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The guard towers of Camp Amache, CO, Japanese-American internment camp

Visitors to what remains of the WWII-era Granada Relocation Center located on Highway 50 past Lamar, are tempted to conclude that the remote location was isolation enough to restrict the movement of its 7,000 Japanese-American internees. Gone are all 560 buildings except their concrete foundations; the few remaining photographs depict a vast layout of spartan barracks, playing host to ordinary civilian lives, minus the atmosphere of incarceration. Were there cyclone fences and watch towers? The answer should not surprise you. Of course. Camp Amache was ringed by the usual multiple perimeters of prison fences, including six watch towers manned by military police, who were there, it was explained, for the internees’ protection. I think plans to further restore Amache need to begin with the security fortifications. If such blights on American history as these race-based detention centers are memorialized in the hope that our nation not do it again, it dishonors our victims, and blunts the lesson, not to illustrate our heavy hand.

I attended a recent screening of a documentary made of Camp Amache, attended by its producers, who expressed the usual motivation: in remembrance, never again. Special emphasis was placed on the contributions made by Japanese-Americans during the war, and on the magnanimity with which the internees accepted their lot. Survivors were not to receive an official apology until 45 years later, given $20,000 restitution for their livelihoods and families destroyed. It would be safe to say the audience felt well beyond the prejudice that had motivated their parents. Against Japanese-Americans.

Unfortunately both the documentary and the filmmakers’ commentary left the impression that “never again” describes a successful holding pattern. Of course, America has been at it again and as usual, its citizens have been obliviously complicit.

Look at the War on Islam, which has necessitated the internment of Muslim-Americans and Muslims worldwide. Guantanamo is not much different from the Wartime Relocation Authority (WRA) special Isolation Centers such as Dalton Wells, near Moab, where the WRA sent internees profiled as potential insurgency threats.

America has been building a network of fresh detention facilities to house Hispanic-Americans who run afoul of the country’s illegal labor market. Most of the detainees are promptly deported, but many languish while immigration issues and family ties are sorted out. While ICE pretends to protect the American people from the security-threatening unlawfulness of illegal aliens, in reality its detention centers enforce the successful abuse of a Hispanic-American slave labor pool.

You need only visit a traditional prison or jail to see that an overwhelming disproportion of its inmates are African-American and Hispanic-American, far exceeding what can be excused as representative of America’s poor. The American judicial system is still stacked against non-whites, and motivated by the same racist premise of protecting the security of white Americans.

And of course there are the open air prisons which still incarcerate the Native-Americans, the internment camps we call reservations, the original Wartime Relocation Centers.

One thought on “The guard towers of Camp Amache, CO, Japanese-American internment camp

  1. I woke up thinking this and wondering where would be an appropriate place to write it.
    You know the “other side” of the shall we say, White lies about concentration camps in America, the mantra about “it couldn’t happen here”.

    I mean, we would NEVER have a situation where the Vice President of the United States would say that he was beyond any of those infamous checks and balances, essentially declare himself legally untouchable, make jokes about the torture centers he (apparently by the narrative) authorized, and the President signing on was an unnecessary formality.
    And then invite Americans who questioned it to fuck ourselves.

    I mean, the system works, right? A sick sadistic bastard like that would NEVER be allowed to wield the reins of power, right?

    Helluva thought to wake you up early in the morning. Or really late in the morning.

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