Beginning next week, George Szamuely's
column will appear on Thursdays.

April 26, 2000

A Monster, At Home and Abroad

The picture said it the way no words ever could. A US Government agent, kited out for combat, points an automatic rifle at an unarmed man holding a terrified little boy in his arms. Behold the United States circa 2000. The US Government smashes its way into a family’s home in the middle of the night; it breaks down doors; it pins people to the ground; and it seizes a child. Legal authority? None whatsoever. It’s déjà vu all over again. The US Government has about as much respect for the sovereignty of nations as it has for the privacy of its own citizens. The United States skips going to the UN Security Council for authorization to launch an armed attack on Yugoslavia. The United States continues to bomb Iraq for reasons long forgotten. Not one bombing mission has ever been authorized by the United Nations. Now, Janet Reno’s Justice Department (an oxymoron, if ever there was one) decides to skip getting a court order to take custody of Elian Gonzalez and sends in armed Federal agents instead.

Why the heavy armaments? Well, according to Immigration and Naturalization chief, Doris Meissner, "We had information, a great deal of information. Some of the information included the possibility that there might be guns." Where have we heard this before? The storming of Waco that led to over 80 deaths was justified on account of the supposed "child abuse" that was taking place in the compound. There existed, of course, no evidence of "child abuse." The bombing of Yugoslavia was justified on account of the "genocide" of the Kosovo Albanians supposedly taking place. We know all about that crock. What remains consistent is the image of the US Government as sadistic bully: Massive force against unarmed people.

The same media hacks who last year were cretinously baying for the destruction of Belgrade, are today exultant at the firm smack of authority. Look no further than the New York Times’ Thomas L. Friedman, surely the most repulsive figure in journalism today. "Yup, I gotta confess," he drooled, "that now-famous picture of a U.S. marshal in Miami pointing an automatic weapon toward Donato Dalrymple and ordering him in the name of the US government to turn over Elián González warmed my heart. They should put that picture up in every visa line in every US consulate around the world, with a caption that reads: ‘America is a country where the rule of law rules. This picture illustrates what happens to those who defy the rule of law and how far our government and people will go to preserve it. Come all ye who understand that.’" Those who invoke the "rule of law" are invariably the ones with the most contempt for it. The Miami family had broken no law. It had looked after Elian Gonzalez at the request of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The INS subsequently decided that Elian’s father should have custody. Yet, rather than go to the trouble of seeking a court order, it dispatched commandos to take over a Miami bungalow. As Laurence H. Tribe pointed out, "no judge or neutral magistrate had issued the type of warrant or other authority needed for the executive branch to break into the home to seize the child. The [INS] had no more right to do so than any parent who has been awarded custody would have a right to break and enter for such a purpose. Indeed, the INS had not even secured a judicial order…compelling the Miami relatives to turn Elián over." Moreover, since Elian is not here illegally – he has an application for asylum pending in the courts – there is no legal basis for the INS to seize him.

Now as it happens, I believe that Elian Gonzalez should be with his father, whether in Cuba or anywhere else. I also believe that the Miami family shamelessly exploited a young boy for their own political ends. Juan Miguel Gonzalez does not want to defect and that’s all there is to it. Who can blame him after what he has witnessed? It does not even matter if he secretly wishes he could defect but is too afraid of Castro to do so. The US Government has no business trying to "liberate" people from their tyrannical rulers. However, there was never the slightest urgency about having to fulfill Juan Miguel’s – perfectly understandable – desire to be together with his son. A father wants his son returned to him. So what? Every day throughout America, people with grievances every bit as legitimate as Juan Miguel’s have to wait their turn in Court. Gonzalez is not even citizen of the United States. Indeed, he is citizen of a country with which the United States does not have diplomatic relations. And yet the US Government moves heaven and earth to accommodate his wishes. The chief law enforcement officer of the United States and the head of the INS apparently have no matters more pressing to attend to than satisfying the demands of Juan Miguel Gonzalez. As an incredulous Tribe argued, "it’s hard to see any significant immigration-related or other federal interest in whether Elián was reunited with his father now or after asylum is denied (if that is the outcome). And, should asylum be granted, Elián’s father might still be granted custody and could then take the boy to Cuba with him if he so chose; asylum only means permission to stay in the United States and is not a requirement to stay." In other words, there was not the slightest reason for Clinton’s hysteria. Again, the parallels with Kosovo are uncanny. The US Government wreaks havoc and destruction on behalf of a people with whom it has never had any ties.

