Thirty-nine years ago this week, Ernesto “Che” Guevara got a major dose of his own medicine. Without trial he was declared a murderer, stood against a wall and shot. Historically speaking, justice has rarely been better served. If the saying “What goes around comes around” ever fit, it’s here.
“Executions?” Che Guevara exclaimed while addressing the hallowed halls of the U.N. General Assembly on December 9, 1964. “Certainly we execute!” he declared, to the claps and cheers of that august body. “And we will CONTINUE executing as long as it is necessary! This is a war to the DEATH against the revolution’s enemies!”
According to the Black Book of Communism, those firing-squad executions had reached around 10,000 by that time. Sloboban Milosevic, by the way, went on trial for allegedly ordering 8,000 executions. The charge against him by the same U.N. that deliriously applauded Che Guevara’s proud proclamation was “genocide.”
"I don’t need proof to execute a man,” snapped Che to a judicial underling in 1959. “I only need proof that it’s necessary to execute him!”
The “revolution’s enemies” bound, gagged and murdered by Che and his henchmen were among the most enterprising and valiant fighters of the 20th century ranking alongside the Hungarian Freedom Fighters. They fought just as valiantly, as desperately — and, ultimately — just as hopelessly. They fought to the last bullet and usually to the death.
The few survivors live today in places like Miami and New Jersey and qualify as the longest-suffering political prisoners in modern history. But you’ll look for their stories on the History Channel and PBS and in the New York Times, etc., in vain. They fought the Left’s premier pinup boys, you see. So their heroism doesn’t qualify as politically correct drama.
On the contrary, Time magazine honors Che Guevara among “The 100 Most Important People of the Century.” Not satisfied with such a measly accolade they list him in the “Heroes and Icons” section, alongside Anne Frank, Andrei Sakharov, Rosa Parks and Mother Theresa. From here the ironies only get richer.
The most popular version of the Che T-shirt and poster, for instance, sports the slogan “Fight Oppression” under his famous face. This is the face of a man who co-founded a regime that jailed more of its subjects than did Hitler’s or Stalin’s and declared that “individualism must disappear!” In 1959, with the help of Soviet GRU agents, the man celebrated on that T-shirt helped found, train and indoctrinate Cuba’s secret police. “Always interrogate your prisoners at night,” Che ordered his goons. “A man’s resistance is always lower at night.” Today the world’s largest Che mural adorns Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior, the headquarters for Cuba’s KGB- and STASI-trained secret police. Nothing could be more fitting.
“Iron” Mike Tyson used to end fights with his arms upraised in triumph. In 2002 he got a huge Che tattoo on his torso, visited Cuba, and has been consistently and horribly stomped in fight after fight ever since, a process perfectly mimicking the combat record of his tattoo idol. Che was indeed proficient at smiting his enemies, Mike, thousands of them, but only after they were bound, gagged and blindfolded — and I’m afraid the National Boxing Federation won’t allow this.
When the crowd of A-list hipsters and Beautiful People at the Sundance Film Festival (which included everyone from Tipper and Al Gore to Sharon Stone, Meryl Streep and Paris Hilton) exploded in a rapturous standing ovation for Robert Redford’s The Motorcycle Diaries, they were cheering a film glorifying a man who jailed or exiled most of Cuba’s best writers, poets and independent filmmakers while converting Cuba’s press and cinema — at Czech machine-gunpoint — into propaganda agencies for a Stalinist regime.
Executive producer of the movie Robert Redford (who always kicks off the film festival with a long dirge about the importance of artistic freedom) was forced to screen the film for Che’s widow (who heads Cuba’s Che Guevara Studies Center) and Fidel Castro for their approval before release. We can only imagine the shrieks of outrage from the Sundance crowd about “censorship!” and “selling out!” had, say, Robert Ackerman required (and acquiesced in) Nancy Reagan’s approval to release HBO’s The Reagans that same year.
Che groupies are many and varied. Christopher Hitchens, for instance, marvels at Che’s “untamable defiance” and assures us in the same New York Times article that “Che was no hypocrite.”
The noted historian Benicio Del Toro, who will star as his hero in a Hollywood biopic due next year, says that “Che was just one of those guys who walked the walk and talked the talk. There’s just something cool about people like that. The more I get to know Che, the more I respect him.”
More than his cruelty, megalomania or even his epic stupidity, what most distinguished Ernesto “Che” Guevara from his peers was his sniveling cowardice. His groupies can run off in a huff, slam their bedroom door and dive headfirst into their beds sobbing and kicking and punching the pillows all they want, but Che surrendered to the Bolivian Rangers voluntarily, from a safe distance, and was captured physically sound and with a fully loaded pistol.
One day before his death in Bolivia, Che Guevara for the first time in his life finally faced something properly describable as combat. So he ordered his guerrilla charges to give no quarter, to fight to the last breath and to the last bullet.
A few hours later, his “untamable defiance,” lack of hypocrisy and “walking of the walk” all manifested themselves. With his men doing just what he ordered (fighting and dying to the last bullet), a slightly wounded Che snuck away from the firefight and surrendered with a full clip in his pistol, while whimpering to his captors: “Don’t Shoot! I’m Che! I’m worth more to you alive than dead!”
His Bolivian captors begged to differ.
Humberto Fontova [send him mail] is the author of Fidel; Hollywood’s Favorite Tyrant, described as “absolutely devastating. An enlightening read you’ll never forget.” by David Limbaugh. Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart says, “Humberto Fontova has done a great service to all those who wish to discover the truth about the only totalitarian dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere.”