Yesterday’s Seattle PI carried a review of Michelle Malkin’s new book, In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror. Whatever you have to say about Malkin (and you won’t find much flattering here), you’ve got to hand it to her, she’s hit the civil liberties trifecta by devising a title that encompasses three issues which, for most Americans (though certainly not her) are bugaboos: racial profiling, the Japanese-American internment, and the 9/11 anti-terror crusade. Let’s make no mistake about it, one of the main purposes of this book, if not the only purpose is to stick a finger in the eye of liberals, Commies and other do-gooders who see those issues as a black mark on the American conscience. Her sole goal here is to say: “Not so fast, buddy.”
Another interesting psycho-social issue to explore is why Malkin, whose last book (Invasion) was about crime perpetrated by illegal aliens, has such a fixation on immigrants and immigration? These books fall squarely into the time-worn tradition of American Nativist paranoia and race hatred. She herself is a child of Filipino immigrants. Apparently, for Malkin the only good immigrant is one who disavows his/her culture and ethnicity, learns English (while rejecting whatever language he/she previously spoke) and does everything is her/his power to assimilate into the great American melting pot.
I too am the grandchild of immigrants. But unlike Malkin, my sympathies for immigrants are not restricted only to the good ones as opposed to the bad. Of course, any immigrants who betray their adopted country should be apprehended. But I don’t believe that because 19 Muslims hijacked planes and crashed them into the Twin Towers that we would be justified in abandoning our civil and religious liberties and targeting en masse members of whatever group attacked us.
Eric Muller and Greg Robinson have already done much of the research disassembling Malkin’s claims and I will rely on them heavily here. One of the more odious elements of this book is the jacket cover which juxtaposes portraits of Mohammed Atta and Richard Kotoshirodo (a Japanese-American employed by the Japanese consulate who was assigned to report on shipping movements at Pearl Harbor before the Japanese attack). Here Malkin, reprehensibly tries to indict the entire Japanese-American community by equating the acts of Kotoshirodo and Atta. And what were these acts? The former spied on American shipping and the latter killed 3,000 Americans. I see the equivalence, don’t you? As Muller says:
This cover will suggest to the ordinary person that American citizens of Japanese ancestry presented World War II America with the same sorts of risks as Al Qaeda does today. If that’s not a scandalous aspersion on the loyalty and character of Japanese Americans, I don’t know what is.
Here is one of Malkin’s key arguments:
It should be obvious to any fair-minded person that the decisions made were not based primarily on racism and wartime hysteria” (page 80)
Malkin cannot summarily dismiss the race hatred argument since the government and military officials involved were all too transparent about it in the memos they wrote at the time. Just to take a single example: Gen. DeWitt, the west coast military commander, noted to John McCloy, his civilian superior that a primary justification for the internment was that “a Jap is a Jap.” He also said:
“The Japanese race is an enemy race and while many second and third generation Japanese born on United States soil, possessed of United States citizenship, have become ‘Americanized,’ the racial strains are undiluted.”
It IS clear to almost every scholar of this issue and to most Americans that hatred and hysteria DID play a preponderant role in motivating the internment. For Malkin to ignore this flood of critical historical research is something akin to what David Irving did in attempting to explain the Holocaust away. Make no mistake, I’m not calling her a Nazi or Nazi sympathizer. But for a supposed political intellectual like her to make such a flying leap into the void on such flimsy evidence is about as egregious breach of intellectual integrity as one can imagine. But of course, I’m giving her too much credit. For what she really is something like Matt Drudge dressed to kill or Sean Hanity with makeup. Sensationalism and outrage, rather than solid history, is her game and in this book she’s really in her element.
Muller continues his discussion of Malkin’s thesis:
Her argument is that intercepted and decrypted Japanese “chatter” about efforts (a small number claimed to have been successful) to recruit Japanese aliens (“Issei”) and American citizens of Japanese ancestry (“Nisei”) was “the Roosevelt administration’s solid rationale for evacuation.” (page 141)
A primary foundation of her claim is that the Japanese government engaged in a scheme to recruit spies and involve them in espionage or sabotage. There certainly is historical evidence to support that the Japanese TRIED to do this. But it is a very long leap from a government official expressing an interest in doing something to actually doing it. Malkin has made the very serious mistake of conflating the two.
Greg Robinson refutes this argument:
The MAGIC cables [these are the secret Japanese government communications which American intelligence intercepted] do not present the image of a Japanese American spy network.
