Askevold 1

Askevold, Linn Andersen


Project 3- Research paper

10 June 2017

War fosters discrimination

History is filled with past mistakes by the U.S. government. Robert Weiss’ definition of

history “a record and interpretation of past events” (qtd. in Dudley 9) shows that it is

important to both tell the historical facts about what happened, as well as analyze and discuss

governmental policies after events such as the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the 9/11

terror attack in 2001 in order to prevent history from repeating itself.

The attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the 9/11 terror attack in New York in 2001

forced the U.S. government to implement new policies and actions in order to protect the

country. Whether the government acted in accordance with the protection of the U.S.

population in a time of war, or let racism and prejudice influence their policies and actions

towards Japanese-Americans post Pearl Harbor in 1941 and Arab-Americans and Muslims

post 9/11 has been widely discussed. Some scholars believe history has taught the government

a lesson post Pearl Harbor (Daniels 306-307), others share the more command view that the

government repeated its mistake when terror stroke the nation in 2001. Even if the

government said they would not repeat the same mistake of fostering discrimination against

any group as they did after Pearl Harbor, they are repeating the same mistake after 9/11.


The immediate response after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1942,

showed the true color of the U.S. government as they authorized warrantless searches in any
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home of an alien enemy, resulting in random raids affecting both non-citizens and citizens of

Japanese ancestry (Daniels 304). One of the infamous governmental policies they

implemented, the Executive Order 9066, resulted in the incarceration of Japanese-Americans

during World War II.

The Executive Order 9066, introduced and passed in one day without any particular

protests, was signed by president Franklin Roosevelt February 19, 1942, delegating and

authorizing the Secretary of War to determine which areas people had to be removed from

due to being military zones (Daniels 302-303). The Japanese-Americans experienced several

acts of discrimination from the government prior to the incarceration such as a curfew and

movement restrictions, resulting in being forbidden to leave West Coast military areas March

29 (Daniels 304). The reason for the Executive Order 9066 was that “the successful

prosecution of war requires every possible protection against espionage and sabotage to

national defense material…premises and utilities” (Daniels 302), which meant that the

government wanted to implement a ‘better to be safe than sorry’ policy. Even though several

Japanese Americans had demonstrated loyalty to the U.S., 120,000 people were removed and

detained without any individual review (“Justice Denied” 3). Out of the 120,000 who ended

up in incarceration camps, two third was U.S. citizens (Nagata et al. 356).



Sending Japanese-Americans to internment camps was a military necessity. Although

Justice Frank Murphy has called the process resulting in the incarceration of Japanese-

Americans “…a legalization of racism” (Daniels 303), there are those who agree with the

official explanation at the time claiming it was a military necessity. They claimed that all

people of Japanese ancestry were a potential threat to the U.S. based on their background
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because espionage or sabotage could be carried out (Nagata et al. 356-357). National security

and protecting the nation from potential ‘treason’ from the Japanese living on the West Coast,

determined sensitive military areas, was also the official reason for why President Franklin

Roosevelt issued the Executive Order 9066, cited by the Supreme Court, military

commanders and War Department Officials, state and local politicians (Dudley 11-12). Even

some of the internees accepted this explanation (Dudley 12). The “assistant war secretary

John J. McClay continued to defend the internment on these grounds” (Dudley 12) by stating

that “…the President had ample…evidence of the existence of subversive Japanese and

Japanese-American agencies on the West Coast, poised to frustrate any defense against

Japanese act of aggression” (qtd, in Dudley 12).

Sending Japanese-Americans to internment camps was based on racism and

prejudice, not a military necessity. The few who still claims it was a military necessity might

not have taken into account the importance of looking at historical facts together with an

analyzing of the circumstances and timeframe the incarceration was executed (Dudley 9;

“Justice Denied” 4). It is clear that the decision to incarcerate Japanese-Americans was based

on racism, prejudice, war hysteria, and poor leadership by looking at the context of the

decision (“Justice Denied” 4-6, 18). Four circumstances that clearly support this are the anti-

Japanese attitudes on the West Coast prior to Pearl Harbor, the fear of an attack on the West

Coast, the government holding back information that could change public belief, and finally,

the decision-making process being influenced by public opinions rather than military

intelligence (“Justice Denied” 4-5). Contrary to the belief that a Japanese attack on the West

Coast could happen in near future (“Justice Denied” 5), the army military staff believed it was

in fact not a possibility, but they were not heard (“Justice Denied” 5,8).

Although the U.S government officially claimed it was a military necessity to

incarcerate Japanese-Americans, the reality is that quick decision-making, fear and anger
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towards Japan as a nation (“Justice Denied” 18) resulted in (…) one of the greatest violation

of Civil Rights in U.S. history (Nagata et al. 356). Secondly, there had not been any

“documented act of espionage, sabotage, or other treasures activity (…) committed by an

American citizens of Japanese ancestry or by a resident Japanese alien on the West Coast”

(“Justice Denied” 3), despite assistant war secretary McClay’s attempt to state the contrary

(Dudley 12).

