Ex-CIA Agent Will be Extradited in Bush-Era Kidnapping Case

A lawyer for former CIA agent Sabrina de Sousa, convicted for the notorious daytime kidnapping of Abu Omar during George W. Bush’s War on Terror, said his client will be extradited from Portugal to Italy to serve a four-year sentence. De Sousa was one of 26 U.S. citizens convicted in absentia by an Italian court in 2009 for the 2003 kidnapping of Imam Abu Omar, who was snatched by CIA agents while walking down the street in Milan, Italy, and subsequently flown to Egypt where he was tortured.

The kidnapping and torture of Abu Omar was one of the most high-profile cases in the illegal U.S. “extraordinary rendition” program created by the Bush administration in the wake of the Sept. 11 attack in New York.

Under that program, dozens of governments colluded with the U.S. to kidnap hundreds of people and “render” them to torture, either in CIA-run “black sites,” including several at the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison, or to Egypt and Syria.

U.S. President Barack Obama officially ended the undercover program — which qualified as a crime against humanity under U.N. guidelines — though current U.S. President Donald J. Trump has hinted at reinstating the program and recently appointed the director of one of those illegal torture centers as depúty director of the CIA.

Lawyers for De Sousa said that even with her deportation to Italy, she may not have to serve her four-year sentence for the kidnapping given that a U.S. pilot convicted in the case was pardoned in 2013 by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, citing the close relationship between Italy and the U.S. and a shared “common goal of promoting democracy and security.”

De Sousa would be the first-ever CIA agent and U.S. diplomat to be jailed in a foreign country.

In previous interviews, De Sousa has acknowledged the U.S. kidnapping and torture program was illegal, arguing she’s been abandoned by her government in an attempt to protect those who designed the program.

“Clearly, we broke a law and we’re paying for the mistakes right now, whoever authorized and approved this,” she told ABC. “The U.S. government won’t intervene because they don’t want me implicating anyone else as I try to counter the charges against me.”

— source telesurtv.net

Ancient Syrian treasures worth $26m shipped to US

Since the start of Syria’s war in 2011, $26 million worth of antiquities have been imported to the United States from the war-torn country, according to Live Science. The news website gathered its information from US Census Bureau documents, which listed many unidentified and undated items, marked only as “over 100 years old.”

The documents did not reveal, however, whether the items were imported illegally or whether profits were being made from their resale. The bulk of the antiques in the Census Bureau documents had arrived in New York, a hub for collectors and dealers.

Ancient historical sites in Egypt, Iraq and Syria have been targeted by robbers since the upheaval brought about by the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011. The Census Bureau data also showed that more than $12 million-worth of Iraqi antiques had been shipped to the US since that same year.

“The profit derived by the Islamists from the illicit trade in antiquities and archaeological treasures is estimated at $150-200 million per year,” Vitaly Churkin wrote in a letter to the UN’s Security Council.

— source alaraby.co.uk

US’ NSA spying on BJP

United States National Security Agency (NSA) is spying on India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a report said on Tuesday. According to a report published in news agency ANI, WikiLeaks claimed that apart from BJP, NSA is also spying on Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). “Hundreds of NSA cyber weapons variants publicly released including code showing hacking of Pakistan mobile system,” WikiLeaks had said.

— source zeenews.india.com

75th Anniv. of Internment of Japanese Americans

Seventy-five years ago yesterday, on February 19th, 1942, Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, that forced more than 120,000 men, women and children of Japanese descent into internment camps. This included nearly 70,000 who were American citizens.

George Takei talking:

as a matter of fact, yesterday, which we, as you said, consider the Day of Remembrance, I remembered my childhood imprisonment at the home of the man who put us behind those barbed wire fences, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s home at Hyde Park. I spoke on my memories there. And I spoke about that morning, when my parents got me up very early on that morning, together with my brother, a year younger, and my baby sister, still an infant, dressed us hurriedly. And my brother and I were told to wait in the living room while they did some packing back in the bedroom. And so, the two of us were just gazing out the front living room window, and we saw two soldiers marching up our driveway carrying rifles with shiny bayonets on them. They stomped up the front porch. This was in Los Angeles.

