25. August 2004 · Comments Off on An Interview With Michelle Malkin · Categories: General, History

I am honored to be given the opportunity to email interview best-selling author Michelle Malkin. Michelle is the daughter of Filipino immigrants, wife and mother of two, blogress, TV commentator, nationally syndicated columnist, author of Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores and her just released book In Defense of Internment: The Case for “Racial Profiling” in World War II and the War on Terror.

Before we get on with the interview I want to state three things. First I want to say that I think that this is an important book that proves there is an intellectual case for the 1942 evacuation order. That there were abuses that occurred as a result of that order is undeniable, but they were not the reasons for the order. Second, my wife and I agree that this book is an impressive achievement given that Michelle gave birth while writing it. (Dr. Wife gave birth to Darling Daughter#2 while finishing her PhD long distance, so we empathize.) And thirdly, I personally want to thank Michelle for writing this book. After my posts on the 1942 Evacuation Order, I received many requests that I write a book on the subject. Michelle has written a book better than I could have imagined. So thank you, Michelle, for getting me off the hook!

Michelle: Thank you for your kind comments about the book. As you know, I embarked on this project in part because of your debate with Eric Muller last spring. If not for you, I doubt that this book would exist.

Sparkey: Thank you! I really appreciate that. Now, you once wrote that you believed the internment of “ethnic Japanese was abhorrent and wrong.” What changed your mind? Was there a specific “Aha” moment, was it a gradual process, or what?

Michelle: My “Aha” moment occurred as I read David Lowman‘s book, especially the MAGIC cables and intelligence memos that he reproduced in the back of the book. I put many of those documents in my book and online. Many more are available at www.internmentarchives.com, which was founded by Lowman’s publisher, Lee Allen.

The memos show that U.S. intelligence agencies regarded ethnic Japanese on the West Coast as a serious national security threat. My critics have written dozens of blog entries assailing my book. They have accused me of being a self-hater, of slander, of shoddy research methods, of providing too few footnotes (there are more than 600), and of being physically repulsive. But as of this morning, they have not addressed the concerns about Japanese espionage discussed in the intelligence memos reproduced in my book. Why? Because anyone who spends even ten minutes perusing these memos is likely to conclude that the evacuation and relocation of ethnic Japanese on the West Coast was rooted in legitimate national security concerns, not simply wartime hysteria and racism.

Sparkey: In the introduction to In Defense of Internment you state that it is forgivable that American’s don’t fully appreciate “the wartime exigencies of early 1942.” How do you feel the prism of Vietnam has distorted people’s view and understanding of 1942?

Michelle: In the late 1960s and the 1970s, anti-war agitation and ethnic identity politics became all the rage. Third- and fourth-generation Japanese-Americans embraced the America-bashing, victim-card culture and launched a nationwide bid for blanket payments to evacuees and their families. That movement led to the formation of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, which issued a biased report that reached the predetermined conclusion that Roosevelt’s policies were motivated by racism and wartime hysteria.

Sparkey: How widely publicized was the Niihau incident in the States, and how significant was the event to the Administration at the time? [Niihau is a Hawaiian island where ethnic Japanese Americans assisted a downed Japanese pilot after the Pearl Harbor raid. -S]

Michelle: It was written up by naval intelligence officers in Hawaii and was publicized by the local papers. The incident appears to have been very significant to the Roosevelt Administration-as evidenced by inclusion of reports related to the incident in the proceedings of the Roberts Commission.

Sparkey: After both Pearl Harbor and 9-11 many security fears were not realized. Critics point to these as evidence that such fears were unfounded. How do you respond to this?

Michelle: Obviously this is a logical fallacy. If X (say, an appendectomy) causes the absence of Y (say, a burst appendix), it is incorrect to conclude that since Y did not occur, X was unnecessary.
[I would like to add that just because a threat was not realized doesn’t imply that the concern for that threat was unjustified. – S]

Sparkey: Eric Muller insinuates that (based on the name of your book) you’re really advocating an Arab roundup of a sort. You address this charge in your rebuttal, but it does beg the question, why name the book In Defense of Internment if you’re not really advocating internment?

