Back to Japanese-American
Recalling the U.S. Internment of the Japanese
With Congressman Robert Matsui
John F. Kennedy Library and Foundation
Responding To Terrorism Series
November 4, 2001
(copied in its entirity from: http://www.jfklibrary.org/forum_matsui.html)
JS: John F. Kennedy Library. We're just delighted
to have such a large audience here on a Sunday afternoon for one
of our series, one of our 15 programs responding to terrorism,
which is a series of programs that, as I'm sure you all know,
seeks to address the burning questions of our time, the issues
that are on people's minds as our country and the world struggle
with the challenges to democracy, to basic stability and work
to try to overcome the dangers of terrorism.
This is a program that Deborah Leff and I, the
Library Director, and I'm John Shattuck, the CEO of the John F.
Kennedy Library Foundation. Together we are very pleased to be
putting on and we have some important cosponsors here which allow
us to project this program far beyond the walls of the John F.
Kennedy Library, to people all over New England and all over the
The Boston Globe, National Public Radio's flagship
station WBUR, Boston.com, the Carnegie Corporation of New York
and the Lowell Institute are all cosponsors of this series, and
as a result, we feel that we can have a town meeting with people
as far away as we've discovered as California, or Hawaii, or Texas.
We're getting e-mails responding to questions raised by some of
these programs, and certainly people are getting to see them.
We're very pleased that CSPAN tonight, of course, is filming this
This afternoon we will explore one of the challenges
and dangers in responding to terrorism, perhaps the most serious
challenge in many ways, and that is the challenge of protecting
security without destroying our own precious liberty. The challenge
of maintaining our principles of equality and justice for all
in times when often they are under severe stress.
Four times in the last century and a half we have
taken this kind of challenging moment, and when we have faced
a threat to our national security, four times we have taken steps
that by hindsight, I think we have regretted. Let me just quickly
review those for you, and then come to the one that we are discussing
In the middle of our Civil War, a grave conflict,
of course effecting all Americans in the most terrible way, we
suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus, which is the most basic freedom
that people have coming straight from the oldest liberties from
the Magna Carta, whereby people can be freed from prison if there
is no cause to hold them.
We regretted that, we did it, and we of course
restored the Writ of Habeas Corpus very soon after the Civil War.
In the 1920's, there was the first of a series
of so-called Red scares, where we rounded up thousands of immigrants
and deported them, without much process, simply by putting them
on boats. We regretted that very soon thereafter.
Of course, in the early 1950's the anti-Communist
hysteria that took the name of Senator Joseph McCarthy, who in
many ways gave it that name, resulted in a great deal of excessive
pressure against Americans who were accused of being, without
much evidence, friendly to the communist cause. There was a lot
of suffering that was done there.
But the fourth and perhaps most powerful and serious
example of this suspension of liberty in the name of national
security occurred during the Second World War, when Japanese Americans
were rounded up and placed in internment camps in three states
in the west. This is the subject that we will look at today, and
we have an extraordinary leading speaker who will help us explore
this and see what it means in the context of today's crisis.
This happened as a result of a frenzy of anti-Japanese
hysteria that swept the country after Pearl Harbor, when there
was a perceived danger of a fifth column in the United States,
a greatly inflated danger in that respect. The executive order
9066, which was signed by President Roosevelt ten weeks after
Pearl Harbor, and in less than two months 110,000 Japanese Americans
were interned in prison camps in three western states.
The executive order is extremely broad, and I
think shows the danger of authority being extended beyond the
immediate need in times of national security, endangering the
liberty of many, many people. I will ready it very quickly to
you so you can see what we're talking about.
President Roosevelt, on February 19, 1942, declared
"Now therefore by virtue of the authority vested in me as
President of the United States, I hereby authorize and direct
the Secretary of War and the military commanders whom he may from
time to time designate, whenever he or any designated commander
deems such action necessary or desirable, to prescribe the military
areas in such places and of such extent as he, or the appropriate
military commander, may determine, from which any or all persons
may be excluded, and with respect to which the right of any person
to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions
the Secretary of War or the appropriate military commander may
impose in his discretion."
Hard to imagine a broader, and in that respect,
more dangerous order, and particularly dangerous, of course, to
the 110,000 Japanese Americans who were directly effected by it.
The terribly irony of this order was that the
war record of heroism by Japanese Americans who fought, and many
of them died for this country, was exemplary. It was, in many
respects, that war record that I think we should be remembering
today, even as we condemn the executive order that rounded up
We're going to look at this, the implications
of this terrible problem and terrible order in terms of today's
climate, the danger of discrimination against particular racial
or ethnic or religious groups, particularly the danger of discrimination
against Arab-Americans. And here I think we should remember President
Bush's very courageous and strong leadership shortly after the
September 11 bombing when he visited mosques and urged Americans
to exercise a very good judgment, and to protect the rights of
We will also look at the issues of homeland security
as it's been defined in general, and how to protect it without
stepping on civil liberties.
To lead us in this discussion, we are very grateful
to have with us Congressman Bob Matsui. Congressman Matsui has
earned a national and international reputation as an effective
and strategic leader on far reaching and complex public policy
issues, and he is regarded as a leader in public health, social
security, tax policy, and international trade.
He was also a very young child, as he will tell
you, in the internment camps. He will tell you the experience
that he and his family had in that terrible time.
He is serving on the powerful Ways and Means Committee
of the Congress, which in many respects is the most important
Congressional committee, which steers virtually all domestic legislation
Congressman Matsui, after founding his on Sacramento
law practice in 1967, was elected to the Sacramento City Council
in 1971. He won reelection in 1975, and became Vice Mayor of the
City of Sacramento in 1977, and was then elected to Congress in
1978, and has been serving and reelected ever since in this period
Moderating the discussion will be Professor Kenneth
Oye, who is an associate professor of political science at MIT.
Professor Oye works in the fields of American Foreign Policy,
International Political Economy, International Relations Theory,
and Technology Policy, and he has edited and contributed to a
large number of books on U.S. foreign policy.
He has served on the faculties of Harvard, the
University of California, Princeton and Swathmore College, and
has been a guest scholars at the Brookings Institution. So let
me welcome Congressman Matsui, Professor Oye, and please all of
you join in welcoming them to this outstanding panel.
RM: Thank you very much John, for those very,
very moving remarks. We appreciate them very much. I want to thank
you and the Kennedy Library and the contributors and the sponsors
of this set of forums that we have here on our response to terrorism.
I am very honored to be invited and be part of this very important
I want to just make one personal comment, if I
may. I've known John Shattuck for years, and years, probably 23
years, ever since I've been in the United States House of Representatives.
He was with the ACLU in the late 70's and early 80's, and then
went to Harvard University as their top public affairs individual.
Then from there he went on into the Clinton White House in the
State Department as the human rights chief, the assistant secretary
in charge of human rights, and really is an outstanding states
person, and we appreciate very much your public service over the
years. Thank you very much.
And I would just like to say also that coming
from Sacramento, California, I would imagine many of you probably
don't know where that is, being from the East Coast. We do exist,
and it's the state capital of California. We have about one and
a half million people in our county. Twenty-five years ago the
mayor called it a sleepy little river town, but it's a large metropolitan
area at this time.
