The A&E Network recently produced a Biography show on Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Years back they produced one on Senator “Tail-Gunner Joe” McCarthy. The depictions contrast sharply.
The second mentioned of these historical figures was a freely-elected official who campaigned to remove Stalinist agents that had infiltrated the government of a representative republic. Joe McCarthy launched his congressional inquiry into Communist penetration of the U.S. government at a time when Stalin’s regime had already murdered more people, conquered more nations, and enslaved more of their citizens than Hitler’s regime had managed at its murderous apex. On top of this, Stalin’s regime had recently developed the Atomic bomb.
In 1950 Senator McCarthy claimed to know of 57 Stalinist agents in the employ of the U.S. government. Not a single one of these alleged agents suffered so much as a day in jail, though some lost their cushy government jobs.
Ernesto “Che” Guevara was second in command, chief executioner, and chief KGB liaison for a regime that outlawed elections and private property. This regime’s KGB-supervised police — employing the midnight knock and the dawn raid among other devices — rounded up and jailed more political prisoners as a percentage of population than Stalin’s and executed more people (out of a population of 6.4 million) in its first three years in power than Hitler’s executed (out of a population of 70 million) in it’s first six.
Can you guess which show The History Channel titled, “Epidemic of Fear”?
The regime Che Guevara co-founded stole the savings and property of 6.4 million citizens, made refugees of 20 per cent of the population from a nation formerly deluged with immigrants and whose citizens had achieved a higher standard of living than those residing in half of Europe. Che Guevara’s regime also shattered — through executions, jailings, mass larceny and exile — virtually every family on the island of Cuba. Many opponents of the Cuban regime qualify as the longest-suffering political prisoners in modern history, having suffered prison camps, forced labor and torture chambers for a period THREE TIMES as long in Che Guevara’s Gulag as Alexander Solzhenytzin suffered in Stalin’s Gulag.
Can you guess which A & E show mentioned, “hundreds of destroyed lives”?
One week into power the regime Che Guevara co-founded abolished Habeas Corpus. Guevara commanded his regime’s prosecutorial goons to “always interrogate our prisoners at night. A man’s resistance is always lower at night.” He boasted that, “we execute from revolutionary conviction!” and that “judicial evidence is an archaic bourgeois detail.” Edwin Tetlow, Havana correspondent for London’s Daily Telegraph, reported on a mass “trial” orchestrated by Che Guevara where Tetlow noticed the death sentences posted on a board before the trial had started.
Can you guess which show had “The Great Inquisitor” in the title?
In case you haven’t guessed, the answer to all of the above questions is: Joe McCarthy’s.
One signed his name “Stalin II,” professed that “the solutions to the world’s problems lie behind the Iron curtain,” and boasted that “if the nuclear missiles had remained we would have fired them against the heart of the U.S. including New York City.” He also professed that the victory of socialism was well worth “millions of atomic victims.”
Can you guess which show mentioned, “his idealism will rarely be equaled”?
Immediately upon entering Havana Che Guevara stole and moved into what was probably the most luxurious mansion in Cuba. The rightful owner fled the country barely ahead of a firing squad and a reporter who wrote of Che’s new house in a Cuban newspaper was himself threatened with the firing squad. A year later thousands of Cubans were sent to forced-labor camps on Che’s orders, based on his whim to fashion “a new man,"
Can you guess which show includes the phrase “he never abused his power”?
During a 1961 speech in Cuba, Che Guevara denounced the very “spirit of rebellion” as “reprehensible.” Earlier he had cheered the Soviet invasion of Hungary and the concurrent slaughter of thousands of Hungarians who resisted Russian Imperialism. According to Guevara, these freedom-fighters were all “fascists and CIA agents.”
Can you guess which show described its subject as: “a potent symbol of rebellion, liberation and resistance to imperialism”?
In case you haven’t guessed, the answer to the above questions is: Che Guevara’s
On his second to last day alive Che Guevara ordered his guerrilla charges to give no quarter, to fight to the last breath and to the last bullet. With his men doing just that, 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!” He then groveled shamelessly, desperate to ingratiate himself. “What’s your name, young man?” Che asked one of his captors. “Why what a lovely name for a Bolivian soldier!”
“So what will they do with me?” Che asked Bolivian Captain Gary Prado. “I don’t suppose you will kill me. I’m surely more valuable alive….And you Captain Prado,” Che commended his captor. “You are a very special person …I have been talking to some of your men. They think very highly of you, captain! And don’t worry, this whole thing is over. We have failed.” Then to further ingratiate himself, “your army has pursued us very tenaciously….now, could you please find out what they plan to do with me?”
Nonetheless The History Channel gushes that Guevara “was valiant until his last moment alive.”
So far, subjective matters. Now on to more objective ones.
Despite numerous attempts, nobody has managed to locate any record of Ernesto Guevara’s medical degree. Shortly after his capture Che admitted to his captor’s commander, Captain Gary Prado, that he (Che) was not a doctor but “had some knowledge of medicine.”
Nonetheless The History Channel refers to Ernesto Guevara as a “newly qualified Doctor.”
