[Vision2020] Learning From History

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Mon Jun 23 11:37:58 PDT 2008

>From Michael Josephson of "Character Counts" at:



Learning From History
By Michael Josephson

In a split decision, the Supreme Court recently ruled that people labeled 
as “enemy combatants” confined at the military base at Guantanamo Bay, 
Cuba, must be given limited access to federal courts. Before I talk about 
the ethical issues involved, it’s helpful to review another major 
detention situation.

In 1941, a surprise attack by the Japanese government at Pearl Harbor 
brought our country into war and engulfed the nation in fear and hatred. 
In response, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, asserting special war 
powers, issued an Executive Order requiring all persons of Japanese 
ancestry living on the Pacific Coast of the United States to be forcibly 
confined in hastily constructed “War Relocation Camps.”

Ultimately, about 110,000 men, women, and children of all backgrounds were 
indiscriminately imprisoned in facilities that often lacked plumbing and 
heating. The Order applied to all residents who were at least 1/16th 
Japanese. Detainees were confined without the benefit of any process to 
determine whether they were actually a threat to national security.

Three years later, though the war was still raging, a Supreme Court ruling 
induced the President to release all the detainees. They were each given 
$25 and a train ticket home.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation that apologized for 
the internment, stating that the action was based on “race prejudice, war 
hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” Surviving detainees were 
awarded $1.2 billion dollars in reparations. In 1992, President George H. 
W. Bush issued another formal apology from the U.S. government and added 
$400 million in reparations.

There are parallels to that Executive Order and our reaction after the 
terrorist attacks of 9/11. Looking back, who was right – President 
Roosevelt or Presidents Reagan and Bush?

Is there anything we can learn from this chapter of our history?

As a footnote, the 2001 national budget decreed that the former Japanese 
detainee camp sites are to be preserved as historical landmarks 
to “forever stand as reminders that this nation failed in its most sacred 
duty to protect its citizens against prejudice…and political expediency.”

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.


Seeya round town, Moscow.

Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho
"We're a town of about 23,000 with 10,000 college students. The college 
students are not very active in local elections (thank goodness!)."

- Dale Courtney (March 28, 2007)

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