Michelle: The title is In Defense of Internment because the bulk of the book (including all 12 chapters between the introduction and conclusion) is devoted to a defense of the evacuation, relocation, and internment (policies collectively referred to as “internment”) of ethnic Japanese during World War II. This is very relevant to the War on Terror, obviously, and I tease out some lessons in the introduction and conclusion. But it is clear that my book is a defense of internment in 1942, not today. I do support racial profiling and other policies that my opponents have repeatedly likened to the WW II internment.

Sparkey: What do you see as the biggest benefits resulting from the 1942 Evacuation Order, and do they justify the policy?

Michelle: The greatest benefit was to severely disrupt Japanese espionage cells on the West Coast. Given what was known at the time, I believe the decisions made in early 1942 were justified.

Sparkey: What do you see as the biggest negatives of the policy and their effects on public perception?

Michelle: The biggest negative was the adverse impact on Japanese-Americans who were loyal to the U.S. and the PR campaign on their behalf that followed. The effect has been to wrongly discredit any and all homeland security policies that apply heightened scrutiny based on race, ethnicity, religion, or nationality as well as any detention policies that bypass the criminal justice system.
[It also didn’t help that the Government dragged its feet to the point of abuse in providing direct compensation for actual incurred losses after the war. – S]

Sparkey: How do you think the Evacuation Order could have been handled differently or better?

Michelle: There were numerous problems with the way evacuation was carried out. Military authorities did not initially appreciate how hard it would be for ethnic Japanese to move east on their own. They initially allowed Terminal Island residents 30 days to evacuate, then abruptly shortened that length of time to 48 hours following the Goleta shelling and Los Angeles air raid scare. This caused considerable hardship for the evacuees, who scrambled to sell off household goods (typically at rock-bottom prices) and pack for their move. The conditions in some of the assembly centers were miserable. (It is worth bearing in mind, however, that the centers had to be built quickly and at the time construction materials and equipment were scarce.) Some of these problems could not have been prevented, but others might have been with better planning.

Sparkey: It’s obvious many critics haven’t even read your book before casting aspersions. It’s as if you attacked some article of their religion. How do you expect to “kick off a vigorous national debate” with those who believe in the infallibility of their faith?

Michelle: There are many people who feel the issue is settled and should not be debated. This is unfortunate. If they are confident that their position is right, they should have nothing to fear from an open, vigorous debate. There are others, however, who are willing to debate the issue-most notably Eric Muller and Greg Robinson.

A word about that debate. Muller mainly addresses side issues, such as the book cover and my research methods and terminology and the book’s title and why he didn’t receive an advance copy of the book from my publisher and whether I slandered Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga and whether I mischaracterized Sarah Eltantawi of the Muslim Public Affairs Council and whether I took too long to respond to his critique.

Robinson, to his credit, focuses on the core issues-but much of what he says is flat out untrue. He says most of the MAGIC cables I discuss in my book came from Tokyo or Mexico City and refer to areas outside the United States. Wrong. He says those cables that do speak of the United States detail various efforts by Japan to build networks, and list hopes or intentions rather than actions or results. False. He says I said that Hoover’s opinion was not reliable or relied upon. Nonsense. He says ONI opposed evacuation. Rubbish. He says the Navy opposed evacuation. Wrong again. I pointed out these errors 18 days ago, but he has yet to acknowledge any of them.

Sparkey: Your book Invasion didn’t receive the attention it deserved from the mainstream press. How does the reaction to In Defense of Internment compare?

Michelle: I was heartened by the pre-release response, particularly the coverage my Bothell, Wash., speech received in the Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Invasion was never covered as a news story by any major newspaper. Though I sent In Defense of Internment to every major newspaper, it appears it will not be reviewed, just as Invasion was not reviewed (except by a few small-town papers).

Sparkey: The next time you are in the Dallas area, would you give my family and me the honor of having dinner with us?

Michelle: If time allows, I would be delighted. I will be in Houston later this week, by the way, at an event sponsored by the Houston Forum. More details here.

Comments closed.