The Real Che Guevara

by | Dec 1, 2005 | WORLD

"Don't shoot – I'm Che! I'm worth more to you live than dead!"

Mike Tyson used to end fights with his arms upraised in triumph. Then he got a Che Guevara tattoo. Now he ends fights on the ground, a bloodied mess, battered and bowed, pounded almost beyond recognition. Lennox Lewis didn’t just defeat him, he stomped him. It was a hideous thing to watch, even if you loathe Mike Tyson.

Tyson was jinxed by that Che tattoo. There’s no other explanation. Somebody should have enlightened mighty Mike about the real Che Guevara.

Che was hell on smiting his enemies, all right – thousands of them – but only when they were bound, gagged and blindfolded. I’m afraid the Boxing Federation doesn’t allow that. In anything like a fair fight Che was consistently routed, stomped and humiliated.

Ineptitude in combat defined Che Guevara. In every conflict he was pounded like a gong. When he whimpered to his American-trained captors in Bolivia, “Don’t shoot – I’m Che! I’m worth more to you alive than dead!” he had a point.

We blew it by not kidnapping him from the Bolivians in time and using him the way Luddendorff used Lenin in WWI. Recall that the Germans shipped Lenin through their lines into Russia “like a sealed bacillus” (in Churchill’s phrase) to infect the Russian army, to demoralize and incapacitate it, thereby shutting down the Eastern front.

It worked like a charm. The mighty Che, airdropped into Vietnam’s Central Highlands with bundles of his “Lessons in Guerrilla War” in October 1968, would have crippled the V.C. worse than 10 Operation Rolling Thunders.

We’d have had the boys home by Christmas. No Tet. No Cambodian invasion. Upon graduating from Che’s Academy of Guerrilla War, the V.C. would have become black-Pajama’d Beavis and Butt-heads. In a month they’d all be bedraggled and lost, starving and bickering, enraging the peasants, blundering into ambush after ambush.

We’d have cleaned house in two months, maybe even without employing the firepower and cojones of Al “To Hell and Back” Gore.

Actually, I dream here. Halfway through the first page of Che’s legendary book, the V.C. would have impaled Che on pungi sticks as a CIA agent – a very stupid one, trying a transparent ruse to get them all killed.

Cuban-American fighters who faced Che at the Bay of Pigs and later in the Congo still laugh. The Bay of Pigs invasion plan included a ruse where a little boat packing a huge fireworks show and tape recording of battle sounds landed in extreme western Cuba as a diversion.

Sure enough, the wily Che immediately recognized this as an Anzio-type “second front.” He snapped on his holster, cocked his beret at just the right angle, scowled for the camera and rushed over with a few thousand troops. He spent the whole battle there. It was the only thing in the invasion that went according to plan.

Later, many of these Cuban-American BOP vets itched to get back into the fight (but with ammo and air cover this time). The CIA obliged and sent them with ex-marine Rip Robertson to the Congo in ‘65. There they linked up with the legendary mercenary “Mad Mike” Hoare and his “Wild Geese.”

Here’s Mike Hoare’s opinion, after watching them in battle, of the men routinely smeared by the Beltway media as cheap Mafiosi, bumblers and cowards, of the outfit the Church Commission and Clinton regime disparaged and emasculated: “These Cuban-CIA men were as tough, dedicated and impetuous a group of soldiers as I’ve ever had the honor of commanding. Their leader [Rip Robertson] was the most extraordinary and dedicated soldier I’ve ever met.”

Saved From Cannibals

Together Mad Mike, Rip and the Cubans made short work of the alternately Chinese-and Soviet-backed “Simbas” of Laurent Kabila, who were murdering, raping and munching (many were cannibals) their way through the defenseless Europeans still left in the recently abandoned Belgian colony.

Forget Frank Church and the Clintonites. Ask the hundreds of Europeans rescued from butchery (literally!) by these men. You’ll hear a different song, believe me. You can read about their exploits in Hoare’s book, “Congo Mercenary,” and in Enrique Ros’ “Cubanos Combatientes” (sadly, available only in Spanish).

Kabila made Idi Amin look like Gandhi. Castro, itching to be rid of this nuisance, sent Che (code-named “Tatu”) and a force of his rebel army “veterans” to help these cannibals. The Congolese reds, unfamiliar with Che’s true record, accepted Tatu gratefully.

The masterful “Tatu’s” first order of business was plotting an attack on a garrison guarding a hydroelectric plant in a place called Front Bendela on the Kimbi River in Eastern Congo. His masterstroke was to be an elaborate ambush of the garrison.

The wily Tatu was stealthily leading his force into position when they heard shots. Whoops! … Hey?! WHAT THE?! Ambushers became ambushed – and by the same garrison he thought was guarding the plant. Che lost half his men and barely escaped with his life.

Some Ally

His African allies started frowning a little more closely at Tatu’s c.v. and asking a few questions. (But in Swahili, which he didn’t understand.)

