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MORE PERFECT UNION: JAPANESE AMERICANS
AND THE U.S. CONSTITUTION"
Lee Allen and Sam Allen
Published May 9, 2001
© Copyright 2001
Download the pdf version, smithsonian critique.pdf (2.1 MB)
From late 1940 until the attack on Pearl Harbor American leaders had access to sensitive intelligence gained from intercepted and decoded high-level Japanese diplomatic message traffic.
Cover named MAGIC, because it seemed that such information could only be produced by magicians, the messages revealed the existence of widespread Japanese espionage activities along the West Coast of the United States and eventually led to the presidential order to evacuate all individuals of Japanese ancestry.
Because of its sensitivity and potential value to the war effort this information could not be revealed to the public. Only the most senior members of the U.S. government even knew of its existence.
In 1977 an eight volume set entitled, The MAGIC Background of Pearl Harbor was published by the Defense Department. In it were revealed for the first time numerous messages dealing with Japanese intelligence efforts prior to the infamous attack.
MAGIC and most other intelligence available to our wartime leaders was ignored by the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, a politically appointed group with a bias on the subject. When it released its report in 1983 it attributed the evacuation to "racism, war hysteria and lack of political will" (Appendix 1, letter from former Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy to Senator Charles Grassley giving his impression of the Commissionís investigation).
That this version of history was later accepted by Congress and signed into law by the President gives added political color to the story. The official adoption of a particular version of history, ignoring the express contentions of those involved in making that history, which used to be the stock in trade of totalitarian governments, has made its way into American scholarship, and the Smithsonian, apparently, is one of its foremost supporters.
For the Commission to have confirmed in any small way the wartime governmentís contention that there was a real threat would have put at risk the goal of obtaining reparations for suffering as a result of civil rights violations. In the event it recommended payment not only to those many innocents involved but also to those who were individually determined to be potential threats, those who petitioned to returned to Japan to fight against the United States, those who renounced their U.S. citizenship, many others who had been actively engaged in organizations supporting Imperial Japanís war efforts and those who had no constitutional protection under the law after the declaration of war.
It is significant to note this effort was racial in its concept in that no effort was made to secure redress for individuals of other nationalities, including U.S. citizens, who suffered a similar fate and in many cases occupied the same Department of Justice Internment Camps which held individuals of Japanese ancestry.
The Smithsonian Institution in its exhibition, "A More Perfect Union: Japanese Americans and the U.S. Constitution," accepts the Commissionís revisionist account of this important historical event and places emphasis on two themes: How terrible the United States treated those who were evacuated and how magnificent the Japanese Americans were despite their terrible treatment.
As with any such exhibition that has a partisan objective two factors play a role in the presentation: What is omitted and what is included. While omissions can be argued as matters of judgment, the inclusion of inaccurate facts and fabrication, as is the case with this exhibition, should not be condoned.
In particular, the gratuitous embellishment of military achievements draws an even more grotesque differentiation between those who instituted the alleged "racist" evacuation and those who suffered from it. In so doing the Smithsonian dishonors the actual accomplishments of valiant Japanese American soldiers.
Another shocking aspect of the exhibition is that the audio visual portion was "made possible by a generous grant from the Japan Shipbuilding Industry Foundation, Ryoichi Sasakawa, President." Ryoichi Sasakawa was arrested for "Class A War Crimes" after World War II. He was imprisoned until 1948 and was then released without trial, reportedly to be used to counter growing Communist influences in postwar Japan.
Only in America, it seems, would a national museum accept a grant from an enemy war criminal to present an exhibition that trashes its country.
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