Given the state of the economy, if any of you
are in the high tech business or have some businesses that you
may want to relocate, we'd be happy to --
But as I was in Sacramento and I went on to school
to the University of California at Berkeley, I was a student there
in 1959 and 1960, and graduated in 1963. I was inspired to become
a lawyer by reading when I was a young person an autobiography
written by Clarence Darrell (?). That was my goal in life, and
I did become a lawyer.
But during the 1960 campaign that John Kennedy
ran, and when he made the commitment for young people to be involved
in public service, I recall sitting in the house that I happened
to be in at Berkeley and saying "I want to go into politics."
When I came back to Washington years and years
later in 1979, I met with people like Gary Hart, and Dick Gephardt,
and a number of others who were my contemporaries. Each and every
one of them said it was the inspiration of John Kennedy that actually
motivated us to get into public service.
So this library is a living monument to America
and obviously its future. I'm just very honored John, and to all
of you, to be part of this this evening.
I'd like, if I may, to take a moment to read something
that I was able to get through the Freedom of Information Act
in 1992. Individual number, 25261C. File number 405986. Your birth,
'41, relocation center Tule (?) Lake, assembly center Pinedale.
Home address, Sacramento, California.
Country of birth of father U.S. mainland, country
of birth of mother, U.S. mainland. Birthplace, California. Year
or arrival, American born, never in Japan. Marital status, single.
Languages, not applicable.
Race, Japanese and no spouse. Highest grade, no
schooling or kindergarten. Military service, no military nor naval
service and no physical defects, and no public assistance or pension
Alien registration and Social Security number,
none. Did not attend Japanese language school. Has neither alien
registration number, nor the Social Security number.
Length of time in Japan, none. Age in Japan, never
in Japan. Schooling in Japan, and number of years, none.
That happened to be my file that is still in the
defense Department of the United States government. I was six
months old at the time that I was taken, with my mother and father,
from Sacramento, California, and placed in internment camps in
the United States.
I was never given a trial. I never went before
any magistrate, nor did my parents. To this day, I do not know
what the charges that were lodged against me or my deceased parents
at this time.
I spent approximately three and a half years of
my life there, although I have no personal memory of it. I do
know that many of my friends of Japanese ancestry suffered a great
My mother and father refused to talk about it
with me until they were nearing their death, separately, obviously.
I remember when I was in the fourth grade at William Bland School
in Sacramento, California, I was asked by a very well intentioned
teacher, because we were studying American history and World War
II. She said, "Bob, weren't you in one of those camps, those
camps for Japanese during the war? And maybe you can describe
this to the classmates."
I'll never forget it. I shuddered. I must have
turned color and I said "I don't know what you're talking
about." She says, "Are you sure? You were in one of
those camps. I know your mother and father were." I said
"I don't know what you mean."
Then we went out later in the playground and I
remember one of my friends, a very good friend, going like this
to me as if it were a gun or something, and saying, "Were
you a spy? Was that why you were in jail?"
What our problem was was that there was this specter
of disloyalty that hung over us as Americans of Japanese ancestry,
those of us that were interned during World War II, 115,000, Americans,
basically, of Japanese ancestry.
I think what's very interesting in telling about
this is that Edison Uno who was a scholar at Cal State University
San Francisco in the 60's probably described it best. He said
that a victim of a rape in the 60's could not talk about the experience
because the mere articulation of what had happened to her would
bring out a question about whether she was responsible for the
And that is exactly what happened to me and my
parents, and 115,000 other Americans. We could not talk about
it because the mere raising of the issue brought into question
our loyalty to our own government.
Over the years I've had an opportunity to think
about this and talk with a lot of people who were in the camps.
I have come to the conclusion that there is not much more in terms
of charges that can be lodged against an individual, than to be
accused of being disloyal to one's country.
Think about it for a minute. If you are disloyal
to your country, that means you're disloyal to your state, your
local government, and your neighbors, and perhaps even those relatives
and loved ones of yours. It's probably one of the most heinous
accusations one can make against an individual.
I think that's why McCarthyism has been so imbedded
in the American psyche because charges were lodged about the patriotism
of many people; some in the State Department, some in Hollywood,
many throughout the United States.
Now, many people have said, "Why did this
happen, Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, the day of infamy?"
When I came to Congress I went to the Library
of Congress and I had the opportunity to go through some of the
newspapers and records throughout a one hundred year period. And
I have to say that I would take issue with anyone who would say
that Pearl Harbor was the triggering event of what happened to
Americans of Japanese ancestry.
Let me quote the San Francisco Mayor, James Phalen,
who later became a U.S. senator, at a labor union rally in San
Francisco in 1920. Quote: The Chinese and Japanese are not bona
fide citizens. They are not the stuff of which American citizens
can be made. Personally, we have nothing against the Japanese,
but as they will not assimilate with us and their social life
is so different from ours, let's keep them at a respectful distance.
An east coast author, Madison Grant in 1920, the
same year, said "There is no immediate danger of the world
being swamped by black blood, but there is a very immediate danger
that the white stocks may be swamped by Asiatic blood, unless
the white man erects and maintains artificial barriers."
Virgil Stuart McLashy (?), V.S. McLashy, who was
the owner then of the McLashy newspapers in Sacramento, California,
made a statement to the United States Senate on July 21, 1921,
a statement that was endorsed by senators Hyram Johnson and Samuel
Shortage (?) and the entire California congressional delegation,
democrats and republicans alike.
He stated "Japanese immigration is a steady
growing menace that is no longer a state problem but a national
one. The immigration of Japanese is not only undesirable but dangerous
to American interests, because the Japanese are not assimilable,
and even were born here, they are unfit for responsible duties
of American citizenship.
The extraordinary birth rates of such aliens would
cause inundation of the white population in this country by the
yellow race. Whites would be speedily driven out of their communities.
Then in 1935, some 14 years later, in the Committee
of a Thousand, which became a very powerful kind of anti-immigration
group in the United States, stated "Wherever the Japanese
have settled, their nests pollute the communities like running
sores of leprosy. They exist like yellowed, smoldering, discarded
butts and over-filled ashtrays, vilifying the air with their loathsome
smell, filling all who have the misfortune to look upon them with
wholesome disgust and desire to wash."
And of course, after December 7, it changed. The
attorney general of California, then Earl Warren, who later became
a great Chief Justice, he stated "On February 21, 1942, some
three months after Pearl Harbor, I want to say that the consensus
of opinion among the law enforcement officers in this state is
that there are more potential dangers among a group of Japanese
who were born in this country than from alien Japanese who are
born in Japan."
And the U.S. general, John L. DeWitt, who was
in charge of the internment and incarceration of the Japanese
Americans, stated a few months later "The Japanese race is
an enemy race, and while many second and third Japanese born in
the United States soil possessed of U.S. citizenship have become
Americanized, the racial strains are undiluted. It therefore follows
that along the virtual Pacific Coast over 112,000 potential enemies
of Japanese extraction are at large today."
And the reason I call your attention to this,
and what happened in the comments and before December 7, is because
there was an anti-Asian sentiment. There was a strain throughout
the West Coast, and particularly the state of California. Pearl
Harbor merely triggered the sentiment to become a sign of action.
It is my believe that the internment was for that reason. It was
the triggering event of deep seated feelings that existed in the
state of California, and Washington, and the entire west coast
of the United States.
