Gray Watson Personal Thoughts 2000.04.24
Elian Who?

Elian being taken from the house

I was very pleased and relieved when I woke up on Saturday morning (4/22/2000) and checked out the news. If you need to be reminded, Elian Gonzalez was the little boy who was picked up off the Miami coast by fisherman after the boat that his mother tried to use to reach the U.S. from Cuba sank. She died and he was put into the custody of distant relatives in Miami. When Cuba and Elian's father asked for his return, legal wrangling, numerous asylum bits, nationalistic fervor, and a lot of emotion was unleashed with, at the end, the Miami relatives refusing to give up Elian after their appeals had been turned down by the court.

So on Saturday, the Justice Department sent in armed agents with automatic weapons to extract Elian and take him to his father. Certainly the images of armed soldiers taking a scared little boy out of his house were harsh and the prospect of my little boy going through what Elian did seems unbelievable. However, it is my belief that the Gonzalez family brought the action on themselves by repeatedly refusing to give up custody of the boy. I think that Reno and Justice Department have been more than patient and restrained in the whole situation. Imaging if the tables had been reversed? As Dennis Miller so aptly put it, "If an American six year old washed up on the beaches of Cuba, he would be back here so fast he'd be five". If my child was taken from me to another country, I'd do anything to get him back.

The level of force does seem to be extreme but do you think that unruly crowd outside the house would have been subdued by a bunch of guys in suits? Imagine if the Justice Department's information was correct and that there were weapons in the crowd or in the house and an unarmed agent or heaven forbid Elian got injured let alone killed. Imagine what sort of travesty would unfold then. If I was in their camp I'd vote for the "be prepared" motto as well.

What really pisses me off is the immediate condemnation of the whole thing by the Republican party. I can see Reagan taking the same action in a heartbeat -- although he'd might bring in some tanks too. Then it would be the Democrats who would be yelling about his strong arm practices instead of Clinton's. I can't stand partisan reactions like that. It just underscores all that is wrong with our system of government. That the Congress-dolts do not act entirely on moral principles and electorate opinion but also use party allegiance as a reason to posture, grandstand, and vote. Shame on them for turning this custody battle between a passionate political group and a father into a means to a political end.

Lastly, let's remember the Miami relatives' and the Cuban political groups' motivations in all of this. This is not just a case of a bunch of freedom loving people hating a regime. They have land and other interests that the government stole from many of them when it came to power. If the United States forms official ties with Castro, this will legitimize the current Cuban government and they stand to lose their claims. As American's however, we need to remember that Castro was a rebel leader overthrowing a corrupt and tyrannical Cuban government under Batista. A government that the United States supported. Castro was able to come to power because of the progressive tyranny and terror imposed by Batista.

We should learn from our mistakes in Vietnam. The way to stopping Communism is not through violence and exile but through the BigMac attack. I'm serious. We should be embracing Cuba -- trading them Hollywood for cigars. With any trade comes the inevitable sharing of social and political views and a certain common understanding. This realization that it is greener on the other size of the fence is what causes a public uprising with enough power to overflow a dictator. American's current actions only serve to give Castro an enemy towards which to direct the frustration of his people, further bolstering his public opinion and power. Another issue is that the experts say that if Castro died right now, Cuba would really be in trouble. He is the only force that is holding the tattered country together. Unfortunately, by ignoring Cuba all of this time we will be partly responsible for this inevitable power vacuum.

In any case, getting back to Elian, I just sent the following letter to my U.S. Representative and Senators. Feel free to copy/alter the text to use for your own letter.

My Letter to my Congresscritters

I am writing to encourage you to support the Attorney General and her department's actions of this past Saturday morning in the raid on the Gonzalez house in Miami. I have long been dismayed by the treatment of this case by the political winds in Washington and hope that you will stay out of the all-to-standard partisan bickering around a situation that should not be political.

The level of force that the Justice Department felt was warranted was certainly unfortunate, but I am sure that you would agree that if an agent or Elian had in any way been injured let alone killed, it would have been a travesty. It was quite obvious that the Miami family would never have given up the boy without such action and for them to now ask why it was necessary is hypocrisy at its worst.

I hope that I can count on your support of our law enforcement professionals who, I believe, used a significant amount of restraint during the entire process.

Gray Watson

Response from Senator Specter

[This is well said and somewhat surprising given what I've seen in the media about the Senator calling for hearings. I wonder if this is switch is due to the polls that are out.

Turns out that he sends out different letters depending on the tone of the letter to him. A friend sent a similar letter and got a much different reply. So this is just patronization crap. ]

From: Senator_Specter@...
Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2000 13:17:04 -0400
Subject: Re: Elian Gonzalez case

Thank you for contacting my office regarding Elian Gonzalez. I appreciate learning of your concern on this matter.

As you may know, Elian and his mother fled Cuba along with a group of friends by setting out to sea last November. After encountering a bad storm, their small boat capsized. Out of the group of fourteen people, only three survived. Elian's mother drowned at sea. This courageous boy survived two days alone at sea before he was rescued by two fisherman and brought to America, where he currently resides with relatives.

This tragic situation has turned into a custody battle with a political backdrop. I believe that the father should have custody in the absence of the mother. The father is the logical person to have custody unless for some reason he is unfit, and the welfare of the child would require something more. I am advised that the Immigration and Naturalization Service has information that verifies Elian's father participated significantly in his life prior to the boat trip to America.

Opponents of sending Elian back to Cuba argue that his mother paid the ultimate price to give Elian an opportunity to live in freedom and democracy. They also feel that if he is returned to Cuba he would suffer irreparable harm living his life in Cuba without the basic freedoms guaranteed to United States citizens. I respect those views, but I believe that the matter ought to be handled in the regular course without the intervention of the United States Congress, certainly not the United States Senate, and without trying to make a determination as to whether Castro and Communism are right for Cuba.

Please be assured that I will continue to monitor this situation. Hopefully, Elian's best interest will be served.

Again, thank you for contacting me. Please continue to keep me informed of your views on this or any other matter of concern.


Arlen Specter
U.S. Senator

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