Che Guevara; Assasin and Bumbler
por Humberto Fontova
"SENTENCE first--VERDICT afterwards." said the Queen.
"Nonsense!" said Alice loudly.
"Off with her head!" the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. (From Alice In Wonderland)
They say Lewis Carroll was a serious dope fiend, his mind totally scrambled on opium when he concocted Alice In Wonderland. A place where the sentence comes first and the verdict afterwards, where people who protest the madness are sentenced to death themselves -- what lunacy!
If only Carroll had lived a bit longer. If only he'd visited Cuba in 1959 when every paper from the New York Times to the London Observer-- when every pundit from Walter Lippman to Ed Murrow --when every author from Jean Paul Sartre to Norman Mailer--when every TV host from Jack Paar to Ed Sullivan were touting the judicial outrages, mass larceny, and firing-squad orgies instituted by Fidel and Che as the most glorious events since VJ day.
"To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary," Carroll would have heard from the chief executioner, named Ernesto "Che" Guevara. "These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate. We must create the pedagogy of the paredon! (The Wall)"
To be fair, Ed Sullivan later recanted. He saw through the murderous farce, and was not above a public act of contrition. Indeed two years later he featured several recently-liberated Bay of Pigs freedom-fighters--some hobbling on crutches, others missing limbs-- on his show for a fund raising where he declared them heroes and led the thunderous applause himself. I sure miss Ed Sullivan.
This from last week's AP:
"At The Sundance Film Festival Robert Redford's film on Che Guevara "The Motorcycle Diaries" received a standing ovation." They say this was the only film so raptly received.
For the first year of Castro's glorious revolution Che Guevara was his main executioner--a combination Beria and Himmler, with a major exception: Che's slaughter of (bound and gagged) Cubans (Che was himself an Argentine) exceeded Heinrich Himmler's pre-war slaughter of Germans, to scale that is.
Nazi Germany became the modern standard for political evil even before WWII. Yet in 1938, according to both William Shirer and John Toland, the Nazi regime held no more than 20 thousand political prisoners. Political executions up to the time might have reached a couple thousand, and most of these were of renegade Nazis themselves during the indiscriminate butchery known as the "Night Of The Long Knives." The famous Kristallnacht that horrified civilized opinion worldwide caused a grand total of 71 deaths. This in a nation of 70 million.
Cuba was a nation of 6.5 million in 1959. Within three months in power Castro and Che had shamed the Nazi prewar incarceration and murder rate. One defector claims Che signed 500 death warrants, another says over 600. Cuban journalist Luis Ortega who knew Che as early as 1954 writes in his book "Yo Soy El Che!" that Guevara sent 1,897 men to the firing squad. In his book "Che Guevara: A Biography," Daniel James writes that Che himself admitted to ordering "several thousand" executions during the first few years of the Castro regime.
So the scope of the mass-murder is unclear. So the exact number of widows and orphans is in dispute. So the number of gagged and blindfolded men who Che sent--without trails-- to be bound to a stake, and blown apart by bullets, runs from the hundreds to the thousands.
But the mass-executioner gets a standing ovation by the same people in the U.S who oppose capitol punishment! ...Is there a psychiatrist in the house?!
The first three months of the Cuban Revolution saw 568 firing squad executions. Even the New York Times admits it. The preceding "trials" shocked and nauseated all who witnessed them. They were shameless farces, sickening charades. Ask Barry Farber. He was there.
But vengeance--much less, justice-- had nothing to do with this bloodbath. Che's murderous method in La Cabana fortress in 1959 was exactly Stalin murderous method in the Katyn Forest in 1940. Like Stalin's massacre of the Polish officer corps in the Katyn forest, like Stalin's Great Terror against his own officer corps a few years earlier , Che's firing squad marathons were a perfectly rational and cold-blooded exercise that served their purpose ideally. His bloodbath decapitated-- literally and figuratively--the first ranks of Cuba's Contras.
Five years earlier, while a communist hobo in Guatemala, Che had seen the Guatemalan officer corps rise against the Red regime of Jacobo Arbenz and send him hightailing to Czechoslovakia. .
Che didn't want a repeat in Cuba. Equally important, his massacre cowed and terrorized. These were all public trials. And the executions, right down to the final shattering of the skull with the coup de grace from a massive .45 slug fired at five paces, were public too. Guevara made it a policy for his men to parade the families and friends of the executed before the blood, bone and brain-spattered paredon ("The Wall," and Pink Floyd had nothing to do with this one).
