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Jewish World Review April 25, 2000 / 20 Nissan, 5760

Thomas Sowell

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Elian's future -- and ours

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- AFTER THE SEIZURE of Elian Gonzalez by heavily armed marshals in the early hours of the morning, the spin from the Clinton administration -- echoed by CNN and CBS -- was that Elian was now reunited with his father. But, even before this raid was launched, the Cuban government itself revealed that Elian is destined to go to a special place being prepared for him in Havana -- not in Cardenas, where his father lives.

There will of course be photo ops of father and son together and such other staged events as the Castro regime may find politically useful but, in the end, Elian will be sequestered in his own little re-education camp in Havana. There, with a dozen of his classmates and such other personnel as are necessary for this operation, he will undergo reorientation toward the views that the Communist government wants him to express.

None of this is new. The Soviets did it more than half a century ago. The Chinese Communists called it "brainwashing." But Eric Hoffer said it better when he called it "soul raping." Why the classmates? Anyone familiar with the process of brainwashing knows that confronting the targeted individual in the presence of people he knows is part of that process.

If we want to talk sense, rather than repeat political spin, then we are talking about Elian Gonzalez being returned to Castro, not to his father.

The Cuban representative in the United States openly referred to little Elian as the "property" of the state. Nor is this a new position for Communist governments.

But none are so blind as those who will not see -- or hear. And too many Americans, especially in the media, fall into that category. The story of the special center being prepared for Elian in Havana was carried in the N.Y. Times -- back on page 17, under a bland headline about Elian's classmates awaiting his return.

The other great piece of political spin out of the Clinton administration is that Attorney General Janet Reno "had no choice" but to send in marshals, in order to uphold "the rule of law."

Like so many things that are said inside the Beltway, this was the direct opposite of the truth. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals last week set forth the other choice -- a hearing on an application for asylum on behalf of Elian Gonzalez by his uncle in Miami. That may well be what set off this pre-dawn seizure of the little boy, precisely to prevent that choice from being exercised.

The political stakes are just too high, for both the Clinton administration and the Castro regime, to take a chance on Elian Gonzalez being given asylum in the United States. What this little boy could have said freely in an American court of law was likely to be radically different from what he will be saying now that he is, for all practical purposes, in the custody of Cuban officials in the United States -- much less what he will say after he is "re-educated" in Havana.

As for the father's desire to be re-united with his son, he could have come here months ago for that purpose. Havana is closer to Miami than Washington is to Philadelphia. When Juan Gonzalez learned that his son had been rescued from the sea and was in a Miami hospital, he could have been in Miami inside of an hour.

No one has yet faced up to the question asked by Dominican nun Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin, whose home has served as a neutral meeting place for those involved in this controversy: "What, if not fear, could keep a person from making a 30-minute trip to reclaim his son?"

This has never been about re-uniting father and son. From day one, the over-riding consideration has been political damage control by preventing any revelations or defections
that could set back the years-long efforts of the left to get full diplomatic relations established with the Castro regime in Cuba. Janet Reno made her move when the Circuit Court of Appeals ruling made that political disaster a very real prospect.

Now a potential disaster may be turned into a political triumph for Clinton and Castro, if Elian can be induced to say that he really wanted to return to Cuba all along, leaving those who said otherwise with egg on their faces.

Painful as it is to think about Elian's future, we need also to think of our own futures as free Americans. They say a fool and his money are soon parted. People who can be so easily fooled may well end up parted from their freedom, when it survives only on the good luck that a sufficiently clever and ruthless demagogue has not come along --- yet.


JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author, most recently, of The Quest for Cosmic Justice.

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