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BOOK NOTES II

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By Michelle Malkin  •  August 24, 2004 07:20 AM

For those who are interested, I have uploaded a follow-up response to professors Eric Muller and Greg Robinson, two principal critics of my new book. You can read the whole thing here. Part I of my response to Muller and Robinson, posted a few weeks ago, is here.

I appreciate the extensive effort that these two men have made to try and refute the arguments in In Defense of Internment. The blogosphere has given us the space to engage in a substantive debate, rather than a three-minute shoutfest, and I hope readers will take the time to check out our exchanges�which show that people can disagree vehemently without resorting to spittle-spattered harangues.

That said, let me spell out the fundamental failure in Muller and Robinson’s case against my book. After some two dozen posts and nearly 18,000 words they still have not explained why, if internment, evacuation, and relocation were driven primarily by racism and wartime hysteria, our intelligence agencies were so concerned about Japanese espionage on the West Coast (see Appendix C of my book and additional documents here). Muller and Robinson have provided no analysis whatsoever of the intelligence agencies’ memos included in my book�memos from MID, ONI, and FBI that were clearly derived, sometimes verbatim, from MAGIC decrypts and that reveal the rigorous attention that military intelligence and FBI officials were paying to Japan’s spy operations and activities in the U.S. and elsewhere. To ignore these reports while advancing the view that the Roosevelt Administration’s decisions were rooted primarily or solely in wartime hysteria and racism is shoddy scholarship at best and academic malpractice at worst.

It is worth highlighting here at the start that in one of his most recent posts, Muller makes a monumental concession without referencing the memos. He quibbles not with the case I lay out about the existence of an ethnic Japanese espionage network on the West Coast, but whether it was “vast” (as I describe it) or not. Muller breezily downplays MAGIC and completely ignores the pre- and post-Pearl Harbor intelligence memos warning about Japan’s espionage network. Instead, he hides behind an Army historian’s book review of the late David Lowman’s book, MAGIC–which also ignores the intelligence memos.

Readers can look at both the MAGIC messages and intelligence memos in my book and judge for themselves whether my description of the espionage network as “vast” is fair. But notice Muller’s shift here. We are no longer arguing about whether a military rationale existed�and remember, the vast majority of critics of the WWII evacuation/relocation/internment policies argue that no military necessity existed whatsoever�but how large it was.

Whose thesis is shrinking?

Muller is quoted in a critical review of my book by Cathy Young in the Boston Globe conceding that:

…”there were valid reasons, both in intelligence information and from what was generally known, for the government to take some sort of protective action touching Japanese aliens and most probably at least some of the so-called “Kibei,” American citizens who had been sent to Japan for their education” — but no basis for the nature and scope of the actions that were taken…

Fascinating. As I note in my book, the public officials who opposed mass evacuation and relocation in early 1942 supported the indefinite detention of thousands of Kibei who had not been charged with a crime. Since the Kibei were U.S. citizens, locking them up presumably would have required suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and/or a declaration of martial law. Is Muller suggesting that such actions would have been justified?

I do not plan on making a lifetime hobby out of responding to every new blog post from Muller and Robinson about my book, but I will continue to reply when time permits.

***

John Hawkins, Deacon at Powerline Blog, David Limbaugh, and Dale Franks share their varying thoughts on the book.

***

Cathy Young’s critical review in the Boston Globe can be viewed here. Young, a committed open borders libertarian who panned my first book, Invasion, tries to persuade conservatives that In Defense of Internment is “harmful” because it “is likely to promote anti-immigrant bias, contempt for civil liberties, and the attitude that acknowledging the racism of our past is for namby-pamby liberals or America-hating lefties.” She ends by bemoaning:

And that’s a shame. It was President Reagan, a great conservative, who first authorized reparations for Japanese-American internees and issued an apology for the injustice done to them. For conservatives to embrace Malkin’s extremism is a betrayal of his legacy.

If Young read my book, she knows that her statement is inaccurate. Reagan, who signed the 1988 Civil Liberties Act, was not the first to authorize reparations for Japanese-Americans. As I note on pp. 115-116, the American-Japanese Evacuations Claim Act was signed into law in 1948 and eight more compensation-related laws were passed between 1951 and 1978. These included benefits for federal employees of Japanese ancestry; a Social Security Act amendment deeming Japanese Americans over the age of eighteen to have earned and contributed to the government retirement syste during their relocation; and amendments to the federal civil service retirement provisions giving Japanese Americans credit for the time spent in relocation centers after the age of eighteen.