"We are left wondering," Peggy Noonan asked in the Wall Street Journal the other day, "if there was single federal law-enforcement official who, ordered to go in, and put guns at the heads of children, said no. Was there a single agent or policeman who said, ‘I can’t be part of this’? Are they all just following orders?" It is a good question. Is there anything US officials will not do as they are ordered to? This is the same United States that continues to thrill at Steven Spielberg’s fights against the Nazis. This is the same United States that has taken upon itself to ensure that proper restitution is made to "Holocaust survivors." This is the same United States that champions international tribunals to try "war criminals."

The doctrine of humanitarian terrorism is Bill Clinton’s signal contribution to the art of governance. Armed with weapons of terror, an unshakable self-righteousness, and possessed of media that are ready to lie and to demonize Uncle Sam’s adversaries at the drop of a hat, the United States today bombs and destroys for "fun and for profit." It is fascinating to observe the response of the Left now that we have a US Government that for years it pleaded for – one loudly proclaiming its commitment to "humanitarianism," and to punishing the morally delinquent. A typical assortment of views can be found in the current special issue of The Nation. The contributors, while all of course solemnly professing their abhorrence at American global dominance, have difficulties outlining an agenda that is all that different from that of the Clinton Administration. Kai Bird starts off by lamenting the "anti-interventionist instincts of citizens on the liberal-left." He wistfully recalls "the designs Franklin Roosevelt’s New Dealers….Human rights, self-determination and an end to European colonization in the developing world, nuclear disarmament, international law, the World Court, the United Nations – these were all ideas of the progressive left. Even the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were initially conceived as vehicles for internationalizing the New Deal." Hang on a moment! Isn’t that what we have right now, along with the usual disregard for the contradiction between "human rights" – as defined by the United States – and "self-determination"? Isn’t that what US hegemony is all about? Holly Burkhalter, Advocacy Director for Physicians for Human Rights, gushes about "UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s magnificent articulation of a new doctrine, wherein he placed suppression of crimes against humanity above a country’s claims of sovereignty." No one is as dangerous as the person who invokes a higher law to justify his disregard for ordinary laws. International law is the recognition of the sovereignty of nations – and that’s all it is. "That doctrine," Burkhalter drones on, "welcome as it is, will not save a single life if the great nations of the world do not empower the UN to prevent and punish genocide and crimes against humanity, or, if the international institution is incapable, do it themselves. We as citizens should demand that our President declare the principle that prevention and suppression of genocide and crimes against humanity, and punishment of those responsible, are of vital interest to the United States." So we are back with the Clinton-Albright mass murder project. The United States will not subordinate itself to the United Nations, and everyone knows it. But for some people waffling on about the United Nations has a therapeutic purpose.

Mary Kaldor, Director of Global Civil Society program at the London School of Economics, argues that "conventional war between states has become an anachronism. In contemporary wars in places like Eastern Europe or Africa, most violence is directed against civilians and involves an array of techniques, including population displacement, especially ‘ethnic cleansing’; atrocities like torture, systematic rape and massacres; and destruction of infrastructure and historic buildings. The aim is to control territory by sowing fear and hatred. This method of warfare directly violates the laws of war as well as the various postwar conventions and treaties on human rights." This too is standard drivel of the hideous harridan of Foggy Bottom variety. We are the cops on the beat; they violate the "laws of war." We are the bearers of justice; they sow "fear and hatred." Hence the self-righteousness that enables our rulers to murder and destroy and not lose a minute’s sleep while they are doing it.

Sherle R. Schwenninger, a fellow of the World Policy Institute, outlines the following bold agenda: "Our objective should not be to make every country a liberal democracy but to create a structure of world order that would make it easier for countries to move in that direction….We should help set up the machinery and the rules for international peacekeeping, but we should leave the work of peacekeeping and nation-building to middle-level powers and to a UN-like body…[W]e should leave the micromanagement of other countries’ reforms as well as democracy-building to nongovernmental organizations and international development agencies…." In other words, it is the same old interventionist doctrine. The result is American global hegemony, which the Left pretends to hate but in reality adores. What can be more thrilling than to throw your weight around and to terrorize all those unenlightened people? Look how much fun it was to bully those wretched Cuban-Americans in Miami over the weekend!

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George Szamuely was born in Budapest, Hungary, educated in England, and has worked as an editorial writer for The Times (London), The Spectator (London), and the Times Literary Supplement (London). In America, he has been equally busy: as an associate at the Manhattan Institute, editor at Freedom House, film critic for Insight, research consultant at the Hudson Institute, and as a weekly columnist for the New York Press. Szamuely has contributed to innumerable publications including Commentary, American Spectator, National Review, the Wall Street Journal, National Interest, American Scholar, Orbis, Daily Telegraph, the Times of London, the Sunday Telegraph, and The New Criterion. His exclusive column for appears every Wednesday.

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