The Anniversary of the First Indefinite Detention

03“First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the socialists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”    Pastor Martin Niemoller

February 19, 1942, marks the 71st anniversary of FDR signing executive order 9066, which authorized the “indefinite detention” of nearly 150,000 people on American soil.

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt inked his name to EO9066 on Feb. 19, 1942,  authorizing the Secretary of War and the U.S. Army to create  military zones “from which any or all persons may be excluded,”  it opened the door for the roundup of some 120,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese citizens living along the west coast of the U.S. and their imprisonment in concentration camps.  In addition, between 1,200 and 1,800 people of Japanese descent watched the war from behind barbed wire fences in Hawaii.   Of those interned, 62 percent were U.S. citizens. The U.S. government also caged around 11,000 Americans of German ancestry and some 3,000 Italian-Americans.

For most Americans, the debate over indefinite detention provisions written in the National Defense Authorization Act plays out primarily as an academic exercise.  The average man or woman  simply doesn’t worry about armed government thugs snatching them up, throwing him in the back of a van and hauling him off to some camp somewhere.

But one Washington state senator plunged into the NDAA fray with much more than academic, political or rhetorical interest.   For Sen. Bob Hasegawa, indefinite detention without due process is personal.   Hasegawa’s parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, along with their entire community, spent three years living in barrack shacks behind barbed wire and armed guards at Minidoka Internment Camp in southern Idaho, for the crime of having Japanese ancestry.   “While they were constructing the camp, my family lived in horse stalls in the stables at the Puyallup Fairgrounds,” he said. “They were all U.S. citizens.”

That shame led to a suppression of Hasegawa’s culture and heritage. His parents rarely spoke Japanese after that. He said they didn’t want the kids to have an accent. They gave their children American sounding names – like Bob.  “They didn’t want anything to be held against us, be it race or ethnicity. They wanted to shield us from that.”

Many Americans write off the danger of indefinite detention powers, arguing they “only apply to terrorists.” Hasegawa bristles at such rhetoric.  “It makes me angry – really angry,” he said with barely contained emotion. “So many presidents gave lip service.   When President Gerald Ford finally rescinded EO9066 in 1976, he said, ‘I call upon the American people to affirm with me this American Promise – that we have learned from the tragedy of that long-ago experience forever to treasure liberty and justice for each individual American, and resolve that this kind of action shall never again be repeated.’   Yet, it seems we have to relive these lessons.”

Thanks to State Senator Hasegawa, Washington joins 13 other states considering bills to block NDAA detention within their borders.  Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed a similar bill into law last year and more than 16 local and county governments have passed resolutions condemning detention without due process.

“Indefinite detention means that due process is dead,” Hasegawa said. “State legislators must defend against federal overreach. It is our duty. The oath we take in accordance with Article VI of the U.S. Constitution requires nothing less.”

Obama will go down in history as the president who not only insisted that  indefinite detention be included in NDAA but who willingly signed it into law.  The wording was  particularly dangerous because it contained  no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by Obama  and future presidents to militarily detain people they consider or determine to be a terrorist without due process.

I am saddened by the fact that not more states have under taken legislation to protect their citizens against this constitutional abuse.  In my opinion, we should asking our elected officials on  the national level to overturn this provision in the NDAA.  For those  that have read anything about Agenda 21, this provision COULD make it very easy to enact re-location.  



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