Reluctant Redress: The U.S. Kidnapping
and Internment of Japanese
ERIC K. YAMAMOTO2
In July 1999, President Clinton signed an appropriations bill authorizing several billion dollars in aid for rebuilding Kosovo and keeping the peace. A news article cited the horrors there—the ethnic cleansing and the weeks of nonstop U.S./NATO bombing; it offered details of past and likely future U.S. involvement.
The article ended with change of subject, a curious “by-the-way” tagalong—that the appropriations bill also authorized U.S. reparations money for Japanese Latin Americans. This tag-along reference caught my eye for four reasons. First, I worked on redress for American citizens of Japanese ancestry interned during World War II on account of their race without charges, trial or, as has now been revealed, any evidence of necessity.3 Second, I had spoken with several of the 2,000 former citizens of Latin American countries who had been kidnapped from their homes in Peru (mainly) and imprisoned in U.S. internment camps during World War II and held as hostages, solely because they were of Japanese ancestry; and I had heard their stories of destroyed lives and continuing bitterness. Third, the Japanese Latin American story is not about the United States going abroad as “peacekeeper” or “human rights protector” or “reconciliation facilitator.” It is about the United States as human rights violator, here on American soil—“in here” not “out there.” And it is about a fresh U.S. “reparatory process” characterized mostly by denial, foot dragging and unkept promises—hence the title of my essay “Reluctant Redress.”
And fourth, the news blurb caught my eye because the larger Japanese