Let Us (Chuckle ! Guffaw !) Praise Che Guevara !
One would be hard-pressed to find any college campus in the United States where there was not at least one “Che” poster or tee shirt. In places like San Francisco, there are whole bookshops devoted to the published works of Che Guevara –with ample stocks of Che banners,posters,tee shirts ,and (I am told) articles of intimate wear -emblazoned with the bold image of Ernesto Guevara de la Serna : the legendary “freedom fighter”.The truth is, Che Guevara was a legenday failure : one of those folks of whom it could be said : “Almost every piece of gold he touched turned to dross”.
Born in 1928 to a well-heeled , but fashionably leftist family,Guevara studied medicine at the University of Buenos Aires , practiced for a short time, then set off with a friend on a motorcycle trip though Latin America ,where he discovered there was widespread poverty .
After a brief stint as a medical volunteer ,he decided to express his solidarity with the poor by returning to civilization and marrying a well-to-do Peruvian socialist named Hilda Gadea. She introduced him to “high society” , but it didn’t do much for his medical career,as he was too busy studying Marxism to attend to his patients.Things got so bad, he was forced to sell some of his wife’s jewelry : thus teaching her an important lesson about the re-distribution of wealth. (Feminist admirers of Che will be nonplussed – or not –(probably not) - to learn he expressed his appreciation by divorcing the long-suffering Hilda almost the moment he received honorary Cuban citizenship.)
Che Guevara is next noted to be in Guatamala-where he joined Jacobo Arbenz Guzman in a failed revolution – and had to flee back to Argentina. He is reported to have met Fidel Castro there ,and seems to have joined him in a failed attempt to invade Cuba.
Fidel,Che, and the few remaining survivors of the failed invasion hid out in the Sierra Madre mountains of Cuba and built a guerrilla army : eventually succeeding in the overthrow of the Batista dictatorship.
During this long campaign, the “gentle doctor Guevara” gained a reputation for ruthlessness among his fellow guerrillas : rooting out and executing any
“deviationists” , slackers, or potential traitors.
This reputation would serve him well once Castro assumed power. Che became Commander of La Cabana Fortress , and, for the next six months, oversaw the trial of Batista loyalists and political dissidents. (The rattle of Cuban firing squads shook a few members of the American media out of their fatuous complacency , but most just shrugged it off as “excess of revolutionary zeal.”)
Che was next named director of the National Institute of Agrarian Reform,and president of the National Bank of Cuba (where he took to signing bank notes with his nickname - “Che”.)
Guevara did rather poorly at Agrarian Reform and at banking , and Fidel decided to make other use of him.
Packed off to Panama – and later to the Dominican Republic – to organize communist revolutions, he failed miserably : barely getting back to Cuba alive.
In 1960, an arms ship – La Coubre – exploded as it docked in Cuba.
Fidel dispatched El Commandante Che to supervise the cleanup-but
Che did such a careless job, a second explosion occurred: killing over 100 dock workers, and seriously injuring many more.
When the Bay of Pigs fiasco occurred in 1961, Castro wisely avoided giving Che any meaningful role. He was sent to a command post on Pinar del Rio,where a small diversionary force had mounted a feint. Almost no shots were fired in warding off this decoy force, but Che managed to get wounded:He accidentally shot himself in the face with his own gun !
Che supported the Russian importation of nuclear missiles into Cuba, and later, as the Cuban missile fuss was slowly dying down, expressed anger over the refusal of the Russians to turn their nukes over to Cuban control.Guevara made no bones about saying he would have used them to launch a nuclear attack on the norteamericanos
In 1964, Che Guevara visited the UN as leader of the Cuban delegation – and was lionized by CBS. He had warm meetings with Senator Eugene Mc Carthy,with several associates of Malcolm X, and with Canadian radical Michelle Duclos; then flew off to Paris to begin a 3 month “world solidarity” tour; culminating in his delivery of a distinctly Maoist address at the Second Economic Seminar on Afro-Asian Solidarity, on 2/24/65.When Che Guevara returned to Cuba on 3/14/65, Fidel and Raoul Castro were on hand to give him a “hero’s welcome” ; but, just two weeks later, the popular Che “disappeared” from public view.
