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Title: Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga Interview II
Narrator: Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Torrance, California
Date: July 7, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-haiko-03-0027

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TI: So let me ask you, so going forward -- it was a little ironic, because you sort of started this work when you were about fifty-three, fifty-four, this second career. And it just so happens, I'm fifty-three years old. And so I'm thinking, well, going forward, what advice would you give me, thinking, okay, how would, what's still, like, unfinished business, or what can be done so that there is a difference? Or do you think it's possible?

AH: I don't think it's really possible, but I really would like to see an international tribunal putting the United States on this, charging the United States, charging the United States for not living up to its democratic principles. Not just 9/11 and the aftermath of Guantanamo and all, but going back to our situation. Even though we have had the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, compensation and apology, just the fact that it happened again in terms of Arab Americans who were deprived of the same kind of rights that we were. I really don't think it's... I don't know if it's not possible, but I would like to see an international tribunal put the United States government on trial and go over some of these misbehavior that the government has been involved in, to see what the international court would say about what the United States has done in terms of its minority groups. I wish that this were a possibility. I think that they've been talking about it after the Iraq situation, they've been talking about an international court in terms of Guantanamo alone, I think, but not the administration's actions. But I think I would like to see if there is a possibility to have an international court look at the situation that the United States has prostituted its principles for other self-aggrandizement goals of either individuals or groups in the United States. Think that's a dream?

TI: I think it starts with dreams. I think you start with visions and dreams, and then you have something to work towards. In the same way, I think what you're saying, to me, seems a little difficult to make happen. In the same way, when you first started this work, probably back with Michi Weglyn back in New York, the idea of the government apologizing and redress payments, overturning some of these or vacating some of these Supreme Court cases probably was a dream.

AH: Oh, yeah. I didn't even think about that at that time. You're right. That was not, there was no goal there, just gathering facts so that we could study it, decide what to do. There was not a goal, in the same way with this international court thing. But that one is a goal. Right now, I have a strong hope that there is such a possibility. That might wake up this country a little bit.

TI: Good. So, Aiko, I'm at the end of my questions, and wanted to know if there's anything else that you wanted to talk about, kind of in this vein?

AH: There's a lot of unsung heroes in this whole movement for Japanese Americans, I think, and I would like, I mentioned to you informally before that there are people who have really worked hard to get justice, and who have not really been recognized. I've been overwhelmed with a lot of honors, which I felt were not, would not have been possible without the help of other people. But I'm thinking in terms of the man who was responsible for writing the report to Congress, Angus Macbeth, who was the Special Counsel on the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, and Bob Bratt, Robert Bratt, who was the first administrator for the Office of Redress Administration of the Justice Department, and Ellen Carson and the firm of Landis, Cohen, Rao, Asalanco, who pressed for a judicial response, not just congressional, legislative, (but) for judicial response on the constitutionality of what happened in the wartime period to Japanese Americans. And the coram nobis lawyers... well, the coram nobis lawyers had been recognized quite well, but those other people... and individuals like Rita Takahashi, who was the JACL representative in Washington, D.C. during the very active redress period. She was (such) a rock and did so much, and I don't know if anybody knows about all the work she did. There's so many people who should be recognized for their strength and continued work and support that they had given. There's Tom Crouch, who was the curator in the Smithsonian of the Japanese American exhibition. He was fantastic, and he just got to the crux and the heart of the issues very quickly, and displayed whatever artifacts he had in a stunning manner. He had the world in his heart, he was very good. So I would like some of these unsung heroes to be sung about. [Laughs]

TI: Well, you just did. [Laughs] On the record. Well, good. So, Aiko, thank you so much for your time.

AH: Oh, you're welcome. If I missed out on other people, forgive me. I know that they deserve to be mentioned and honored. I haven't been able to cover all the bases, but I appreciate the opportunity to give my twenty-five cents' worth.

TI: Much more than the two cents. [Laughs] Thank you very much, Aiko.

AH: Thank you.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.