On Gardner Street, a two-bedroom house. And they began pounding at the front door with their fists. It was a terrifying sound. My father came out, answered the door. And literally at gunpoint, we were ordered out of our home. My father gave my brother and me little packages to carry, and we followed him out onto the driveway and waited for our mother to come out. And when she came out, she had our baby sister in one arm and a huge duffel bag in the other, and tears were streaming down her face. And this I told to a packed house audience at the Roosevelt Library on the thousand-plus-acre estate of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It was a strange feeling.

we were first taken to the horse stables at Santa Anita race track. We were taken there in a truck with other families that had been rounded up. And there, they herded us over to the stable area, and each family was assigned a horse stall, still pungent with the stink of horse manure, to sleep in. For my parents, it was a degrading, humiliating experience to take their three children and arrange the cots for us to sleep in. I was a 5-year-old kid then, and for me, the perspective was totally different. I thought it was kind of fun to sleep where the horses sleep. So, my childhood experiences were quite different from my parents’ pain and anguish and the humiliation and the degradation and enragement that they went through for over four years.

Earl Warren was an ambitious man. He wanted to run for governor. And he saw that the single most popular political issue in California at that time was the “lock up the Japanese” movement. And I’m using the long word for Japanese; it was an ugly three-letter word. And he made an astonishing statement as the attorney general, the top lawyer of the state. He said, “We have no reports of spying or sabotage or fifth column activities by Japanese Americans, and that is ominous,” the fact that there was no report. He said the Japanese are “inscrutable.” You can’t tell what they’re thinking behind that placid face. And so it would be prudent to lock them up, before they do anything. So, for this attorney general, the absence of evidence was the evidence. And he fed into the hysteria, the war hysteria of that time, and reached all the way to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

For over four years. We were taken from the horse stables to the swamps of Arkansas, and we were imprisoned there—barbed wire fence, sentry towers, guns pointed at us—for about a year. And then, you know, initially, after Pearl Harbor, young Japanese Americans rushed to their recruitment centers to volunteer to serve in the military. This act of patriotism was answered with a slap on the face. They were denied military service and categorized as enemy aliens. We were neither. We weren’t the enemy, and we weren’t aliens. We were born, raised, educated in the United States, mostly on the West Coast. And so, with that outrage, we were put into these barbed wired prison camps.

But a year after imprisonment, after they completely took everything away from us, they realized there is a wartime manpower shortage. And here are these young people that they categorized as enemy aliens. How to justify drafting them? So they came down with, of all things, a loyalty questionnaire. And it was put together in the most sloppy, ignorant way. The most egregious question was question 28. It was one sentence with two conflicting ideas. In essence, it asked, “Will you swear your loyalty to the United States of America and forswear your loyalty to the emperor of Japan?”

The very fact that he brought that up to justify whatever plans that they have for Muslim people is—shows that he’s not learned the lesson of the internment of Japanese Americans, because if he’s really learned that lesson, if he has studied that, he would know that the lesson is we must never do that again. Ronald Reagan apologized for it in 1988 and pledged a $20,000 token redress for that—$20,000, which totaled up to $1.6 billion. This man, Higbie, is totally ignorant of that. We must not do it again. And the fact that he brought it up shows his ignorance.

Korematsu case

they did challenge it after they were imprisoned, and not just Korematsu, but Gordon Hirabayashi and an attorney named Min Yasui. They challenged it all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1944, the middle of the war, they were denied justice. They failed. But after the war, in the ’70s, they challenged it again, the finding of the Supreme Court. They went all the way up to the federal court, and the federal judge found that there was a fault in the original ruling. But they covered up those words by calling it by its Latin name, coram nobis, fault in the original ruling. And the government didn’t appeal that to the Supreme Court, so it ended there. But it was a fault in the Supreme Court’s original ruling, and it should never happen again.

