A typical American reaction to footage
of the Third Reichís concentration camps is to shudder and say "But
that could never happen here." At which point, an interior monologue
voice is compelled to come back in an ominous tone with, "Or could
The answer to that question, of course, is "yes, of course it
could," followed by "in fact, it already has," in addition to "and
it still is," with the added stipulation that "itís possibly much
worse than you imagined."
Now granted, even the most paranoid
theories regarding the American use of concentration camps falls far
short of the atrocities perpetrated by the Germans. No one is
claiming that mad scientists are dissecting live prisoners for
warped experiments here... Well, OK, the point is only a very few
people are claiming that.
But the reality of U.S. concentration camps, both historically and
in modern use, canít be denied. Theyíve been used in the Civil War
and WWII, and they are currently being used in the War on Terror,
and they might be in use on U.S. soil under an insane Federal
Emergency Management Agency plan called REX-84, which was drafted by
none other than Oliver North at the order of Ronald Reagan (a
nutty-sounding conspiracy theory which is unfortunately 100% true).
Speculation only enters into it when you try to estimate just how
big the iceberg under that tip really is.
U.S. has employed prison camps of one sort or another since the
Revolutionary War, when British soldiers were interned in locations
like a York, Pa., camp which held about 1,500 prisoners and their
families. Revolutionary era camps were relatively benign compared to
what the term invokes today, at least for the British, and Native
Americans were more often driven West than imprisoned in this
Through the first century of U.S. history, the major internment
issue affecting Americans was slavery, which for all intents and
purposes created a series of forced labor camps across the country,
but without the centralized location, i.e., the "concentration" of
The first major prison camp operations in the U.S. came during the
Civil War. Starting in 1863, both the North and the South began
holding large numbers of prisoners. Before 1864, there had been some
provisions for the exchange and release of captured soldiers, but
these talks broke down when the Confederates refused to treat black
soldiers they had captured on an equal footing with white prisoners.
The Confederacy wanted to treat former slaves, who has been enlisted
by Union forces, as escapees rather than prisoners of war, which the
Union found unacceptable, or at least that was the story.
the Confederates finally agreed to a color-blind prisoner exchange,
General Ulysses S. Grant still declined, this time citing his actual
reason for refusing, not so much a matter of the race equality
principal as the viewpoint (not entirely unreasonable) that
exchanged prisoners would become active soldiers again, prolonging
the war perhaps indefinitely and escalating the number of
A final attempt to pull off a prisoner exchange again ran aground on
the pretext of race, with General Robert E. Lee informing Grant that
"Negroes belonging to our citizens are not considered subjects of
exchange." His moral superiority intact, Grant broke off
negotiations, and both sides set about dealing with the actual
question of what to do with all the prisoners theyíd been
The South took the brunt of public outrage over prison camp
conditions, but both sides ran some pretty appalling operations. The
most notorious camp was run by the Confederates in Andersonville,
Ga. More than 45,000 Union soldiers were imprisoned there during
little more than a year of the war. Almost 13,000 died from
gangrene, dysentery and diarrhea. A second camp in Macon, designed
to hold 10,000 prisoners, was crammed with more than 32,000 by the
end of the war. Prisoners were dressed in rags, or nothing at all
when the rags became unwearable, and they lived in their own sewage,
due to insufficient latrine capacity.
In Union camps, prisoners were also dressed in rags or naked, and
contemporaneous news reports described Confederate inmates eating
rats and dogs to survive. In Elmira, N.Y., a concentration camp
meant for 5,000 prisoners held nearly 10,000. Union soldiers sold
tickets to local gawkers, who apparently enjoyed the site of dying
men dressed in tatters. Union camps were also infested with smallpox
and a host of other deadly diseases.
Welcome to Amerika! But it didnít end there...
fairly well-known that during World War II, Americans of Japanese
descent were shipped off to internment camps. In the late 1930s, as
World War II raged around the globe, U.S. authorities began
compiling lists of "suspicious" U.S. nationals and citizens, much as
John Ashcroft is doing today.
