Former U.S. General Wesley Clark made headlines recently for an absurdly disquieting solution for citizens who “don’t support” the United States: Lock them up in internment camps as prisoners of war. Yes, seriously.
In fact, in the MSNBC interview, Clark even advocated a pro-America, pro-nationalist, Kafkaesque neighborhood watch program to root out America’s problem “radicals” and urge their return to the happy fog of unquestioned patriotism.
“We have got to identify the people who are most likely to be radicalized,” he warned. “We’ve got to cut this off at the beginning.” Get ‘em while they’re young, right? “There are always a certain number of young people who are alienated. They don’t get a job, they lost a girlfriend, their family doesn’t feel happy here and we can watch the signs of that. And there are members of the community who can reach out to those people and bring them back in and encourage them to look at their blessings here.”
Clark’s apparent love of Orwell didn’t end with the Thought Police. This creepy pro-nationalist propaganda campaign bears a striking resemblance to 1984’s Ministry of Truth. He explained:
“I do think on a national policy level we need to look at what self-radicalization means because we are at war with this group of terrorists. They do have an ideology. In World War II, if someone supported Nazi Germany at the expense of the United States, we didn’t say that was freedom of speech, we put them in a camp. They were prisoners of war. So, if these people are radicalized and they don’t support the United States and they are disloyal to the United States, as a matter of principle, fine. It’s their right and it’s our right and obligation to segregate them from the normal community for the duration of the conflict.”
Clark’s egregiously flawed thinking belies astonishing arrogance considering the historical context. He essentially said: America imprisoned the innocent before so why should we bother with an ethical precedent now? To hell with what’s right. Why correct past mistakes when we can just use them as a blueprint? Why pretend to learn from the past when repurposing grievous errors is so . . . easy?
Because we should be beyond such idiocy and ashamed to the core at the mere suggestion we aren’t. Appalling violations of human rights propagated through a cheapened facsimile in a flippantly vile response by a paranoid ex-military official does not an acceptable proposition make.
Lest we forget as time imparts erasure in the collective memory that internment camps—as deplorable in concept as fact—were actually called concentration camps in President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, which brought them to fruition. Though genocide was not the stated function of these camps, the interned citizen-prisoners—whose only crime was ancestry—would have had amply confirmed arguments that the camps’ underlying purpose was death.
Surely Clark, as a valedictorian-graduate of West Point and former NATO commander, has a firm grasp of this rather obscene black mark on America’s historical report card. Surely he realizes his loutishly frivolous remark was less than covertly profane—not to mention laughably void of fact.
Those of us feeling less than ardently patriotic toward the corrupt machinations of the fascistic, corporatized oligarchy impersonating American government should certainly hope so.
While fighting the Nazis overseas, the U.S. government instituted a parallel regime on the homefront in fearful response to the attack on its fleet in Pearl Harbor. With a simple signature, Roosevelt transmogrified Japanese heritage from genetic happenstance to State enemy. FBI agents descended en masse at the government’s behest, wresting heirlooms and valuables as contraband from the clutches of the newfound enemy in their midst. Assets were frozen and over 1,200 perfectly law-abiding Issei—first generation Japanese immigrants—were abruptly arrested.
And that was just the beginning.
Mandatory registration for Japanese-American citizens on the West Coast preceded their evacuation to internment camps—most received little, if any, compensation for the homes and businesses they were forced to flee. Racetracks and fairgrounds functioned as concentration camps. Prisoners lived in stalls previously occupied by animals, where lack of privacy rivaled lack of medical care as disease flourished and death commonly followed. Over 120,000 legal residents and American citizens had been forced into the degrading camps by the time it was over.
Compounding this affront to human rights and dignity, the U.S. government not only held off in its compensation to survivors for 42 years, but only managed to cough up an opprobriously insulting $20,000 per person as a one-time payment for time served.
Perhaps the suggestion to repurpose internment camps as a solution to the nuisance of dissenting speech is far more dangerous, radical thought than Clark cares to acknowledge.