The New York Times editorial bias has been well-known by its readers for decades. But the liberal slant of its news reporting has now reached new heights, in its coverage of a possible war against Iraq. Consider its house editorial today, which laughably argues that we must — yet again! — "exhaust all forms of coercive diplomacy, including approval by the Security Council of a tough new resolution." The overall sloppiness of the editors and reporters is vividly brought to light in a September 22 signed editorial, "Justice Rehnquist's Ominous History of Wartime Freedom."
Here Adam Cohen takes Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court William Rehnquist to task for his 1998 book, All the Laws but One: Civil Liberties in Wartime.
Cohen accuses the chief justice of making "the easy call" of "giving up essential liberty for temporary safety." Rehnquist is allegedly guilty of a "selective blindness," by virtue of his emphasis on the military reasons for the relocation of Japanese from the west coast in World War II. Apparently accustomed to a President who boasted of feeling the people's pain, Cohen argues that "It would be harder for the reader to accept his conclusions if he had included details about the men, women, and children who were rounded up and the economic, physical and emotional toil imposed on them."
The Times' editorialist cannot fathom the notion that the relocation of these Japanese from the western U.S. was part of a measured wartime strategy intended to protect the "essential liberty" of all, including those removed from their homes. By failing to make this fundamental distinction, the editorial confuses rather than clarifies our deliberations concerning the war against Islamicist terrorism. In this regard, it may be enlightening to recall that America fought World War II against enemies with racist ideologies that found some appeal even among American citizens.
Moreover, Cohen hyperbolically proclaims the relocation to be "the worst denial of civil liberties in American history...." — heedless of slavery and its legacy of Jim Crow laws and segregation. Of course he distorts the history of the relocation. While few went voluntarily to the relocation centers, the so-called "prisoners" could in fact leave temporarily, as my parents did, to work in seasonal agricultural jobs, or avoid relocation altogether, as my aunts and uncles did, working in Chicago or other areas outside the west coast. Others left the centers to attend college. This is not to minimize the hardship of those who were relocated, or anyone else, civilian or military, during WW II.
It stands to pass that this editorial proceeds without acknowledging the balance the Supreme Court secured in its rulings on the constitutionality of relocation — that a temporary removal and relocation in wartime was constitutional, but a person who posed no threat could not be so held (ex parte Endo). Chief Justice Rehnquist is surely familiar with this decision.
What is truly "ominous" here is the writer's failure to keep in mind that the causalities and damage suffered on Sept. 11, 2001 far exceeded those of Pearl Harbor and the Japanese raids on the U.S. west coast. It is as though we are not now debating succession in case of the murder of vast numbers in the executive branch, congress, and the courts.
In sum, Cohen should be scrutinizing history, not indulging in hysterics. The sufferings of the relocated ethnic Japanese in WW II would not be in vain if Americans today recall that with liberty comes duty, and in time of war some members of the political community are obliged to bear, temporarily, heavier burdens than others. This may come as unpleasant news to contemporary egalitarians, who insist that everyone feel pain equally, but it is a truth about the human condition revealed in war.