Short Shots: A fast-fading controvery

The Elian Gonzalez controversy certainly blew over in a hurry once the kid was where he should have been all along - back home with his father.

It passed almost without notice Tuesday that the Immigration and Naturalization Service commended the 114 agents who retrieved the 6-year-old from the heart of Miami's Little Havana where the boy had become hostage to Cuban exile politics.

At the time, hysterical commentators and interest groups portrayed the raid as an exercise in tyranny. The American people at large took a more relaxed view and overwhelmingly supported the authorities in executing a lawful order.

The federal agents who planned and carried out the raid should be commended. The size of the force may seem excessive in retrospect, but better safe than sorry. The household where Elian was staying was surrounded by anti-Castro activists who had said they would block Elian's removal, by force if necessary. Some of the blockading exile groups had histories of paramilitary training. And grandstanding Dade County and Miami city officials had hinted that the local law-enforcement agencies wouldn't be on the feds' side in the event of a raid. In a worst-case scenario, those odds were not promising for the INS.

As it was, the 5 a.m. raid on April 22 was quick and successful with no harm done. The photo of a heavily armed and armored agent pulling Elian from a closet where he had been hidden was not the way we would like the world to see us. But that was the only price and it was worth it.

SHNS

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