Gil Asakawa takes a “NikkeiView” of the book In Defense of Internment
By Gil Asakawa, Nikkei View
October 18, 2004 – Thank you very much, Michelle Malkin.
Thanks a bunch for writing your book, “In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror.” Thanks for trying to prove that not only was interning Japanese Americans during World War II was the right thing to do, but also urging that the United States use racial profiling as a tool today, against Muslims.
Your book and lecture tour have been the buzz of the Asian-American community for the past several months. Excited e-mails have been crossing back and forth over the Internet, alerting those of us in what you call the “ethnic grievance industry” about your book and its alarming statements.
Thanks for giving me new labels, by the way – ones that I like better than “Jap” or “Nip.” I’ve enjoyed being called, among other things in your book, “a civil rights absolutist,” part of the “PC backlash,” a “civil liberties Chicken Little,” an “ethnic lobbyist,” “internment alarmist,” “Japanese American activist” and a “rabid ethnic activist.”
Wow, you’re giving me a lot more credit than I deserve, but thank you! I love how you’ve come up with so many variations in your book for people like me, who believe in racial equality and the fundamental tenets of the U.S. to treat everyone as equals.
Of course, you don’t believe in such warm fuzzy silliness, since you’d rather lock up people using a wide net; since you think being “ethnic Japanese” was enough justification to be rounded up and herded away from the West Coast during WWII; and since you think being of Arab descent is enough for the government to profile people as possible terrorists.
Whether it’s devout Muslims or elderly Issei or young Nisei kids, you’d rather act now and ask questions later, to find out who’s actually a threat.
Michelle, I won’t bother taking up space here and refuting all the assertions you make in your book, because there have been a lot of people, including historians (I know you don’t like “academics” anymore than you like us rabid ethnic activists), who’ve done a fine job of unraveling your hysterical rant point by point.
But let me address a couple of your main theories.
First, you’re trying to make the case for the internment of Japanese Americans in light of what was known back then by the people in power, and implying that there was clear evidence of Japan establishing a spy ring of ethnic Japanese in the United States.
You think this was reason enough to clear the West Coast of anyone who was remotely Japanese, even children, because the authorities couldn’t tell who might be a spy.
You cite some examples of incidents that alarmed authorities, including a submarine attack on a California town that fanned the flames of fear that an invasion was imminent.
But you forgot to mention that the attack on the town was an isolated incident – a lucky day for the sub’s captain, no doubt – and that even then, this attack happened AFTER the President signed Executive Order 9066, which paved the way for internment. So obviously, this attack couldn’t have been one of the motivating reasons for the government to round up 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans.
You acknowledge that no Japanese American was ever convicted of espionage or sabotage, but you say that’s because some spies had weaseled their way out of a conviction (must have been “ethnic lobbyists” working on their behalf even back then!).
You claim that proof of this insidious spy network lies in the coded “MAGIC” cables that were sent through Japan’s diplomatic channels, which were surreptitiously translated throughout the war by U.S. codebreakers.
But Michelle, a host of historians and government researchers (yep, “PC backlashers”) have gone through the MAGIC cables and decided decades ago that out of the huge volume of messages, only a tiny fraction mention espionage, and when they do, it’s to state that Japan would LIKE to set up a spy ring.
Not that I know all the facts myself – I’ll rely on the majority of opinion out there that says you’re wrong, and that you’re basing most of your information on one right-wing author’s long-ago-discredited book. I’m just a JA activist, not an expert like you.
You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, Michelle. But it’s a bummer that of all the books about internment that have been published over the decades, yours has gotten so much publicity.
You’re a terrific package, Michelle: an attractive Filipina who is telegenic and fearless with your opinions who already has a track record with a previous book called “Invasion” that railed against immigration. You’ve been a darling of the right-wing media, as a syndicated newspaper columnist and a Fox News commentator. You’re controversial, and the media love controversy.
But I wonder, if the next terrorist attack turned out to be by a Filipino, and the U.S. took your advice and turned to racial profiling, if you’d be proud to go into a concentration camp with your family, just because you might be a terrorist, or your parents. Or your kids.
We know they’re not, but could the government know? And, should they care?
It’s better, right, to lock up everybody who looks like the terrorist? Who shares the culture, who maybe knows how to cook lumpia and learned to dance the Tinikling at a Filipino community center as a child, or attended church with a Filipino congregation, or who speaks Tagalog and might be making nefarious plans in a language that we “real” Americans can’t understand?
Come on, Michelle, do you really think it was OK to lock up children because they learned traditional dances and song, or went to Japanese school on Saturday mornings and they may have been brainwashed into loyalty for the Emperor of Japan?
I hate to pop your bubble, lady, but most Jas I know – today as well as the ones who were young back then – HATED going to Japanese school instead of playing with their friends on Saturdays!
The most obvious omission from your book, by the way, is how you completely avoided the topic of the growing hatred and racism aimed at Asians in general and Japanese in particular, in the decades leading up to WWII. In you world, it’s as if everyone loved the Japs until Pearl Harbor was attacked. But it wasn’t really like that, was it, Michelle?
It’s sad to see how much your hatred and paranoia has allowed you to filter reality out of your mind.
I actually think you make some valid points, even if I disagree with most of them. Yes, perhaps the world has become too PC. But I’d rather have it too politically correct than risk another unconstitutional internment.
Your book is so over-the-top that even the Bush administration has distanced itself from you and book.
I read recently that you’re starting to crack under the criticism on your lecture circuit, that you’re snapping at audience members who don’t agree with you, that you called a Japanese American a liar. I’m sure you’re blaming cancelled speaking engagements on a liberal conspiracy.
Michelle, there are a lot of people out there who disagree with you, and you know what? Not all of them is a “civil rights absolutist.”
Maybe they’re just concerned citizens who care about justice in the country we love.
That’s why I’m thanking you, Michelle. You’ve reminded so many of us, how much work still needs to be done to fight racism and prejudice in our society.
You’ve reminded us that we can’t be complacent, that we need to know our facts, and to remember our history, because otherwise someone might come after you’re long forgotten, and story the embers of hate again.
You can read a fact sheet of Frequently Asked Questions in PDF format about Michelle Malkin and her book provided by the Japanese American Citizens League (I’m a national board member of the JACL). (Note: you may need to download the free Adobe Acrobat Reader)
Or read an extensive, point-by-point refutation of her book, by professors Eric Muller and Greg Robinson. Muller is the author of “Free to Die for Their Country: The Story of the Japanese American Draft Resisters in World War II” (University of Chicago Press, 2001). Robinson wrote “By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans” (Harvard University Press, 2001).
Here’s Densho’s response to “In Defense of Internment.” The page also includes lots of links to reaction across the country and coverage of Michelle Malkin’s speaking tour.
The American Italian Historical Association, which has a Web site about the internment of people of Italian heritage during WWII, sent Malkin a letter refuting her book. Click here to download it in a PDF format. (Note: you may need to download the free Adobe Acrobat Reader)
Here’s Michelle Malkin’s Web site. She includes links to reviews and reactions to the book, and also responds to critics on this page.
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