Elian And The Drug War

Elian And The Drug War
Posted by FoM on May 04, 2000 at 17:38:04 PT
By Arianna Huffington
Source: Arianna Online
This sort of thing just doesn't happen in America. At least that's the unexamined assumption behind the full-plumed outrage at the ``excessive force'' used during the predawn raid to get Elian Gonzalez. ``When you see those photographs of those INS agents in combat gear with automatic weapons entering that house ... and snatching the kid away,'' fumed Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), ``that's not America. That's not America.'' 
``I couldn't imagine something like that could happen in America,'' echoed Mayor Rudy Giuliani. ``My first thought,'' protested Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), ``was that this could only happen in Castro's Cuba.'' My first thought was -- you gotta be kidding, right? Can these savvy politicians really be oblivious to the thousands of SWAT-like night raids that take place every year in America in the name of the drug war? The only thing missing from them are AP photographers leaping fences to capture the action -- and media eager to disseminate it around the world. Truth be told, Elian's Miami relatives got off easy. These ``dynamic entries,'' as they are known, regularly involve tear gas, residents thrown to the floor and handcuffed, and percussion grenades -- explosive devices intended to disorient everyone present while the police move in. And the raids usually take a lot longer than a surgical three minutes. But the elected officials who were ``sickened'' by what Elian was forced to witness do not seem remotely concerned by the fact that children are routinely exposed to such un-American -- or, in the words of Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), ``intolerable, unnecessary, outrageous'' -- behavior. ``There was no excuse whatsoever,'' railed Miami Mayor Joe Carollo after Elian had been whisked away, ``to have a military force to come in, as a SWAT team, with machine guns at a home where all that you had were patriotic, law-abiding, humble, working men, women and children.'' But the spotlight-loving Carollo was nowhere to be found last year, when a SWAT team at least 15 strong, armed with assault rifles and the wrong address, stormed into the South Florida home of Eddie and Loretta Bernhardt -- a law-abiding, humble, working couple. They were roughed up, humiliated and, in Eddie's case, hauled off to jail. Of course, if they wanted the Miami mayor's attention, they should have had the foresight to be Cuban and cute. And where was the voluble mayor three months ago, when a SWAT team, heavily armed and dressed in black, burst into the home of Tracey Bell -- another humble, hard-working (and nine months pregnant) South Floridian with no criminal record? Bell claims she was hauled to the floor and handcuffed in front of her two small children while the officers searched for drugs. There weren't any. Is there, in Mayor Carollo's words, any ``excuse whatsoever'' for his silence in these cases? And where were the ``sickened'' politicians when Accelyne Williams, a retired 75-year-old minister from Boston, died of a heart attack after being chased around his apartment and forced to the floor by a 13-member Police Drug Control Unit that had knocked down the wrong door? Did anyone hear Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) complaining that this was a ``frightening act ... and we all ought to be very concerned'' Or did Sen. Bob Smith (R-NH) protest of ``an abuse of power ... a violent abuse of power'' when black-hooded policemen shattered the bedroom windows in Tracy White's apartment in Los Angeles? They did not find the drug dealer they were looking for (who, incidentally, didn't live there), but in the process they held a gun to the head of White's 12-year-old niece and terrified her three young children. But did anyone hear Sen. Graham complaining about the raid leaving ``a scar deep in the mind'' of these children, as he complained of the scar ``deep in the mind'' of Elian? And when 8-year-old Xavier Bennett was accidentally shot and killed by police during another predawn raid, this one in Atlanta, why didn't we hear Rep. DeLay say that he was ``ashamed'' and that ``we ought to hold people accountable'' for what had been done? If Easter Eve in Little Havana was the first time all these politicians noticed the use of ``excessive force,'' they've been missing a very important trend: the militarization of our local police forces in the name of the drug war. ``What you saw in the Elian case,'' says Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Lindesmith Center, a leading drug policy institute. ``is