Where he disappeared to was never revealed , but , on 10/31/65 , Fidel Castro displayed an undated letter from Che Guevara , in which Che resigned all his government offices, renounced his Cuban citizenship, and expressed a desire to “fight abroad”. (Students of Marxist history may be reminded of a similar document Leon Trotsky was obliged to sign before he was allowed to leave the country. Castro-like Stalin before him-was not inclined to tolerate potential rivals for power.)
Officially, some time after March,1965 , Che Guevara emerged in the Congo, and began teaching guerrilla tactics to the Simbas : a violent Marxist revolutionary group that had gained notoriety with acts of kidnaping, rape,looting, arson, and the hacking to death of anyone who got in their way.
Once he felt the Simbas were ready, he began leading them personally on raids , but this time there was organized opposition – in the form of a 100 man team , made up of a handful of US Special Forces troops, and Cuban refugees,who had been recruited as mercenaries by the Congolese government.The mission of the team was to thwart and humiliate Che Guevara whenever possible. Team members intercepted Simba communications , tracked the guerrillas through the jungle, and helped the Congolese Army set up ambushes at likely spots.
Seven months later, a sick (and thoroughly humiliated) Che Guevara decided it was time to leave the Congo. Being Che, he blamed the Simbas for his failures, and issued communiqués glorifying his own role in “the great work”.
Fidel Castro sent out emissaries to persuade Che to come home to Cuba-but Guevara chose to stay out of his former patron’s reach : popping up in Dar-es-Salaam, Prague, and East Germany , and moving on before Cuban “escort teams” could get their hands on him.
He seems to have made his peace with Fidel soon afterwards,however, because, in the autumn of 1966, Che enters Bolivia on a forged Uraguayan passport, and sets up shop in a remote section of Bolivia on land purchased by Bolivian Communists at Fidel Castro’s express request.
In March ,1967 , accompanied by a band of approximately 50 Cubans, Peruvians, Argentinians, and Bolivians, Che begins raiding Bolivian Army outposts . His well-equipped troops style themselves the National Army of Liberation (ELN),and for the next few months, he is able to ambush the Bolivian troops with impunity ; however, in August of 1967, his luck begins to change,and the Bolivians wipe out about a third of his men.
Under a Memo of Understanding , the US has sent CIA and Special Forces to train the 2nd Ranger Battalion of the Bolivian Army in counter-insurgency tactics, and, by September, 1967 the Battalion is combat ready.Che’s arrogance plays an important part in his downfall. On 9/22/67,
his ELN guerrillas arrive at Alto Seco Village – not far from their own base camp, and after subjecting the forcibly assembled villagers to a lecture on revolutionary objectives, the guerrillas take large quantities of food from the village store – without paying for it.
It’s all down hill from there. When the guerrillas enter the village of La Higuera a few days later, they come under attack, and are forced to evacuate – but the local people are quick to tell the Army where they are hiding, and, over the next week, the Army and the Rangers attack Che’s group again and again.
On 10/08/67 , alerted by a peasant woman ,the Rangers discover the ELN hiding in a ravine, and engage them in a fierce fire fight. Che, who has been several times in the legs, is trapped , and shouts” Do not shoot ! I am Che Guevara and worth more to you alive than dead !”
Troops carry him to the village of La Higuera on a stretcher. A CIA agent/advisor attached to the Battalion asks that Che’s life be spared:telling the Rangers his government would like to move Guevara to Panama for interrogation; but the Bolivian High Command disagrees. They have already announced to the world that Che has died of battle wounds , and the Ranger commander is ordered to “make it so” – which he does,rather sloppily.
It is at this point that Che Guevara ceases to be the arrogant, inept bungler that he was , and enters the Left’s “pantheon of heroes : a Certified Martyr of the Revolution .
Had the Bolivians agreed to the American request, Guevara would have been pumped dry of information –with the results revealed to the world- then
handed over to anyone who wanted him for disposition.
Fidel Castro would have disowned him , faster than you can say “VD”; and the legions of “Che worshippers “ would have slunk off in offended silence : their posters,banners, and tee shirts finding their way to recycling bins all over America.
The Left loves its martyrs – but nobody likes a loser !