Monday, July 21, 2014

The Real Lillian Baker: Historical Revisionism in Our Times

From the Tsang Archives, a 1996 article:


"I HOPE SHE DIES A SLOW DEATH," Chicago Shimpo newspaper English-language editor Arthur Morimitsu told the Chicago Tribune three years before her death. He was referring to revisionist writer Lillian Baker, who died in Gardena on October 21, 1996 of natural causes at age 75.

Baker was the nemesis of Japanese Americans everywhere, a purveyor through her Orange County foundation of misinformation about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. But you would have thought she was a great American from the laudatory obituary the Orange County edition of the Los Angeles Times ran October 29, 1996.

My original article appeared in OC Weekly 29 November-5 December 1996, pages 9-10

Here's our correction:

Baker founded the now-defunct, Anaheim-based Americans for Historical Accuracy (AFHA), a group that, not unlike the O.C.based Institute for Historical Review (the Holocaust-is-myth folks), argues that what the history books tell us about the U.S.' treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II is a lie. AFHA, founded by Baker in 1972 in Lawndale, became a "public benefit" California corporation in 1992 in Anaheim, but it lost its corporate status on Oct. 3, 1994, when it was suspended by the Franchise Tax Board. The most likely reason, according to a source at the California secretary of state's office, was failure to pay corporate taxes.

In the last two decades of her life, Baker became the darling of the Right, campaigning (without success) against congressional legislation to pay reparations to the 60,000 surviving Japanese Americans rounded up by the U.S. in World War II. In her four books, she touted her revisionist thesis: that the internees owed allegiance to Japan's emperor, that military necessity justified the "relocations," that internment was constitutional, and that Japanese American camps like California's Manzanar were not concentration camps. The barbed wire was there to keep cattle out, not to keep people in, she insisted, arguing that there were no machine guns in guard towers. Internees, park historians and photos say there were; Baker insisted that the photos had been doctored  and the internees and park historians had lied to advance the cause of Japanese American internees.

Baker aroused emotions wherever she spoke. When she testified in August 1981 against reparations before the U.S. Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians in Los Angeles, more than 200 Japanese Americans walked out in silent protest of her "hysterical diatribes against evacuees,"according to an account in the Santa Ana Wind, the newsletter of the Orange County Japanese Americans Citizens League. That same article noted that the next day, "Baker was ejected from the hearing room by the state police for attempting to snatch written testimony from James Kawanami, president of the Southern California 100th/442nd Veterans Association, while he was giving his testimony." The 442nd, composed entirely of Japanese Americans freed from the camps, was one of the most decorated U.S. units in World War II.

But right-wing groups embraced Baker's cause. The Valley Forge, Pennsylvania-based Freedoms Foundation awarded her a certificate for "promoting a better understanding of America and Americans." The Stanford-based conservative think tank Hoover Institution started a Lillian Baker collection (The Lillian Baker Papers now comprise some 113 boxes of her "research" materials) and paid for the National Archives photographs used in one of her books.

Those books, published by an obscure press in Medford, Oregon, Webb Research Group, included Dishonoring America: The Falsification of World War II History (a 1994 revision of her 1988 work). The publisher's introduction to that book claims that another Baker compilation, American and Japanese Relocation in World War II: Fact, Fiction & Fallacy, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1990. The tome, which was actually nominated in 1991 by the Freedoms Foundation, never received any awards.

In Baker's case, it's pretty safe to judge her books by their covers. Her first was 1983's The Concentration Camp Conspiracy: A Second Pearl Harbor, her last, The Japanning of America: Redress & Reparations Demands by Japanese Americans (l991). "Japanning," according to the publisher, refers to the covering up of historical fact and the "blackening of America's honor by persons of Japanese ancestry in the USA. "Baker gave copies of three of her books to the Anaheim Public Library, including one signed, "Compliments of Lillian Baker in the interest of historical accuracy." But her supporters, mistakenly thinking the books would not be circulated, staged a small demonstration (replete with picket signs) outside the library in December 1991. Jane Newell, the library's local-history curator, said the books are shelved in the local-history reading room because they are "revisionist history not based on fact" and thus more appropriate for a special
collection. Only one person (besides me) has asked to see them since Baker died, Newell said.