Furthermore, while the government claimed they had no way of separating enemies

from loyal Japanese-Americans, claiming incarceration of all Japanese ancestry was a military

necessity, evidence shows how they in fact came up with questions that would result in

distinguishing out who was loyal to the U.S. and who was not loyal (Dudley 19). Those not

seen as loyal were separated from the loyal group, and around 8500 people of the disloyal

group were sent to another group (Dudley 19). With this system showing the ability to

separate who was royal, there should not have been any reason for the internment camps

based on military necessity (Dudley 19).

Finally, the ultimate evidence supporting the main argument that governmental

policies and actions towards the Japanese-Americans on the West Coast were based on racism

and prejudice is clear when comparing the incarceration of Japanese-Americans on the West

Coast to the Japanese-Americans in Hawaii (“Justice Denied” 4). Due to the importance of the

island’s economy, Hawaii’s 150,000 Japanese were not considered a threat, even though

Hawaii was the center of the war and a potential invasion target (Daniels 301-302). By

comparing the mainland experience to how Japanese-Americans were treated in Hawaii and

how Americans of enemy decent such as German-Americans were treated, the Commission

on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians concluded that the decision to incarcerate

Japanese-Americans was not a military necessity (“Justice Denied” 4, 18). The decision was
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racist, prejudice, and evidence of how war hysteria can create discrimination of Japanese-

Americans in governmental policies and action (“Justice Denied” 4, 18).

Dealing with the past made the U.S government realize what they had done was

wrong. Admitting that actions and policies were in fact wrong and not justified is an

important step towards reconciliation after treating their own Japanese-American population

the way the U.S. government did, clearly showing how the treatment of Japanese-Americans

was based on racism and prejudice. While issuing a proclamation to revoke the Executive

Order 9066 in 1976, President Gerald R. Ford said “We now know what we should have

known then – not only was (the) evacuation wrong, but Japanese-Americans were and are

loyal Americans (qtd. in Daniels 306). 81,974 people received $20,000 each from the

government in 1990 as part of the government’s effort to try and make up for the past, costing

them $1,639,480,000 (Daniels 306).

Together with recognizing their fault and compensating the victims, an official

apology letter by George H.W. Bush was written to the survivors, saying it “will never be

repeated” (Daniels 307). 60 years later, the sudden 9/11 terror attack would prove the former

president wrong and the U.S. government would yet again prove that war hysteria in the U.S.

fosters discrimination against a specific group.


September 9, 2001, 60 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor and after the U.S. had

publicly acknowledged the real reasons for the terrible treatment of Japanese-Americans,

another attack on U.S. soil occurred. Even though Bush said it would never happen again,

another unexpected attack lead to wartime hysteria and new policies and actions carried out

by the U.S. government occurred (Daniels 307). National Security yet again trumped

discrimination of a specific group of people, this time Arab-Americans and Muslims.
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Some historians do not believe 9/11 and the treatment of Arab-Americans can be

compared to the treatment of Japanese-Americans because the terror attack in 2001 cannot be

compared to World War II (Daniels 308). Scholars who agree with this also point out the

difference between governmental actions post 9/11 compared to post Pearl Harbor

governmental actions towards Japanese-Americans (Daniels 297). The same scholars also

suggest the post 9/11 policies were already existing military laws made more efficient

(Rodriguez 381).

Although the events are different when measured in size, the governmental policies

and actions post 9/11 can be argued similar to the post Pearl Harbor policies and actions that

targeted Japanese-Americans because Arab-Americans and Muslims were targets after 9/11

(Nagata et al. 67). Similar forces such as racism and prejudice towards Arab-Americans and

Muslims shows that the two events both created discrimination towards specific groups in

governmental policies and actions, a clear view shared by many (Daniels 307-308). The

policies post 9/11 made surveillance and immigration actions normal which were eventually

adapted by ordinary U.S. citizens, making everyday life more difficult for Arab-Americans

and Muslims (382). The main difference pre 9/11 and post 9/11 immigration legislation was

that legal immigrants could end up being seen as ‘illegal’ or undocumented after 9/11,

potentially leading to deportation with no regards to their initial status ( Rodriguez 384).



Enforcing National Security related immigrant policies. National security related

immigration policies were enforced and a clear focus of the government because the terrorists

had entered the country through standard immigration channels (Rodriguez 380). “9/11

produced public anxiety towards Arabs and Muslims” (Rodriguez 383) by targeting
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immigrants based on assumptions about their nationality and Muslim identity (Rodriguez

382). What clearly demonstrates that the U.S. government discriminated and was prejudice

towards people of Arabic ethnicity and Muslim religious identity are the anti-terror sweeps

carried out in New Jersey and New York, arresting Muslims immigrants men (Rodriguez 382-

383), similar to the random raids affecting Japanese-Americans in 1941 (Daniels 304). Then,

later admitting neither of the arrested men had any links to terror groups (Rodriguez 382-383).