As I said, this was something that we had a very
difficult time talking about, and it wasn't until 1981 when the
Congress of the United States actually set up a commission to
look into the causes of the internment, and also whether anything
should be done, such as apologies, or redress, or reparations
for those that were interred.
I was personally stunned, because of the seven
or eight hearings throughout the United States, many Americans
of Japanese ancestry who at that time were in their 60's, began
to speak out. And it was stunning because as they were testifying,
they would immediately break down and begin to describe their
ordeal; the fact that they were isolated and ostracized from their
own communities, their own state, and obviously the nation.
I recall going back and finally having the opportunity
to talk with my parents. And my mother, who was at that time dying,
said that yes, she woke up all of the time in the middle of the
night thinking that she was in one of the camps.
My dad finally began to speak about it. It was
an event that kind of opened up for us the opportunity to begin
to discuss what had actually happened. Instead of saying that
it was our fault, we were then able to finally say that it wasn't
our fault. It was the government, a failure of leadership in the
United States that caused the internment.
Because J. Edgar Hoover, believe it or not, did
not want the internment to occur. There was never any case of
disloyalty or espionage lodged against any American of Japanese
ancestry before, during, or after World War II.
I want, if I may, to contrast that with what is
happening today. In The Washington Post today there was an article
on the front page. Those of you that can use your computer, I
would urge you to pick it up off the Web, because the story indicates
one thousand one hundred Arab Americans that have been detained
over the last couple of months, since September 11. Many on charges
for reasons that were somewhat questionable.
One, for example, was going after a renewal of
his driver's license and it just so happens a few hours before
one of the terrorists who committed the heinous act of September
11, had sought a driver's license a few hours before. So this
individual was detained and actually held for a number of days.
He is still under suspicion, mainly because he sought a renewal
of his driver's license around the same time that one of the terrorists
did. So this is an ongoing problem.
Now, I do not believe that the United States would
incarcerate Arab Americans today. I think there are a number of
contrasting reasons for that. One is that I don't believe that
there is such an anti-Arab sentiment that has existed prior to
September 11, although there is some anti-Arab feelings, but it's
not as prominent as it was of the Asian American community prior
to December 7.
But most importantly, it's because our political
leaders in America, starting with President Bush, immediately
spoke out and challenged the American people to make sure that
citizens of Arab ancestry were not at all attacked, or treated
in intolerable fashions.
In fact, I think as John Shattuck mentioned, the
president went to a mosque a few days after September 11. The
attorney general, John Ashcroft, has spoken out numerous times
over the last two months, about making sure that we treat all
citizens in a decent way, no matter what their ancestry or religious
beliefs might happen to be. At the same time, we've seen it all
through the political system.
In fact, one member of Congress from Louisiana,
many of you may have seen the story on this, suggested that anyone
that wore, he used the word "diapers" around his head,
should be immediately stopped and questioned before going on an
airline or any kind of transportation.
The president spoke out against him. Many of his
colleagues spoke out against him, and he was immediately put in
So I think things have changed somewhat, but there
still is, obviously, the danger of incidents and profiling that
undoubtedly could and will occur. This situation will go on for
months and perhaps years, and as a result of that we, as American
citizens, have to be very vigilant in making sure that we watch
for and protect the rights of individuals that are residing, or
are citizens of our country.
Let me conclude, and then we'll have questions
and a discussion, if I may make one other observation, if I may.
This is a great and wonderful country, because what happened in
1987 is that the House, the United States House of Representatives
and the United States Senate passed legislation for a presidential
apology for the internment for the surviving Americans of Japanese
ancestry who were interned, plus compensation of $20,000 per survivor.
President Reagan signed the legislation, and I
have to say that I brought the letter from the president, by that
time President Bush, Sr. had signed the letter and given it to
my father, who was 21 years old at the time of the internment,
and he broke down and cried, and he indicated what a great country
I have to say that it's very few countries that
are willing to look back at its past and apologize for its act,
or make amends for its act, as the United States had one. Hopefully
as a country, that we learn from our mistakes of the past. That's
why it's my strong belief and my strong hope that what happened
to us will not happen to any other American or resident alien
in this country, and certainly not to the Arab American community
In fact, three weeks ago when I was back in my
home district in Sacramento, I asked leaders of the Arab American
Sikh community to come and visit with me. We brought the U.S.
attorney into the, from the eastern district into my office, and
we had a meeting, in which case the U.S. attorney said look, if
there are any incidents or anything of that nature, we want you
to call our office because we do have laws on the books that we
can offer you help and protection.
The sheriff's office in Sacramento, the police
department in Sacramento, and frankly throughout the country law
enforcement agencies have been on the alert for this. I have to
say that things are different, but we still need to be vigilant,
and we still need to watch for possible anti-Arab treatment in
the months and years ahead. Thank you.
KO: Thank you very much, Bob. First I'd like to
express my appreciation for a chance to be serving on such a distinguished
panel; between John Shattuck's experience working with ACLU and
certainly at the Department of State on these issues, and Bob
Matsui's leadership, not just in looking out for let's call it
the interest of Japanese Americans who suffered under this, but
also working very, very hard to see that it does not happen to
others. Looking at your voting record and your concern on Civil
Rights over the years, it's clear that a portion of what's drawn
you to these issues comes from your past.
The reason why I think that we should thank the
Kennedy Library for setting this up as a forum is that we do have
to look back at the past, and to relieve it, painful though it
may be at times, to perhaps understand a little bit better the
dangers that we face today.
The situations that Bob described, the official
actions that Bob described, in fact do represent a low point.
We've heard now that Bob believes that it is unlikely that we
will see something like a direct repetition of the same.
And what I'd suggest in terms of maybe a few minutes
of informal dialogue before we turn to the questions, that we
explore, just a bit, the similarities and differences between
the situation after Pearl Harbor and the situation that we confront
Let's begin with the unofficial for a moment.
There is now, and what I'd like to do is to cut back and forth
between problems that Arab Americans and others have faced, and
problems that Japanese Americans face. If we start not with public
action and official discrimination but with vigilantism. In the
week after September 11 there were hundreds upon hundreds of incidents
directed against Asian Americans, sorry, against Arab Americans
and against Sikhs.
And in the years or the days after Pearl Harbor,
individuals were often singled out.
The question that I'd pose on this would be as
your parents were discussing what happened to them after Pearl
Harbor in terms of, perhaps, being singled out for discrimination,
or perhaps even being picked up or pursued rather aggressively
by official law enforcement, did they mention problems, either
with private action, vigilante action, or problems with law enforcement
itself effecting them individually?
RM: My father and mother really wouldn't talk
about this subject until the early 80's. So this is something
that really wasn't discussed. But after '81, they did open up
a little bit. I would have to say that what they said was very
minimal. I mean, it was not something that they would freely discuss.
I think pretty much the entire Japanese American community, with
the exception of a few -- I think Ken, your parents may have been
an exception to that rule -- But there were times when they spoke.
My dad mostly spoke of government actions. He
was, he and his brother owned a little produce business in Sacramento,
and he was up in the northern part of Sacramento County buying
produce, and it got late one afternoon. As he was driving down
he missed the curfew, so he was stopped and put in the local jail
for over night.
The one thing he remembered was the fact that
the fruit and vegetables were pretty much ruined, and as a result
of that, he lost the entire day. But it would be mainly governmental
My mother didn't talk much about it at all, except
anecdotally, as I mentioned.
