In Defense of Our Own Freedoms
By Carl Watner
Sherrer, a long-time subscriber and contributor to THE VOLUNTARYIST
lives in Seattle, and mentioned a new book that he heard about which
documents the evacuation of all people of Japanese ancestry from Bainbridge
Island, Washington in early 1942. The book is titled IN DEFENSE OF OUR
NEIGHBORS: The Walt and Milly Woodward Story, written by the Woodward's
daughter, Mary Woodward. The Woodwards were coeditors and copublishers
of the BAINBRIDGE REVIEW from 1941 until 1963. "During World War
II, they used the paper to speak out against the exclusion of their
Japanese American friends and neighbors" of whom there were some
270 among 50 families on the island. (Woodward, p.16) The Japanese Americans
had few defenders at this time, so this extended report of their support
is welcome. Nonetheless, the story of the internment of American citizens
of Japanese ancestry in concentration camps on US soil is just another
proof that "war is more destructive of freedom than any other human
activity." (Linfield, p. xvii)
those not familiar with this history the brief facts are: Pearl Harbor
was bombed by the Japanese Air Force on December 7, 1941. As documented
in declassified information and numerous books, President Roosevelt
and his foreign policy advisers maneuvered Japan into striking an American
port in the Pacific, in order to justify the United States' entry into
World War II. Executive Order 9066 was issued by President Franklin
Roosevelt on February 19, 1942. It established defense zones within
the United States, and gave military commanders authority to exclude
people from such areas. (Linfield, p. 92) On March 19, 1942, both houses
of Congress approved Public Law No. 503 (77th Congress). This legislation
made it a federal offense for any person to violate restrictions issued
by a military commander in any defense zone established under the earlier
Executive Order. (Weglyn, p. 72) Subsequently, over 110,000 Japanese
Americans were removed from their residences to a number of camps in
the western United States, and many of them were held there for the
duration of the war.
episode presents a number of interesting anomalies: Among others -
.....The Japanese bombing of
Pearl Harbor not only brought about America's entry into the war, but
served as a catastrophic excuse to imprison Japanese Americans and confiscate
..... Italian and German Americans
were not rounded up en masse during the war.
..... The confinement was racially
motivated. As Lt. General De Witt wrote in 1943, "A Jap's a Jap.
It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen or not ...".
(Weglyn, p. 201)
..... When several Japanese
Americans challenged their confinement in the civil courts, government
officials responsible for the internment lied to the courts (and the
American public) about the military dangers presented by the Japanese
in this country.
..... Both the Executive Order
and Congressional law clearly violated the constitutional requirements
that "the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless
when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require
it"; and that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, and
property without due process of law. Not only is this an example of
the government violating its own constitutional rules, it goes far in
demonstrating that limited government is not possible, because every
government always seeks to expand its powers.
..... Leaders of the Japanese
American community supported the government crack down, hoping that
their willing cooperation would prove their loyalty. (This is reminiscent
of what Hannah Arrendt observed about the leaders of the Jewish community:
they, too, willingly cooperated with the Nazis and urged their co-religionists
to peacefully enter the ghettos.)
..... After being imprisoned,
the American-born males were required to register for the draft. Those
who refused to register or report for induction were given extended
..... The Constitution and
constitutional safeguards it embraced were held in disdain by government
officials. "Assistant Secretary of War [John] McCloy clearly stated
his position: '[I]f it is a question of the safety of the country [and]
the Constitution . . . . Why the Constitution is just a scrap of paper
to me.'" (Hirase, pp. 149-150)
..... Military officials explained
the absence of sabotage by those of Japanese ancestry on the west coast
as evidence that they were planning attacks. No evidence has ever surfaced
supporting such a bizarre explanation. As Lt. General DeWitt wrote:
"The very fact that no sabotage has taken place to date is a disturbing
and confirming indication that such action will be taken." (Rostow,
a voluntaryist perspective, this bit of American history supports Theodore
Lowi's contention that "every action ... of government ... contribute[s]
to the fulfillment of its fundamental purpose, which is to maintain
conquest." While other governments "have used war and the
threat of war to stifle freedom" in their own countries, the United
States has been at the head of the pack, in "proclaiming freedom
to be our national purpose." (Linfield, p. xv) If ever the American
citizenry were to see through the facade of governmental legitimization,
they would soon realize that the greatest threat to their freedoms comes
from their own government.
my article "Vices Are Not Crimes" defending Walter Block's
book, DEFENDING THE UNDEFENDABLE, I recounted the story of H.L. Mencken
(so far as I know he never criticized the internment of Japanese Americans)
who was accused of being a Nazi supporter because he never spoke out
against Hitler. When he was asked if he was an anti-semite, Mencken
I believe in only
one thing and that thing is human liberty. If ever a man is to achieve
anything like dignity, it can only happen if superior men are given
absolute freedom to think what they want to think and say what they
want to say. I am against any man and any organization which seeks to
deny or limit that freedom.
When questioned whether he
would limit that freedom to superior men only, Mencken replied: "The
superior man can be sure of his freedom only if it is given to all men."
Or as Benjamin Constant wrote in "On Conquest and Usurpation,"
"Freedom cannot be denied to some men and granted to others."
The message is clear: We need to take a principled stand against all
violations of individual rights; we need to defend our own freedoms,
as well as those of our neighbors regardless of their race, ancestry,
creed, political belief, or religion. There will always be criminals
among us, but our hope, as voluntaryists, is to rid ourselves of criminal
institutions by abandoning our reliance on coercive governments. When
that occurs, both our freedom and the freedom of our neighbors will
become far more secure than it is now.
Joanne Hirase, "The Internment
of Japanese Americans: The Constitutional Threat Fifty Years Later,"
19 JOURNAL OF CONTEMPORARY LAW (1993), pp. 143-183.
Michael Linfield, FREEDOM UNDER
FIRE: U.S. Civil Liberties in Times of War, Boston: South End Press,
Edward S. Miller, WAR PLAN
ORANGE: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897-1945, Annapolis: Naval
Institute Press, 1991.
Eric L. Muller, FREE TO DIE
FOR THEIR COUNTRY: The Story of the Japanese American Draft Resisters
in World War II, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2001.
Eugene Rostow, "The Japanese
American Cases - A Disaster," 54 THE YALE LAW JOURNAL, June 1945,
Michi Weglyn, YEARS OF INFAMY:
The Untold Story of America's Concentration Camps, New York: William
Morrow and Company, Inc., 1976.
Mary Woodward, IN DEFENSE OF
OUR NEIGHBORS: The Walt and Milly Woodward Story, Fenwick Publishing
Group, 3147 White Point Drive # 100, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110, www.fenwickpublishing.com,
2008, ISBN 978-0-9749510-7-2
[Thanks to Jim Russell and
Hans Sherrer for their helpful suggestions.]