standard operating procedure in drug cases. Policing in the United States is becoming increasingly paramilitarized. It's not just violent drug dealers who are targeted, but hundreds of thousands of Americans suspected of some involvement with drugs. The photos not being seen are the tens of thousands of children exposed to paramilitary police tactics in their homes because some family member is suspect.'' So in the name of fighting drugs, we have not only gutted the principle of ``innocent until proven guilty,'' but also the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees ``the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.'' Perhaps all the investigative zeal unleashed by the tactics used in Miami can now be applied to hearings not on Elian's seizure, but on the drug war raids that daily violate everything our outraged politicians claim to revere: the rule of law, the Bill of Rights, freedom, children, the norms of civilized behavior and the sanctity of our homes. That would be great, but that sort of thing doesn't seem to happen in America. Discuss This Column and More in the Forum: OnlineWeb Posted: May 4, 2000 1158 26th Street, P.O. Box 428Santa Monica, CA 90403email: arianna ariannaonline.comCopyright  1998 Christabella, Inc.Related Articles & Web Sites:Arianna Online Lindesmith Center Cops Become Combat Troops - Salon Magazine Defenders of Civil Liberties - Washington Post Articles By Arianna Huffington:
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #5 posted by FoM on May 12, 2000 at 11:50:37 PT
Huffington's Evolving, Pointing To The Future
Newshawk: DPFWIPubdate: Thu, 11 May 2000Source: Capital Times, The (WI)Copyright: 2000 The Capital TimesContact: tctvoice Website: John NicholsUS WI: Column: Huffington's Evolving, Pointing To The FutureAssembly Speaker Scott Jensen, R-Waukesha, is not a gentleman with whom I usually find myself in agreement. But he had a point when he suggested Tuesday night that Arianna Huffington, the featured speaker at this year's Wisconsin Women in Government recognition dinner, did not exactly qualify as a "Republican'' speaker. Click the link to read the complete article.News Article Courtesy Of MapInc.
Huffington's Evolving, Pointing To The Future
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by Miss Manners on May 06, 2000 at 21:14:08 PT
Excessive force
I can empathize with the author and share her outrage.When the police can no longer distinguish between us and them we will have to make some serious wardrobe choices.While those whose fashion choices include sturdy and loose fitting cotton with boots or tennis choices are obviously prepared to kiss some asphalt at the request oflaw enforcement some of us are not.Although light chiffons in pastel colors are so lively in the spring they are also easily damaged when laying in the street with a boot on ones neck. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by Tim Stone on May 05, 2000 at 16:51:34 PT
What a long strange trip...
What's so piquant about Arriana's article is how far this lady has changed in the past three or four years. She used to be an intellectual darling of the right in America. I distinctly recall some years ago one of a number of public tv debates, all sponsored by Bill Buckley, with Michael Kinsley always moderating, that rather hollowly "debated" the "legalization of drugs." Arianna was one of the against - side. She is very intelligent, well-spoken, and of course, also a babe, a very formidable spokeswoman for conservative causes. That she has now done an apparent 180 degree shift in her drug war views suggests to me either that as a conservative she is coming home to true conservative values, which should oppose big gov't nanny-statism like the drug war, or she has finally figured out the conservative dogma is not the be-all, end-all of everything, that conservative drug war dogma is just another strait-jacket that constricts rather than enriches, the modern intellectual equivalent of the old Chinese habit of binding girls' feet.Arianna's breaking ranks with her conservative brethern and sistern is a very significant development, IMHO.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by observer on May 04, 2000 at 19:28:42 PT
Go Arianna!
Wow ... right on target.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by Dankhank on May 04, 2000 at 19:24:40 PT:
Right On!!
Arianna, you echo what I thought immediately after the raid took place.It is beyond belief that no one will echo this sentiment on the national level.Not one whimper about the guns pointed at the children of "drug users."E-mail this page to all politicians ...Peace ...
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: