One of the problems that urgently needs some serious thought by President Bush's proposed new Homeland Security Department is the problem of what to do about enemies already living within this country. Our legal system has not yet faced the grim implications of that fact.
A federal judge recently turned loose a suspected terrorist who will be free to walk among us pending trial. Most Arabs in this country are not terrorists, but if every Arab who is delayed or inconvenienced by security personnel at an airport can sue the airlines for millions, then those who are terrorists are likely to be able to get through and claim more victims.
Too many people are so preoccupied with the threat of "racial profiling" that they are forgetting the larger threat to American lives. Looking back at the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II seems more important to some people than looking ahead to a day when a new Pearl Harbor can occur in American cities, with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
The first duty of a government is to protect its own people and perpetuate the nation. Like most worthwhile things in life, it cannot be done without costs. Considering the ultimate sacrifices made by heroic firemen, policemen and airline passengers who battled terrorists, it is not too much to expect the rest of us to make an effort to achieve clarity, instead of repeating shibboleths.
Since so many people insist on resurrecting the internment of Japanese Americans, we ought to take a close, hard look at that painful episode. At the heart of this tragedy was the fact that Japanese Americans were loyal to this country and proved that loyalty with their blood and their lives on the battlefield. Had they been a disloyal threat within, their internment would have been perfectly justified when the nation was fighting a war of survival. It was not inevitable that Japanese immigrants would be loyal to their adopted country during a war against Japan. The Japanese in Brazil were fanatically pro-Japan.
A scholar in Japan has pointed out that the Japanese who settled in the United States differed from those who settled in Brazil because they emigrated during radically different eras in the history of Japan. Those who came here emigrated during an era of pro-American feeling in Japan, and those who settled in Brazil emigrated during a later era of fanatical Japanese nationalism.