Baker's revisionist L.A. Times obituary was penned by staffer Myrna Oliver, who cited-without qualification-Baker's view that Japanese-Americans were "voluntary guests" free to leave the camps as soon as they proved their loyalty. Oliver wrote that Baker believed the internees "benefited from the education and free food they received at Manzanar." Baker continued to wage unsuccessful battles against Manzanar being designated a national historical site until her death.

Oliver's apologist obituary even invited readers to send donations to the Lillian Baker Memorial Fund for scholarships for history srudents. But the post-office box the Times listed is not registered to AFHA. An Anaheim Hills postal employee who manages box rentals said that the box has been rented since 1985 by H .D. Garber and his family members. That would be Howard D. Garber, a retired Anaheim Hills optometrist, Baker clone and a one-time controversial KUCI talk host. Garber used the same box in his campaign literature to raise money for his unsuccessful 1992 Assembly campaign. Garber also uses it for the plethora of other front groups he heads, including the anti-ACLU American Civil Responsibilities Union, the California Coalition for Capital Punishment and Advocates of Penal Euthanasia. Garber, AFHA's registered agent according to records on file with the secretary of state's
office, admitted that its corporate status had been suspended but said he couldn't tell us why. He would only say that they'd never had secretarial help with the paperwork. He also said Republican politico Gil Ferguson (a fellow AFHA board member) is "leading the effort" to decide what to do with the donations.

"Since the L.A. Times article,  I've received various checks," Garber added, saying that they will probably be used for a bronze plaque and an annual scholarship for students doing historical research into "inaccuracies" about the "relocation" camps. Garber did not recognize my voice or name in 1996; nor did he remember challenging me months earlier to a debate on World War II after calling me a liar for describing the internment camps as "concentration camps." When we talked, he questioned my ethnicity again {for the record, I'm Chinese American) and inquired why I wasn't concerned about the Nanking massacre of Chinese by Japanese troops in 1937. He also said that his group is planning to sue some Japanese Americans (whom he wouldn't name) for linking Baker and AFHA with the Institute for Historical Review. He added that, as a Jew, he had fled the smokestacks of Europe. "Do you know what  smokestacks are?" he asked. "Those were the real concentration camps."

 - Daniel C. Tsang.


Revised  and hyperlinks added 21 July 2014 for this blog from the original article, "The Real Lillian Baker" that appeared in the OC Weekly 29 November- 9 December 1996, pages 9-10.  OC Weekly editor Will Swaim had commissioned that article, and as I recall it was my first for the publication.

See also: Robert Ito, "Summer Camp or Concentration Camp: A New Generation of Revisionists Tries to Put a Happy Face on the Japanese American Relocation Camps," Mother Jones, 15 September 1998.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

David Truong in His Own Words in 1978: "I am Not a Spy" | "Tôi không phải là một gián điệp"

Here is David Truong's inspirational statement at his sentencing 7 July 1978. [Italics used here for the underlining in original.]  He alludes to the "petty political vendettas" by those in the U.S. administration to delay inevitable normalization of relations with Vietnam.  As David predicted, "They cannot reverse history."

See also our earlier post, as revised, which links to our online Subversity audio interview where Prof. Ngo Vinh Long elaborates on why and how the government set David up. - Daniel C. Tsang



                                                                      David Truong
                                                                      July 7, 1978

       To experience one's own trial always leaves oneself with
definite impressions of what justice, dignity, and honor are.
But this case, which at least for its absurd and senseless
character, reminds me of the Viet Nam war, begs for comments.

          Let me say first that whatever happens today will not
change my love and affection for the warm people of this country
whom I've known for more than a decade and in the course of this
trial. A few of them are here today, most in other cities, so it
would take many courtrooms if they all came. Whether close or
afar, I want to thank them for their boundless love, friendship,
and solidarity. I also thank my counsels, Michael, Marvin, and John,
for their untiring work and compassion--these are things I will,
never forget.