But others had. There were actions taken by private
citizens, things were scrawled on homes and a lot of vandalism
occurred and things of that nature, immediately after December
I look back on that now in terms of what happened
after September 11, and I don't know if I really fully appreciated
how isolated they must have felt, until I saw what happened right
after September 11. Because how do we as Americans respond to
that kind of terrorist activity of September 11 and what happened
on December 7, 1941? I mean it was a very traumatic event, both
Your immediate reaction is to obviously comfort
those that were victimized by the action, and on the other hand,
there is a level of anger that has to be out there against perpetrators
of a violence, or the Japanese during World War II.
Again, I just find it incomprehensible now that
I see what happened on September 11, how my parents were able
to really get by day to day.
KO: My father actually spoke of this. The official
actions we'll get to in a mute, but the reactions of ordinary
citizens are something that I think should not be discounted in
difficult times like these.
My father went to work on Monday after Pearl Harbor,
and his boss called him into the office. I'm sure that his feelings
at that point, he was working for the State of California as a
bookkeeper at the time, were not all that optimistic.
His boss called him into the office to tell him
that he wanted my father to tell him if anything bad happened,
if he ran into any difficulties or any problems. His coworkers
in fact were fine, and his experiences were, in fact, so good,
that he wasn't that worried about bad things to come. We'll get
to that in a moment.
But the point here is that individuals as well
as political leaders can have and exercise some responsibility
for how people feel when they are regarded or viewed with suspicion.
These small gestures, and acts, in fact are something that can
be remembered many, many years later. It may be one of the reasons
why he felt free to talk about the internment, perhaps a little
earlier than many of the others.
But in terms of still continuing on the theme,
if you will, of the private, the reactions of people who are viewed
with suspicion, if you look within the Japanese American community
after Pearl Harbor, there were a variety of points of view, and
in fact, there are still controversies to this day in terms of
how to react and respond.
Could you go into some of those controversies
a bit, and perhaps we could slide into equivalent or similar situations
that Arab Americans and others might face now, in terms of how
do we react and respond? What's a good strategy if you are viewed
RM: You mean in terms of, Ken, are you talking
about in terms of how the community responded?
KO: How the community responded.
RM: This is the aftermath now. We became super
Americans. It's very interesting. I mean, the Japanese American
community essentially had nothing to do with Japan as a nation,
and quite understandable, even in the 50's and the 60's and 70's,
if that's what you're suggesting.
There was no way that my parents were going to
teach me how to speak Japanese, and I still can't to this day.
In fact, in my one visit to Japan I had an interpreter who happened
to be white. (Laughter) ... how that was.
I think they did that to humiliate me as a member
of the Congress, but that's beside the point, I guess. You know,
we were just made to be super Americans.
In fact, what was interesting my son, who by that
time when he was nine years old he was going to Sidwell Friends
in Washington, D.C. The teacher wanted each one of the children
in the class to bring something that kind of brought back their
We had a helmet, a Japanese helmet that my grandmother
had given Brian when he was born. And I forgot all about it, it
was up in the attic someplace. He said we're supposed to bring
something that tells where we're from. He's fourth generation
so I said, "What Sacramento?" He said "No, no,
from where we're from." I go "Okay."
He said, "What about the helmet that great
grandma gave me?" I said, "What helmet are you talking
about?" Well, it was a Japanese -- And I was stunned. It
just struck me as odd that this nine year old would want something
from Japan, or something that related to Japan. Because that was
something that was totally away from me. It was not something
that I was at all to be involved in.
I know a lot of my contemporaries, people my age,
a little younger, a little older, pretty much felt the same way
as well. I mean, I marvel at the fact that here in this state
Irish Americans can talk about Ireland so freely, because that's
something that certainly the Japanese American community, my contemporaries,
would not do under any circumstances.
KO: And it's interesting now. If we look within
the communities of our Arab and Moslem brothers and sisters --
RM: I'll say this if I may, and I want to be careful
when I say this, but 15 years ago I wouldn't be able to stand
before all of you, or sit before all of you and talk about this.
There would have been no way that I would want to even share a
moment of this experience with you. I would not want you at all
to think that this had happened to me.
Obviously, I think the signing of the redress
legislation and all of that had gone a long way into kind of closing
the circle, so to speak, and kind of cleansing the specter of
disloyalty that hung over all of us.
KO: There must be equivalent or similar feelings
running through the communities of our Arab brothers and sisters
at this point as well.
RM: What I'm most worried about, and this wasn't
pre-rehearsed, what I'm most worried about is -- You know, again,
I think individual vigilante action will be taken with the Arab
American community, but no government action will be. In fact,
the government, I think, will be the protectors of the community
when all is said and done. But it's probably the young people.
You know, K thru 7, K thru 6. They are the ones
that will probably suffer. Because children can be insensitive
without even knowing it.
What we've done in Sacramento, and I hope people
throughout the country are doing this, or will do this, or have
been thinking about this, is set up a little speaker's bureau
at our local public school so that people could speak of this
particular issue. So that perhaps there could be some sensitivity
during this period of crisis that we're facing at this time.
KO: There were also interesting issues, if you
looked to other Asian American groups in California, as the internment
was taking place. Chinese Americans, for example, were sitting
there watching Japanese Americans during the internment.
Again, during that period of vigilante action,
the ability of many Caucasian Americans to differentiate among
Japanese and Chinese tends to be a little bit limited. (Laughter)
What was the reaction of Chinese Americans during
the period after Pearl Harbor?
RM: Well, I mean, I couldn't speak for all of
them, but obviously they were very concerned, and they needed
to make sure that they were not associated with the Japanese American
community, as you can well imagine. So there was some distance
that was created there that was normal and natural.
That doesn't exist today, but it certainly was
a concern at that time. I mean, without being too specific, I
can see that even in the Arab American community now, where there
is some effort to, you know, distance itself from the main Arab
KO: If you look at one example, that I think that's
what fits this rather well. The Sikh community in the United States
has often been running into great difficulty. If you have a turban
and you have a beard, the usual association is to think Osama
bin Laden, and they've been running into more than their fair
share of violence.
I ran into a Sikh leader, (Indaret) (Singh) from
Westborough here. He was working with his people on exactly the
problem that we were discussing earlier; the natural tendency
under those conditions if you run into someone who is giving you
a hard time, honking the horn or threatening to beat you up is
to say what? I'm a Sikh, I am not a Moslem, and to say it with
What he was trying to do was to actually work
with his fellow Sikhs so that they would not say that. Given the
history of, at times, violent conflict between Moslems and Sikhs,
it was really quite remarkable that he would be asking this of
his fellow co-religionists (?).
But he was saying that it was a bad idea to say
that because what it tended to do was to make acceptable the notion
that violence against Muslims would be okay. He said he wasn't
having total success in convincing, particularly the middle school
children that this was something that you should say when someone
was pushing you around on the playground. But still, it's remarkable
to run into someone with that kind of sensitivity, even under
very difficult times.
Should we move towards the official acts of discrimination,
at least a bit more?
If we look at the current period, and you mentioned
The Washington Post article on the one thousand one hundred detainees,
what do we know of their condition at this time? Why were they
singled out? Have they had the right to talk to counsel? Again,
to go back to earlier periods after Pearl Harbor I had one uncle
who, in fact, I believe he was living within your Congressional
district at the time. He also was a leader of the Japanese community.