Young also states that no American citizens of German or Italian ancestry were forced out of the West Coast. This is untrue. As I note in my book, hundreds of American citizens of German ancestry were among those excluded.

Echoing Muller , Young writes the following regarding my debunking of the myth of America’s “concentration camps:”

“The Case for Internment” also assails the “myth” that the internment and relocation camps were “Nazi-style death camps.” But who claims that they were? This is a classic straw man. Malkin has waxed indignant at the charge that she whitewashes conditions in the camps. Yet she devotes exactly three sentences to the shootings of residents by guards, while extensively discussing the camps’ various amenities and the petty complaints of some internees.

I address this argument here–see part 4(a). You can read the chapter in question for yourself here.

Young and I agree on one thing: President Reagan was a great conservative. But even great conservatives sometimes err. Two of Reagan’s big bungles were the signing of the 1986 mass amnesty for illegal aliens and the 1988 reparations law which singled out ethnic Japanese evacuees, relocatees, and internees but provided no acknowledgement of or compensation for the internees of European descent who lived side by side with ethnic Japanese internees during the war. Pointing out Reagan’s mistakes is not a “betrayal of his legacy.” Pointing out his mistakes is…pointing out his mistakes.

***

The rest of the criticism of the book by lesser detractors is mostly uninformed and irrelevant noise. I do want to address one typical attack from some bloggers and other blowhard critics who don’t have enough brain cells to muster up a coherent case against my book: that I’m a self-loathing sellout.

The idea that since I am an Asian-American who has defended the so-called Japanese-American internment, I must therefore hate myself, is absurd. What in the world does my ethnic heritage (Filipino) have to do with the book’s thesis? And, notwithstanding the goons at UNITY Journalists of Color Inc., why in the world is it assumed that Americans of Asian/Pacific Island descent should adhere to a single political orthodoxy on all matters of race and ethnicity? Eugene Volokh reveals the illogic and psychobabble behind those who employ the “self-hating” smear here.

***

For other reviews and upcoming appearances, check my book section here.

***

New visitors to the blog should note that I have an online errata page for my book here. Everybody makes mistakes. Few like to admit it. But I think it’s a good idea to keep track of factual errors and I encourage readers to bring any others to my attention.

Some will seize on admissions of errors as a reason to cast doubt on my book research and journalism career. This is ridiculous. Show me a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper that has never had to make a correction. Sparkey at Sgt. Stryker has a good post here on empty and hypocritical ad hominem attacks by those who gloat over minor errors.

***

I’ll close out this entry with excerpts from an insightful letter I received from Burl Burlingame, author of a great book, Advance-Force Pearl Harbor, published by the Naval Institute Press. Burlingame is a Honolulu-based journalist and military historian who generously shared photos of the Niihau Incident for my book. Ultimately, he disagrees with my conclusions, but he made the following pointed observations:

�I think internment [the West Coast evacuation/relocation] was a dumb idea that backfired and was counterproductive. It also invited criticism that, no matter how well-founded, still resonates. In a free society, guilt can be used as weapon.

On the other hand, second-guessing is a scholarly sport these days. Decisions made under the stress of crisis never consider the long-range implications, particularly those made by military personnel, who are trained to act, not react. It “seemed like a good idea at the time” to relocate Japanese-Americans, and just let the Constitutional chips fall where they lay. There was a coast to protect and inadequate resources to do so.

Here’s a simple point often overlooked — internment would never have happened if Japan had not attacked the United States.

Some of the responders on your website downplay the presence of Japanese submarines off the West Coast. As my book “Advance Force” points out, these craft did not have the incredible success the German subs did off the East Coast, but they also had incredible distances to travel, fewer resources to prosecute attacks and a battle plan that, for the most part, ignored commercial traffic. Still, the Imperial Japanese Navy was sinking shipping right up to the end of the war– and let’s not forget the mission to destroy the Panama Canal in the summer of 1945, nor the thousands of balloon bombs that carried incendiary weapons and were being readied to carry anthrax when the war ended.

War is a mean business. It is directed by people who want to kill the enemy. It is not spun for long-term public-relations value�No one was in any mood to assuage armchair critics 60 years in the future.

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