In 1988, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act. And there was this $20,000 token redress paid. They went in the order of the age of the recipient, and I didn’t get mine until 1991. And it was—the letter of apology was signed by George H.W. Bush, with “George H.W. Bush” on the $20,000 check.

on so many issues, not just the Muslim travel ban, but issue after issue has been a failure. But this president is delusional. He just made that statement last week that his administration is operating like a finely tuned machine. He doesn’t realize the disaster that his administration is, the failure of the attack in Yemen and the series of failures that he’s—he is a danger. You know, the real terrorist is Donald Trump. Donald Trump is the terrorist president of the United States. And his rating is going down, down, down, and he still talks about the fantastic support that he’s been getting. We are going through an incredible time in American history.
____

George Takei
legendary actor and gay rights activist. He is best known for playing Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek. Takei’s Broadway show Allegiance screened in cinemas across the United States on February 19, the Day of Remembrance. It is about the internment of Japanese Americans, inspired by the true story of Takei and his family’s experience.

— source democracynow.org

James Baldwin and the Meaning of Whiteness

Raoul Peck’s “I Am Not Your Negro” is one of the finest documentaries I have ever seen—I would have stayed in the theater in New York to see the film again if the next showing had not been sold out. The newly released film powerfully illustrates, through James Baldwin’s prophetic work, that the insanity now gripping the United States is an inevitable consequence of white Americans’ steadfast failure to confront where they came from, who they are and the lies and myths they use to mask past and present crimes. Baldwin’s only equal as a 20th century essayist is George Orwell. If you have not read Baldwin you probably do not fully understand America. Especially now.

History “is not the past,” the film quotes Baldwin as saying. “History is the present. We carry our history with us. To think otherwise is criminal.”

The script is taken from Baldwin’s notes, essays, interviews and letters, with some of the words delivered in Baldwin’s voice from audio recordings and televised footage, some of them in readings by actor Samuel L. Jackson. But it is not, finally, the poetry and lyricism of Baldwin that make the film so moving. It is Peck’s understanding of the core of Baldwin’s message to the white race, a message that is vital to grasp as we struggle with an overt racist as president, mass incarceration, poverty gripping half the country and militarized police murdering unarmed black men and women in the streets of our cities.

Whiteness is a dangerous concept. It is not about skin color. It is not even about race. It is about the willful blindness used to justify white supremacy. It is about using moral rhetoric to defend exploitation, racism, mass murder, reigns of terror and the crimes of empire.

“The American Negro has the great advantage of having never believed the collection of myths to which white Americans cling: that their ancestors were all freedom-loving heroes, that they were born in the greatest country the world has ever seen, or that Americans are invincible in battle and wise in peace, that Americans have always dealt honorably with Mexicans and Indians and all other neighbors or inferiors, that American men are the world’s most direct and virile, that American women are pure,” Baldwin wrote. “Negroes know far more about white Americans than that; it can almost be said, in fact, that they know about white Americans what parents—or, anyway, mothers—know about their children, and that they very often regard white Americans that way. And perhaps this attitude, held in spite of what they know and have endured, helps to explain why Negroes, on the whole, and until lately, have allowed themselves to feel so little hatred. The tendency has really been, insofar as this was possible, to dismiss white people as the slightly mad victims of their own brainwashing.”

America was founded on the genocidal slaughter of indigenous people and the holocaust of slavery. It was also founded on an imagined moral superiority and purity. The fact that dominance of others came, and still comes, from unrestrained acts of violence is washed out of the national narrative. The steadfast failure to face the truth, Baldwin warned, perpetuates a kind of collective psychosis. Unable to face the truth, white Americans stunt and destroy their capacity for self-reflection and self-criticism. They construct a world of dangerous, self-serving fantasy. Those who imbibe the myth of whiteness externalize evil—their own evil—onto their victims. Racism, Baldwin understood, is driven by moral bankruptcy, narcissism, an inner loneliness and latent guilt. Donald Trump and most of those around him exhibit all of these characteristics.

“If Americans were not so terrified of their private selves, they would never have needed to invent and could never have become so dependent on what they still call ‘the Negro problem,’ ” Baldwin wrote. “This problem, which they invented in order to safeguard their purity, has made of them criminals and monsters, and it is destroying them; and this not from anything blacks may or may not be doing but because of the role a guilty and constricted white imagination has assigned to the blacks.”

“People pay for what they do, and, still more for what they allowed themselves to become,” Baldwin went on. “And they pay for it very simply by the lives they lead. The crucial thing, here, is that the sum of these individual abdications menaces life all over the world. For, in the generality, as social and moral and political and sexual entities, white Americans are probably the sickest and certainly the most dangerous people, of any color, to be found in the world today.”

