By Albert Fox Cahn, Esq.,
“The danger of the Japanese was. . . espionage and sabotage. It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen, he is still a Japanese.” Those were the words of Lieutenant General DeWitt, testifying before the House Naval Affairs Committee in April of 1943, justifying the racist removal and internment of more than 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent. At the time he spoke, many Americans believed Gen. DeWitt’s lies about Japanese-American espionage; claims about secret radio signals and spy rings that were later shown to be an imagined threat. DeWitt’s deception was exposed in the seminal 1984 court decision Korematsu v. US, but his mentality is alive and well.
Nearly 75 years later, the Muslim Ban has brought us the ideological successor to the DeWitt report: The Department of Justice’s first Muslim Ban report. An obscure provision of the President’s March 2017 executive order requires the Attorney General to report the number of foreign nationals charged with terrorism or who were “radicalized.”
At a time when most terrorists are native-born Americans affiliated with right-wing extremist movements, the report ignores those attackers and the threat they pose. Rather than asking for an honest assessment of the dangers we face, DOJ skewed its data to support the Trump’s nativist narrative. As a presidential propagandist, DOJ is repeating one of the gravest mistakes in our country’s history. The only question is whether the American people will believe them.
There will always be debates about the best ways to measure crime, and to report its trends, but there can be no doubt about the president’s purpose. This is a transparent effort to shape the public’s sentiment and increase support for the failed and bigoted Muslim ban. It is intolerable to the ethos of a democratic society for our law enforcement officials to mislead the American public in this way.
Terrorism is a serious problem, and it deserves serious solutions, not to be turned into a PR stunt for an administration determined to spread fear about our Muslim neighbors. History shows all-too-clearly the dangers of these tactics, it shows what happens when fear is wielded against marginalized communities. We must make it clear to this president that we will never let our country once-again betray its most sacred principles.