Thing was, any teen gang member in East L.A. or south Bronx has 10 times the battle experience and savvy of any of these strutting Fidelista “Comandantes.” Imagine the Germans atop Monte Cassino outnumbering and outgunning the Allies 10 to 1 in early ‘44. Hell, they’d STILL be there. It was a defender’s dream.

Well, the brilliant Tatu and his comandantes had that very set-up in a place called Fizi-Baraka in Eastern Congo for their second clash with the mad dogs of imperialism. Mad Mike and his CIA allies sized the place up and attacked. Within one day the mighty Che’s entire force was scrambling away in panic, throwing away their arms, running and screaming like old ladies with rats running up their legs.

Teen ‘Rebels’

One of the most hilarious and enduring hoaxes of the 20th century was the “war” fought by dauntless Che and the Castro rebels against Batista. But I hear it was a kick – a fun way for adolescents to harass adults, loot, rustle a few cows, and play army on weekends with real guns, maybe even getting off a few shots, usually into the air.

What 17- or 18-year-old male could resist? Petty delinquency became not just altruism here, but downright heroism. How many punks get such a window of glory? Normally these stunts land you in reform school. In Cuba in 1958 it might get your picture in the New York Times:

“Comandante Humberto ‘El Guapo’ Fontova shown here relaxing with a bottle of rum and a grateful senorita after smiting the Fascist hordes of the Tyrant Batista in the ferocious Battle of Santa Clara, described by senior correspondent Herbert Matthews as ‘bloodier than Stalingrad!’ ”

Here’s an insider account of one such “battle,” from “Comandante” William Morgan as recounted to Paul Bethel after the glorious victory. Bethel was press attaché in Cuba’s U.S. Embassy in 1959. It’s in Bethel’s superb and meticulously researched book “The Losers”:

“We had a helluva time, Paul! We used a short-wave radio to broadcast the battle. Eloy and I yelled fake battle commands into the mike while a few of the muchachos shot BARs and pistols into the air for the sound effects. We really whooped it up!”

Here’s another insider account from Bethel’s book about a “famous battle.” This one features Che the Lionhearted himself and his invincible “Column” on their Long March through Las Villas province:

“Guevara’s column shuffled right into the U.S. agricultural experimental station in Camaguey. Guevara asked manager Joe McGuire to have a man take a package to Batista’s military commander in the city. The package contained $100,000 with a note. Guevara’s men moved through the province almost within sight of uninterested Batista troops.”

This was part of the famous “Battle of Santa Clara” where Che “Blood ‘n’ Guts” Guevara earned his eternal fame. Skip Dave Barry one Sunday and instead read the New York Times version of this historic military engagement. You’ll laugh louder. Here’s the headline in that “Newspaper of Record” for Jan 4, 1959 (and, like Barry, I swear I’m not making this up):

“One Thousand Killed in 5 days of Fierce Street Fighting! …. Commander Che Guevara appealed to Batista troops for a truce to clear the streets of casualties! … Guevara turned the tide in this bloody battle and whipped a Batista force of 3,000 men!”

Funnier Than Geraldo

We laugh at Geraldo Rivera’s buffooneries in Afghanistan. Hell, next to NYT reporters, Geraldo looks like Ernie Pyle.

To give them credit, most of Castro’s comandantes knew their Batista war had been a gaudy clown show. After the glorious victory, they were content to run down and execute the few Batista men motivated enough to shoot back (most of these were of humble background), settle into the mansions stolen from Batistianos, and enjoy the rest of their booty.

Che’s pathological power of self-delusion wouldn’t allow him to do this. And he paid the price.

Statistically speaking, a nocturnal stroll through Central Park offers more peril than Castro’s rebels faced from the dreaded army of the beastly Fulgencio Batista. According to Bethel, the U.S. Embassy was a little skeptical about all the battlefield bloodshed and heroics and investigated. They ran down every reliable lead and eyewitness account of what the New York Times called a “bloody civil war with thousands dead in single battles!”

They found that in the countryside, in those two years of “ferocious” battles, the total casualties on BOTH sides actually ran to 182. New Orleans has an annual murder rate DOUBLE that.

Alas, the Viet Cong took its lessons from guerrilla leaders who – get this, Che groupies – actually fought in a guerrilla war. Yes, where people shoot back and everything. Che eventually tried his hand at this novelty and … well, we saw what happened. He was run out of Africa with his tail between his legs in months. Then in Bolivia he and his merry band of bumblers was betrayed, encircled and decimated in short order.

Dissed by Mao

Real guerrillas had Che’s number. Mao refused to see him when he visited China. He had him cool his heels in a reception room for two hours, then stood him up. He knew. Che the Lionhearted’s image is still ubiquitous on college campuses. But in the wrong places. He belongs in the marketing, PR, advertising – and especially – psychology departments. His lessons and history are fascinating and valuable, but only in light of Sigmund Freud or P.T. Barnum. One born every minute, Mr. Barnum? If only you’d lived to see the Che phenomenon. Actually, 10 are born every second.

