Manzanar Committee, JACL Respond to Clark’s Comments on Internment


The Manzanar Committee and the Japanese American Citizens League have denounced remarks by retired U.S. Army general and former NATO supreme commander Wesley Clark, who called for the incarceration of “disloyal” Americans in camps eerily similar to the American concentration camps in which over 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were unjustly incarcerated during World War II.

During a July 17 interview by Thomas Roberts on MSNBC, in response to the recent shooting in Chattanooga, Tenn., Clark said, “During World War II, if someone supported Nazi Germany at the expense of the United States, we didn’t say that was freedom of speech. We put ’em in a camp. They were prisoners of war. So if these people are radicalized and they don’t support the United States and they are disloyal to the United States as a matter of principle, fine. It’s their right and it’s our right and obligation to segregate them from the normal community for the duration of the conflict.”

Gen. Wesley Clark

Gen. Wesley Clark

Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey repudiated Clark’s remarks, which essentially called for incarcerating people based on their beliefs.

“Retired Gen. Wesley Clark’s recent comments on resurrecting World War II-style camps for ‘self radicalized’ Muslims is a frightening development in the aftermath of the heinous murders in Chattanooga,” said Embrey. “While his comments focused on our nation’s response to those who were pro-Nazi during World War II, the actual history was that over 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were rounded up and incarcerated simply because they looked like the enemy.

“Our families faced similar conditions following the outbreak of World War II. They were cast aside, considered to be outsiders, not completely American, and incapable of supporting the war for democracy simply because they practiced different religions, and followed certain cultural traditions.

“It is an ominous and deeply disturbing sign that a distinguished military leader such as Gen. Clark would suggest a solution to domestic terrorism that is unconstitutional, racist and involves violations of our civil rights. Incarcerating people simply because they believe certain ideas, practice the same religion, or look like the ‘enemy’ is contradictory to our beliefs as Americans, and is fundamentally at odds with our laws and philosophy.”

Embrey stressed that history must not be allowed to repeat itself. “As George Santayana said, ‘Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ “History has shown this ‘solution’ threatens the core beliefs of our nation, violates our Bill of Rights, and undermines the real fight against those threatening our democracy.

“Although the threat of terrorism is real, we cannot allow ourselves to bow to emotional, xenophobic and politically expedient ‘solutions,’ as our country did with Japanese Americans during World War II. That was one of the darkest chapters in our nation’s history, not to mention one of our most shamefully undemocratic and counter-productive.

“We reject Gen. Clark’s call for incarcerating anyone based on their beliefs. We cannot allow such a gross violation of constitutional rights to happen again, to anyone.”

“Gen. Wesley Clark’s call for internment camps for ‘radicalized’ Muslims is troubling,” the JACL said in a statement. “In 1988, the United States apologized to Japanese Americans for the injustice of summarily incarcerating our community during World War II. It was a time of fear and backlash toward Japanese Americans stemming from causes even beyond race.

“The true character of a nation is evident during troubling times when our security, real or imagined, is threatened. In 1942, the threat of an internal enemy was made to appear real when our government knew otherwise through findings from the FBI and other intelligence agencies. As a result, 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced from their homes, dispossessed of their property and confined in concentration camps located in remote and desolate places.

“This action ignored due process and equal protection, rights guaranteed by our Constitution.

“It’s important to draw lessons from the Japanese American experience. An apology by government is exceedingly rare. Its offering attests to the scale of governmental wrongdoing that was embedded as law in the case of Fred Korematsu, which caused Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson to caution, ‘The principle then lies about like a loaded weapon, ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need…’

“The threat of terrorism is real, but we must remain circumspect about the solutions we pursue. The apology to Japanese Americans says that we owe it to ourselves, to our own sense of honor, that we do not go down a path that jeopardizes the rights of Americans. A response of mass segregation was wrong in 1942, and is no more right today.”



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