in the event of a war

While the possibility of a war against Iran seems to ebb and flow from day to day, the actual war itself may entail internment of the Iranians in the west, especially in Britain and the US. As painful as the thought may be, let us review the historical perspective on this issue.

Ronald Reagan was the first American president who at last acknowledged the injustice and tragedy inflicted upon the Japanese-Americans during WWII. As we know the Japanese, some of whom were second or third generation Americans, were swiftly interned and their possessions confiscated never to be returned to them.

The economic loss was particularly vicious. Japanese properties were never released to them, nor were they in any way recompensed for their pain, sorrow, and loss, not to mention the humiliation and indignities suffered in the internment camps in the western states.  Reagan gave every Japanese who had thus suffered $20,000, certainly not enough, and by far too late, given the appreciation of property in California in the post World War II boom years. Reagan vowed that America would never repeat such injustice ever again. (See August 14, 1995, NYTIMES).

Demonizing, dehumanizing Orientals were nothing new in good ol’ America. A 1924 immigration law barred the Japanese from emigrating to America; other laws barred the Japanese-Americans from owning property or marrying whites. John Dower in his classic book War Without Mercy details the racist vilifications. So what happened to all the remorse and regrets expressed by Reagan and newspaper editorials bemoaning America’s dark side?

The renditions and torture flights and Gitmos show that certain things do not change. Do they? The British treatment of the German refugees was even more horrendous and poignant. Having fled the Nazi oppression in their homeland, the German refugees, some Jews, some German socialists and communists, some pacifists, considered England a haven until the outbreak of the war. This dark episode of the modern British history is little known, except by historians perhaps.

As the war loomed and seemed inevitable in 1939, the British began classifying the German refugees into three categories, one group was considered safe, another category was immediately subjected to arrest, and a third one was kept on short leash just in case. When the war broke out, the last two categories were merged, meaning a great majority of these luckless Germans were sent into internment camps in Australia and Canada.

An internment camp in Sherwood, Quebec, comprised an odd group of German refugees. There were so many PhD’s in the camp that they formed their own University and granted degrees. But internment policy took its toll. A shipload of German internees was torpedoed in British waters on its way to Canada. Several hundred died. Some internees committed suicide unable to bear the fate life had inflicted on them.

We know that unless some drastic political shift, in America, does not occur in near future, the Iranian expatriates may well become a pawn in the ensuing events. The harassment and detentions at the airports and other points of entry may well be part of larger plan to intern Iranians in the event of a war.�

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