It is a matter of historical record that in January 1959 the U.S. gave diplomatic recognition to the Castro/Che regime MORE QUICKLY than they had recognized Batista’s in 1952. State Department records also show that the U.S. imposed on arms embargo on the Batista government and refused to ship arms the Cuban government had already paid for. The official record also documents that U.S. ambassador Earl T. Smith personally notified Batista that he had no support from the U.S. government, which strongly recommended that he leave Cuba. Batista was then denied political asylum in the U.S.
In 2001 while visiting Havana for a conference with Fidel Castro, the CIA’s “Caribbean Desk’s “specialist on the Cuban Revolution” from 1957—1960, Robert Reynolds boasted that: “Me and my staff were all Fidelistas.”
“Everyone in the CIA and everyone at State were pro-Castro, except ambassador Earl Smith.” This statement is from former CIA operative in Santiago Cuba, Robert Weicha.
Nonetheless, The History Channel reports that “Che Guevara helped overthrow the “U.S.- BACKED” Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista.”
“At his (Che’s) orders around 50 men were executed,” asserts The History Channel
“The Black Book of Communism,” written by French scholars and published in English by Harvard University Press (neither an outpost of the vast right-wing conspiracy, much less of “Miami maniacs!”) estimates 14,000 firing squad executions in Cuba by the end of the 1960’s. “The facts and figures are irrefutable,” wrote the New York Times (no less!) about “The Black Book of Communism.” A Cuban prosecutor of the time who quickly defected in horror and disgust named Jose Vilasuso estimates that Che signed 400 death warrants the first few months of his command in La Cabana. A Basque priest named Iaki de Aspiazu, who was often on hand to perform confessions and last rites, says Che personally ordered 700 executions by firing squad during the period. Cuban journalist Luis Ortega, who knew Che as early as 1954, writes in his book “Yo Soy El Che!” that Guevara sent 1,892 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 year of the Castro regime. Felix Rodriguez, the Cuban-American CIA operative who helped track him down in Bolivia and was the last person to question him, says that Che during his final talk, admitted to “a couple thousand” executions. But he shrugged them off as all being of “imperialist spies and CIA agents.”
Historically speaking, documenting regime murders while that murderous regime remains in power has proven almost impossible. Yet the Cuba Archive project headed by Maria Werlau and Dr Armando Lago have already documented 216 firing squad death warrants signed by Che Guevara, a figure quadrupling The History Channels’. What can possibly account for such a relentless contempt for the truth by The History Channel?
We’ll see in a minute.
“He studied the evidence in each case (of the “50” executions) with methodical care. The executed were all torturers and murderers of women and children,” asserts The History Channel in their Che Biography.
Well, Guevara’s judicial methods I’ve already mentioned, simply by quoting Che Guevara himself. If “judicial evidence is an archaic bourgeois detail” if no defense counsel or witnesses are permitted then just how did Che determine who is “a torturer and murderer of women and children?” The History Channel provides no clue.
But their main source, Che biographer Jon Lee Anderson who is interviewed and quoted extensively through the “documentary," does. This diligent historian got the figure of 50 executed and the accounts of the sterling judicial procedures preceding the executions, from one of the Communist prosecutors himself, Orlando Borrego, who features as major source in Anderson’s book and who is a minister in Cuba’s Stalinist government to this day. Indeed, Anderson wrote his book while living in Cuba using ministers of a Stalinist government as his primary sources. Other sources such as “Che’s Diaries” were edited and published by Castro’s propaganda ministry with the preface written by Fidel Castro himself. Given the subject, perhaps such a thoroughly “revolutionary” form of historiography is fitting. Let’s step back for a second and contemplate it.
Adolph Eichmann, Rudolf Hess, Karl Donitz, Baldur von Schirach and many other Nazi officials were still alive when William Shirer wrote The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Yet these were not Shirer’s primary sources. Therefore, applying contemporary logic as it applies to Cuban history, Shirer’s book should be thoroughly discredited. Anything and everything former Nazi officials had to say should have been taken at face value. Instead Shirer relied on sources such as German exile Fritz Thyssen. This man was “embittered," had an obvious “ax to grind” against the Nazi regime, and should have been discounted as biased and not credible by William Shirer and by all right-thinking people.
Robert Conquest was also derelict in using Ukrainian refugees such as Marco Carynnyk as sources for his book, The Great Terror. From Leonid Brezhnev to Yuri Andropov, to Nikita Khrushchev thousands of Stalin’s henchmen were available to Conquest as perfectly reliable sources. For not relying upon them exclusively in his studies of Stalinism, Robert Conquest should be laughed off any lectern. His book consists of nothing but embittered ravings and cheap gossip from people with “an ax to grind.”
Simon Weisenthal, Eilie Weisel and Ann Frank all had obvious “axes to grind’ against the Nazi regime so nothing they said or wrote should be taken seriously. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Cardinal Mindszenty, Nathan Scharansky, Vladimir Bukovsky, etc. are all “embittered exiles and cranks” with obvious “axes to grind” against the Soviet regime. So the same applies to them.
The above may sound flippant, but it’s precisely the methodology applied in media and “scholarly” circles when it comes to studying Cuban totalitarianism. The normal rules of historiography — and even of decency, logic and common sense — get turned on their heads, resulting in shows like those on The History Channel.
Humberto Fontova [send him mail] is the author of Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him.