      What did take place about this case and in this court will,
for a long time, cast large shadows on this Administration,
notably the Justice Department and the intelligence agencies--
the CIA and' the FBI. There is a very serious and fundamental
credibility problem for the government when such intelligence
agencies run amuck in a land where some justice is supposed to
rule. This, I believe, is and will increasingly be, an important
question for all Americans and alien residents here. Aside from
not inspiring additional confidence in the carrying out of justice,
my case, and where it will lead, will also sap the government's
credibility to a severe extent.

       To talk about credibility in specifics: What about this myth
of the danger of flight? It would really hurt, would it not, if
the alleged Vietnamese spy is out of jail, refuses to flee, stays
put; and fights the government every step of the way. Gentlemen,
one may be poor, one may tighten one's belt because of enduring
_hardships, one may even have to give up one's life--but no Vietnamese
will ever flee before this government.

       In addition to the credibility question, there is the question
of human rights. In his April 30, 1977 speech in Athens, Georgia,
Secretary of State Cyrus Vance defined human rights as such: "The
right to be free from governmental violation of the integrity of
the person. Such violations include torture; cruel, inhuman, or
degrading treatment or punishment; and arbitrary arrest or imprisonment,
as well as denial of fair public trial and invasion of the

        My case stands clearly as a violation of human rights in the
U.S. and will be seen as such by peoples everywhere.

         Thirdly, today will do no honor to this country. Many will
remember this years from now. No matter how hard the government
tries, this case can never erase the horrors and destruction that
were unleashed upon the people of Viet Nam for decades. Frankly,
your honor, even a life sentence for me would look pale beside the
untold number of war crimes and countless Vietnamese women,
children, and men who died during the term of four Administrations.

         If I would add a personal level, I know of a government
that came to southern Viet Nam, crippled my father for his views
by imprisoning him for more than five years at hard labor, and
then left in April of 1975. In between, it managed to jail my
little brother for a while.

       The heavy legacy of Viet Nam--those bombings of Christmas,
1972; those millions of Vietnamese uprooted, wounded and killed;
those hundreds of thousands of undetonated explosives in Viet Nam--is
something no Administration can wash away.

       One day, younger Americans, perhaps the children and grand-children
of many present here, will ask after having visited
Viet Nam, whether what happened there for thirty years was and
is deserving of this country's honor and conscience. But, up to
now, it will remain for the first time in mankind's history such
a powerful country chose to turn its back to the massive destruction
perpetrated on a small country. President Carter's words summed
up things well: "Without morality, no nation can maintain its
position in. the world."

       Finally, your honor, I did not wrong anyone in this country-or
this country. I am not a spy or anybody's agent, and reaffirm
my innocence.

       I would have liked to see peace and normalization of relations
instead of more war. And I would like in my modest way to help
rebuild Viet Nam, like tens of thousands of Vietnamese living
abroad. Instead, all I see are petty political vendettas by some
elements within this Administration in vainless attempts for
revenge, including a major effort to stifle the drive of Vietnamese
living abroad to help heal the wounds of war. Zbigniew Brzezinski
and his lieutenants can only bring disgrace and shame with their
actions, they cannot reverse history.

       If one learns anything from history, and, of course, from the
tragedy of the Viet Nam war, it would be that the people always
count. They shape and mold history. And they stood together, in
difficult and good times alike--that is the history of two peoples,
Americans and Vietnamese, during the war.

       And now, they will stand even more firmly together in their
pursuit of healing war wounds in Viet Nam and here, and of normalization
of relations between two countries. Nothing can change that.
With that certain knowledge, my mind is totally at peace, ready to
climb the highest mountain and go down the deepest valley, no matter
how long it takes.

       History will once again show that the peoples will decisively
turn that new page in the history of US-Viet Nam relations. They
will win, and so will I.