Letter written to Senators Feinstein and Boxer:

Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR) is a Japanese American community organization that helped to lead the movement for redress for Japanese Americans (Nikkei) who were excluded from the West Coast and incarcerated during World War II. NCRR can speak to the greatness of our nation and its Constitution, as demonstrated by the capacity of our democratic system to admit it has made mistakes and to take measures to redress those mistakes.

Therefore, speaking on behalf of a community who suffered the agony and indignity of being presumed guilty rather than innocent, who had utterly no voice at that time, we raise our voices today to urge you to look at what happened during that war as you deliberate on whether to effectively approve a war on Iraq.

So many comparisons have been made between December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001. Those same comparisons must be applied to the huge scars left in the aftermath of those two events that will be forever seared in America_s collective psyche. We must apply the lessons from 60 years ago during a time of similar war hysteria.

For just as Americans were deeply caught up in war hysteria after December 7, we are now equally vulnerable to the effects of war hysteria. We are equally vulnerable to political expediency: in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt utilized political expediency, showing that he was "taking care of business" during an election year; we now witness President Bush exercising political expediency as well in his call for possible preemptive military action against Iraq. But the preemption principle, striking first based on a perceived threat, is so dangerous to our democratic system, our nation of laws.

We must look back and learn from history. In 1983, the federal Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) concluded, after hearings in ten sites throughout the United States, that the exclusion and incarceration of Japanese Americans were not because of "military necessity" or a "threat to national security," reasons that were cited and popularized during WWII. Instead, the CWRIC stated that the reasons for the internment of Japanese Americans were: "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership."

Although those reasons seem so straightforward and easy to buy as we look back 60 years, we must ask ourselves today whether we are being "victimized" by those same conditions. It would be easy to say, "We Americans just can_t help ourselves; we_re just caught in the same bind as in WWII."

But we must try. We must have hope that we can indeed improve on the deeds of the past, that we can learn from past mistakes. Perhaps Earl Warren is a good example of that. During WWII, Earl Warren was the attorney general of California and running for governor. He made the statement, in reference to Japanese Americans, that "the very fact that no sabotage has taken place is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will be taken." This statement sounds ridiculous and incredible today, yet his stature and position during that time of "war hysteria" gave it credence and popularity. It was a blatant demonstration of the preemption principle: "They_re guilty, so round them up before they show any evidence of guilt." It was also a sad example of the "failure of political leadership" at the time.

Earl Warren later became the great champion of civil rights as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Maybe he was compensating for his own past mistakes.

But the much tougher challenge is to avoid committing such mistakes in the first place. Instead of acting preemptively against Iraq, perhaps we can be preemptive in avoiding mistakes that could have tremendous implications in human cost and the United States_ credibility when it comes to the rule of law and respect for the views of other nations.