The Red Terror had come to Cuba. "We will make our hearts cruel, hard, and immovable....we will not quiver at the sight of a sea of enemy blood. Without mercy, without sparing, we will kill our enemies in scores of thousands; let them drown themselves in their own blood! Let there be floods of the blood of the bourgeois - more blood, as much as possible."
This from Felix Dzerzhinsky the head of the Soviet Cheka in 1918.
"Crazy with fury I will stain my rifle red while slaughtering any enemy that falls in my hands! My nostrils dilate while savoring the acrid odor of gunpowder and blood. With the deaths of my enemies I prepare my being for the sacred fight and join the triumphant proletariat with a bestial howl!"
This from Che Guevara's very Motorcycle Diaries--the very diaries just made into a heartwarming film by Robert Redford--again, the only film to get that whooping' 'hollerin, standing ovation at last month's Sundance Film Festival. Seems that Redford omitted this inconvenient portion of Che's diaries form his touching film.
The "acrid odor of gunpowder and blood" never reached Guevara's nostril from actual combat. It always came from the close-range murder of bound, gagged and blindfolded men. He was a true Chekist, "always interrogate your prisoners at night" Che commanded his prosecutorial goons. "A man is easier to cow at night, his mental resistance is always lower."
Che specialized in psychological torture. Many prisoners were yanked out of their cell, bound, blindfolded and stood against The Wall. The seconds ticked off. The condemned could hear the rifle bolts snapping.....finally -----FUEGO!!
BLAM!!--but the shots were blanks. In his book, Tocayo, Cuban freedom-fighter Tony Navarro describes how he watched a man returned to his cell after such and ordeal. He'd left bravely, grim faced as he shook hands with his fellow condemned. He came back mentally shattered, curling up in a corner of the squalid cell for days.
A real cut-up, this Che Guevara. And now the same crowd moaning and wailing about the judicial rights of Guantanamo prisoners give this sadist a standing ovation and adorn themselves with his t-shirt!...Again, is there a Psychiatrist in the house?!
Che made Alice in Wonderland's Red Queen look like Oliver Wendell Holmes. His models were Lenin, Dzerzhinsky and Stalin. The Cheka came to Cuba with Guevara.
But in actual combat, his imbecilities defy belief. Compared to Che "The Lionhearted" Guevara, Groucho Marx in Duck Soup comes across like Hannibal.
His performance during the the Bay of Pigs invasion says it all. The invasion plan included a CIA squad dispatching three rowboats off the coast of western Cuba (350 miles from the true invasion site) loaded with time-release roman candles, bottle rockets, mirrors and a tape recording of battle.
The wily Che immedeatly deciphered the imperialist scheme! That little feint three hundred miles away at the Bay of Pigs was a transparent ruse! The REAL invasion was coming here in Pinar Del Rio! Che stormed over with several thousand troops dug in, locked, loaded and waited for the "yankee/ mercenary" attack. They braced themselves as the sparklers, smoke bombs and mirrors did their stuff just offshore.
Three days later the (literal) smoke and mirror show expended itself and Che's men marched back to Havana. Not surprisingly, the masterful Comandante had managed to wound himself in this heated battle against a tape recorder. The bullet pierced Che's chin and excited above his temple, just missing his brain. The scar is visible in all post April '61 pictures of the gallant Che (the picture we see on posters and T-shirts was shot a year earlier.)
Cuban novelist Guillermo Cabrera Infante,a Fidelista at the time, speculates the wound may have come from a botched suicide attempt.
"No way!" Say Che hagiographers, John Lee Anderson, Carlos Castaneda and Paco Taibo. They insist it was an accident, Che's own pistol going off just under his face.
Fine, Che groupies. Maybe you're right? Maybe we're being unduly harsh on the man? Maybe the humiliation of being tricked into missing the major battle against imperialist mercenaries by an amplified tape recording and a few roman candles wasn't enough to prompt suicide?
Instead the sight of the bottle rocket's red glare and the sound of tape-recorded bombs bursting in air roused Che to a Pattonesque fury. He drew his pistol and prepared to lead the charge against the Yankee juggernaut. "Arriba muchachos!" he bellowed as his men sprung from their trenches with bayonets gleaming and charged a tape recorder. With the amplified soundtrack from The Sands of Iwo Jima blaring in the background Che stood atop a the tank turret and turned to his men. "Let's wipe 'em out!" he yelled while waving his pistol overhead in the manner of Clevon Little in Blazing Saddles.
Then he managed to shoot himself through the chin. Fine.
