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Land of the Free? Not Anymore.

I ran into an old friend recently, a foreign policy expert who has spent much time in recent years in the former Soviet Union and China. "The next administration will be sorely tested," he told me. "Our enemies want to know if our lack of resolve is just Clinton's ineptness or indicative of America's decline."

No need to test us. That our government could do what it did to Elian, and that anyone could defend this atrocity tells me our nation has lost its identity. Land of the Free? Not anymore.

Never mind our president, who is as cowardly as he is corrupt, who sent his Attorney General to do his dirty work while extolling the "rule of law," about which he could care less. Never mind Janet Reno, who learned nothing, absolutely nothing, from Ruby Ridge and whose Gestapo tactics are indistinguishable from Fidel Castro's, and which might explain why he was so pleased by her performance.

Never mind her hit man Eric Holder, whose inflammatory rhetoric against the Cuban American community these past few weeks has done nothing but fan the flames, and with characteristic Clinton administration dishonesty had the audacity to claim on national television that the FBI storm troopers politely knocked - twice! - before bashing in the doors. Never mind that political prostitute Gregory Craig who will lie about anything, and champion anyone, even a murderous communist dictator, if the price is right.

And while we're at it, never mind the GOP leadership and its passionate denouncements of this attack. In typical fashion they'd done nothing before Saturday morning to stop this rogue Justice Department of ours. Now they're holding hearings on Capitol Hill to investigate this travesty. Big, big deal.

It's just déj� vu all over again for Washington, except this time it's a terrified child with an assault weapon pointed in his face being dragged out of his home in the middle of the night and taken to a military base just miles from the White House, where the president a day later will be rolling Easter eggs with children to show us that all's well that ends well.

No, what really shocks is the reaction of so many national pundits, in the name of objective news analysis, attempting to justify this barbaric action. For months there has been a steady drumbeat of negative press about the Cuban-American community, at times dismissive, sometimes openly hostile. These were just "angry demonstrators," a "mob" turning Miami into a "banana republic." And that was that.

Now that it's over, it's time for damage control, and those same reporters are gracing our television sets, or putting pen to paper to spin, spin, spin. We hear on ABC's Good Morning America how an emotional Reno "wept" because "she did not want this to happen." NBC trots out a professor from Tufts University to tell us that the moon really is made out of Swiss cheese: "I think the [Miami] family has really abused this child," to which Katie Couric concurs, "Because we forget the impact all these protestors treating him like some kind of saint is having as well. That must be confusing for a little boy."

Over on CBS, Bryant Gumbel declares that "the Miami relatives never, never, ever recognized the right of the father to have custody of the boy," a line flatly contradicted by one of the negotiators who maintains the Miami family had done precisely that hours before the raid. Back at NBC again, we see reporter Jim Avila shamelessly carrying Castro's water as he files one report after another, including a feature on the boy's grandparents. "They started the fight for Elian," begins the propaganda piece. "Energized an island. Went to the United States in a failed mission to bring him back. And now that father and son have been reunited they walk triumphantly through the Gonzalez family home town." Avila reports that one "says Elian finally sounds happy."

It's apparently inconceivable to the Avilas of the national press corps that hundreds of thousands of people would want to flee that island. It means little, if anything, that their families have been imprisoned on that island, or machine-gunned if they attempted to flee. It means nothing to them that Elian's mother risked her son's life, and sacrificed her own, to escape this horrific place in search of freedom. This little boy is now being returned to Hell, gift-wrapped by our government, with their blessings.

There are many things this administration has done, and which the national media have defended, and which the public by its relative silence have condoned, which sadden, frustrate, even infuriate. This is different. This gets to the soul, the essence of what we as a nation believe. If we as a nation countenance what our government did on Saturday, April 22, we are embracing a police state.

It's an America I no longer recognize, and makes me ashamed to call myself an American.