By 1941, the focus had shifted to Japanese-Americans. President
Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered a list of all first and second
generation Japanese in the country, including naturalized citizens
and American-born citizens. On Dec. 7, 1941, more than 700 American
citizens who happened to be ethnically Japanese were observing the
day that would live in infamy from a prison cell.
By year-end, more than 2,000 Japanese-Americans were in detention.
Several states began indiscriminate round-ups of Japanese and other
"enemy aliens." At the beginning of 1942, American soldiers of
Japanese descent were discharged or ordered into menial positions.
San Francisco waterfronts were declared verboten to enemy aliens,
including Japanese, Germans and Italians. Curfews were established,
but that wasnít enough to satisfy the slavering hordes of angry
racists running federal, state and local governments.
Nine years to the day after Adolf Hitler seized the authority to
revoke civil rights in Germany and create the first Nazi
concentration camps, the House Committee on Unamerican Activities
issues a list of charges against Americans of Japanese descent.
Truman ordered the enforcement of Executive Order 9066, which
authorized the president to order the "removal" of any citizen for
March, the Federal Reserve began seizing the property and assets of
Japanese-descended citizens, and the War Relocation Authority was
formed to "assist" the Japanese-Americans who were being driven out
of several states. By summer, well over 100,000 Japanese-Americans
had been "evacuated" from the West Coast to other states and
military prison camps.
Thousands of these prisoners were exploited for farm labor in the
heartland, and thousands more were moved into internment camps. Ten
camps were set up in all, holding around 10,000 people each. Riots
and protests struck occasionally. While the inmates of these camps
were, at least, spared from being made into lampshades, they were
forced into labor and some were actually drafted into the military
(a practice which resulted in a sharp rebuke from a federal judge
when the government tried to prosecute resisters).
As the war ended, the prisoners were eventually allowed to return to
their "homes," or rather their hometowns, since most of them had
lost all their possessions in the process of being interned. In
1948, the federal government, realizing the error of its ways,
generously offered to recompense internees for their property losses
ó to the tune of 10 cents on the dollar, and then only if they could
show proof of their loss.
Welcome to Amerika! But it didnít end there...
must now dip into the truly creepy conspiracy arena for a while, to
claims and conspiracies so extraordinary that they defy belief, to
the shadowy corners of the unknown and unproven... except that
(uh-oh) theyíre true, known and proven.
The year, oh-so-appropriately, is 1984. Sounds bad already? It gets
soooooo much worse. Then-President Ronald Reagan issues an executive
order for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to start running
"Readiness Exercises" for national emergencies, such as a massive
The simulations, known as REX-84 and Night Train 84, were drafted
and run by FEMAís contact person with the National Security Agency,
one Lt. Col. Oliver North. No, really. This is actually,
North worked with FEMA from 1982 to 1984, drafting a variety of
emergency contingency plans for declared national emergencies (the
U.S. has been in a continuously declared state of National Emergency
since 1933 and is currently under several new ones in the wake of
the 9/11 al Qaeda attack on America).
Among the REX-84 simulations devised with Northís assistance was a
plan to declare martial law and "temporarily" suspend constitutional
protections such as freedom of speech and due process in criminal
A draft executive order based on Northís fantasy scheme gave the
president and FEMA the power to institute these plans on the
presidentís say-so. The draft order was presented by the White House
to then-Attorney General William French Smith, who was appalled and
said so. The White House then "dropped" the plan, at least as far as
Smith and the public were concerned.
The plans called for the assumption of emergency powers and granted
the president to power to enact emergency legislation and judicial
functions, essentially destroying the entire fundamental structure
of the U.S. Constitution.
part of REX-84 and the related executive orders, provisions were
made for the detention of aliens, enemy aliens and citizens, and
restricting the movements of the population. A draft executive order
was given to Reagan which would have activated the provisions of
Rex-84 according to presidential whim, according to the Miami
Herald, which reported that it could not confirm whether or not the
order was actually signed.
Finally, we may for a moment flee the unrelenting and horrific true
and verifiable portion of our story to venture into the unproven and
merely rumored. According to various sources with less credibility
(on the face of it) than the Miami Herald, Rex-84 was in fact
According to these stories, FEMA set up detention camps all around
the U.S. for use in case of that so-called "emergency" scenario.
