Militarized Police Agents Snatch Elian
by Ari Armstrong, April 24, 2000
Janet Reno, head of Bill Clinton's "Justice" Department, needlessly endangered the life of Elian Gonzales April 22, along with the lives of Elian's family, federal marshals and INS agents, and Miami residents, by initiating an early-morning armed assault of the Gonzales home.
In news conferences, Reno explicitly stated she believed members of Elian's family and of the local community may have had firearms for self-defense. Hence, the risk of armed conflict was relatively high. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured during the assault.
Six year old Elian, who previously witnessed his mother's death as he escaped the Cuban police-state, was shown screaming in terror in photographs and videos as masked federal agents bearing assault weapons snatched him from the arms of his Miami relatives and friends.
One woman told a television reporter, "It's the same thing she [Reno] did at Waco:" employ potentially deadly force even as the respective families negotiated in earnest by telephone. Locals held signs calling Reno a fascist and accusing her of "federal child abuse."
In defending the actions of the SWAT team, Reno said that, even though a SWAT officer held a gun in the direction of Elian and the adult holding the boy, the officer's "finger was off the trigger," as if practicing one fundamental rule of gun safety is worthy of special commendation.
The invasion force acted as it was trained to act, destroying property and slamming family members to the floor while threatening to kill them. One relative said agents held a gun on another young child in the home.
No one questions whether the SWAT team lived up to the expectations placed upon it. At issue is Janet Reno's decision to use a militarized police invasion rather than peaceable negotiations.
Bill Clinton reportedly urged Reno to take immediate action. The motivation of Clinton and Reno seemed to be one of making sure absolute federal authority is not questioned. Others have suggested Clinton wanted to appease Castro. The safety of the boy and all other parties was apparently a lesser consideration, given the inherent risks of any armed nighttime raid. As Reno knows well, such raids by militarized police forces have resulted in deaths on many occasions since 1971, the year of the first such infamous raid by federal forces.
In a pre-raid reflection in April's Liberty Magazine, Clark Stooksbury wrote, "On a positive note, Janet Reno intervened in the Elian Gonzales case several weeks ago, and as of press time, she has not killed him." Fortunately that remains the case.
There are three related issues surrounding the violent raid: was the raid appropriate, should Elian's father gain custody of the child, and should the Elian be deported back to Cuba?
Even those who disagree about the second and third questions can agree that the raid was a needless and reckless endangerment of lives. The family had expressed its desire to meet with the father. They were, however, concerned that federal agents would snatch Elian by force if given the opportunity. Obviously, such concerns were well-founded. Either Clinton or Reno should have personally set up a meeting between Elian's Miami family and the father and offered assurances that the boy would not be taken by force. That would have started the process of reconciliation and open communication. As it stands, Elian is under the influence of his father, who is in turn under the thumb of Castro.
As to the question of the rights of Elian's father, the father and mother were divorced and Elian was not raised by the father at least for the past several years. In a January 22, 2000 story released by the Associated Press, Diego Ibarguen quotes Elian's grandmother Raquel Rodriguez:
I know that many say that it was Elian's mother's will that the child remain here. I speak for her because I was her mother: I know what she thought and how she acted. She came here because her husband was very violent and threatened her... I ask and beg those who are interested in helping us, to do everything possible so that the child will be handed over to us, his grandmothers, so that my daughter may rest in peace.
But regardless of whether Elian's "father" should be granted custody, the question remains as to whether Elian should be returned to Cuba. Certainly Elian would be better off in the relatively free United States than he would be in communist Cuba, where officials have already indicated they will brainwash the boy.
If Elian's father obtains custody, it should be on condition they remain in the United States. Otherwise, Elian should be raised by his family in Miami.
Objectivist philosopher Leonard Peikoff told a Miami crowd, "If you grasp what totalitarianism is, you would never talk about the rights of the father. In that kind of society, he can only watch his son die. You say he needs a father; he needs a life first."
Related material on this topic is posted at the following pages:
The photo above was taken by Alan Diaz of Associated Press. It is included here under the fair-use doctrine, as the photo has been shown around the world by multiple media outlets and is included in a manner similar to quoted text.