Most of the cables discussed (a tiny handful of the thousands of messages decrypted) come from Tokyo or Mexico City and refer to areas outside the United States. Those cables that do speak of the United States detail various efforts by Japan to build networks, and list hopes or intentions rather than actions or results.
There is no evidence that any individuals had been recruited as agents, still less that they were actively giving information.
Here Malkin gets to the heart of her argument equating the internment with 9/11:
“There are parallels between World War II and the War on Terror, but the don’t make the proper comparisons. The Japanese espionage network and the Islamic terrorist network exploited many of the same immigration loopholes and relied on many of the same institutions to enter the country and insinuate themselves into the American mainstream. Members of both networks arrived here on student visas and religious visas. Both used spiritual centers–Buddhist churches for the Japanese, mosques for the Islamists–as central organizing points. Both used native-language newspapers to foment subversive tendencies. Both leaned on extensive ethnic- or religious-based fundraising groups for support–kais for the Japanese, Islamic charities for Middle Eastern terrorists. Both had operatives in the U.S. military. Both aggressively recruited American citizens as spies or saboteurs, especially (but not exclusively) inside their ethnic communities. Both were spearheaded by fanatics with an intense interest in biological and chemical weapons.”
What can one say? Sounds persuasive maybe, until you realize that the “Japanese espionage network” she’s talking about didn’t exist. So where does that leave your comparison? In the drink I’d say. The linguistic choices here provoke severe discomfort (another effect Malkin was aiming for): “insinuate themselves into the American mainstream,” “foment subversive tendencies,”fanatics with an intense interest in biological and chemical weapons.” What she’s doing here is impugning the entire Japanese-American and Arab American communities using highly provocative and prejudicial terminology to do so.
If you might mistakenly have thought that Malkin drew upon original ideas or research sources in putting together her book, rest easy. She didn’t have to bust her butt on this one because she took a book by a previous anti-Japanese hack named David Lowman, a book seriously disputed and disproven by scholars at the time. Her argument relies on the same exact documents as Lowman and parrots the same prejudicial perspective on the evidence.
No less a figure than James McNaughton, a senior U.S. Army historian, has taken apart Lowman’s thesis that the MAGIC cables documented Japanese subversion and led to the internment:
Lowman fervently believes that the raw [MAGIC] intercepts speak for themselves and trump other sources of intelligence on the Japanese American community. However, the messages speak more of intentions than results. . . .
The hints contained in MAGIC, if decision-makers paid them any heed at all, were not by themselves sufficient to justify the mass evacuation and incarceration of over 100,000 civilians. . . .
Lowman’s book rehashes old arguments and gives a tortured reading of the available intelligence sources. He errs in giving absolute primacy to communications intelligence, no matter how ambiguous. His polemics should be viewed as symptomatic of the lingering bitterness stemming from Pearl Harbor and the emotions raised by apologies and compensation.
So why does Malkin base her book on the work of a discredited U.S. government intelligence operative which was published in 1977? Your guess is as good as mine. But recycling discredited historical ideas seems to be a Fox, and Malkin, stock in trade.
Malkin would have you know that despite all the race prejudice she’s justifying in this work, that she doesn’t support a similar internment for Arabs. But why not, the 9/11 hijackers killed Americans while the alleged Japanese spies killed no one. Why shouldn’t they be interned? In my opinion, Malkin finally shows a few moral compunctions; or perhaps she made a shrewd judgment that she could say many patently outrageous things here, but calling for Arab internment would be one step too far. But as a result, she betrays a failure of nerve in refusing to follow her thesis through to its logical conclusion. And by saying that she opposes Arab internment she severely weakens the case she’s tried to make for Japanese internment.
Let me finally add one highly personal element to this debate. Not only am I a grandchild of immigrants, I am Jewish and a number of my great aunts and uncles died in the Holocaust. In fact, one said to my grandmother before leaving New York for Poland in 1929: Tz’is a ganevishe land (“it is a thieving country”). He was certainly right, but he didn’t realize that he was fleeing thievery and heading toward murder.
Why are we so naive as to think that if Nazi race hatred could lead to an event of such historic enormity as the Holocaust that equally abhorrent racist views spouted by the likes of Malkin and her cronies at Fox News won’t hurt real people and real Americans to boot (whether they wish to acknowledge Arab-Americans as such or not)? The lessons of my history show me that words matter and words of hate lead to concrete and sometimes horrible outcomes. The problem with people like Malkin is that they deal in ideological abstraction so readily that they cannot see the real repercussions of their idiotic theories and suppositions.