Some claim that these camps have in fact been built and are fully
staffed, just waiting for the day they will be put into use.
Even better, some claim that these concentration camps are already
in use, possibly as many as hundreds of them! The FEMA goon who
drafted the plans based his blueprint on a scheme he concocted for
mass arrests and detentions of black militants during the 1970s.
Grant Morrisonís epic comic-book pane to paranoia The Invisibles
suggests the camps are already being used for exactly that ó the
detention and "disappearance" of black radicals. Others have floated
this idea, as well as its opposite, that the camps are currently
being used to secretly incarcerate white supremacists and members of
right-wing militia groups.
Welcome to Amerika! But it doesnít end there...
Back to the cold, hard reality. When al Qaeda bombed the
Center and the Pentagon with hijacked commercial jets, President
George W Bush finally got the chance to start throwing some of these
nifty, non-Constitutionally-sanctioned powers around.
September 11, 2001, the FAA grounded the entire domestic air travel
industry. The White House and every major federal facility were
evacuated. The president himself was swept into the air and tossed
about from secret location to secret location like a hot potato.
Part of lower Manhattan was evacuated, U.S. financial markets were
crippled and shut completely down, and states of emergency were
declared in New York and Washington, D.C. And the emergency powers
hit parade began.
Within hours of the attacks, long before the smoke had stopped
rising from the rubble, the White House had authorized Attorney
General John Ashcroft to begin massive roundups of Arab-Americans
and foreign nationals of Arabic descent. Whole families were
arrested and detained without charges.
No formal accounting of the detentions has ever been offered, so
itís impossible to know just how many were taken, but even low
estimates run into the thousands. Their locations were kept secret.
Without knowing who was taken, it is also impossible to know how
many were deported and how many are still being held.
While many of these detentions were shrouded in secrecy, the war on
Afghanistan yielded a bumper crop of prisoners who had to be
accounted for. Many were transferred to Camp X-Ray, a heavily
fortified compound located in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in order to
circumvent any efforts to apply the U.S. judicial process on behalf
of those being held. Prisoners included citizens of several
countries, including some U.S. citizens. Detention at Camp X-Ray is
an indefinite sentence ó releases happen only at the whim of the
U.S. military, and that whim is rare. Camp X-Ray, presumably the
most humanitarian of the detention facilities in use, is a harsh
but apparently semi-humane set-up, with Orwellian propaganda posters
in abundance and tiny razor-wire cells sized just large enough to
allow prisoners to lie down.
Other high-security prisoners are being kept in unknown locations
around the world, under unknown conditions. According to various
media reports, prisoners at military compounds in Afghanistan and
elsewhere are kept under duress in order to encourage "cooperation."
Some prisoners, such as accused dirty bomber Jose Padilla are kept
in mainland military brigs. Others, like al Qaeda mastermind Khalid
Shaikh Mohammed, have completely disappeared from any documented
location for "special" treatment.
after 9/11, crazy apocalyptic Attorney General John Ashcroft
(image right) called
for the creation of detention camps to hold anyone designated as an
"enemy combatant" in the War on Terrorism. As seen in Padillaís
case, this can include noncombatants arrested by domestic law
enforcement on U.S. soil. The White House is arguing in court that
the president has the sole authority to designate an enemy combatant
for any reason the president sees fit, and the Justice Department
has further argued that U.S. courts have no jurisdiction to
challenge such a designation.
After a flurry of public protest, the "detention camp" discussion
went sub rosa. But under existing presidential authorities and
executive orders issued both before and after 9/11, there is no need
for public discussion. The camps could (under the sketchy legal
justifications drafted by current and previous administrations) be
open for business without a word ever being spoken in public.
Furthermore, itís been explicitly stated by various federal, state
and local officials that if the U.S. terror alert status ever rises
to Code Red, anything goes ó and that includes martial law, tanks on
city streets, enforced curfews, restricted travel, unlimited secret
arrests and unlimited mass detentions... Skyís the limit, Oliver
Welcome to Amerika! Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Hell, who
6 Aug 2004: In response to a journalistís query, President George W
"We donít need internment camps. I
mean, forget it."