language school at a building in Medina, at 88th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 18th Street. Asaichi Tsushima was the first teacher.

Around the same time, leaders of the Japanese community began making plans to build their own center for gatherings. By 1930, they had built the Japanese Community Clubhouse at 101st Avenue Northeast and Northeast 11th Street and dedicated it in late July of 1930. It had 16-foot-high ceilings to accommodate the basketball court the builders installed as its main floor. Some 500 people, including the leading citizens of Bellevue, attended.

The language schools were consolidated at the clubhouse, which soon became the hub for the segregated community. The Seinenkai meetings were held there. And the language lessons at the schoolhouse, which initially were held only on Saturdays, were expanded to daily hour-long sessions after school.

The sessions weren't always popular with the young Nisei. Many of them, the boys especially, hated trudging the extra mile or so to the schoolhouse while all their classmates got to have the Saturdays or afternoons off. And they weren't really interested in learning Japanese. They, after all, wanted to be Americans. Most of them recall being good students at regular school, but poor students in Japanese.

"I used to pack my lunch, go over there, get in fights, learn how to throw a baseball," recalls Alan Yabuki, whose parents operated a greenhouse in the Yarrow Point area. "That’s what I used to do."

Mitsuko Hashiguchi, however, reveled in the cultural growth the school offered: "I loved the Japanese school. And I went 12 years, and I went to night classes."

Tom Matsuoka did not make his children attend the Japanese school. "He says, 'I want you guys to be able to learn English, speak it well, because this is where you are going to live. Don't want to get muddled up in this' -- a lot of these people speak in mixed idioms once in awhile," recalls Ty Matsuoka.

"Oh, but those kids just go for eating lunch, that's all," says Tom now. "They don't learn nothing. They talk the English all the time back and forth, you know."

Still, Matsuoka chipped in and helped drive the teachers for the school from the ferry dock to the school, since by 1932 he had a car, which was frequently pressed into service chauffering youngsters and their mentors to and from activities of all kinds. "Mrs. Tajitsu and Mrs. Takekawa, they used to come teach at the Bellevue School on Saturday," Tom recalls. "And so they come on the ferry, and somebody have to go on the ferry and pick them up, and take them back to the ferry after the school. [But] I never sent the kids, and had nothing to do with the Japanese school."

Now, I have to point out that my reportage here is hardly groundbreaking. Many hundreds of accounts of the Japanese American experience have been written. It isn't hard to find information that provides a much more complete picture by which to judge both the Nisei and the behavior of the government officials who placed them in concentration camps -- and not merely through hindsight.

But as I've already observed (as have both Muller and Robinson), that is the real flaw in Malkin's methodology. If information exists that might counter, for example, her imputations of "torn loyalties" to the majority of Nisei, or the overwhelming abundance of evidence of the highly significant and at times decisive role played by racism in the unfolding drama that culminated in the "relocation centers" -- well, Michelle simply doesn't even mention it. It's just left out altogether.

Now, this is a kind of meta-dishonesty, but Malkin is hoping to get away with it through a combination of chutzpah and propaganda technique. However, this dishonesty permeates nearly every corner of her text, even on the micro level. See, for instance, what she attempts to pull off in the next half-paragraph:
A 1941 ONI memo reports that Japan placed considerable pressure on Nisei dual citizens to serve in the Japanese military.

Gosh, doesn't that sound to you like Japan was pressuring all those Nisei kids in America?

Well, yes, unless you go back and check what the memo she cites actually says.

It's right there on p. 236, under the heading "Conscription":
Considerable evidence exists of such pressure being brought to bear on dual citizens and even expatriated citizens of Japanese ancestry who are in Japan as students or even workers.

That's right. The pressure was being brought to bear on Nisei who were in Japan at the time. In fact, the pressure was so great that many of these same students found themselves (just as the heading suggests) forcibly conscripted into the Japanese army. Under Japanese law, all male citizens -- dual or otherwise -- were subject to conscription in Japan.

The Encyclopedia of Japanese American History mentions this in its entry under "dual citizenship":
Even after the passage of the law [in 1924 liberalizing renunciation], a good percentage of the Nisei population kept their dual citizenship, many of them just never getting around to ridding themselves of their Japanese citizenship. For a few, this oversight had tragic consequences: some Nisei visiting Japan just prior to World War II were forced to stay and serve in the Japanese army because of their Japanese citizenship.

Indeed, in some cases, the students were virtually shanghaied into service, which in fact Malkin next describes:
According to the memo, Kazuichi Hashimoto of Terminal Island, California, took a group of forty young ethnic Japanese (presumably Nisei dual citizens) to Japan, supposedly to teach them fencing. "However," the memo states, "it is suspected that these young people were taken to Japan for military duty."

Though critics of the West Coast evacuation and relocation say dual citizenship was of no consequence, the presence of Nisei in Japan's military suggests otherwise. Estimates of how many Nisei ended up joining the Imperial Army and Navy ranges from 1,648 (the official figure given by the Japanese government) to as high as 7,000 -- not including those who assisted the Japanese military in other operations. ...

