Editor's Note: Two articles in last week's issue, Bryonn Bain's "Walking While Black: The Bill of Rights for Black Men" and Nat Hentoff's "The Clinton-Reno Rule of Law," prompted unusually large amounts of reader mail. Please see a special section of letters received in response to "Walking While Black". Also, read the second column in Nat Hentoff's series on the González raid, "Elián's Future in Cuba."
Nat Hentoff should be commended for the clarity that he brings to this controversy. As a Cuban American attorney, I have been deeply saddened by the apathetic reaction of many newspapers to this raid. Elián González was not in any dangerindeed, negotiations were ongoing. We must reject this kind of action by government. One day it's a humble house in Miami, tomorrow perhaps your neighborhood.
Luis N. Perez
I'm a Cuban who came to the U.S.A. five years ago. I am not a member of any anti-Castro group. I'm just another Cuban who was lucky to escape. At last, reading Nat Hentoff's column, I see somebody who looks at the Elián González case in the right way. There are two important issues here. One is the best interests of that little boy. The second is the precedent that may be created. The best interests of children whenever there is a custody dispute have been decided historically by family courts. This is the first time in U.S. history that a custody dispute has been decided by the federal government. In addition, the raid creates the precedent that allows the government to break into dwellings without a court order and seize a child. Is that what the American people really want?
Evaristo M. Martinez
Congratulations to Nat Hentoff for his incisive analysis of the Elián González raid and the reasons for the government's action. Hentoff correctly points to statements by Richard Nuccio, President Clinton's former point man on Cuba policy, which reveal the administration's true motives. It is shameful that this innocent child has been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency and election-year maneuvering.
Javier J. Rodriguez
Thank you for printing the Nat Hentoff column, which presented the news that most of the Clinton sycophant media refuse to report.
If one had to rely on The New York Times, one would never know that armed thugs seized Elián at gunpoint from his family in Miami. One will search in vain through most of our print and broadcast media for the information that was presented in this column.
Samuel L. Kramer
Nat Hentoff's column on the Reno Elián González raid was on the mark.
I am a retired military officer, and this action makes me realize that our enemy is now within.
I no longer trust my government, and will never recommend a military career to any of our youth.
Gary O. Brackmeier
Casting His Lott
So Nat Hentoff is now baying with the wolves of the right over the rescue of Elián González and his return to his apparently very decent father (naturally not emphasized by Hentoff). Thus does Hentoff now run with the likes of Bob Smith, Trent Lott, Connie Mack, Bob Barr, Tom DeLay, Orrin Hatch, Henry Hyde, George W. Bush, Rudolph Giuliani, and the panoply of shameless lawyers, Florida mayors, politicized psychiatrists, and a mob of assorted right-wingers swarming about that maniacal Cuban family from hell. Please, Nat, debate the flaws in the administration's handling of the affair if you must, but spare us your utterly predictable anti-Clinton simplicities.
It's disappointing to see Nat Hentoff worried about one of the few positive police actions in the last 100 years. Unlike the murder of Fred Hampton in his sleep in 1969, the shooting of Bonus Marchers in 1932, Kent State and Jackson State during the Vietnam War, or the countless killings of unarmed black men over the years by police, in this instance the government rescued a boy from clutching, publicity-seeking relatives and returned him to his dad, and nobody was seriously hurt.
Perhaps Hentoff will enjoy the hearings planned by that overnight civil libertarian, Trent Lott.
Mitchell J. Freedman
Thousand Oaks, California
Nat Hentoff's column was a blatant attempt to discredit the successful, safe Elián González raid. Hentoff pointed to many reasons why the raid shouldn't have occurred or was too harsh. However, he failed to address the basic right of the father to raise his own son. We currently have no laws in the U.S. that abrogate a parent's right to raise their child on grounds of ideology.
Hentoff also failed to address the motley cast of characters surrounding the Miami family: thugs, "security officers," the enraged exiles who clogged the streets of Little Havana for months. I wouldn't have gone in there unarmed! The fact is that the Miami relatives never had a credible claim to hold Elián from his father, but did so using a volatile, sometimes violent crowd as a shield. They are cowards and kidnappers. The Justice Department merely treated them like the criminals they are. Bravo Janet Reno!
Nat Hentoff doesn't get it. Why should a father have to beg for his child? To the Miami Cubans the only thing that mattered was that Castro didn't win.
If it were my child, I would want them to send in tanks if that's what it took.
West New York, New Jersey
Schoofs Wins Considine Award
Staff writer Mark Schoofs has won the Overseas Press Club's Bob Considine Award for Best Newspaper or Wire Service Interpretation of Foreign Affairs. Schoofs won the award for his eight-part series, "AIDS: The Agony of Africa." He previously was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting for the series.
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