Thursday, April 26, 2018

From the Archives: A Win for National Security

Editors' Note: Sounds like the whiners who dared to question President U Bum's third iteration of his Muslim ban had a tough day at the Supreme Court yesterday, where the Republican majority seemed to express deep concern over second guessing Executive actions supposedly intended to protect national security.  We recall another day at the Supreme Court when those concerns also carried the day, as described in this page 37 article from the October 13, 1944 edition.

By Scott V. Sandford
Justice Correspondent

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Based on the questioning from the Supreme Court at today's argument, it appears that the Court is ready to uphold the expulsion of American citizens of Japanese ancestry from the Western third of the country where they had lived peaceably for generations.

The Court appeared to accept the argument of young Herb Weschsler, arguing the cause for the United States, that it had no business second-guessing national security decisions made by the President in wartime.

Wechsler told the court that the Executive Branch had concluded in the months after Pearl Harbor that removing American citizens of Japanese ancestry from their homes was justified by the exigencies of war, on the theory that the Japanese Army might land in California at any moment and that they might be aided by American citizens of Japanese ancestry.

“No court has the power to countermand the decisions of the President to protect the United States against Jap invasion,” Wechsler told the court.  “If you conclude that the President cannot relocate Japs to protect America, what neutral principle of jurisprudence would prevent them from suing the President to prevent the Air Corps from bombing Japan?” Wechsler asked, presumably rhetorically.

Justice Stone appeared to be swayed by his former pupil's arguments, asking Korematsu's lawyers: “Are you telling me that this Court is better equipped than the President to determine what must be done to keep Americans safe from the Jap menace in time of war?”

When Korematsu's attorney attempted to respond by noting that Korematsu was a loyal American citizen, Justice Stone cut him off, saying, “How are we supposed to know which Japs are loyal and which aren't?  They all look alike!”

Nothing unconstitutional here, said Herb Wechsler
Justice Douglas chimed in: “Isn't the President's power to wage war, like his power to protect our country from aliens, absolute?  Are you saying that President Franklin D. Roosevelt is lying to the American people about the Jap menace?”

Korematsu's counsel admitted that while President Roosevelt was a man of integrity, a future President might be a bigoted crooked ignorant stooge blackmailed by foreign powers and interested only in glory and in enriching himself and his family in office.

“That's preposterous!” responded a clearly exasperated Felix Frankfurter.  “There's no place for such far-fetched hypotheticals in this court,” said the former Harvard Law Professor and close ally of Roosevelt.

Frankfurter then asked, “What if the FBI had information that a group of Jap citizens was spying on the United States?  Are you saying we are powerless to detain them?”

Korematsu's attorney said that individuals who have been shown to be disloyal could be subjected to arrest, but that was different from expelling hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children whose loyalty was not in question merely because they were of Japanese ancestry.

A more skeptical Justice Robert Jackson asked if the Court could take into account the considerable evidence of anti-Japanese bigotry in determining whether the exclusion order was based on unconstitutional discrimination.

“Absolutely not, ”  Wechsler replied. “Anything other than what the Executive Branch said in making its formal decision is meaningless and irrelevant and would require a clearly inappropriate inquiry into the Presidential decision-making process.”

But with American boys fighting and dying every day in the Philippines it did not appear that the Supreme Court was inclined to cut much slack to Tojo's relatives who managed to sneak into the United States.

On rebuttal Wecshler delivered what many Court observers was the coup de grace: “If the Executive does not have the power to exclude Japs from war zones, how can the Executive prevent Japanese agents from immigrating to the United States to continue their campaign of terror and subversion?”

Public opinion appeared to be squarely on the side of President Roosevelt.  “If you say that the Nips can live wherever they want, the next thing you'll be telling me is that I have to rent my apartments to them,” said Queens slumlord Fred C. Trumpf.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Bueno y muerto: the born-again butcher

The obituary page of The Massachusetts Spy

By Luke Reschuss
Obituary Editor

Almost lost in the torrent of news about the descent of the United States into corrupt autocracy was the passing of one of yesterday's most loathsome dictators, former Guatemalan supremo and convicted practitioner of genocide Efrain Rios Montt, dead not a minute too soon at 91.

