By Christine Pasciuti
Most of us have, within recent years, read or at least heard about the ‘coming of internment camps in America’, and perhaps with a smirk of amusement, have scarcely given the headline more than a passing glance, deeming it pure entertainment value, and perhaps filing the conspiracy theory in our Chicken Little file, where “the sky is always falling.”
A few weeks ago, the resilient theme resurfaced once again—with vigor—when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, speaking to a class of law students at the University of Hawaii law school in Honolulu, stated that the nation’s highest court was wrong to have upheld the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II but that he would expect a similar ruling in the event of a future conflict.
Scalia was responding to a question about the Supreme Court’s 1944 decision in Korematsu v. United States, which upheld the convictions of Gordon Hirabayashi and Fred Korematsu for violating an order to report to an internment camp. The Court ruled that the 5th Amendment guarantee of “due process” did not apply. The needs of homeland security took precedence over individual rights.
The Korematsu case originated from President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, which divided the country into “Military Areas” (Tule Lake, CA was one such area), launching a full-blown execution of martial law in the United States. The Secretary of War and military commanders were granted control of civilian territory and were authorized to take any restrictive actions deemed necessary to secure the nation.
During enactment of the order, certain segments of the U.S. population were categorized as “enemies” or “enemy aliens.” People suspected of “subversive activities” (among them, speaking against the war), Japanese aliens, American-born Japanese as well as German and Italian aliens were all labeled “enemies”.
It should be noted that Congress in 1980, during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, established the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. In its report issued in December of 1982, entitled “Personal Justice Denied”, the Commission concluded that President Roosevelt’s issuance of Executive Order 9066 “was not justified by military necessity”, that decisions made were not driven by analysis of military conditions., and that the historical causes which shaped the decisions were race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership. The Commission further recommended in its formal report to Congress, a national apology for the internment and financial compensation for surviving victims.
In response, the Civil Rights Act was adopted by Congress in 1988, its purpose being to “acknowledge the fundamental injustice of the evacuation, relocation and internment of United States citizens and permanent resident aliens of Japanese ancestry during World War II”. This was followed by a formal apology on behalf of the people of the United States, for the internment of this “racial minority.” President Ronald Reagan signed the Act on August 10, 1988.
While addressing students and faculty during the lunchtime Q&A, Justice Scalia acknowledged, “Well, of course, Korematsu was wrong. And I think we have repudiated in a later case.” He then added, “But you are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again,” citing the Latin expression “Inter arma enim silent leges“, which means “In times of war, the laws fall silent.”
Scalia pointed to the eventual reality that when Americans feel great fear of an imminent foreign threat or terrorist attack, they will not only accept the disabling of civil rights, they will demand it. The question is would it matter if the threat were internal? Would Americans still be willing to relinquish their Constitutional and civil rights if a domestic uprising—fostered by frustration over the widening gap between the government’s action and its citizen’s voices—were to ‘necessitate’ military interference?
It has been observed throughout history that during times of crisis and war, people are prone to rely on the government to empower itself to provide security and order. Would that still ring true today? How much influence does the level of trust for a government and its leaders have on the degree to which the people of a nation will rely on their government to protect them?
Last month, the U.S. Army Asymmetric Warfare Group opened a 300 acre training facility located in Virginia, which cost $96 million dollars, took six years to develop and two years to complete. Essentially, the U.S. Army has built a 300 acre ‘fake city’, complete with a sports stadium, a mosque, a bank, a school and an underground subway, for use as a site to train for ‘unspecified’ future combat scenarios.
Though the site was ostensibly designed to prepare U.S. troops for the occupation of foreign cities, there is some doubt and fear about its true purposes: could the military be preparing for a domestic crisis and for the occupation of homeland cities? Has the redefining of certain domestic political groups as extremists prompted U.S. Army and National Guard units to prepare for civil unrest?
Colonel John P. Petkosek, Asymmetric Warfare Group commander, said the objective of the training facility is to offer a “place where we can be creative, where we can come up with solutions for problems that we don’t even know we have yet…This is where we’ll look at solutions for the future–material solutions and non-material solutions…anything from how you’re going to operate in a subterranean environment to how you dismount a Humvee to avoid an IED (improvised explosive device) strike.”
In 2012, a retired Army Colonel penned an academic study about the future use of the military as a peacekeeping force within the U.S., incorporating a shocking scenario in which the U.S. Army attempts to restore order in a town that has been seized by Tea Party “insurrectionists”.
A leaked U.S. Army manual disclosed plans for “Civil Disturbance Operations” to be used during periods of mass civil unrest in America, where troops are deployed domestically to quell riots, confiscate firearms and even kill Americans.
Additionally, the manual describes how prisoners will be processed through temporary internment camps under the guidance of U.S. Army FM 3-19.40 Internment/Resettlement Operations, with the intent of “reeducating” internees so they develop an “appreciation of U.S. policies” while they are incarcerated in prison camps on U.S. soil.
During a recent mock disaster drill at the Ohio National Guard, second amendment advocates of gun rights were depicted as domestic terrorists.
Aligning with the Department of Homeland Security’s characterization of “liberty lovers” as domestic extremists, Fort Hood soldiers were previously being instructed by their superiors that Christians, Tea Party supporters and anti-abortion activists signify a radical terror threat until they came under fire by Christian media for allowing such blatant propaganda.
Last year, former Navy SEAL Ben Smith warned that the Obama administration is asking the upper echelon in the military if they would be comfortable with disarming U.S. citizens, or willing to order NCOs (noncommissioned officers) to fire on Americans.
If a government’s objective were to prepare to take control of the masses while still narrowly operating within the framework of its own rules of engagement, how would it proceed? Would it be as simple as reclassifying law-abiding citizens as “terrorists”, deeming them rebellious and a menace to public safety, in order to produce the false grounds upon which to exercise the suspension of civil authority and the imposition of military authority?
Are the winds of change we are witnessing in the United States government’s response to peaceful and legal opposition to some of its policies and directives a harbinger of a coming deliberate dismantling of the nation’s civil rights? Have the very laws enacted to protect Americans from another Executive Order 9066 already begun to “fall silent?”