Monday, December 27, 1999

Castro’s campaign
for Elian’s return

Bullet The issue: Fidel Castro is campaigning for the return of Elian Gonzalez, the 6-year-old boy who was rescued while trying to escape from Cuba.

Bullet Our view: The case should be decided according to the boy's best interests, not by political pressure.

FIDEL Castro's campaign to win the return of little Elian Gonzalez to Cuba is the worst exploitation of children for political purposes since Saddam Hussein stroked terrified Western children he was holding hostage in a fraudulent televised attempt to assure the world that they were safe in his blood-stained hands.

Castro has whipped up the Cubans into a frenzy over 6-year-old Elian, who was rescued while clinging to an inner tube off Florida after an attempt to escape from Cuba in which his mother was drowned.

The Cuban dictator has launched a campaign of rallies, televised appearances and advertisements to win Elian's return on the spurious pretext that he should be reunited with his father. The campaign ignores the fact that Elian's mother died trying to take him out of Cuba for a life of freedom in the United States.

Hundreds of thousands of Cubans have risked death on the open seas to escape from Castro's Cuba. The survivors have made lives for themselves in the United States and bitterly oppose the Castro dictatorship.

The refugees are traitors in Castro's eyes and an embarrassment to his cause.

He is using the boy as a pawn to paint the United States as the villain for failing to accede to Castro's demands for the immediate return of the boy to his father when his own oppressive regime is responsible for Elian's mother's ill-fated attempt to escape.

On the other side, anti-Castro Cuban Americans are campaigning to keep Elian in the United States as a symbol of their cause. Their political purposes are no more relevant to the case than Castro's.

We aren't sure whether Elian should stay in the United States with his relatives or be returned to his father in Cuba. His father says his ex-wife did not get his permission to take the boy out of Cuba and he wants him back. Elian's relatives in Miami say they can give him a better life.

The decision should be made after a thorough investigation of all relevant facts regarding the child's best interests and in accordance with the law -- not as the result of a tug of war between Castro and his Cuban-American enemies.

McCain takes flak
from Vietnam critics

Bullet The issue: MIA/POW extremists accuse John McCain of treason to their cause.

Bullet Our view: McCain is more credible because he refuses to believe that American soldiers are still alive awaiting rescue in Southeast Asia.

ONE thing you can say about Sen. John McCain is that he's a certified war hero, the only one in the current crop of presidential candidates. McCain's nearly six years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, resisting all efforts to extract information through torture, put him in a class apart. That is not to suggest McCain's experiences mean he is better qualified than any of his opponents to be president, but they are certainly an asset.

For some people, however, McCain's war record isn't good enough. These are extremist members of the POW/MIA movement who revile him as a traitor.

His crime in their eyes is his opposition to the preposterous claim that American soldiers captured in the Vietnam War are still alive in the jungles of Southeast Asia. At Senate hearings in 1992, McCain showed his irritation with MIA activists for holding out false hope to suffering families.

Making matters worse in the activists' eyes was McCain's support for President Clinton's decision to establish full diplomatic relations with Hanoi in 1995. This, they contend, was proof that Hanoi had "turned" him.

Newsweek magazine reports that a handful of extremists are now trying to derail McCain's presidential candidacy. They planted rumors that his POW experience had left him mentally unstable.

They accused him of leading a conspiracy to cover up the truth about missing soldiers and trying to keep records secret to hide evidence that he collaborated with his captives.

McCain supported a Pentagon request to keep the former POWs' debriefing papers secret to protect their privacy. Newsweek said McCain's own debriefing report contains nothing that could incriminate him.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, a fellow Vietnam veteran, says it is "an irony almost beyond belief" that McCain has become the target of such hatred. But true believers tolerate no dissent.

IT would detract from McCain's credibility as a candidate if he professed to believe that 25 years after Vietnam there are still Americans to be rescued. Remember Ross Perot?

McCain doesn't believe that. He believes it's time to stop fighting the Vietnam War and promote reconciliation. He's right.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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