Polemics & Exchanges

On Internment

Roger McGrath’s article “American MAGIC and Japanese-American Spies” (Sins of Omission, October 2002) deserves a reply.

I am not ignorant of the MAGIC?intercepts, but I insist that the United States was wrong to put the Nisei into concentration camps.  California Japanese born in Japan did become enemy aliens on December 7, 1941, subject to internment.  But their children, born in the United States, were U.S. citizens.  Placing them in concentration camps was a terrible violation of the Constitution.

Although a few Nisei were traitors, most were utterly loyal to the country their parents had adopted, as demonstrated by their performance in the U.S. Army in Italy during World War II.

Why weren’t Nisei in Hawaii jailed?  Was the danger of attack greater in California or in Hawaii?  Did Hawaii law forbid Orientals to own property?  No.  But California law did.  Franklin D. Roosevelt was a politician who did whatever it took to get votes, pandering to the racism of Californians at the time.

As terrible as Roosevelt’s interning of thousands of U.S. citizens was, that crime pales in comparison to what he did to the American spirit.  FDR taught Americans to look to the federal government to solve their problems.  The reparations program is...

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