Here’s a “guerrilla hero” who in real life never fought in a guerrilla war. When he finally brushed up against one, he was routed.

Here’s a cold-blooded murderer who executed thousands without trial, who claimed that judicial evidence was an “unnecessary bourgeois detail,” who stressed that “revolutionaries must become cold-killing machines motivated by pure hate,” who stayed up till dawn for months at a time signing death warrants for innocent and honorable men, whose office in La Cabana had a window where he could watch the executions – and today his T-shirts adorn people who oppose capital punishment!

‘Greens’ Love This Polluter

Here’s communist Cuba’s first “Minister of Industries,” whose main slogan in 1960 was “Accelerated Industrialization!” Whose dream was converting Cuba (the hemisphere, actually) into a huge bureaucratic-industrial ant farm – and he’s the poster boy for greens and anarchists who scream and rant against industrialization!

Here’s a sniveling little suck-up, teacher’s pet and momma’s boy who was the constant pride of joy of his teacher (Alberto Bayo) and parents (the most obnoxious sort of Limousine Bolsheviks) – and he’s idolized by millionaire delinquents such as

Rage Against the Machine!

Here’s a humorless teetotaler, a plodding paper-pusher, a notorious killjoy and all-around fuddy-duddy – and you see his T-shirt on MTV’s Spring Break revelers!

Perhaps competent psychologists (if any exist) will explain this some day.

Che excelled in one thing: mass murder of defenseless men. He was a Stalinist to the core, a plodding bureaucrat and a calm, cold-blooded – but again, never in actual battle – killer. And there was an actual method to this murderous madness.

Recall that in 1940 Stalin’s commissars rounded up the Polish officer corps, herded them into the Katyn Forest and slaughtered them to a man. Stalin didn’t want any Polish contras messing up his plans. These officers would have led them. So his men dug a huge mass grave and lined up the Polish officers. The Russian pistol barrels went up against the backs of the necks:

POW! … Thump. Fifteen thousand shots later the deed was done and the dirt replaced. Any contra problem was nipped in the bud.

Che followed suit in Cuba. As a communist flunky in Guatemala he’d seen the Guatemalan officer corps rise up against the communist Arbenz government in ‘54. (And you pinko professors, please stifle the noise about Arbenz as a harmless “social democrat” and “nationalist” victimized by the fiendish United Fruit Co., OK? When ousted, Arbenz sought refuge in Czechoslovakia, not Sweden.)

Beloved Mass Murderer

Anyway, Che didn’t want a repeat in Cuba. Upon entering Havana in January ‘59 he started rounding up all army officers. Then – FUEGO!! – his firing squads got busy. Real busy. By his own count, Che sent 2,500 men to “the wall.”

The “Cuban Katyn,” I call this slaughter. The reds called these executed men “war criminals” and the Beltway press naturally parroted the charge. Nothing new there.

The New York Times’ (Pulitzer Prize-winning, no less) reporter Walter Duranty had parroted Stalin and Beria’s charges against the victims of the 1930s show trials, too. Later, they, along with Chris Dodd, Ted Kennedy and Tip O’Neill, labeled Nicaragua’s contras “war criminals.” But today Nicaragua is free because of them.

Che’s true legacy is simply one of terror and murder. That dreaded midnight knock. Wives and daughters screaming in rage and panic as Che’s goons drag off their dads and husbands – that’s the real Che legacy.

Desperate crowds of weeping daughters and shrieking mothers clubbed with rifle butts outside La Cabana as Che’s firing squads murder their dads and sons inside – that’s the real Che legacy.

Thousands of heroes yelling “Viva Cuba Libre!” and “Viva Christo Rey!” before firing squads of murderous drunks whom they’d have stomped in open battle – that’s the real Che legacy.

Secret graves and crude boxes with bullet-riddled corpses delivered to ashen-faced loved ones – that’s the real Che legacy.

And let’s not forget the craven “Don’t shoot – I’m Che! I’m worth more to you live than dead!” (Then why didn’t he save his last bullet for himself?) Perhaps the defiant yells of the men he murdered actually affected Che the Lionhearted?

By 1960 he started ordering that his victims’ mouths be taped shut. Perhaps there was a trace of human emotion in this icy dolt after all? Genuine bravery and defiance unnerved him.

When the wheels of justice finally turned, Che was revealed as unworthy to carry his victims’ slop buckets. He learned nothing from their bravery. He could only beg for his life. So yes, the craven request when cornered in Bolivia is also the real Che legacy.

So anyway, friends, I hope you’ll excuse all the champagne corks that popped in Cuban-American households back in October 1967 when we got the wonderful news. Yes, our own compatriots serving proudly in the U.S. Special Forces had helped track down the murderous, cowardly and epically stupid little weasel named Che Guevara in Bolivia. Then he got a major dose of his own medicine.

Justice has never been better served.

Humberto Fontova holds an M.A. in History from Tulane University. He's the author of the Fidel; Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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