He spoke good English and spoke Japanese, so he was the fellow
that people would come to for help. That put him onto the list
of suspect folks. You could see that in terms of the form that
you were describing, your own file.
So he had a nice six months in Bismarck, North
Dakota. My aunt was, at that time, I think pregnant with her fifth
child. So they were having a pretty tough time. But he spent six
months there, and then was reunited with the family in Fresno.
No charges were ever filed. He was cleared. And at the same time,
the idea of six months of, if you will, preventive detention away
from family, was something that they found somewhat disturbing.
What do we know of what's going on today in terms
of those one thousand one hundred detainees?
RM: I would recommend that you pick up on the
Web The Washington Post story today, the Sunday edition today,
because it basically says that many of these people are now being
held without a lot of information being impaired. One is because
there is a gag rule that has been imposed on both the prosecution
and the defense side of the situation. As a result of that, there
is just very little information.
If you look at the article it's somewhat sketchy,
but we have been hearing about this over the last couple of weeks
now. Again, I think it's not so much to find perpetrators of September
11, but it's for preventive purposes of future action.
And you know, that does raise a very interesting
issue under our Constitution. Again, I think John mentioned in
his opening remarks about the role of the state versus the rights
of the individual. There is always that balance that must be maintained,
and I think you've mentioned Habeas Corpus during the Civil War,
and a number of other things, when these rights, obviously, during
the internment period in World War II, were suspended.
And the question of how far can you go to protect
America, and at the same time when you go beyond that line and
violate individual rights? It's a very tough question. I think
we're all trying to deal with that right now. We haven't had to
deal with it, frankly, probably in our generation, and we're dealing
with it at this particular moment. This is a great example, this
one thousand one hundred people that are being, or have been held
or are being held, is a great example of that.
Now I have to say again, and I want to emphasize
this, is I think the attorney general, and I'm a democrat, so
the attorney general, and the president, and the law enforcement
agencies throughout the United States are trying their very best
to make sure that given the circumstances, that these individuals
are treated with a degree of decency that is required.
On the other hand, we do know that there is a
need to make sure that we protect the American people, because
there is a lot of hysteria and a lot of concern out there. So
it's a classic example of fundamental rights. I don't know if
there is a real answer to it. The Constitution gives us guidelines
and case law gives us guidelines. On the other hand, each case
is a separate situation, and it's, as I said, a very, very difficult
issue to resolve and deal with.
KO: Your own voting record, when we go back to
periods of crisis, after the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1996, you
voted to preserve Habeas Corpus. You also voted against provisions
to allow government to use secret evidence to deport immigrants.
So your record has been quite straight forward in terms of defense
of civil liberties during periods when conditions lent themselves
to taking away rights.
At the same time, the question I want to pose,
unlike most of us, we all have the luxury of ducking on hard issues
because we don't have to cast hard votes. But you have to vote,
and the anti-terrorism legislation that came before the House
recently towards the end of October, the legislation here is called
the USA Patriot Act, if you haven't followed it.
It had a large number of propositions built into
it. It was a long and complicated bill. Some of the stuff going
on in that bill was unproblematic, the idea of, for example, tapping
cell phones. Others have come under at least some criticism from
Amnesty International and from other organizations, as being at
least threatening to civil liberties in the United States. It's
not an easy vote. I mean it when I say I'm glad I didn't have
to vote, but what is your view on that piece of legislation?
RM: As you stated, I supported it. And I have
to say it was one of those pieces of legislation that it moved
within two months. Very rarely does a major piece of legislation
like that move within two years. Two months is unprecedented.
But there was a feeling among my colleagues and
myself that we were under such a national security situation that
we had no choice but to move the legislation, get it to the president
as quickly as possible.
We do have, in fact this was a saving grace and
it's not an excuse, but we do have one provision in there that
there is a four year sunset on the legislation. I think that's
what made members feel more comfortable about supporting the legislation.
But I have to tell you that there are some elements in that bill
that, I think it was an omnibus (?) piece of legislation, that
undoubtedly will be reviewed by the courts, the U.S. Supreme Court
hopefully, and the Constitutionality of some of these issues may
be in question as well.
But it was one of these things where we needed
to move very quickly and expeditiously, and we did. But I think
the attorney general and the law enforcement agencies had to have
some kind of additional powers. That was our vehicle.
KO: This piece of legislation was about 136 pages
long. How much time did you have to study it?
RM: I wouldn't want to, I wouldn't want people
to become discouraged. (Laughter)
It was one of those where because of the time
constraints that we had, the House and Senate Judiciary Committee
members, and along with the leadership of both parties and the
White House, had to meet privately and discuss these issues.
We probably had less than five or six hours before
the Bill was completed and brought to the floor. Again, it had
to be moved very quickly, and there was a rationale for that too.
Undoubtedly, those of you that have followed legislative process
know that when you have a very controversial bill like this, you
move it as soon as you disclose it, because you don't want people
to start analyzing it and putting holes through it, because then
it could just be stopped.
It was one of those things where I think we needed
to move expeditiously, so I don't blame the managers of the legislation
for moving it as quickly as they did. They had to move it. If
we would have turned it down, I think it would have created a
major crisis in this country about whether or not the government
was capable of dealing with the prospective terrorist activities
that might be occurring.
KO: Perhaps we could draw John Shattuck in at
this point. We could ask John to put on his old hat as Assistant
Secretary of State, with responsibility for Human Rights, and
democratization and labor. As part of John's job there, you had
to prepare country reports. The country reports included categories
like arbitrary arrest and detention, denial of fair public trial,
arbitrary interference with the privacy family, home, or correspondence.
You were often writing up these reports on countries
that actually faced genuine terrorist threats; Algeria with waves
of violence, Peru, Columbia, many others.
The hard question, and I know it's grossly unfair,
particularly with a 136 page piece of legislation, and a set of
initiatives and actions that we're fumbling around with right
now and trying to improve on, with a real security problem in
the United States right now.
But John, if you were writing the country report
on the legislation that Bob Matsui signed and voted for, what
would you say?
JS: Well, first of all, I'd repeat everything
that I said earlier about Bob Matsui and what a hero he is, privately
to him, of course.
Well, let me say several things about the legislation
which I think is something of a mystery to all of us because it
hasn't yet been fully analyzed. But I think as, and I will get
to the point of what I would say about it in a country report
in a minute.
But I think it certainly reflects the same fervor,
I think it's important to note this, as executive order 9066,
which is what we are talking about here today. But it's different,
and it does have one major difference that, it has several differences,
but one major difference that I think we need to focus on. That
is, unlike the executive order interning Japanese Americans, this
legislation is, if you will, non-discriminatory. It applies to
all Americans and all people in the United States within the jurisdiction
of the United States.
So it is not a racial or ethnic or religious weapon
that is being used to try, as 9066 was, to strike at a particular
part of the population in a way that was completely unacceptable,
and that we now, and even then, saw, in many cases, as unacceptable.
But I think what I would say about it is that
it was enacted under extraordinary procedures which didn't allow
it to be considered very carefully. That it certainly was enacted
in a circumstance where there was a lot of pressure from the public
to take action with respect to issues of terrorism and U.S. law
enforcement. That it contains a wide variety of measures that
on their face appear to be inconsistent with basic civil liberties.