Forgoing the usual sourcing question about Malkin's upper-end figure regarding the number of conscriptees (7,000 is not terribly likely, and the official number is what is broadly accepted as accurate), it's more important, perhaps, to sit back and ask: What kind of moral reprobate would trivialize what was a real tragedy to many of the victims of this kind of forced conscription? Imputing that people forced into service of the enemy under these conditions are "disloyal" is possible only if you have no sense of fairness, not to mention intellectual integrity. (Malkin goes on to cite the notorious case of Tomoya Kawakita, a Nisei translator who tortured American prisoners during the war and attempted to settle in the States afterward; but she presents not a whit of evidence that the majority of the conscriptees went willingly, and there is considerable anecdotal evidence that they did not.)

So there you have it: The belief that both the Issei and the Nisei were largely disloyal was well grounded, so long as you overlook the fact that they really weren't.

The internment and profiling

This is Malkin's methodology in a nutshell: Find a handful of facts, selectively edit and compile them in a way that ignores countervailing evidence, and present them as representative of the bigger picture. That isn't history; it's propaganda.

Malkin may think of this all as an exercise in polemics, all in the pursuit of "debunking" critics of modern-day racial profiling in the "war on terror." But the truth is that, by defending the indefensible -- which, in the end, is what the Japanese American internment was -- she has replicated almost exactly the mistakes of her forebears in 1942, impugning the loyalty of nearly 80,000 citizens and another 40,000 longtime resident immigrants without a whit of solid evidence to support her.

Even Burl Burlingame -- the author of Advance Force Pearl Harbor, a text she cites, as do I -- had this to say, at the end of a post chastising the critics who have tried (wrongly, I have to fully agree) to shout Malkin down:
Let me be clear. Although Michelle based much of her "book" (it's actually more of a padded essay) on my original research and upon my book "Advance Force," I personally think relocation and internment was perhaps inevitable given the tenor of the time, but was still wrong and unjustified. No, it goes beyond wrong. It was stupid and counterproductive and continues to embarrass to this day. The ONLY good to come out of it was as an object lesson -- to be vigilant about protecting the Constitutional rights of all. Even that part about free speech.

[It should be noted that Malkin also cites a somewhat complimentary letter from Burlingame at her blog, the full text of which he posted at his site.]

As several of Malkin's critics have already pointed out: If what she wanted was to defend, as ultimately she does, racial profiling in 2004 America as part of the "war on terror," she could not have chosen a more inappropriate example than the internment of Japanese Americans.

Of course, I've said much the same thing on repeated occasions: No matter how you reckon the internment, it was simply an unfathomable waste. It achieved nothing in terms of enhancing national security, it worsened the wartime food supply, and it was extraordinarily costly, both for the taxpayers and the Japanese American evacuees. It almost certainly wreaked harm on the Constitution. And for what?

Moreover, in defending the internment as an instance of an appropriate homeland-security measure in its time and context, Malkin is offering up the very model of why seemingly "temperate" measures such as those she proposes in her final chapter can metastacize wildly into phenomena well beyond the scope of what anyone might originally have envisioned. Internment planners, remember, wanted first to just put the Issei and Kibei into camps; then they decided to simply "evacuate" the Coast of Japanese and help the Nisei to "voluntarily" relocate. But then complications arose, and the next thing everyone knew, there were 122,000 people behing held indefinitely behind barbed wire.

Now, Malkin commends such limited measures as profiling travelers from "Muslim-dominated countries" deemed to be of "elevated concern."

As it happens, one of the "Muslim-dominated countries" currently on that list is the Philippines, which has had more than its share of terrorist activity in the past several decades, and a known Al Qaeda presence as well.

Now, under Michelle's own criteria, her status as a dual citizen of the Philippines might render her a person of high interest were she to travel much. In fact, if dual citizenship is a sign of "divided loyalties," it might be time hold her in serious suspicion of covert terrorist activity. And then, once detained, she might be held under "special rules" and become subject to the same "special courts" she recommends on p. 159 -- you know, the ones that "would allow certain evidence that is not admissible in a conventional civilian court, and for national security reasions, the defendant and his or her lawyer would not be allowed to view certain evidence."

I don't know about Malkin, but that sounds like an Orwellian nightmare to me, and I shudder at the very thought of even creating that kind of machinery, let alone being caught up in it.

Empathy is hardly Malkin's strong suit. But a little reflection on her own rather fragile position, especially when it comes to racial profiling, might lead her to stand back and reconsider exactly what the hell it is she is arguing.

And then, perhaps, she can try applying the same principle to the Nikkei internment. Once again, a little empathy could go a long way.

[Note: Be sure to catch Eric Muller debating Malkin at a Philly public-radio station today from 10-11 EDT.]

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