I've called him cowardly. Yet, in all fairness, we don't know. For the simple reason that the century's most celebrated Guerrilla fighter, never fought in a guerrilla war, or anything even approximating one. The few puerile skirmishes again Batista's army in Cuba would have been shrugged off as a slow night by any Cripp or Blood. In Cuba Che couldn't fight anyone to fight against him. In the Congo he couldn't find any to fight with him. In Bolivia he finally started getting a tiny taste of both. In short order he was betrayed, brought to ground and routed.
Sadly, Guevara's legacy of terror and torture persists to this day and throughout the world. I refer to the professors who assign his writings.
I defy anyone to actually finish a Guevara book. I defy them to hack their way through the first five pages. Che's gibberish makes Babs Streisand sound like Cicero. He makes Hillary's ghostwriters read like Dave Barry. Beside him Al Gore and Hillary Rodham shine as the wackiest of cut-ups. Food, drink, good cheer, bonhomie, roistering, fellowship--Guevara recoiled from these like Dracula from a cross. He went through life with a perpetual scowl, like Bella Abzug....almost like Eleanor Clift.
As a professional duty I tortured myself with Che Guevara's writings. I finished glassy-eyed, dazed, almost catatonic. Nothing written by a first year philosophy major (or a Total Quality Management guru) could be more banal, jargon-ridden, depressing or idiotic. A specimen:
"The past makes itself felt not only in the individual consciousness--in which the residue of an education systematically oriented toward isolating the individual still weighs heavily--but also through the very character of this transition period in which commodity relations still persist although this is still a subjective aspiration, not yet systematized."
Slap yourself and let's continue:
"To the extent that we achieve concrete successes on a theoretical plane--or, vice versa, to the extent that we draw theoretical conclusions of a broad character on the basis of our concrete research--we will have made a valuable contribution to Marxism-Leninism, and to the cause of humanity."
Splash some cold water on your face and stick with me for just a little more:
"It is still necessary to deepen his conscious participation, individual and collective, in all the mechanisms of management and production, and to link this to the idea of the need for technical and ideological education, so that we see how closely interdependent these processes are and how their advancement is parallel. In this way he will reach total consciousness of his social being, which is equivalent to his full realization as a human creature, once the chains of alienation are broken."
Dude, this dork's image sells beer huggers and vodka!.... Again, is there a psychiatrist in the house?!
Throughout his diaries Che whines about deserters from his "guerilla" (bored adolescents, petty crooks and winos playing army on week-end ) ranks. Can you BLAME them? Imagine sharing a campfire with some yo-yo droning on and on about "subjective aspirations not yet systematized," and "closely interdependent processes and total consciousness of social being,"--and one who reeked like a polecat. (foremost among the bourgeois debauchments disdained by Che were baths)
These hapless "deserters" were hunted down like animals, trussed up and brought back to a dispassionate Che, who put a pistol to their heads and blew their skulls apart without a second thought..
After days spent listening to Che and smelling him, perhaps this meant relief.
Nurse Rached, Doug Neidermeyer, Colonel Klink, Major Frank Burns--next to Guevara they're all the hardiest of partyers. Here's the guy who helped turn the Hemisphere's party capitol into a vast forced labor and prison camp-- into the place with the highest (youth) emigration and suicide rate in the Hemisphere, probably in the world. In 1961 Che even established a special concentration camp at Guanacahibes in extreme Western Cuba for, "delinquents." This "delinquency" involved drinking, vagrancy, disrespect for authorities, laziness and playing loud music,
And Che's image adorns Grunge bands, jet-set models and spring break revelers! Again, is there a psychiatrist in the house?!
Who can blame Fidel for ducking into the nearest closet when this yo-yo came calling? Call Fidel everything in the book (as I have) but don't call him stupid. Guevara's inane twaddle must have driven him nuts. The one place where I can't fault Fidel, the one place I actually empathize with him, is in his craving to rid himself of this insufferable Argentine jackass.
That the Bolivian mission was clearly suicidal was obvious to anyone with half a brain. Fidel and Raul weren't about to join him down there--you can bet your sweet bippy on that.
But sure enough! Guevara saluted and was on his way post-haste. Two months later he was dead. Bingo! Fidel scored another bulls-eye. He rid himself of the Argentine nuisance and his glorious revolution had a young handsome martyr for the adulation of imbeciles worldwide. Nice work.
Che Guevara was monumentally vain and epically stupid. He was shallow, boorish, cruel, and cowardly. He was a full of himself, a consummate fraud and an intellectual vacumn. He was intoxicated with a few vapid slogans, spoke in cliches and was a glutton for publicity. But ah!--he DID come out nice in a couple of publicity photos, high cheekbones and all! And we wonder why he's a hit in Hollywood?