The Syrian “refugee”kefuffle is just a gift that keeps on giving. At this point I’m not all that certain what it is giving and whom is receiving, that will become more clear over time. A couple of days ago, we posted on the growing resistance of governors to the resettlement of Syrian “refugees” in their states. Now we have a new entrant to the scrum, the Democrat mayor of Roanoke, VA.
A Roanoke mayor is getting national attention after citing the use of internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II to justify suspending the relocation of Syrian refugees to his city in Virginia.
After requesting that all Roanoke Valley agencies stop Syrian refugee assistance, Mayor David Bowers, a Democrat, wrote in a statement: “I’m reminded that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it appears that the threat of harm to America from Isis now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.”
Anyway, George Takei, has-been C-list celebrity, denizen of cosplay conventions, racist assclown, and self-appointed shepherd of America’s soul, was OFFENDED!!1!11!!11! and he took to Facebook to tell us all just how righteous he was etc. etc. etc. He didn’t mention homosexual marriage in the diatribe which, itself, is something of an anomaly because #LoveWins.
Mayor Bowers, there are a few key points of history you seem to have missed:
1) The internment (not a “sequester”) was not of Japanese “foreign nationals,” but of Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens. I was one of them, and my family and I spent 4 years in prison camps because we happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor. It is my life’s mission to never let such a thing happen again in America.
2) There never was any proven incident of espionage or sabotage from the suspected “enemies” then, just as there has been no act of terrorism from any of the 1,854 Syrian refugees the U.S. already has accepted. We were judged based on who we looked like, and that is about as un-American as it gets.
3) If you are attempting to compare the actual threat of harm from the 120,000 of us who were interned then to the Syrian situation now, the simple answer is this: There was no threat. We loved America. We were decent, honest, hard-working folks. Tens of thousands of lives were ruined, over nothing.
Mayor Bowers, one of the reasons I am telling our story on Broadway eight times a week in Allegiance is because of people like you. You who hold a position of authority and power, but you demonstrably have failed to learn the most basic of American civics or history lessons. So Mayor Bowers, I am officially inviting you to come see our show, as my personal guest. Perhaps you, too, will come away with more compassion and understanding. (ed… seriously, you’d make the man sit through a freakin’ musical?)
I am not going to defend the internment of Americans of Japanese decent. But, inadvertently, Takei makes a very good case for why it happened. In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, there was very real fear that a Japanese Fifth Column existed. Along with that fear was a series of Japanese attacks on the West Coast. Of February 23, 1942, the Japanese submarine, I-17, shelled the oil terminal at Ellwood, CA. On February 24, 1942, Los Angeles thought it was under air attack and anti-aircraft guns fired through most of the night.On June, 21, 1942, the Japanese submarine, I-25, shelled Fort Stevens, OR. I-25 returned to Oregon on September 9, 1942, launched its float plane (Yokosuka E14Y) and dropped incendiary bombs in the Sisikyou National Forest with the goal of starting catastrophic forest fires.
The point of this being that there was a real fear on the West Coast that invasion was imminent and there were actual Japanese attacks on American soil. When FDR signed Executive Order 9066 (don’t you just love Executive Orders), he was acting based on real fear. We know now that those fears were fanciful and the attacks, necessarily, few and small, but our knowledge was not available to them. So yes, we did round up people who “happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor” — and who spoke their language and who had family among them and who were born in that country — and we interned them. It wasn’t an high point in American history but, as they say, democracy is not a suicide pact and inter arma emim silent leges is very real (ask the 6 electrocuted German saboteurs — oh, that’s right, you can’t ask them). A challenge to internment arrived at the Supreme Court in 1944 and by a 6-3 decision was found Constitutional. That decision, Korematsu versus United States, remains the law of the land.
While internment fell heaviest on Japanese, on December 8, 1941, the FBI rounded up thousands of Germans and Italians, citizens and non-citizens, an interned them, too. Internment of Japanese also happened in Canada and Brazil.
While Takei’s family may or may not have suffered loss — I don’t really care because personal tragedies happen every day and though sad they tend to be very irrelevant — but it isn’t like there was no reason, or that positive knowledge existed that Japanese living in America were loyal (though that became evident within a very short period of time), or that it was unreasonable to be suspect of the loyalty of a large population of, and Takei won’t like this, “Japanese nationals”. The fact that 2/3 of those interned were US citizens ignores the fact that 1/3 were not and interning enemy citizens is inarguably the right and prerogative of any belligerent. It retrospect, it was wrong. And there was a degree of retribution involved because of the circumstances of the attack on Pearl Harbor. But in 1942, it is hard to say that a majority of thinking people could look at this decision and say “this doesn’t make sense.” In retrospect it was an injustice but it was not the racist purge that it would seem to be if you visit the Smithsonian. The question Takei would ask himself if he had the brain capacity for self-introspection is why the comfort of his family, or any of the interned families, outweighed the right of everyone else in coastal California, Oregon, and Washington to feel safe or the considered judgment of military authorities responsible for the defense of that area? I don’t begrudge Takei the right to hold this grievance or even to make prevention of internment his life’s mission (yeah really, he says that), better remembered for that Quixotic gesture than as the gay helmsman on the starship Enterprise. But his lack of knowledge of internment, here I’m giving him the benefit of a doubt because otherwise he’s just another tired old progressive lying to make his case, disqualifies him from criticizing someone who seems to have a bit better grip on the history. But then again, he apparently thinks history is a musical… go figure, right?
So, on the merits let’s look at the case. Internment of Syrian refugees arriving in the United States is not illegal, it is not un-American, and, paradoxically, it could actually assuage a lot of concerns while allowing more Syrians into the United States.
Mayor Bowers is not advocating rounding up the 2,200 or so Syrian refugees that have been admitted and send them to interment camps (why Takei chooses to cut the number to 1854, other than just basic dishonest argumentation, is a mystery). Or at least I don’t read it that way because as near as I can tell there are no Syrian refugees living in Roanoke. And Bowers’ suggestion is not new. We have faced this problem before when Castro flushed his prisons and insane asylums during the Mariel Boatlift. Then we interned refugees at several military facilities, most prominently Fort Chaffee, AR, Fort Indiantown Gap, PA, and Fort McCoy, WI. We sorted them out, the refugees were either integrated into American cities or returned to Castro, and we eventually closed those camps.
There is no requirement in law that refugees be brought straight from Europe or Turkey and dumped onto non-profits and social service agencies in random cities.
After Chattanooga, after Garland, TX, after Boston, after Charlie Hebdo, after Paris, a solid majority of Americans are against the admission of any refugees from Syria. In the future we may all set around, praising Allah, and having our many wives bring us snacks while we watch Monday Night Beheadings, and laugh about our wildly irrational fears, however, right now, fear is a good thing to have. Fear is healthy. Fear is how nature keeps you alive.
But, if Obama is serious about bringing 10,000+ Syrian refugees, knowing that refugees have been involved in terrorism and how poorly structured the screening program is, would it be a terrible thing to bring them to a facility in the United States where they could be interviewed, away from UNHCR staff and away from any terrorist influence in the refugee camps, and then parceled out for resettlement? Hell, to keep George Takei happy, we could put them at Camp David and there would be no question of them being uncomfortable and as they were screened by a “rigorous process” in Turkey or Europe, there would be no security problem for the Secret Service to deal with.