Sins of Omission

The Star Chamber

In 1975, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) launched a campaign for reparations for those Japanese who had been forced to evacuate the West Coast during World War II.  A heavily financed lobbying effort came to fruition five years later when the House of Representatives passed a bill creating the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians.  The commission’s primary mission was to review “the facts and circumstances surrounding Executive Order Numbered 9066, issued February 19, 1942, and the impact of such Executive Order on American citizens and permanent resident aliens.”  The commission was also directed to “recommend appropriate remedies.”

That the commission was to recommend “remedies” indicates that government guilt had already been assumed: The commission needed only to gather evidence to support that conclusion and determine the nature of reparations.  Nearly all nine commissioners—three appointed by President Carter and six by Congress—had long histories of leftist activism.  Joan Z. Bernstein, who would chair the commission, had already declared the evacuation “a blot on the history of the U.S.”  Former Supreme Court justice and National Lawyers Guild member Arthur J. Goldberg had called it “a horrendous thing.”  Hugh B. Mitchell, a representative from Washington state, termed it “a...

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