Footage in the Peck documentary of past murder cases including the 1955 lynching of the 14-year-old Emmett Till is interspersed with the modern-day lynching of young black men such as Michael Brown and Freddie Gray. Images of white supremacist parades from the 1960s, with young men carrying signs proclaiming “Keep America White,” shift directly to footage of Ferguson, Mo. This juxtaposition is almost too much to bear. If it does not shake you to the core you have no heart and no understanding of who we are in America.

The film begins with Baldwin’s 1957 return from France, where he had been living for almost a decade. He comes back to join the nascent civil rights movement. He was deeply disturbed by a photograph of Dorothy Counts, 15, surrounded by a mob of whites spitting and screaming racial slurs as she walked into a newly desegregated high school in Charlotte, N.C.

“I could simply no longer sit around Paris discussing the Algerian and the black American problem,” he said. “Everybody was paying their dues, and it was time I went home and paid mine.”

In short, he returned to the United States so that black children like Dorothy Counts would not have to walk alone through a sea of racial hatred.

He spoke and participated in hundreds of events for the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, however, largely held him at arm’s length. Baldwin was too independent and outspoken about the truth. His words made King’s Northern white liberal supporters uncomfortable. Baldwin was supposed to speak at the 1963 March on Washington, but King and the other leaders of the march replaced him with the actor Burt Lancaster. Baldwin steadfastly refused to be anyone’s “negro.”

Baldwin was, like Orwell, an astute critic of modern culture and how it justifies the crimes of racism and imperialism. In his book “The Devil Finds Work” he pits Hollywood’s vision of race against the reality. The Peck documentary shows clips from films Baldwin critiqued in the book including “The Birth of a Nation” (a 1915 movie Baldwin called “an elaborate justification of mass murder”), “Dance, Fools, Dance” (1931), “The Monster Walks” (1932), “King Kong” (1933), “Imitation of Life” (1934), “They Won’t Forget” (1937), “Stagecoach” (1939), “The Defiant Ones” (1958), “Lover Come Back” (1961), “A Raisin in the Sun” (1961) and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (1967). In film after film Baldwin pointed to the ingrained racial stereotypes of African-Americans in popular culture that sustain the lie of whiteness.

Blacks were, and often still are, portrayed by mass culture as lazy and childlike, therefore needing white parental supervision and domination, or as menacing and violent sexual predators who needed to be eliminated. These Hollywood stereotypes, Baldwin knew, existed as foils for an imagined white purity, decency and innocence. They buttressed the myth of a nation devoted to the ideals of justice, liberty and democracy. The oppressed, because of their supposed character defects, were the architects of their own oppression. Oppression was for their own good. Racism was a form of benevolence. Baldwin warned that not facing these lies would see America consume itself.

In “The Devil Finds Work” Baldwin also wrote about the film “A Tale of Two Cities” (1935). He had read the novel by Charles Dickens “obsessively” as a boy to understand “the question of what it meant to be a nigger.” This novel and other novels he consumed, such as “Crime and Punishment,” spoke of the oppressed. He knew that the oppression of the characters in these stories had “something to do with my own.” The books “had something to tell me.” He wrote:

I was haunted, for example, by Alexandre Manette’s document, in A Tale of Two Cities, describing the murder of a peasant boy—who, dying, speaks: “I say, we were so robbed, and hunted, and were made so poor, that our father told us it was a dreadful thing to bring a child into this world, and that what we should most pray for was that our women might be barren and our miserable race die out!” (“I had never before,” observes Dr. Manette, “seen the sense of being oppressed, bursting forth like a fire.”)

