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Japanese Internment Argument Is Revived : Legislature: A resolution by Assemblyman Ferguson says acts of sabotage and espionage were documented, and denies that racism was a basis for the World War II camps.

August 17, 1990|RALPH FRAMMOLINO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — Reopening a debate that earned him widespread scorn among his legislative colleagues last year, Assemblyman Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach) has introduced a resolution that states "it is simply untrue that Japanese-Americans were interned in concentration camps during World War II."

The non-binding measure urges the Legislature to agree that relocation of the Japanese in California was not the result of racism but of military expediency based on the documented "existence of several thousand Japanese subversives" and on "acts of sabotage, espionage, and disloyalty by groups of Japanese nationals and European nationals on the West Coast, preceding and following the Pearl Harbor attack."

The resolution is Ferguson's response to a resolution adopted over his objections last year that calls for California schoolchildren to be taught that the internment of 110,000 Japanese was a violation of human rights based on "race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership."

Sponsored by Assemblywoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco), the measure was modeled on conclusions reached by a federal commission convened by former President Ronald Reagan, who signed a 1988 law officially apologizing for the wartime action.

When the Speier measure came up for debate last August, Ferguson rose to his feet and admitted that the relocation was a "bad decision" but vigorously rebutting the charges of racism.

The remarks ignited acrimonious debate, during which speakers called Ferguson's views "contemptible."

Undeterred, Ferguson has returned a year later with his own measure aimed at including his explanation for the internments. The measure at first denies any internment, but then points out that Canada, Mexico and nations in Central and South America instituted similar relocation programs.

The resolution cites recently released, "top-secret Japanese military code messages broken by U.S. intelligence before and during the war which document that the Empire of Japan was counting on its nationals living in the United States and Japanese-Americans to assist in the war effort against America."

Ferguson said Thursday that he sponsored his counter-resolution because he wants to make sure that California schoolchildren receive a "balanced" view of the reasons behind the Japanese internment. "If they want to say our families and fathers were racists, they have to include this, too," Ferguson said.

But Speier called Ferguson's resolution "absolutely preposterous" and said she would try to kill it in an Assembly committee before it gets to the floor for debate.

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