That it does have a sunset provision that puts it out of business
within four years, so it is not looked at as a permanent piece
And that above all, what it's going to take is
a close scrutiny of how it's applied. That's why what's happening
in these thousand plus cases that Bob Matsui has identified as
a real thing to watch closely, why that's so very, very important.
But I think it's very, it is important for us
to assess our own human rights, just as we assess them for those
who are friends or not friends around the world. In that sense
I think any report that's written on it has to be very candid
and honest, but it also has to be based on facts, and has to be,
we have to look at how the legislation is applied over time.
I think, personally, that the biggest problem
in the area is not a question of the authority for law enforcement
agents to do what they need to do to investigate cases. It is
a problem of the lack of coordination among all the various agencies
that exist. In this respect, I think the biggest crisis we have
is one that's not being addressed at the moment, which is how
do we really pull together these agencies, under Governor Ridge
and his Homeland Security activities, in ways that make them cooperate
with each other, so that we can actually get the job done.
I don't think there is any lack of authority before
the legislation was passed to do the job as it needs to be done.
There is just a lack of coordination.
KO: Bob, do you have any thoughts --
RM: No. I agree with what John has basically said.
It has a way to go yet.
KO: In your remarks, you mentioned that you thought
that, with reference to Japanese Americans, citizens and non-citizens
alike, there was a good deal of preexisting prejudice, and the
Arab Americans are in a slightly different position, that there
isn't as well developed or well formed opposition against going
The question I'd like to pose would direct --
END OF TAPE SIDE A
BEGINNING OF TAPE SIDE B
KO: ... like Congressman Matsui. His parents,
my parents and my grandparents. But the citizens and non-citizens
who are lumped together --
If we look at the current situation, the problematic
pieces of legislation, the suspect, detentions tend to be focused
very heavily on non-citizens. Is there, in fact, a preexisting
tendency or movement, or mood in the United States right now that
would be directed not so much against Arab-Americans, but against
immigrants? Is there a reconsideration of the open door there
that might well be accelerated and intensified by bad economic
times that could feel this?
RM: I don't think there is any question that we're
going through a period now, particularly with the economy being
as it is, and given the recent what happened on September 11,
you're going to see a greater restriction of immigration. Obviously
our immigration policy, when we do take it up, will be significantly
changed in a way that would reduce the flow of immigration in
this country. There is just no question about that.
Now, I would say that up until September 11 and
before the economy was weakening, and we started to see that in
December of last year if you recall, many people were actually
talking about increasing the immigration flow into this country.
I think it's been an abrupt (?) change, and it's been almost overnight
that that shift has occurred.
In fact, if you recall early in President Bush's
term, the first three or four months or so, he was talking about
reexamining the immigration policies to allow greater immigration
in the United States. Now that's all gone. No one is even talking
about that now.
KO: We have about 20 minutes left. What we'd like
to do now is to welcome questions. There is a microphone, I believe,
up here. We will not do the Oprah Winfrey/Phil Donahue approach,
so you will be asked to go to the microphone if you can.
Also, there were a few questions which came forward,
I think from the other room. Perhaps what we could do while folks
are drifting towards the mike, is to begin with some of the questions
that I have in hand now.
You have to be at the mike in order to be heard.
Q: Yes, thank you. When you were talking about
the 1987 Congressional apology that was, presidential apology
that was going to be given to Japanese descendants of the internment,
I was struck by a particularly troubling question that directly
relates to what's currently going on with Arab Americans.
I wonder how the U.S. government can continue
to try to claim this moral high ground in its fight against terrorism,
when it has yet to acknowledge, never mind apologize or compensate,
for what is probably arguably the most, the largest and most grotesque
crime against humanity, which was the African Holocaust of enslavement,
in which as many as tens of millions of African Americans were
enslaved and murdered.
I was wondering if you had any ideas of why that
has yet to be acknowledged by the U.S. government.
RM: I think that's a very legitimate question.
Congressman John Condors (?) of Michigan has actually introduced
legislation now for the last, I think four or five terms, so the
last eight to ten years, on setting up a commission to actually
study the slavery and what should be the consequences of it.
We haven't been able to move that legislation,
but a number of us are cosponsors of it, and we have been at least
wanting a commission set up to actually investigate this.
I might also say that what we did in our legislation
is to limit it to survivors. We wanted it to be somewhat similar
to a tort claim. In other words, only those that were alive on
the date of enactment of the legislation would qualify. My mother,
as I mentioned, passed away before the bill became law, and so
she was not obviously eligible, nor were her heirs eligible to
collect the money or receive the apology, because we wanted it,
as I said, to be seen as a tort claim and not a precedent for
any other aggrieved group in the United States.
So we attempted to distinguish it that way, but
the broader question you asked is a very legitimate one. I think
a commission set up to examine slavery and the consequences of
it, would probably be a very fruitful, important dialogue for
the United States to be involved in.
It wouldn't be a situation where it would be self
criticism, no more than the commission that was set up on the
internment. It was actually more to just kind of look at the situation
and find out why it happened, what were the consequences of it,
what it did to individuals and groups of people. And I think it's
a very legitimate issue that we need to address one day in our
Q: Why wasn't there any internment of Americans
of German descent, and did JFK, J. Edgar Hoover asked for that?
RM: What I understand is that there was some arrest,
similar to what's happened in the Arab American community, significant
arrests, of both the German Americans and Italian Americans during
that period. But there was no mass incarceration of them as there
was with the Japanese Americans.
But there was, as I said, a mass arrest, and a
lot of hysteria against German Americans and Italian Americans.
Again, I want to be careful when I say this, but
I think again, there was an anti-Asian sentiment that was triggered
from Pearl Harbor. It wasn't Pearl Harbor that created this problem,
it was already there, that was triggered by Pearl Harbor. And
I also believe that it was pretty easy to identify Japanese Americans,
unlike maybe the other two groups, in terms of the assimilation
into the communities that we were all involved in. So I think
that had something to do with it.
I know in Hawaii for example, were approximately
40% at that time, 1941-42 of the population was Japanese American,
or Japanese. There were arrests and mass detention over time,
but there was no incarceration as there was on the West Coast.
KO: Thank you very much. Yes?
Q: Hello. I am Bobby Fodget (?) from the Northbridge
Middle School and I am researching Japanese internment for National
History Day. I would like to address the Congressman or the professor,
if you could talk about the conditions in the camps as your parents
or friends described them?
KO: Okay. I'll go very quickly. My mother and
her many brothers and sisters, and her father, were moved from
a place called Watsonville, California, to an assembly center
in Salinas California. They lived in one room in this assembly
center for six months.
They were then shifted to a place called Posten
(?) in the desert in Arizona, and they lived there under pretty
tough conditions for about three more years. The conditions that
she described were again, to be clear, not death camp conditions.
These were concentration camps. There was food. There was water.
There was clothing, but they were pretty spartan.
My father's conditions, his experience, he took
a grand tour going from California, again, leaving from Congressman
Matsui's district, to Jerome Arkansas, which was a pretty swampy
little area, and then off to Hela (?) Arizona. These were not
located in wonderful places. Your parents were in Tule Lake, weren't
KO: And again, the conditions were spartan. But
again, to be clear, although there was barbed wire and there were
machine guns, we're not talking about camps that were set up to
exterminate populations. Bob?