Dickens has not seen it all. The wretched of the earth do not decide to become extinct, they resolve, on the contrary, to multiply: life is their only weapon against life, life is all that they have. This is why the dispossessed and starving will never be convinced (though some may be coerced) by the population-control programs of the civilized. I have watched the dispossessed and starving laboring in the fields which others own with their transistor radios at their ear, all day long: so they learn, for example, along with equally weighty matters, that the Pope, one of the heads of the civilized world, forbids to the civilized that abortion which is being, literally, forced on them, the wretched. The civilized have created the wretched quite coldly, and deliberately, and do not intend to change the status quo; are responsible for their slaughter and enslavement; rain down bombs on defenseless children whenever and wherever they decide that their “vital interests” are menaced, and think nothing of torturing a man to death; these people are not to be taken seriously when they speak of the “sanctity” of human life, or the “conscience” of the civilized world. There is a “sanctity” involved with bringing a child into this world: it is better than bombing one out of it. Dreadful indeed it is to see a starving child, but the answer to that is not to prevent the child’s arrival but to restructure the world so that the child can live in it: so that the “vital interest” of the world becomes nothing less than the life of the child.

Nearly all African-Americans carry within them white blood, usually the result of white rape. White slaveholders routinely sold mixed-race children—their own children—into slavery. Baldwin knew the failure to acknowledge the melding of the black and white races that can be seen in nearly every African-American face, a melding that makes African-Americans literally the brothers and sisters of whites. African-Americans, Baldwin wrote, are the “bastard” children of white America. They constitute a peculiarly and uniquely American race.

“The truth is this country does not know what to do with its black population,” he said. “Americans can’t face the fact that I am flesh of their flesh.”

White supremacy is not defined, he wrote, by intelligence or virtue. The white race continues to dominate other races because it has always controlled the most efficient killing mechanisms on the planet. It used, and uses, its industrial weapons to carry out mass murder, genocide, subjugation and exploitation, whether on slave plantations, on the Trail of Tears, at Wounded Knee, in the Philippines and Vietnam, in cities such as Baltimore and Ferguson or in our endless wars across the Middle East.

The true credo of the white race is we have everything, and if you try to take any of it from us we will kill you. This is the essential meaning of whiteness. As the white race turns on itself in an age of diminishing resources it is in the vital interest of the white underclass to understand what its elites and its empire are actually about. These lies, Baldwin warned, will ultimately have fatal consequences for America.

“There are days, this is one of them, when you wonder what your role is in this country and what your future is in it,” Baldwin said. “How precisely you’re going to reconcile yourself to your situation here and how you are going to communicate to the vast, heedless, unthinking, cruel white majority that you are here. I’m terrified at the moral apathy—the death of the heart—which is happening in my country. These people have deluded themselves for so long that they really don’t think I’m human.”

— source truthdig.com by Chris Hedges

WikiLeaks Inform Voters

Naomi Klein’s remarks. ” how dangerous it is for media organizations to be taking such a highly political approach to this election, because they so clearly don’t want Trump to get elected, so they’re engaging in what you’ve described as journalistic fraud, right?”

Julian Assange talking:

I think it’s a bit rich for Naomi Klein, who’s a very wealthy woman, sitting up there in Canada, to be accusing a political prisoner, who’s been detained for the last seven years without charge, in violation of two U.N. rulings, without getting her facts straight.

So, what is WikiLeaks to do? Sit on and suppress evidence of interference in the DNC process? Wait until after the DNC congress to publish that information? That would be deeply unethical for this organization. I would argue it would be deeply unethical for any media organization. But for this organization, it would be deeply unethical. We have a commitment to the public that we will not suppress information like that. And we have a commitment to sources who come forward, taking risks to give us information, that we will publish it in a timely fashion, once we have verified that it is completely accurate. Now, do we wish that we had more money and could process information faster? Of course we do. But we did manage to get that publication out before the DNC, and I think that was very important, so that people involved in that process could understand who it was that they were choosing to go for.

Now, let’s be realistic. Naomi has a particular issue, a very important issue, and I agree it’s an important issue, which is climate change. And so, she was willing to attack anyone in her campaign to make sure Hillary Clinton was elected, because she perceived that Hillary Clinton would do better on climate change. And I agree it’s a very serious issue. But in relation to WikiLeaks, we are an organization that has a commitment to the public to publish true information and not suppress it, and to make sure that as many people read it as possible. Is it true that the way that we staged our publishing process increased the engagement of people in reading our material, going through it, etc., etc.? Of course it is. Did we do a good job—did we do a good job in getting people, enticing people, to read and report on our material? Yes, we did. And we will do that for any source, any whistleblower, that comes to us and gives us information. We will try and maximize the amount of readers that come as a result of the risks that those people take. That’s our promise to the public, to our readers and to our sources.

