Dangerous Revisionist History: Reviving the "Military Necessity" Argument

In Defense of Internment: Excerpts and Articles

Michelle Malkin, a Filipino American syndicated columnist and FOX News commentator, has written a controversial book defending Franklin Roosevelt's wartime decision to incarcerate resident Japanese immigrants and their U.S.-citizen children without evidence or trial. In Defense of Internment: The Case for "Racial Profiling" in World War II and the War on Terror argues that Roosevelt's correct "close call" was not racist, but was justified by intercepted intelligence about a West Coast spy network. Malkin asserts that "civil liberties absolutists" today are using the internment to hinder anti-terrorist efforts. She maintains that certain groups must be "inconvenienced" in the quest for national security.

Publisher's book jacket text

In Defense of Internment is published by Regnery Publishing, also the source of such titles as Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry; At Any Cost: How Al Gore Tried to Steal the Election; and The Bible Is History. Regnery promotes In Defense of Internment with these words:
"Everything you've been taught about the World War II 'internment camps' in America is wrong. In her latest investigative tour de force, New York Times bestselling author Michelle Malkin sets the historical record straight--and debunks radical ethnic alarmists who distort history to undermine common sense and national security… Misguided guilt about the past continues to hamper our ability to prevent future terrorist attacks. In Defense of Internment shows that the detention of enemy aliens, and the mass evacuation and relocation of ethnic Japanese from the West Coast were not the result of irrational hatred or conspiratorial bigotry. This document-packed book highlights the vast amount of intelligence, including top-secret 'MAGIC' messages, which revealed the Japanese espionage threat on the West Coast. Malkin also tells the truth about:
  • who resided in enemy alien internment camps (nearly half were of European ancestry)
  • what the West Coast relocation centers were really like (tens of thousands of ethnic Japanese were allowed to leave; hundreds voluntarily chose to move in)
  • why the $1.65 billion federal reparations law for Japanese internees and evacuees was a bipartisan disaster
  • and how both Japanese American and Arab/Muslim American leaders have united to undermine America's safety. "

Excerpts from In Defense of Internment

"The politically correct myth of American 'concentration camps' has become enshrined as incontrovertible wisdom in the gullible press, postmodern academia, the cash-hungry grievance industry, and liberal Hollywood. This hijacking of history is endangering us today"(p. xx).

"Make no mistake: I am not advocating rounding up all Arabs or Muslims and tossing them into camps, but when we are under attack, 'racial profiling' -- or more precisely, threat profiling -- is justified. It is unfortunate that well-intentioned Arabs and Muslims might be burdened because of terrorists who share their race, nationality or religion. But any inconvenience, no matter how bothersome or offensive, is preferable to being incinerated at your office desk by a flaming hijacked plane" (p. xxx).

"Civil rights absolutists and ethnic lobbyists waged an intimidating campaign for reparations and redress on behalf of ethnic Japanese evacuees. In 1988, relying on the biased conclusion of a stacked federal panel that the World War II evacuation and relocation were based on 'race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership,' President Reagan issued a formal apology… The most damaging legacy of this apologia and compensation package has been its impact on national security efforts. The ethnic grievance industry and civil liberties Chicken Littles wield the reparations law like a bludgeon over the War on Terror debate" (p.xxxiv).

"Much as been made of the presence of barbed wire and armed guards at the relocation centers. But the military forces were scant, and at most camps the fencing was erected more to mark property boundaries and keep out wildlife and range cattle than to corral camp residents" (p. 108).

"Today's military and political leaders are besieged by ethnic activists exploiting distorted World War II history. In their efforts to fight terrorism, the current wartime administration is hampered by politically correct sensitivity to, and unwarranted guilt over, a false account of its predessors' actions to protect the homeland six decades ago" (pp. 114-15).

"Those who have sought to cut off vital debate over these matters invoke the internment card and shriek that 'the terrorists have won' if we curtail civil liberties. Wartime presidents can't afford to indulge such nonsense. Their first duty is the nation's preservation, not self-flagellation. As commander in chief, Roosevelt resolutely understood what Bush knows now: A nation can't stand for anything unless it is still standing. For defending this unalterable truth, America need never apologize" (p. 165).

Opposition to In Defense of Internment

Densho's executive director and chairman of the board published an editorial in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 12, 2004 (http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/185873_densho12.html):

"Malkin can distort the record to prove her political point, but we do not need to follow her inflammatory prescription for ethnic division and religious discrimination. We should not pervert history or deny painful lessons in our desire to be safe."

