The Japanese Internment and the Betrayal of the ‘Progressives’

Article by Justin Raimondo. The progressives haven’t changed much.
Roger Baldwin, ACLU chairman, was instructed by the ACLU Board that “local committees are not free to sponsor cases in which the position taken is that the government has no constitutional right to remove citizens from military areas.” The only grounds ACLU lawyers were permitted to argue the case were that the internment order constituted “racial discrimination.” Thus began the ACLU’s abandonment of strict adherence to the Constitution and its drift toward political correctness: outright authoritarianism propelled by rampant militarism was perfectly fine by them, as long as there was no “racism” involved.

As war hysteria swept the country, the “anti-fascist” contingents of the American Left united behind the banner of “Dr. Win-the-War,” and used the newly-acquired wartime powers and prestige of the federal government to ram their radical domestic agenda down the throats of the courts and the people. As John Wilson puts it in “How World War II Saved the New Deal”:

“World War II was a godsend to American liberals. The New Deal had been dead in the water since 1937, torpedoed by its fundamental failure to effect an end to the Depression and its increasingly annoying meddling with traditional patterns of American life. A conservative coalition of Republicans and southern Democrats blocked almost all of Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s initiatives until the foreign policy crisis of 1939-41.

“That crisis renewed the President’s vigor and allowed him gradually to maneuver the U.S. into a position that made entering the war in Europe and the Pacific inevitable. He was aided immeasurably by the recklessness of the Japanese and Germans. Nothing unites people like a common enemy. Since foreign policy always reflects domestic policy (and that goes for military policy, too), it should surprise nobody that the New Dealers geared up for war in New Deal ways. What happened between 1941 and 1945 was an expansion of the national state so vast as to be virtually irreversible.”

This expansion was fulsomely supported by the liberals and “progressives” of the ACLU majority, and they stood by while not only Japanese-Americans but also prominent opponents of US entry into the war were smeared, spied on, prosecuted, and – in some cases – locked up. Some even cheered rather loudly as the largely left-wing mob screamed for “isolationist” blood.

It’s interesting to note that, while even the US government has officially recognized the great injustice done to those who were interned, and apologized for its actions, the ACLU has never acknowledged its horrific betrayal of its own principles and its pernicious role – which amounted to complicity with the internment policy – in this shameful episode in our history. C’mon, ACLU-ers – face the music, and apologize!

The lessons for today are so clear as to be blinding, which is why those who most need to know this history will do everything possible to not know it or evade its implications. We are at a very similar moment in American history, with a world war – an eternal “war on terrorism” – raging across the globe, and a war on our civil liberties raging right here on the home front. A “progressive” President is defending the PATRIOT Act in court, and in Congress, as well as coming up with new and ever-more-draconian “national security” rationales and legal briefs, which – as Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, at length – go beyond even what Bush administration lawyers were willing to argue. Yet where are the voices of protest among “liberal” Democrats in Congress? All we hear is the voice of Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who accused Sen. Rand Paul of “aiding the terrorists” because he threatened to hold up reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act.

The silence of the liberals, both in Congress and the media, in the face of the Obama administration’s assault on civil liberties in wartime is a disgrace. They have made their pact with the Devil in order to achieve what they regard as much more important gains: they are ready to sacrifice their (always conditional) devotion to civil liberties in order to achieve “economic equality,” i.e., preserve our faltering and near-bankrupt welfare state. If they have to endorse – or simply not protest – the depredations of the Warfare State in order to accomplish this, well then so be it.

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