Allan Nairn talking:

Do you know that Russia didn’t give you the leaks through an intermediary?

I’m not going to be playing 20 questions on our sources. I’m sure you understand, Allan, as a source protection organization, we’re not going to be inscribing circles around who our sources are, how we communicate with them, any properties that might be used to arrest them or criticize them in some future process. I’m simply not going to comment on it.

– Trump would be less dangerous than Clinton.

it’s fine for you to say that, but you should understand that, no, we didn’t. In fact, I was asked that question directly on Democracy Now! at the time about what my position was, asked which one I preferred. And my response is, being asked this question is being asked: Do I prefer cholera, or do I prefer gonorrhea?

one can go into historical revisionism. And Clinton historical revisionism is occurring. And you understand why it is occurring. Because the Democratic Party had—I think it’s—I think it’s lost now, but the Democratic Party had a moment for very important internal reform after its epic loss to Donald Trump. The two—a very disliked candidate as far as the polling is concerned. So, the Democratic Party had an epic loss. Who was responsible for that epic loss?

he Democratic Party was, and its various structures, its institutions, etc. Now who was not responsible for that epic loss was those people telling the public the truth. Those people are not responsible. People take the truth, and they absorb it, and they think about it, and they do what they want with it. And the reality is, the American people so disliked what was being offered to them by the Democratic Party that they decided that they preferred to blow it all up rather than have Hillary Clinton. They decided they would throw the Trump grenade.

up until very recently—and I guess we still have to see how it goes—I’ve been delighted by the conflict that has been occurring between the incoming administration and between the security services, etc. Why is that? Because it has shed light on both. It is resulting in the courts throwing nooses around the power of the presidency and tying him down. And, I mean, that’s something that I predicted would happen, and it is happening very rapidly.

The problem for party politics in the United States is that the Democrats have been in collapse for almost eight years, at the council level, at the state level and at the national level. So, the election of Donald Trump, while he’s an unusual person psychologically, and Hillary Clinton was a particularly bad candidate, is actually part of something that’s much bigger. And it’s very interesting to think what that is, because any solution in terms of party politics has to understand why it is that the Democratic machinery has seemingly been in inexorable collapse over the last eight years. And you can perhaps say it’s to do with gross economic factors, perhaps the professionalization of the Democratic class, where you have a revolving door of contractors and so on. So you can see this in our DNC leaks, that you have educated, professionalized Democrats, who have lifted off the working-class base and who are then involved in a revolving-door system, becoming lobbyists, going back into the DNC, etc. If you read the emails we’ve published about John Podesta, you can see this is not just simply something that happens. This is an expectation within that community. And anyone who doesn’t engage in that expectation, anyone who doesn’t go into private industry and get a $400,000-a-year consulting contract as a local or foreign agent, is viewed to be as a fool. And so, you can only keep up that game for so long, and it starts to turn people off, and you start to lose the base. And that’s what happened in this particular run.

I caution Allan strongly. I have a lot of respect for his work, but I caution him strongly to not to get swept up into what is an attempt by the Democratic Party in this particular case, but by the two parties, to polarize the population into party politics. There’s lots of interesting things that can come out of this Trump administration. We’re seeing great horrors, of course. But we are seeing these horrors.

we’re seeing the conflict with the security services, the deep state. Now, I’ve been writing—well, I’ve been writing about the deep state for a decade, using that word. Now, Turkish academics have been writing about the equivalent in Turkey. Some Hungarian investigative journalists, the same within Hungary. And finally, this word is now something in U.S. politics. It’s not a new concept. It’s, you know, essentially the military-industrial complex plus lobbyists, plus contractors, plus people in the Senate Intelligence Committee, etc.
____

Julian Assange
founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks.
Allan Nairn
longtime investigative journalist and activist.

— source democracynow.org

What Happened to Japanese Americans 75 Years Ago Is Newly Relevant

In May 1942, just six months into World War II, a medical doctor in the U.S. Army went to a notary in Fort Smith, Arkansas and signed over the sale of his family farm in San Jose, California. The rushed sale “for pennies on the dollar” happened because of an order his commander in chief, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, signed two months earlier. That medic was my uncle, James Higuchi. He was among those who were forced into prisons without trials because of 9066—my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles. Plucked from their homes and businesses in San Francisco and San Jose, they were sent to a desolate, wind-scoured plain in northwestern Wyoming called Heart Mountain.

