By Kyle | April 29, 2012
“Star Trek” actor and frequent Howard Stern foil George Takei had an op-ed in the Guardian yesterday headlined “We Japanese Americans must not forget our wartime internment.” Well, not just Japanese Americans, no? We should all be outraged.
I object to the euphemism “internment” (sounds like something to do with getting coffee for Brian Williams or Tina Brown) when the plain fact is 120,000 people including Takei and his family were arrested and put in prison camps for no reason other than their ancestry. This came under express direction of FDR via executive order.
Takei’s article is well done but as Glenn Reynolds would say, “Name that party!” Name that president, too. Takei seems to think this horrorshow just sort of happened on its own. He doesn’t mention the person responsible. That naivety would be disturbing enough were it not for the fact that, towards the end of the piece, the only politicians Takei names is….Ronald Reagan!
The forced mass imprisonment without charge, says Takei,
broke apart families and whole communities, and left scars that today remain unhealed, even after the government later apologised and issued reparations. It was almost a half-century too late. President Ronald Reagan only reluctantly signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. It expressed regret for the injustice and paid a token redress of $20,000 to those survivors still alive. My father had already passed away in 1979, never to know of the apology or receive the redress money.
Only reluctantly! So Reagan’s alleged state of mind is more worthy of note than the name of the man who put Takei and his family in prison. The one political figure Takei singles out for his wrath, the man we should despise for all this is the one president who apologized and made partial amends for the outrage.
As the FDR library puts it, trying to spread the blame around in a masterpiece of buck-passing,
President Roosevelt received contradictory advice… FDR’s military advisers recommended the exclusion of persons of foreign descent, including American citizens, from sensitive areas of the country as a safeguard against espionage and sabotage. The Justice Department initially resisted any relocation order, questioning both its military necessity and its constitutionality.
But the shock of Pearl Harbor and of Japanese atrocities in the Philippines fueled already tense race relations on America’s West Coast. In the face of political, military, and public pressure, Roosevelt accepted the relocation proposal. The Attorney General acquiesced after the War Department relieved the Justice Department of any responsibility for implementation.
On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 granting the War Department broad powers to create military exclusion areas. Although the order did not identify any particular group, in practice it was used almost exclusively to intern Americans of Japanese descent. By 1943, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans had been forced fro their homes and moved to camps in remove [sic] inland areas of the United States.
The FDR library concludes, “Today, the decision to intern Japanese Americans is widely viewed by historians and legal scholars as a blemish on Roosevelt’s wartime record.” A blemish! But who can disagree? That’s exactly how historians and legal scholars treat it.