By calling the 9/11 terror attack an action against war and repeatedly talking about the

war on terror, President Bush were able to gain the same authority in relation to national

security as if the U.S. had declared war on another nation, providing him with tools to operate

above the law in order to track down terrorists (Verinakis 107). Similar to 1941, the U.S.

government was more focused on possible internal threats rather than external threats post

9/11 because they wanted to find the non-citizens living in the country that could be a

potential threat (Rodriguez 381). The immediate response from the government was to

introduce several laws, impacting immigrants and people currently living in the U.S.

(Rodriguez 380-381). The USA Patriot Act was one of the most significant laws introduced

post 9/11 (Rodriguez 380-381).

Implementing the USA Patriot Act. The USA Patriot Act was signed only one week

after the terror attack, October 26, 2001 (Rodriguez 381). Similar to the Executive Order in

1942, the USA Patriot Act was passed without any particular protests (Vernakis 103). The law

was created to better fight domestic terrorism as a part of the war on terror announced by

President Bush (Vernakis 103). The law had three key components (Rodriguez 381). To up

the surveillance of immigrants living in the U.S. (Rodriguez 381), allow officials to track

down and deport suspects of terror links (Rodriguez 381), and third, that the deportation

related to this law does not have to go through standard judicial review (Rodriguez 381). It is

reasonable to argue that evidence of prejudice is visible in the detention and questioning of
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Arabs and Muslims under the USA Patriot Act, even though the U.S. government claims the

law is race neutral while in use in operations seeking out and removing terrorist organizations

(Vernikas 102). Whereas the Japanese-Americans became the face of a known enemy in

1941, the Arabs and Muslims became the face of the unknown enemy post 9/11, forcing them

to comply with the removal of their civil rights in order to prove their loyalty so they would

not be detained (Vernakis 109).

Eventually, the increased surveillance by the U.S. government became a task “for the

ordinary U.S. citizens” (Rodriguez 382). The slogan “if you see something, say something”

encouraged citizens to be alert and report ‘suspicious activity’ (Rodriguez 382). Although

including the citizens in the surveillance most likely was meant to help secure the nation, it

became yet one more evidence of how governmental policies and actions fostered

discrimination against Arab-Americans and Muslim, creating a collective prejudice behavior

(Rodriguez 382). As figure 1 illustrates, hate crimes against Muslims increased greatly after

the terror attack in 2001 (Ingraham) which demonstrate what an enormous effect

governmental policies and actions have had on everyday life for Arab-Americans and

Muslims (Rodriguez 383). Prior to 9/11, between 20 and 30 anti-Muslim hate crimes were

recorded, but after 9/11 this rose to nearly 500 in 2001 (Ingraham). After 2001, the anti-

Muslim hate crimes stabilized around 100 to 150, 5 times more than pre 9/11 (Ingraham).

Figure 1 (Ingraham)
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The Executive order 9066 post Pearl Harbor targeting Japanese-Americans as the

enemy of the state, and the USA Patriot Act post 9/11 targeting Arab-Americans and Muslims

are clear evidence that the U.S. government has a history of disregarding discrimination

against a certain group when national security is at imminent risk at the time of war hysteria

(Nagata et al. 367). Although the U.S. government did not actively incarcerate specific groups

of people like they did post Pearl Harbor, post 9/11 is evidence of the governments lack of

protection of everyone in the country, not just the majority, when national security and its

protection is on the agenda.

Today’s President, Donald Trump, and his “Muslim-ban” shows that national security

still ‘trumps’ discrimination against certain groups of people, but it is yet to be answered if the

future policies will repeat the governments past mistakes like the history has shown.
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Works Cited

Daniels, Roger. "Incarceration of the Japanese Americans: A Sixty-Year Perspective." History

Teacher, vol. 35, no. 3, May 2002, p. 297. EBSCOhost,


Dudley, William. Japanese American Internment Camps. Greenhaven Press, 2002.

Ingraham, Christopher.”Anti-Muslim hate crimes are still five times more common today than

before 9/11.” The Washington Post, 11, Feb. 2015.


911/?utm_term=.46b6c81512f8 Accessed 29 May. 2017.

“Japanese American Incarceration Facts.” Japanese American National Museum, Accessed 16 May 2017

“Justice Denied.” Summary. The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of

Civilians, National Archives

americans/justice-denied/summary.pdf Accessed 16 May 2017

Nagata, Donna K., et al. "Processing Cultural Trauma: Intergenerational Effects of the

Japanese American Incarceration." Journal of Social Issues, vol. 71, no. 2, June 2015,

pp. 356-370. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/josi.12115

Rodriguez, Robyn M. "(Dis) Unity and Diversity in Post-9/11 America." Sociological Forum,

vol. 23, no. 2, June 2008, pp. 379-389. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/j.1573-


Verinakis, Theofanis. "The Exception to the Rule." Social Identities, vol. 13, no. 1, Jan. 2007,

pp. 97-118. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/13504630601163403