Executive Order 9066 declared that the “successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national-defense material, national-defense premises, and national-defense utilities.” It gave the secretary of War the authority to create a zone from which certain people could be excluded from living or working. That meant my entire Japanese American family.

Although the order, signed 75 years ago on February 19, 1942, never cited any specific type of race or ethnicity, it was directed at one group of people, the 120,000 people of Japanese descent who lived on the West Coast of the United States.

Not only would James, along with his brother Kiyoshi, have to sell off the family farm, 14.25 acres in the heart of what is now Silicon Valley, but James would also suffer the indignity of visiting his family at an internment camp at Heart Mountain, which is located 14 miles from Cody, Wyoming. There he would stand inside the camp while wearing the same U.S. military uniform as the men who stood outside the wire that kept my family members penned inside.

THE ORDER

For the last 75 years, 9066 has been a stain on our nation’s record of freedom and respect for different beliefs. It was done out of a misguided and ill-informed fear of people whose only crime was to be from a country with which the United States was at war. If he had known the truth, Roosevelt would have realized that his government already knew that Japanese Americans posed no threat to U.S. security. The United States was also at war with Germany and Italy, yet the government didn’t round up the millions of German and Italian Americans and imprison them.

Anniversaries focus thoughts on past times and events, and this is no different. But current events also raise the issues surrounding the incarceration. The election of President Donald Trump and the loose talk of him and some of his supporters of creating a registry of Muslims raises many of the same concerns from 1942.

Then, as now, the United States had no tests for citizenship. If you were born here, you were a citizen. Yet those fundamentals were thrown out because of fear, the same fear we see whenever there is a terrorist event tied to Islam and Muslims. It is fundamentally un-American to institute such tests, and it defies the Constitution’s promise of freedom. We lose what makes this country great when we strip free people of their rights without trial.

Some members of the Roosevelt administration, such as Attorney General Francis Biddle, understood that. They opposed the order and the imprisonment. Others, however, pushed hard to remove the people they considered a threat to security. California Attorney General Earl Warren was running for governor that year; he called Japanese Americans a threat and wanted them removed. As California governor and then chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Warren would build a towering liberal reputation for civil liberties. He would later consider his support of 9066 the nadir of his public life.

THE FARM

For my father’s family, the Higuchis of San Jose, the order meant another attack on their tenuous grip on a place in their adopted country.

My grandparents, Iyekichi and Chiye Higuchi, scratched out a living as sharecroppers in the San Jose area during the first decades of the 20th century. Good fortune eluded my grandfather, who once lost an entire prune crop when heavy rains caused the farm’s water tank to overflow. But 1928 brought a radical change to my grandparents’ lives when they left sharecropping to purchase a farm near the present-day Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. They moved to a strange community, assumed a mortgage, cleared an apricot orchard, and purchased a water well, tractor, and horse. Their farm was directly behind the Curci family, and both properties shared an easement to the main road.

Because California’s racist Alien Land Law was still in place, they could not own the farm in their name. They were legal aliens but aliens couldn’t own property. At first, the farm was in the name of the son of a San Francisco Japanese schoolteacher. Eventually, through the help of lawyer Saburo Kido, they were able to put the farm in the names of their two oldest sons, James and Kiyoshi.

Owning a farm was harder for them than sharecropping. They worked 16 to 18 hours a day raising raspberries and strawberries, a specialty among the fruits and vegetables they grew and that were trucked to nearby markets. They started to prosper.

The panic after the attack on Pearl Harbor and Executive Order 9066 changed that. The farm came under attack.

“Oil and gasoline tanks were opened and drained on the ground, [the] chicken coop [was] upset, trees and branches [were] dragged across driveways etc. Finally, the property we had held together for 12 years through some of the toughest and trying times was practically given away. Memory of the many years of desperate struggle the family put in is still very keen; and the loss of the farm is still very painful,” James wrote in a memoir he shared with his family.

James and Kiyoshi sold the farm to the Curcis, a sale that left a black mark on my family that still endures.

