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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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Jim Vesely
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Lee Moriwaki
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Bruce Ramsey
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Kate Riley
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Lynne Varner
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September 07, 2005

On the Internment

My column on the Japanese internment, available here, refers to a 1942 memo by John J. McCloy. You can see that memo by clicking here and scrolling down. The historian who sent me the memo, Greg Robinson, has a blog entry available here. Again, scroll down.

Some responses to the column:

There's no question in my mind that the vast majority of those Japanese-Americans meant us no harm but there's also no question in my mind that there are those who did and that's what you have to stop and consider. Just like today, the vast majority of Arab-Americans don't mean us any harm, either, but there are those who do like that bunch they arrested in Buffalo, NY a while back for terrorist activities. So just being born in this country doesn't prove a thing. The easiest thing in the world to do is to play the part of the Monday morning quarterback and second guess. It is both wrong and unfair trying to judge history by today's standards. You've got to be objective and think in light of the the times we were living in. In 1942, this country was in a struggle for survival. There wasn't time to assess where the individual loyalties of each and every Japanese-American might lie. Due process was a luxury time constraints didn't allow... [Also] at that point in time, the Japanese-Americans were an endangered species, it wasn't safe for them to be walking the streets considering what the general feelings and attitudes were back then so it was done mainly for their own protection more than anything else.

The moral to the story is that the war inconvenienced a lot of people, not just the Japanese-Americans and while there can certainly be no doubt that they suffered a great deal, it doesn't even begin to compare with the suffering that, say, the people of central and eastern Europe went through. Unfortunately, that's the nature of the beast because, hey, let's face it--war is not designed to be fair, even-handed, or compassionate, like I said, it's a struggle for survival! I think this should all be taken as just a history lesson and left at that.

And this one, from a Japanese-American:

My community of Bainbridge Island has been working for seven years to create a memorial to honor and remember the first Japanese Americans who were forcibly removed to concentration camps in World War II. We call our project "Nidoto Nai Yoni" which translates to "Let it not happen again." We deliberately chose this name years ago because we don't want to cast blame, but we want people to learn from this chapter in American history about the fragility of our constitution, and to hopefully inspire everyone to be vigilant to preserve and protect the rights for all.

This one, from Spokane:

My dad served in WWll in the Pacific; he joined the Navy in 1944. My wife’s dad spent the whole war in the US Navy as an officer. They both are gone now but they were tough, fair compassionate men who supported the internment. In retrospect, it was a horrible mistake but we can learn from it if we talk openly and honestly about it.

And this one, from an academic on the East Coast:

It is not the future internemt of Japanese Americans that is of direct concern, it is the idea of internment in general. That seems to be where you are going but you never quite get there.

Also you could have mentioned the ramifications of such actions in the modern world. You do not mention the detention of Arab Americans conducted under the guise of material witness statutes. You do not even mention the notion of internment of Arab Americans, which is the most likely group to be singled out in the modern America. It would even be a lot easier to do so, they represent a smaller percentage of the population than the Japanese did. There is more evidence of people of Middle Eastern Origins actively planning to attack the US than there was of the Japanese. Yet your piece remains silent on the issue.

Respond to Bruce.

 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at September 7, 2005 03:44 PM



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