RM: If I might, and let me say this. I appreciate
what you're doing. I think it's wonderful that young people are
putting down a historical record of events of American history,
so I want to thank you for your work.
My mother, to the extent she described it, said
it was a total lack of privacy. What happened at Tule Lake is
that they were just given horse stalls and they basically made
their living conditions out of those stalls.
The one thing she kept talking about when she
was able to talk about it, was a lack of privacy, and again, the
spartan conditions they had there.
Let me say this, because this issue came up during
the redress debate. It's off what you're talking about, but I
want to mention this. I've had a lot of people during the debate
on the bill back in 1986 and 1987 when the legislation was passed,
and then 1988 when President Reagan signed it, say "Everybody
suffers during war time. People go off to war, they lose their
families, they lose their loved ones, families break up."
We had GI's that obviously had to give up schools and their livelihoods,
left their communities. That's a very legitimate issue that they
raised when we were talking about this issue of internment, and
redress and reparations.
My answer to that, and I think I'm right about
this, is that in time of war, I have a responsibility to fight
on behalf of my country. I have an absolute responsibility as
a citizen of the United States to defend my country and its people.
That's an obligation of citizenship in a democracy like the United
States of America. It's a great country.
On the other hand, I don't have an obligation,
in a democracy, to give up my liberties, to give up my freedoms.
To be incarcerated by my government, without any charges being
filed against me, or any knowledge about why I'm incarcerated.
That is not an obligation or responsibility of citizenship.
And I really distinguish the two events in that
way, and what was interesting is that the conservative members
in the House of Representatives felt very strongly about that
argument, as much as the liberal members. They felt that it was
an issue of citizenship and individual responsibilities and rights,
and one had not any responsibility to be incarcerated by one's
country without charges being launched.
Thank you for the work you're doing.
KO: We'll help you with your term paper after
KO: Yes sir.
Q: Yes. Thank you for coming Congressman Matsui.
You have an interesting perspective, having this both happen to
your family, but also being a Congressman. It's with that perspective
that my question follows.
I coincidentally was in the Eastern Sierra when
September 11 occurred, and had the opportunity right after to
visit Manzanar, which is one of the Japanese internment camps.
And one of the things I did while, I spent actually two days touring
there. There is a museum there, and I'm going to mention it after
this gentleman here, because they have a lot of primary research
in the Eastern California Museum in Independence, California.
But one of the books that I picked up there, you
may be familiar with it. It's called Adios to Tears. What it is,
it's about a gentleman, his family were actually deported from
Peru to the United States. They were not U.S. citizens. This was
at the request of the U.S. military. They subsequently went from
Peru to Panama, and then were, like your family, actually, put
in these internment camps in Louisiana, I mean, I'm sorry, in
At the end of the war no one knew what to do with
them. They were sort of not accepted, and the immigration authorities
actually asked, "How did you get to the U.S.?" Well,
they were considered illegal aliens at the time. Many of them
subsequently became United States citizens.
There is an epilogue to this book, and it's a
very well written book, by the gentleman who I think just recently
passed away, talking about you know, the reparations. Again, I
say you have an interesting perspective, that was given to people
who were U.S. citizens at the time who were interred.
My question relates to, because I'd like to sort
of focus on whether the concept of has justice been served in
that, and to the extent what hasn't it. These families, and there
were many still living when your legislation went through, have
never seen any sort of compensation or reparation. It's an interesting
perspective, and I'm wondering if you can comment on that.
RM: That's a very important question. It's kind
of interesting. Because I think we in Congress erred by not including
the Peruvians. We probably didn't understand the factual situation
that resulted in the incarceration of the Peruvians.
We thought that the Peruvian government -- this
is a mistaken our part -- we thought the Peruvian government actually
was the government that actually asked the U.S. to take these
Peruvian Japanese citizens, or Japanese Peruvian citizens in the
United States, and incarcerate them. We felt that that would,
at the time, undermine our ability to deal with the bill because
we were talking only about U.S. citizens, and a violation of their
constitutional rights. That would have added a dimension, because
these weren't U.S. residents or U.S. citizens.
Since it was the Peruvian, what we thought to
be the Peruvian government that sent them into the United States,
we thought it should be the Peruvian government's responsibility
to provide the apology and obviously the redress.
Subsequently we have discovered, which would have
been very easy had we spent tine on it, but we just didn't spend
the time on it, I'm sorry to say. We thought that it was the U.S.
government itself that asked that the Peruvian Japanese be sent
to the United States because they were worried, the U.S. government
was worried that the Japanese Peruvians would be a threat to the
entire western hemisphere.
So it was actually, the action by the United States,
not the Peruvian government, and so we erred. Now what we're trying
to do, and I don't know if we'll be successful because obviously
there are timing issues with all legislation, legislation has
been introduced to provide the same kind of relief to the Peruvians,
Japanese Peruvians as we did with the Japanese Americans.
The bill, we've been promised that we'll get a
hearing on the bill. I don't know if we will, and we're a long
way off from resolution of that legislation at this time. But
it is another event in American history that is tragic, and again,
were it not for a misunderstanding, I think they may have been
included. I have to say that I, along with other of my colleagues,
just erred from a factual perspective.
Q: Are you one of the sponsors of that legislation?
RM: Yes. It's a bill that was introduced by Representative
Javier Bersara (sp?) in the Los Angeles, California area who has
a large number of Peruvian American citizens who were from a Peruvian,
initially Peruvian families. I am a cosponsor of it.
Q: Thank you.
KO: Thanks very much. Yes ma'am?
Q: Good afternoon. My name is Catherine Harkin
(sp?) and I have really enjoyed your dialogue tremendously. I
thank Dr. Shattuck for providing a forum for us.
My question is this. It seemed as though Tony
Blair seized the reigns when we got into the situation we are
in. I am Irish by descent, and from Northern Ireland actually.
I know a lot about what is considered terrorism. What is terrifying
me now is that I am seeing the same thing in America happen that
the British did to the people of Northern Ireland. And if our
country should ever end up being as cruel to, and not sharing
power -- I don't mean that we should be sharing power, but if
they -- If we so closely allied with England, how are we going
to be treated ourselves?
Also, I'd like to know what America and Osama
bin Laden consider as an end game, and is there a strategy to
the end? Because the IRA were in business for well over 100 years,
and I would not like to see us be fighting 100 year war. Thank
RM: You raise a very important issue as to what
commitment the U.S. is making at this particular time. Again,
I think it's too early for us to go through the analysis, because
obviously everyone must stand behind, and with the president,
and what he is doing.
But there are a lot of questions being raised
at this time, and people are beginning to think them through in
terms of some of the alliances we're making throughout the world.
But again, I believe, and I believe very strongly
about this, and I think almost all of my colleagues do as well,
that this is a debate for another occasion.
In terms of your other question which was the
KO: On the IRA --
RM: The IRA and the strategy we're using at this
particular time, it's my understanding that the administration's
position is that we must deal with bin Laden and the Taliban,
and then we are going to be looking for other countries that are
hosts to terrorist cells. Obviously Iraq is potentially on the
list, and the Philippines and Indonesia as well. I think it will
be done on a systematic basis.
Again, I think that the is a subject that time
will have to tell whether or not we will engage in a debate on
it, but I think it's too early at this particular time for that
debate to ensue. As a result of it, I think most of us are standing
behind the president, or standing with the president.