“There were long, unhappy arguments around the dinner table about what to do about the farm,” my 80-year-old aunt, Emily Higuchi Filling, says now.

While visiting family in San Jose last November, I drove around in the rain with my 85-year-old father, William, Emily, and 94-year-old Aunt Amy, who was married to James, to find the place where the farm once stood. On that trip, my dad told me that as early as the 1960s, whenever he returned to the area on business or to visit family, he tried to find that place. I think that many people who experience a traumatic event in childhood try, in adulthood, to return to that place where the trauma occurred as a way of healing and validating their experiences.

For my dad, this meant locating his family’s land and we were able to find it when we received the map of the land from the Santa Clara county assessor’s office. Today, million-dollar homes and the expanded Santa Clara Valley Medical Center fill the land where crops of vegetables and fruit once flourished.

Standing there, I felt anger, regret, and sadness combined with a need to find the Curci family and tell them how their ancestors’ actions had lasting effects on my family. Because my father and Emily are Nisei, the stoic, second-generation Japanese Americans that former Heart Mountain prisoner and journalist Bill Hosokawa called “the quiet Americans,” did not express theemotions I felt.

After locating the farm, we stopped by the Oak Hill Cemetery to visit the gravesites of my grandparents and James. I hope they came to some semblance of peace with their conflicted feelings about the loss of the farm before they died.

FAMILIES SCATTERED, FAMILIES CREATED

While Executive Order 9066 wrecked my families’ homes and businesses, it also paradoxically created something else.

In Arkansas James lived in bachelor’s quarters while stationed at Camp Chaffee, a U.S. military base, but his family and that of Amy Iwagaki had another idea. Her parents knew James, and they knew they did not want Amy to go to a prison camp. My grandparents, father, aunt and Uncle Kiyoshi, who was studying at San Jose State College, had no choice. They had to go to Heart Mountain. My Uncle Takeru was exempt, because he was studying outside the exclusion zone in Wisconsin.

Amy’s parents arranged for James to write her and ask her to marry him. Shortly after he signed over the family farm, he asked Amy to go to Arkansas so they could get married.

“He wanted to marry me, because he didn’t want me to go to camp,” Amy says now. “Camp meant a prison-like place. Wow! Such incredible news — so unexpected. Especially when I didn’t know Jim Higuchi that much. Jim and I were family friends. Mom and dad worked at their farm one summer or two. A few times, mother would say, ‘Amy, Jim would make a good husband.’ I just turned a deaf ear to that. I was happy being a student nurse. Since our lives were in such chaos, and the urging from my parents were strong, I consented.”

At age 20, alone and in a country at war with the nation of her ancestors, Amy boarded an eastbound train in May 1942. “I looked pretty young, [and] felt very young, to be traveling alone across the country on a train. Fortunately a couple adopted me and kept me safe from soldiers and other hazards,” she says.

James and Amy were married on Saturday, May 16, 1942, in the U.S. Army Chapel at Camp Chaffee, complete with music, James’s fellow officers and their wives in attendance, and the ritual of throwing rice on the newlyweds.

The irony of James’s situation is not lost on me. While James was trying to be a good American and fight for his country, his three siblings, all U.S. citizens, and his parents, Japanese immigrants barred by law from becoming citizens in their adoptive country, were incarcerated by that very county’s government at Heart Mountain. Selling the farm — a source of pride and a symbol of adversity and triumph — must have affected him more deeply than he admitted and to a much greater extent than I can ever imagine.

But despite that there is a mixed blessing from the Japanese American incarceration for me. My father, William Higuchi, was a sixth grader when he first started school at Heart Mountain. His class photo shows him next to a poised fellow classmate, Setsuko Saito.

Setsuko Saito was my mother. My parents met at Heart Mountain. Without 9066, I would not be here. Still, it’s my hope that no future American families will be formed in this way, because our nation’s leaders did not resist the easy call of racism and overreaction.

We can’t rely on ethnic or religious tests for citizenship or admission to our country. It’s the kind of racism that ripped families apart 75 years ago. As Americans in 2017, we must resist the temptation for easy answers to complicated problems.

— source historynewsnetwork.org by Shirley Ann Higuchi