Fred Korematsu, whose Supreme Court challenge of the forced removal figures prominently in Japanese American history, published an opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, September 16, 2004 ( http://www.sfgate.com/ cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/09/16/EDGP28P0T11.DTL ):

"If someone is a spy or terrorist they should be prosecuted for their actions. But no one should ever be locked away simply because they share the same race, ethnicity, or religion as a spy or terrorist. If that principle was not learned from the internment of Japanese Americans, then these are very dangerous times for our democracy."

The Japanese American Citizens League offers a webpage critiquing Malkin's book and includes links to statements by other organizations that oppose her position (http://www.jacl.org/news_and_current_events/malkin/index.html):

"Michelle Malkin has every right to express her views. This is a fundamental American principle, even if her assertions are speculative and unsupported by the facts. However, respecting free speech does not deter a response to these foul views. It is important to get history right, especially if it bears on current events where the fair treatment of easily profiled groups such as Arab Americans lies in the balance."

The Historians Committee for Fairness (http://hnn.us/comments/40982.html), thirty-nine historians and researchers, including faculty from Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Washington have issued a statement declaring Malkin's book "reckless," "distorted," and "historically inaccurate." The statement chastises mass-media outlets such as MSNBC who have invited Malkin to promote her book without an opposing speaker:

"This work presents a version of history that is contradicted by several decades of scholarly research, including works by the official historian of the United States Army and an official U.S. government commission. ..It is irresponsible of your producers to permit Michelle Malkin's biased presentation of events to go unchallenged as a factual historical presentation."

For a point-by-point refutation of Malkin's arguments by scholars Eric Muller and Greg Robinson, see Muller's weblog (http://www.isthatlegal.org/Muller_and_Robinson_on_Malkin.html). Eric 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). Greg Robinson wrote By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans (Harvard University Press, 2001).

Eric Muller, a professor of law at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, has this to say:

"What does Michelle offer to discredit the copiously documented influences of nativism, economic jealousy, racial stereotyping, rumor-mongering, and hysteria on the series of decisions that constituted the program Michelle defends? Nothing. Literally not one single thing. Not a sentence."

Tetsuden Kashima, professor of American ethnic studies at the University of Washington and author of Judgment without Trial: Japanese American Imprisonment during World War II (cited by Malkin), commented in a September 24, 2004, letter to the Seattle Times editor ( http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/ cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=frilets24&date=20040924 ):

"Michelle Malkin asserts incorrectly that pre-World War II decoded Magic cables revealed a Japanese spy network that ostensibly included Japanese immigrants and their American-citizen children, thus justifying their indiscriminate and total incarceration…. Actions taken against individuals or groups must be based on proven evidence, due process, and reasoned justice. This is the American way. "

Dave Niewert, an award-winning Pacific Northwest journalist and author of Death on the Fourth of July: The Story of a Killing, a Trial, and Hate Crime in America says this on his website (Orcinus):

"In Defense of Internment takes a few small slices of fact, removes them from their larger context or distorts their significance, embellishes them with non-facts, either sneeringly dismisses or utterly ignores an entire ocean of contravening evidence, and then pronounces the whole enterprise history. That isn't history. It's propaganda."

Jeff Yang dissects Malkin's "irrelevant" and "redundant" documentation in his essay "The XYZ Affair: How Michelle Malkin Learned to Stop Worrying and Defend the Internment," The Village Voice, September 28, 2004 (http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0439/essay.php):

"The bulk of the book is documentation: reproductions of MAGIC cables and government memos, photos of key personages and places, exhaustive footnotes, and a 17-page index. Malkin's admirers point to this as evidence of scholarly rigor. A more objective observer might compare this avalanche of addenda to Styrofoam packing peanuts. Like said shipping materials, they protect and support vulnerable contents, they have little weight or worth in and of themselves, and they are copious and annoying."

Bruce Ramsey concedes a point but faults Malkin's conclusions in a September 9, 2004, Seattle Times book review ( http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/ cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=malkin19&date=20040919 ):

"Boiling the internment down to racism and hysteria does oversimplify it. Too often we use history as a bumper sticker in today's political battles. There are extraordinary times when liberty has to be compromised. This book is a reminder that some people are far too easily persuaded that the time has come."

Gil Asakawa in Denver Post.com, October 19, 2004, "thanks" Malkin for reminding us of how much work still needs to be done to fight prejudice in our society ( http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36%257E29080%257E,00.html ):

"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."

