Ernesto "Che" Guevara was executed 40 years ago this week, and the impulse to honor him is bursting out all over. Celebrations are taking place in such places as Cuba, Bolivia and Ireland, a priest has called him a saint and hosts of other people are likewise instructing us on what a hero he was, what a moral giant, what a fierce combatant for justice in an imperialist-threatened, inhumane world.
Not to interrupt the hallucinatory hosannas or anything, but it seems worth mentioning that there is another side to this story, the one that says Che was in fact a murderous, evil, obsessed thug who stands convicted of his vicious ideological fanaticism and cruelties by his own words as well as by his damnable deeds.
Perhaps the idolizers who wear the Che T-shirts are unaware of those words, as when he said that a true revolutionary had to hate so much that he would be pushed past ordinary human limits and become "an effective, violent, selective and cold killing machine."
Perhaps they don’t know that, after the Soviets took their nuclear missiles out of Cuba in 1962, he told a reporter he had hoped to "use them against the very heart of America, including New York City," very likely killing some of those who would later put him on those T-shirts, and otherwise making this particular fad less likely.
Perhaps the people who make Che-adoring movies — Robert Redford did it — or write adulatory pieces about Fidel Castro’s henchman are ignorant of how Che ran a Havana prison in which he killed, killed and then killed some more, and later helped start the labor camp system in which homosexuals and others considered undesirable were to be confinedas nothing less than slaves.
None of this information is hard to come by. There are a number of easily accessible, well-researched, carefully documented, evidence-heavy articles reciting the truth, while telling us as well how Che’s economic guidance of Cuba’s central bank was a disaster that further afflicted people who either learned to survive hunger-inducing totalitarianism or risk their lives fleeing the island.
Turn to these articles and you’ll also learn how this Argentinean doctor left Cuba after an apparent falling out with Castro, fought in the Congo and then went to Bolivia to liberate peasants who were finding their lives improved without his aid and were intelligently wary of this crazed ideologue. That’s where he was caught and shot to death at the age of 39.
One writer speculates that the famous, endlessly reproduced photograph of a handsome, bold-looking Che is at least partly responsible for some coming to very nearly worship him as an unparalleled 20th century fighter for societal righteousness.
What’s at work in the idolizing is either a mild leftist ideology that decides to leave out or refuses to believe the condemnatory stuff, or a wild leftist ideology that says yes, what Che did was justified in trying to set the world right.
Either way, there are many perils, such as the destructive march of some Latin American countries — such as Hugo Chávez-led Venezuela — toward a destructive, liberty-denying socialist future.
Examiner columnist Jay Ambrose is a former editor of two daily newspapers. He may be reached at SpeaktoJay@aol.com
Decades ago, I was a reporter in Albany, N.Y., working for a newspaper at the foot of a hill that could be ascended only with huffing, puffing, knee endangerment and sweat unless you employed a trick.