Internment chic

By Ilana Mercer

Even Sean Hannity, always eager to consider gratuitous bombing and killing, had a hard time with Michelle Malkin’s latest book, “In Defense of Internment: The Case for ‘Racial Profiling’ in World War II and the War on Terror.”

The cringe-making crux of Malkin’s book is that, in light of the intelligence intercepts to which the FDR administration was privy, the relocation en masse and confinement of some 112,000 Japanese aliens and American-born citizens of Japanese ancestry between 1941 and 1945 was not a consequence of racism, but of military necessity: “Even with the benefit of hindsight, it is not at all clear that mass evacuation was unwarranted.”

The argument is impoverished considering the extent of the violations against this group. It is unlikely that tens of thousands of American Japanese were involved in organized espionage or were likely to become so. But when we accept state aggression based on prior-restraint arguments, then aggress we must ad absurdum. Why not prevent all teenagers from driving? Or even better, all neoconservatives like Ms. Malkin from procreating, lest they sire proponents of state internment?

Even assuming that mass treason among the American Japanese was possible, the only legitimate, Fifth Amendment-respecting course of action would have been to proceed separately against individuals by producing evidence of treachery, in accordance with the rules of evidence, and then proceeding with formal charges.

It’s called due process, Michelle.

Malkin’s subtitle demonstrates a somewhat desperate attempt at topicality. What does World War II internment have to do with the sensible precaution of questioning and searching Salafi Saudis before they board airliners? Not much, unless Malkin is proposing to intern all Muslims, which she vehemently denies.

Malkin refuses to examine the state-engineered, multicultural mass importation of the kind of people who need to be profiled once ensconced in the United States. Instead, she examines only border patrol and permit issues. Malkin’s propensity to kowtow before liberal shibboleths simply will not do.

Nor will her propensity to forfeit argument in favor of the ad hominem “liberal” wash. Not only am I positioned to her right on America’s immigration disaster, but I also support rational profiling. And by the latter, I don’t mean stripping frail, white old ladies down to their Depends. I’d like to see Malkin’s God – government – permit private-property owners to defend their property and clients to the fullest, rather than have to get in line for a state-appointed sky marshal with a Taser gun.

By conflating what her promotional material describes convivially as “the most reviled wartime policies in American history” with profiling, Malkin has based her book on an invalid analogy.

That is not all that is invalid about her modus operandi, however. Malkin has gone beyond blindly supporting her man’s (Bush’s) policies, to using her journalistic celebrity to spread the so-far unverified swiftboat stories. There she was on “Hardball,” her face contorted like Dorian Gray on fast forward, spewing speculation that John Kerry had shot himself in Vietnam. Thankfully, host Chris Matthews rose to the occasion like a cobra, and spat a succession of sharp questions at the dissembling Malkin regarding the rumors that tumbled promiscuously from her mouth.

The relevance of this to her deeply silly and repulsive book? Considering Malkin’s affinity for tittle-tattle, it is not entirely surprising that the fulcrum figure upon which her research rests is David Daniel Lowman, author of a penumbral publication titled, “Magic.” By the scholarly estimation of professor Greg Robinson, author of “By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans,” Malkin has lifted most of her material from this work in a failed attempt to prove that American Japanese were being recruited lock, stock and barrel as spies for Japan. “Malkin’s book is not a useful work of history,” writes Robinson in his review for the Volokh Conspiracy, “but a polemic that relies for its attraction on sensationalism and overstatement.”

Malkin also makes the mildly interesting point that many Japanese chose to move to the relocation centers (perhaps they wanted to be with their relatives?) and even became avid supporters of internment. A case of the Stockholm Syndrome perhaps? It is possible that in an attempt to deal with cognitive dissonance, some Japanese (who are often submissive to authority) may have needed to self-justify their punishment. Still, our author’s arguments are worse than poor if she takes the victim’s acquiescence as justification for the crimes committed against him.

Malkin also credits herself with shattering the “liberal” (oh, mother!) libel of equivalence between America’s World War II internment camps and Germany’s World War II death camps. Such bravery! Other than Holocaust deniers who claim the gas chambers were really Jacuzzis, who thinks Manzanar or Minidoka matched the horror of Majdanek?

Nevertheless, that the Japanese internees were not gassed, starved or shot does not justify what was done to them. Dispensing with habeas corpus in order to arrest thousands, pen them in camps, often for years, without charging them with a crime and freezing their bank accounts – this is simply wrong. And it should be considered wrong by liberals, conservatives, neoconservatives, libertarians, natives, immigrants, albinos and Hottentots alike.