Coverage of Malkin's national book tour

The Seattle Times reporter Joanna Horowitz, in her article "Author Sees Need for Racial Profiling," August 7, 2004, quotes an observer at Malkin's first promotional appearance for her book, which took place at an evangelical church in Bothell, Washington (http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/ texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=malkin07m&date=20040807):

"Dominic Fleming, an ex-military Ranger from Kenmore, also was outraged by Malkin's claims and her overwhelming support from the crowd. 'I think I sacrificed a lot for this country, and it really disturbs me when I see people expounding the idea of concentration camps all over again,' he said. 'It's a bit ironic that they're preaching for racial profiling and concentration camps in a house of God in the land of the free.'"

The Honolulu Star Bulletin on August 9, 2004, printed an opinion piece, "Never Again Should the U.S. Deny Individual Rights on the Basis of Ethnicity," by David Forman, a Harvard-educated attorney, on the occasion of Malkin's appearance in Honolulu, timed to coincide with the annual convention of the Japanese American Citizens League (http://starbulletin.com/2004/08/09/editorial/commentary.html):

"I do agree with one observation made by Malkin: 'All Americans -- especially our students -- deserve an accurate account of the past.' However, her baseless accusation that 'Japanese-American activists and their media allies have engaged in 'educational malpractice' rings hollow. A person truly interested in providing an 'accurate account of the past' surely would not gloss over the context provided by the virulent racism and the organized anti-Japanese movement that relegated Japanese immigrants and their families to second-class status."

San Francisco Chronicle journalist Eric Guillermo questions Malkin's motives in the September 7, 2004, column "Internment Camp Redux," in reference to Malkin's talk at the University of California, Berkeley (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi? file=/gate/archive/2004/09/07/eguillermo.DTL):

" Malkin is the perfect ideological suicide bomber for this topic. She's straight out of right-wing central casting. Malkin is so far out to the right on this, she's up a creek in her own little boat of revisionist history fashioned from old documents that may be interesting, but don't exactly get her from point A to B without getting all wet….On the internment issue, Malkin's the Asian American careerist who wants attention so much, she'll gladly sell out all our civil liberties for a little publicity."

The Washington Post journalist Richard Leiby, in his "Reliable Source" column of September 12, 2004 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A15622-2004Sep12.html), reported that "flame-throwing syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin" was asked at the last minute not to speak to Republican students at American University because Bush campaign representatives did not want the party associated with a writer who condoned internment. According to Leiby:

"Malkin, who has also generated controversy for suggesting that one of John Kerry's war wounds was 'self-inflicted,' told us: 'I'm disappointed but not surprised. I feel sorry for the AU students who got bullied by the Bush campaign's control freaks... . GOP operatives leaned on the kids to put the election over their education. Pathetic.'"

Calls to change Bainbridge Island curriculum

The Seattle Times printed "Some Things Are Not Debatable" by staff columnist Danny Westneat on September 8, 2004 (http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/ texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=danny08&date=20040908). Westneat speaks about the influence of Malkin's book in Bainbridge Island, the community near Seattle from which the first Japanese American families were removed under Executive Order 9066:

"Recently some parents contended it is 'propaganda' to teach sixth-graders that the internment of Japanese Americans was a mistake.The debate was prompted, in part, by Michelle Malkin, who wrote a book defending the internment. Her thesis is that some Japanese Americans were spies and so the racial profiling was justified.

It is indisputable in hindsight that the internment was a failure and a colossal waste of money. That's what they are teaching the sixth-graders on Bainbridge Island - that the internment uprooted the lives of American citizens and failed to achieve its security goals. Isn't this what the teaching of history is for? It's not to give equal time to all ideas, regardless of merit. It's to describe the past accurately, and then analyze it to learn why it happened and what it means today. "

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer weighed in on the Bainbridge Island situation in a September 7, 2004, editorial piece entitled "Protect Internment Class" (http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/189638_interned.html):

"We're not sure exactly what 'context' some parents complain is missing from Bainbridge Island social studies teacher Marie Marrs' 'Leaving our Island' program about the internment of Japanese island residents in the spring of 1942. What 'context' justified the rounding up and incarceration of people -- many of them American citizens -- on the grounds of their race?"

Malkin's rebuttals

Michelle Malkin answers her critics and provides links to both positive and negative articles on her website (http://michellemalkin.com/books.htm). She invites open debate on her weblog and then characterizes her detractors as "internment-card alarmists," "second-tier critics," and "PC historians" whose points are "scurrilous," "hysterical," "lame non-responses," and "uninformed bitter mutterings."

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