But the issues you raise are legitimate issues
that undoubtedly, over time, will be discussed and will be analyzed.
KO: If I could take one minute on that.
RM: Please do.
KO: A moment of optimism, at least one moment
of optimism in a session is probably appropriate.
The shift or change in the IRA's posture or stance
on its tactics, moving towards disarmament, is actually one of
the most encouraging, in fact, maybe the only encouraging thing
that has come out of this mess. They did so, probably, in part,
in anticipation of American legislation which would then take
individuals who contributed to them, and place them in jeopardy.
Within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts there
are a lot of people that would fall into that category.
In fact, what the IRA did was it reacted to the
legislation and to the change in environment, and the fact that
acts of terror were likely to be less acceptable, by doing what
they were inclined to do all along, but hadn't quite gotten around
to, which was to accept disarmament. And that's something which
I think leaves me with at least this much optimism.
RM: You know, in Boston I wasn't going to talk
about that issue. (Laughter)
KO: We'll make arrangements for your ride back
to the airport afterwards. (Laughter) Yes.
Q: Thank you. Good afternoon Congressman. I appreciate
very much that you took the time to elaborate the history that
preceded Pearl Harbor, and that it wasn't just Pearl Harbor. I
feel that the same fuse has been building with regard to Arab
Americans. Since 1991 we've been talking about the risk of a possible
And with the Arabs being detained, as you said,
again, it's a newspaper article. The FBI grabbed the Japanese,
held them for a while, took them here and there, took my grandpa.
All right, nothing big had happened yet. The hyper patriotism
of the Arab Americans today, which we saw with the Japanese.
Frankly, in light of these parallels, I don't
share your confidence or optimism that internment is not going
to happen again in this race-based case if you will, and I'm wondering
if you could elaborate on why you think it's not going to happen
RM: I appreciate your question, because I think
it's a very legitimate one in terms of where we may end up. I
do have a different point of view, as I mentioned, but I think
it's mainly because the political leadership in this country is
united about making sure that we don't discriminate. That we don't
flam (?) the flames of prejudice and racism. I don't think that
occurred in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. I mean it was, again,
reading back the clips, and the stories, and then the stories
that others have talked about, it was really the political leaders
that were out there talking about how we needed to incarcerate
these people. How they couldn't mix into the United States, and
how they could never become loyal American citizens.
I think that's where the distinction is. That's
why it's so important that the political leadership continue to
speak out on this issue, in as many opportunities as we possibly
That's where I think the distinction really ultimately
is. If that changes, then I think that we have a different situation,
and we could reach a different conclusion. It's going to be up
to all of us to make sure that the political leadership remains
as they have been in this case.
As I said, it was immediately, two to three days
after the September 11 terrorist act that President Bush spoke
out and talked about the many loyal American Arabs in this country.
JS: I ... point to that, because I think it relates
to the strategic interest that we have now in avoiding this kind
A lot of what's at stake now is the way the world
perceives us, and the way, particularly, the Islamic world perceives
us. I do think that whatever one may say about the policies that
are being pursued now, and there is plenty of room for debate
on them, I do feel, as Congressman Matsui has said, that our leadership
recognizes the importance of avoiding falling into the very trap
that some terrorists would like to put us; which is to have us
start rounding up Arab Americans, and then inflame, even more
than is already inflamed, the Islamic world.
KO: There were a number of questions that came
from the other room written on the cards, and I'd like to actually
pose a few of them to you in our closing moments.
One asked what changes, if any, do you feel should
be made to our national immigration laws as a result of September
11? The 30 second version of the answer, or the two minute version
as you see fit?
RM: I don't even know if I can even start to answer
that question. I think -- that's a tough one. We've been working
on immigration for 23 years, since I've been in Congress, anyway.
I don't know if there have to be any changes in
our current immigration law. I think we ought to let things settle
for a while, and then perhaps when the stress of the country is
relieved somewhat, we can then reengage ourselves.
But you know, my belief is that we need to focus
on a couple categories. Obviously the family reunification issue,
I think that's a very important one, and secondly, you know, labor
that is hard to find in the U.S., and obviously in a time of recession,
it's very difficult to even justify.
The scrutiny, I think we need to make sure that
there is a larger, a greater effort in making sure that those
that come in have records that are not, no criminal records. We
have to do a little bit closer check on them.
What criteria, I think we need to develop that
profile yet. I couldn't tell you what that should be. Maybe John
or somebody could add to that, but it's a very difficult question.
We're looking at this issue in a totally new light
in terms of where we may end up taking immigration policies in
KO: Another question from Brian in the other room.
Should Arab American and other American leaders, political leaders,
take a more prominent role to raise awareness in America of the
different cultures, and to fight for rights of Asian, Arab-Americans
and other minorities, condemning racial profiling ... (inaudible)?
What role can Arab-American politicians play, and can they do
it alone safely?
RM: I think this is an opportunity, frankly, for
the Arab-American community to play a significant role in terms
of American history in the civil rights area. Because there is
a focus on them at this particular time, and they ought to begin
to have a larger profile and speak at some of the schools, perhaps,
and begin to engage in a more significant way than they are in
I think, frankly, that again, this could pose
an opportunity, or offer an opportunity to them because there
is a focus that did not exist before.
KO: The next question actually follows on that
in a peculiar way. What would you say to the average American
-- it's always dangerous to be saying things to average Americans
-- who wants to honor the presumed innocence of his or her fellow
citizens, but because of the current stage of siege, may feel,
or may suspect potential acts of someone based on looks or behavior?
In other words, someone who adheres to the idea that maybe we
ought to act on the presumption of innocence, but they're sitting
there, they're looking at people, and they're scared because of
the way they look. They're making inferences on the basis of appearance?
RM: What I would tell the average American in
this situation is to close his or her eyes, and then have, say
describe a Japanese citizen, and you can describe a Japanese citizen.
Describe a Frenchman, and you can describe a Frenchman.
Describe an American. You can't describe an American
today because we're a multi-ethnic society and we come from all
parts of the world, and we're enriched by that. Frankly, that's
what makes our society and our country so great. I think it's
really important that we call attention to that as much as we
possibly can. That you cannot describe an American citizen by
physical characteristics anymore.
We have to look upon that as a very positive sign
in our moment in history.
KO: I think on that note, we should thank you
for not following your parents, and speaking. Thank you.
JS: I want to thank Congressman Bob Matsui and
Professor Kenneth Oye for that really wonderful and difficult,
but really moving, I think, effort to come to grips with something
that we need to discuss. As several of the questioners brought
out, we need to remember our history. That's of course what history
is all about, so need I say we need not, we will not repeat it,
or will not repeat those versions of it that shouldn't be repeated.
But I think we've also really appreciated both
your candor and your far-reaching comments on many, many aspects
of the current situation. So for that I want to be particularly
I want to just point out a couple of scheduling
things to the members of our audience here, others who may be
planning to attend.
Tomorrow night we will have another really very
exciting panel on the roots of terror, with Moorhead Kennedy,
who is a former hostage and a U.S. State Department official from,
hostage in the Iran hostage situation, and others.
Then I also want to point out that a forum previously
scheduled for November 28th with Michael Beschloss on American
presidential thinking, has been postponed until January 30th.
So with those two announcements, let me once again
thank you for being with us today.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library - Columbia Point
- Boston, Massachusetts 02125