Jewish World Review April 28, 2000/ 23 Nissan, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- THE PICTURE will take a long time to forget: the commando pointing an MP-5 submachine gun at a 6-year-old boy and the fisherman who had plucked him from the sea. (An Italian American, by the way, hardly the anti-Castro Cuban so caricatured by the press.)
For its drama, immediacy and truth, that picture has undoubtedly already won next year's Pulitzer Prize. But it could not earn a place on the front page of the New York Times. Then again, the New York Times has a long history with Castro going back to the 1950s, when its Cuba correspondent, Herbert Matthews, assured the world that Castro was not a communist (occasioning the famous 1959 National Review cartoon of Castro saying, "I got my job through the New York Times").
The Times chose to highlight instead the later, carefully composed photo of Elian with Dad and stepfamily.
The picture credit reads "Juan Miguel Gonzalez," the father. What kind of journalistic judgment accords precedence to such a picture--provided without context and in isolation by a fiercely partisan protagonist in this custody battle--over the obviously unrehearsed seizure picture taken by Alan Diaz of the Associated Press?
In the coming days, we are sure to see more and more of this kind of picture, the contented Elian back with father--the man who took more than four months to come to see his shipwrecked son. (How long would it have taken you to retrieve your shipwrecked son?)
We know that a screaming, terrified and distraught Elian was seized at gunpoint from those who had saved his life and cared for him for five months.
A few hours later, isolated and out of view, he is nicely subdued. I'm a psychiatrist. Give me a 6-year-old and a few hours alone, and I'll have him smiling for the cameras too, with or without pharmacology.
Why did Reno do it? Her argument is always shifting. First, it is "the law."
Now, the INS certainly is duly constituted authority. But it is no more "the law" than is the street crimes unit of the New York City police. In a democracy, the law is determined by the courts. And the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals had just days before the raid found that the INS had acted with no basis in "statutory, regulatory or guideline provisions" in refusing to consider the claim for asylum made for Elian by his great-uncle Lazaro.
Reno's fall-back, and indeed her mantra throughout the five months, is that she is just acting in "the best interest of the child." But those who had actually seen the child, from Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin (president of Barry University and friend of Janet Reno) to Dr. Gunther Perdigao (a board certified adult and child psychiatrist) had, after initially thinking otherwise, concluded that it would be best for Elian to remain with his family in Miami.
Just days before the raid, the Justice Department released a letter from a pediatrician. This doctor, who is not a psychiatrist and had never examined Elian, diagnosed him at a distance of 1,100 miles as the equivalent of a "hostage" and "in a state of imminent danger" in "psychologically abusive" and "destructive ambience" who "should be rescued."
Yet Justice never spoke to the one psychiatrist who had spent time with Elian. Dr. Perdigao, Brazilian-born and Spanish-speaking, spent hours with Elian over two days. After which he concluded that "Elian had bonded so strongly to Marisleysis that to pluck him out would be a terrible trauma." His reaction to the Saturday morning raid? "My association was to pictures of German soldiers plucking Jews out of their houses."
And where was Juan Miguel during the months that his cousin Marisleysis was caring for--and bonding with--Elian? In Cuba, dining with Fidel, parroting the government line and refusing to come see his son. When he finally received Elian at Andrews Air Force Base, Cuban officials were there.
Elian's reeducation has undoubtedly begun. And if it is not completed by the time he leaves the United States, it will be when he returns to Cuba. Who will really have custody of Elian when he returns? Castro has already made him a "hero of the revolution."
Heroes of the revolution don't get raised by their fathers. They get raised by the state--and by the state-controlled psychiatrists, all of whom are waiting for Elian upon his return to the special apartment, the special education, the special life that awaits him.
That the government of the United States should have collaborated in such an outcome--that it should have so brutally
engineered it and so deeply traumatized a child to achieve it--is a
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