In need of a history lesson

So Edward Rothstein writes a “review” of the Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center in Powell, Wyoming.  Heart Mountain was one of ten or so U.S. concentration camps located in desolate areas.  During World War II, the camps housed approximately 110,000 people of Japanese descent, two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens. They hadn’t been accused of crimes. Intelligence didn’t suggest they were a threat to national security. They were rounded up and held without trial because of their race. Even small children and orphans.

Rothstein devotes about a quarter of his article to a review of the center.  The rest?  Rationale for the internment.

First, we’ve got the “they did it too” argument:

But wartime internment was more the rule than the exception. During World War I many European countries incarcerated citizens of opposing nations; the United States, too, imprisoned “enemy aliens,” including Germans who were not citizens.

During World War II Japanese-Canadians were put in camps. In Britain, even Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany were interned as enemy aliens on the Isle of Man.

Next we’ve got the Yellow Peril, they’re-not-like us argument:

It would help, too, to have a clearer understanding of the prewar Japanese-American population, which is now portrayed as homogenously assimilationist. But we know that 1930s Japan was a racist, militant society, convinced of the emperor’s divinity, and that a considerable number of Nisei were sent there to study.

Because of course people in 1930’s Japan are just like U.S. born people of Japanese descent.  Once a J*p, always a J*p.  (General John DeWitt:  “A J*p’s a J*p whether he’s an American citizen or not. I don’t want any of them.”)

Rothstein goes on to link World War II-era reports written in support of the internment, the MAGIC cables and Michelle M@lkin.  But he’s not suggesting the concentration camps were right, because he isn’t racist:

I am not suggesting that such factors justified the relocations. Almost all of the internees were surely innocent, and most deserved the rights of citizens. The policy was racially tinged and hysterical in its sweep. But at the very least, the context demonstrates that the relocation was a response — an extreme one — to a problem. There was a geographical rationale, not simply a racial one.

Got that? He gives you all the good reasons to lock up the furriners, but he’s not justifying it. Because “almost all” of the internees were “surely innocent.” Don’t forget about all those American of Japanese descent who were convicted of spying during World War II. How many were there? Why … none.

How many of the internees volunteered for the service from the concentration camps? I don’t know the exact number, but something like 18,000 Japanese Americans served. Since the majority of Japanese Americans in the continental U.S. lived on the west coast, it’s fair to assume that a large number left to serve their country from the camps.

The policy was “racially tinged.” But there was a “geographical rationale.” Which is why everybody of Japanese descent in Hawaii was thrown in the camps as well. Fully a third of the whole damn state. Except they weren’t.

I never cease to be amazed by the amount of misinformation spread by people who know so little about the history of the U.S. concentration camps. And the systemic support of their racist views, as evidenced by this feature article in the New York Times. History is told by the victor. The truth is apparently less important.

 

Edited to add:  Here’s another article about those dangerous orphans

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