Notwithstanding the general prescription to say nothing but good of the dead, The New York Times was moved in his obituary to note:
In the panoply of commanders who turned much of Central America into a killing field in the 1980s, General Ríos Montt was one of the most murderous. He was convicted in 2013 of trying to exterminate the Ixil ethnic group, a Mayan Indian community whose villages were wiped out by his forces.

In fairness, it was a fast league of bloodthirsty Central American dictators and plutocrats in the 1980's; just ask the dead churchwomen of El Salvador.

But lest you think that Montt was nothing more than a butcher, he had a talent for making friends in high places, mostly high places in the American white conservative movement.  As the Times recalls, “President Ronald Reagan was General Ríos Montt’s most prominent admirer. After meeting him in 1982, Mr. Reagan said the general was 'getting a bum rap on human rights.'”

He also was fast friends with those great moral authorities, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who like
Montt, were evangelical Protestants with permanently demagnetized ethical compasses:
An evangelical Christian and part-time lay preacher, Gen. Rios Montt befriended televangelists Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Robertson extolled the Guatemalan leader, the lone Protestant head of state in Latin America, as the only alternative to “the oppression of corrupt oligarchies and the tyranny of Russian-backed Communist totalitarianism.” To his fiercest critics, the general was known as “the born-again butcher.”  (The Washington Post, 4/1/18)
St. Ronald of Bitburg (like Jerry and Pat) never met a Latin American dictator he didn't like as long as the Generalissimo in question asserted that he was a fearless foe of Communism, which, in Reagan's uncluttered mind, was raging through Central America, kinda like Gen. Montt's death squads.

Pat Robertson's good buddy did wonders for
the casket business
Montt's crimes against humanity were known at the time, as demonstrated by a May 8, 1983 piece in the Times describing a report by Americas Watch that “accused the Guatemalan Army of systematically murdering Indians.”  The story went on to note that despite the massacres the State Department, under the enlightened supervision of criminal Elliott Abrams, had approved resumption of arms shipments to the murderers.

If you missed the story, that's understandable.  It ran on page 12, in the space that, had it been a World War II issue of the Times, would have been used to describe reports of massacres of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe.

Another reason you might have missed it was that it was surrounded by much bigger stories about another one of St. Ronald's Central American charnel houses, El Salvador.  One, by Stephen Kinzer, described the plight of several hundred thousand Salvadoran refugees forced to leave their homes by the American-backed Salvadoran Army, which had quite a few massacres of its own on its record.

You may ask: why even bother with this obscure Central American killmonger?  After all, there's a large and capable full-time staff at his new abode who will take good care of him for eternity.

We recall Montt because he was so deeply enmeshed in generations of Republican hypocrisy in Central America, in which no ally was too sadistic or loathsome for St. Ronald and his disciples as long as they could give ol' Ron some fruity line of bulls*** about how they were fighting the good fight against Communism.

The story begins not later than 1954, when Allen Dulles's CIA, under the benign superintendence of then-President Eisenhower, overthrew a democratic Socialist in Guatemala who dared to tamper with the imperial possessions of the United Fruit Company.  It continued with unflinching GOP support for the bloodthirsty war criminals in the Salvadoran Army and the Nicaraguan contras.

And it continues today, as these failed states cope with the sequelae of generations of American-backed misrule.  How long ago was it that President U Bum recognized the rigged election of a Honduran rightist dictator on the grounds that he was a friend of ours, by which presumably U Bum means he will help bail out the next busto Trump/Kushner project and screw Honduran migrants?  Who can remember as far back as December 22, 2017?

Montt may be dead, but the legacy of the generations of Republican-backed gangsters in uniform calls out to all of us from the bloody killing fields of Central America.  Can you hear them?  Are they saying “Winning?”