What just happened?
In the last 30 days President Roosevelt signed two new executive orders which have been the subject of much media debate and speculation. The White House describes the provisions established by the President’s actions (which can be read in their entirety here and here) as being vital in the ongoing Pacific and European war efforts. According to Roosevelt, “…the successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national-defense.”
What do the executive orders actually say?
The President has tasked the Secretary of War to build and maintain multiple “military areas” throughout the United States. Authority was also granted to the War Department to identify and forcibly relocate persons whose removal to these areas, as the orders describe, “is necessary in the interests of national security.”
What is a “military area” anyway?
The orders don’t say exactly, but all evidence suggests they will be compounds or communities of some sort built to house persons deemed dangerous by the War Department.
A lot of anonymously-sourced “news” stories claim that these military areas will be something akin to prisons. But such descriptions appear to be inaccurate and unfair. Yes, the orders make it clear that residents of the military areas can expect constant surveillance and supervision. Additionally, “the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion.”
So while it is reasonable to expect that additional vetting will be applied to travel in and out of the military areas, it is certainly not accurate to call this a “travel ban” (as Internet rumors have suggested) when explicit authority is given to the War Department to allow travel at their discretion.
Furthermore, the new mandates require that basic necessities, such as food and shelter, be provided to the new residents. It even calls for potential employment opportunities “insofar as feasible and desirable” and suggests jobs in commerce, agriculture, and public projects will be offered.
As such, likening the military areas to some sort of prison appears irresponsibly alarmist and factually untrue.
But wait a minute. I keep hearing about “Japanese internment camps”. That's what's really going on here, right?
Simply put, no. There has been a lot of rumbling and hysteria spread across news media and social networking sites that this order will be used to create so-called “internment camps” for people of Japanese descent. However, we reviewed the President’s orders extensively, and there simply is no mention of internment camps and certainly no mention of any particular nationality or ethnicity as being the target of these actions.
Admittedly, broad and expansive discretionary authority has been given to War Secretary Henry Stimson to interpret the orders as he sees fit. However, it must be stressed that the clear language and intent of the order appears to be aimed solely at those persons residing in the United States who are deemed a national security risk.
As such, claims that the President holds ill-feelings or suspicion toward Japanese Americans remain libelous and wholly unsubstantiated. Should such an overly-zealous interpretation of the President’s directive ever be used to target the Japanese, reason would suggest that Secretary Stimson would be equally compelled and required to incarcerate the country’s sizeable population of German Americans—an absurd proposition indeed!
We hope this clears up some of the confusion and misinformation around the President’s actions. As with all things, it’s important to maintain fair-mindedness and objectivity in such matters, especially when the nation’s security is at risk.