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Reparations Responses

September 03, 1989

Your Aug. 15 editorial, "The Issue Is National Honor," strikes a sensitive chord for most Japanese-Americans. Compensation for the former prisoners is long overdue. Considering that nearly 16,000 of them are age 70 or older, payments must begin immediately, and enough money must be appropriated to do the job right.

Apparently, many Times readers have equated the former prisoners with the Japanese nationals who we were fighting against, as evidenced by those who stated in recent letters that World War II veterans should receive the same compensation. On the contrary, over two-thirds of the 120,000 who were imprisoned were native-born American citizens. The rest were not citizens only because of racist laws that prevented their naturalization.

Each American citizen has a responsibility to defend our country in wartime. But no one has the responsibility to be incarcerated for more than three years, without being accused of a crime, and without trial, just because his or her ethnic origin matched that of our enemy.

Clearly, there is a huge difference in principle between the experiences of those who served our country during World War II and the complete denial of civil and human rights committed against Americans of Japanese ancestry during the war. However, if there are special cases where servicemen are due compensation, then they too should receive it in a timely fashion.

But any attempts to tarnish the merits of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 by saying that Japanese-Americans suffered less than others and should not be compensated, or saying that veterans are entitled to compensation for the same reasons as Japanese-Americans, are mean-spirited at best.

GANN MATSUDA

Culver City

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