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Debate Over Paying Reparations to Japanese-American Internees

April 30, 1988

Forty some years ago my government took my liberty and relocated me to a fenced-in muddy camp 2,000 miles from home. I was paid 75 cents a day and learned to sleep on swampy, snake-infested ground and how to stab straw men with a bayonet. There were at least 12 million others, some of whom were killed at Bastogne or died in the Bataan death march. Every person in this country suffered hardship and deprivation to some degree. Reduction in income caused many soldiers to lose their property and some their families.

We took staggering initial losses to the Japanese military and fear in this country was everywhere. A potential fifth column was isolated, partly for their protection, from frightened people. There was no time to sort out the loyal. Today that fear is labeled paranoia by congressmen who were not yet born in 1942. They call it racial and the fault of "failed leadership."

Back in my barbed-wire compound I had never yet seen a Japanese person. But for Pearl Harbor I might never have. Yet now I have picked up responsibility for the "failed leadership."

Those Japanese-Americans who were victims deserve a national apology, of course. But the $1.3 billion cannot be taxed to those leaders who are long gone. I'll have to chip in as well as my kids who would seem innocent of responsibility.

It is the American (congressional) way of solving things--throw dollars from our busted treasury.

The Times editorial says "this will cause healing."

I wonder.

ROBERT J. SUNDE

Nipomo

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