The Americans that favored the return of Elián to Communist Cuba wanted to see the boy reunited with his father even if it was in hell, and they all knew that it was hell that awaited him in Cuba. Every poll that has ever been taken since 1961 about the attitude of Americans towards Communist Cuba or Fidel Castro has shown that better than 85% disapproved of both. Despite the media's best (worst) efforts over 50 years to deny the reality of Communist Cuba, Americans were never fooled. Why, then, knowing the nature of the Castro regime, did they nonetheless wish to see Elián thrown down the same well from which he was miraculously rescued?
It wasn't because they felt any kind of sympathy for the boy, who should, of course, have commanded sympathy even from the stones given the tragic circumstances of his sojourn to this country and the forces that coalesced against him here to deprive him of freedom and insure his destruction.
Nor do I believe their general attitude towards him had anything to do with the sacredness of the paternal bond or parental rights. Both are abused enough in this country for there to be tens of millions of poster kids for these causes other than Elián, whose peculiar situation bore no relation to these constructs as understood in this country. The paternal bond in Cuba is superceded by the State's propitiary claims over the lives and persons of every Cuban, child or not, and parental rights as understood in the U.S. do not exist since no rights of any kind can be exercised in Cuba contrary to the interests of the State.
What, then, motivated the frenzy to return Elián to Communist Cuba?
The desire of Americans to rid themselves of the littlest "illegal immigrant" (which Elián never was).
The Know-Nothing xenophobia that was predicated by the history professor from Georgia, Newt Gingrich, was responsible for creating the climate in this country that allowed the deportation -- for such it was, and at gunpoint, no less -- of Elián González to Castro's untender mercies. It was Gingrich who dehumanized foreigners, especially children, by supporting legislation that would have deprived "anchor babies" of citizenship, barred them from schools, or, at least, deprived them of their school lunch. Clinton tapped into the hatred that Gingrich had exploited when he mobilized all the resources of the government with the expressed purpose of making this innocent child the scapegoat for this country's failure to control its borders. The "Dry Foot/Wet Foot" policy also scapegoated Cuban refugees for a crisis in illegal immigration that had nothing to do with them since a 30-year old law known as the Cuban Adjustment Act (1966) sanctioned the admission of all Cuban refugees to this country as legal residents. Ironically, it was Elián and all future balseros who ultimately paid the price for Gingrich's xenophobia and Clinton's opportunism. Meanwhile, 10 million illegal immigrants entered the U.S. from other countries than Cuba and have never been penalized for it and likely never will (or should) be.
Today, in Little Havana, a day prior to Obama's visit to Miami, Elián's great-uncle, Delfín González, will hold a press conference to denounce the fact that two of the principal actors in the Elián affaire, Greg Craig and Eric Holder, are now key advisers to Barack Obama. The-then Assistant Attorney General Eric Holder, who planned the logistics of Elián's kidnapping, is now in charge of the advisory committee that will vet Obama's running-mate and is likely to be named Attorney General in a future Obama administration. Castro's (and Clinton's) lawyer and longtime unregistered agent of influence of the Cuban regime, Greg Craig, who ostensibly represented Elián's father and provided a "safe haven" to father and son in his own house under the surveillance of Castro agents from the Cuban Interests Section, is now Obama's advisor on Latin America and probable choice for Under-Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs.
Although I agree that it is important that Cuban-Americans be made aware of this situation, if there is any one foolish enough even to consider voting for Obama given his pledge to negotiate with Raúl without prior conditions, I don't think the González's denunciation will have much impact outside Miami or New Jersey.
Nothing has changed in the last eight years; if anything, the xenophobia has only deepened. I don't believe that Americans feel the least pangs of conscience about Elián's fate. Over the last eight years he has been seen on Fidel's lap at mass rallies; giving public speeches on behalf of the regime; and this week being inducted into the Young Communist League, which, if you believe CNN, means that he will have a "bright future" as one of Cuba's elites.
None of those who brought about that "bright future" for Elián has been asked his reaction to the predictable turn that Elián's life has taken.
Really, what could they say?
"I thought he would be turned in a Castroite puppet."
"I didn't think he would be turned into a Castroite puppet."
Neither answer says much for their judgment.
Of course, there is a worse one:
"I am happy that Elián is a Young Communist."
The Miami Herald contends that Barack Obama, then an Illinois legislator, took no position at the time on the Elián case. He would have been the only politician, great or small, who didn't. But even and especially if that were true, he should be asked whether he would have done what Clinton did; and, in retrospect, knowing what (inevitably) befell Elián, whether he thinks Clinton made the right decision.