Saturday, December 10, 2005

Malkin on the Japanese internment

Harry Eager posted the following in a comment over at Pharyngula as a response to something I said. I wanted to respond to it, but since my response is long and I thought we had already hijacked that thread sufficiently, I decided to post my response here, along with his entire comment. I hope he doesn't mind.

Harry Eager write:
IN DEFENSE OF INTERNMENT: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror, by Michelle Malkin. 376 pages. Regnery, $27.95.

The dust jacket of Michelle Malkin’s frankly, even offensively provocative "In Defense of Internment" matches photos of two men, Richard Kotoshirodo and Mohammed Atta.
So what did Richard Kotoshirodo, a Nisei chauffeur at the Japanese consulate in Honolulu in 1941, do to be equated to the most notorious mass murderer of the 21st century? Well, nothing.
He drove a Japanese naval officer who was undercover at the consulate as a spy around places like Pearl City, where they counted battleships in Pearl Harbor. From this, and interrogations made by the Internee Hearing Board in 1942, Malkin presents Kotoshirodo as an example of a dangerous, disloyal Japanese-American, thus justifying the
imprisonment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans on military security grounds.
Malkin quotes Kotoshirodo as being asked whether he was "100% American" or "100% Japanese." And he replied, "As I recall, I was 100% Japanese."
Malkin conveniently reproduces a photocopy of the original transcript, which shows that Kotoshirodo meant that during the war between Japan and China, he was for Japan.
It’s true enough, as Malkin claims, that many, maybe even most Japanese-Americans had divided loyalties in 1941. It is little to their credit, but they backed Japan's war on China.
However, when the choice came to be between Japan and America, the Japanese-Americans in 1941 were overwhelmingly loyal to America.
It should have been no surprise in 1941 -– and it is a scandal in 2004 not to know it -- that Japanese-Americans felt this way. As early as 1912, in the first issue of the Hawaii Hochi newspaper, publisher Kinzaburo Makino gave this as his goal: "<\q>.<\q>.<\q.> to acquaint (the Nisei) with <\q>.<\q>.<\q.> American government and social systems, not only to enable them to fully utilize their rights and privileges as citizens, but to further develop them into patriotic American citizens <\q>.<\q>.<\q.>
"We shall be fair, but we shall protect the interests of the Japanese."
By the early 1920s, according to the sociologist Harry Kitano, almost every Japantown in the western states had its Loyalty (to the United States) League.
In order to reinforce a point about present-day politics, Malkin, a widely circulated opinion columnist, needs to prove that American authorities in 1942 had a well-founded concern about the likelihood of a Japanese invasion of the western states, or of sabotage by Japanese-Americans living there.
The invasion fear can be easily disposed of. As early as 1934, the leading naval theorist of the time, Adm. Sir Herbert Richmond, had quoted an American assistant secretary of the Navy in 1919 who "had dismissed the possibility (of a naval landing) even if there were no (U.S.) navy."
That was Franklin Roosevelt, the man who signed Executive Order 9066 that drove Japanese-Americans citizens out of their homes in 1942.
But about a third of the Japanese-Americans sent to concentration camps were not citizens, and Malkin makes much of the fact that enemy aliens could, according to ancient law, be interned, arrested or imprisoned in time of war.
That’s true, but Malkin, who freely accuses her critics of intellectual dishonesty, dishonestly ignores the fact that Issei (immigrants from Japan) were forbidden to become naturalized citizens. Malkin mentions this, just barely, but never bothers to analyze what it means. It is enough for her purposes to label them, accurately, as enemy aliens and let it go at that.
No doubt many would have become American citizens if they had been allowed to, if only to get around the racist California laws that prevented them from owning real estate.
The sabotage scare can be as completely dismissed, since the roundup did not get well under way until the war was six months old; and by that time there still had not been any sabotage reported.
Malkin pins her greatest faith on intercepted Japanese coded cables ("MAGIC"), many of which she also conveniently reproduces, to prove the existence of active Japanese spies in America. So there were, many of them serving officers in the Imperial Navy, but the decrypts do not, as she pretends, prove that there were many –- or any -- Issei or Nisei spies helping them.
Malkin has made a prosecutor’s case, a weak one further weakened by misrepresentation, misinterpretation and omissions. A historian would have used more evidence and reached a different verdict.
It’s unfortunate that Malkin chose such an approach, because her main point is worth discussing: whether Islamic terrorism should be combated as a matter for the police or as all-out war.
Malkin favors war, as opposed to "civil liberties purists" who contend that, "Not only must suspected terrorists be charged with a crime, <\q>.<\q>.<\q.> but the crime they are charged with must be related to terrorism."
Hers is a sensible position, and her pro-police antagonists are on shaky ground when they equate Guantanamo Bay cells for fighters with barbed-wire villages for farmers in the California desert. The correct response from Malkin should have been to ridicule their confusion, not to pervert history.
Would profiling be helpful in a war against Islam?
The religion claims to be a universalizing one, but it is a fact that it is largely local, restricted for the most part to citizens of 49 nations, who share a few languages, and many customs such as dress, food and rituals, which are almost completely absent among their target, the infidels.
The Islamists have no problem profiling their enemies.
First, Malkin didn't use Kotoshirodo as "an example of a dangerous, disloyal Japanese-American", she used him as an example of how the justice system was inadequate to deal with espionage. Kotoshirodo didn't just drive someone around, he went around himself, taking pictures of and recording details of Naval operation. He admitted that he knew or suspected that he was gathering information to aid a Japanese attack. Charges were brought against him and either they were dismissed or he was found not guilty (I don't recall which) on the grounds that he had not done anything illegal; he only wrote down and photographed public events. Actually, this incident showed two things, that our justice system could not protect us from Japanese spies and that American racism, even after Pearl Harbor, was mild enough that they would release a Japanese guy who had aided in the Pearl Harbor attack.

As to your statement that "when the choice came to be between Japan and America, the Japanese-Americans in 1941 were overwhelmingly loyal to America", Malkin provides a lot of evidence that this is not the case. You can disagree, but you can't just say so and expect us to take your word for it; you have to counter her evidence. For example, you quoted a newspaper to support your view, but you didn't mention the newspapers that Malkin quoted: the Japanese-language papers that supported Japan even after Pearl Harbor. And if almost every Japantown had it's loyalty league, almost every one also had its Japanese school where they taught Emperor-worship as part of their religion. One thing that we have all forgotten, and that Malkin tried to remind us, is that the Japanese religion demanded that they be loyal to Japan (or, more specifically, the emperor).

I don't think that Malkin made any distinction between citizens and non-citizens in her discussion of historical internments, so she had no reason to bring up the fact that Japanese were not allowed to become citizens.

I think it would have been enormously reckless to just "dismiss" the sabotage scare, just because nothing serious happened in the first six months. Sabotage plans can take years to mature and for all we know, the internment could have prevented a planned attack that would have set the war effort back by years. It's pretty easy to sit here six decades after we know how things turned out and second guess their decisions. Back then, they were in severe danger and they had a right to take severe steps to protect themselves.

Finally, I don't think Malkin ever claimed that the MAGIC cables proved that all the Japanese were loyal to Japan. What they proved is that Japan fully expected the Japanese in America, both citizen and Nisei, to rise up and support Japan in any way they could. Surely if the enemy believed it, then it was wise for us to take it seriously. And if it was racist for Americans to believe that, what was it for the Japanese?

No comments: