On this date in 1967, a Bolivian sergeant raised an M-2 carbine and inducted Ernesto Rafael Guevara de la Serna, known to generations of douchebag hipsters wearing his t-shirt as “Ché” Guevara, into Hell.
The rumor is, that made Hell even worse.
The BBC initially reported that the rebellious teenager’s role model for all time had gone down fighting against the Bolivians. Even national security official Walt Rostow was only 99% sure (the redaction in the message was probably about the shipment of the dead man’s hands to the USA for positive fingerprint ID). It was just the last in a life of lies. In fact, he had begged for his life after the ambush that killed most of the remnants of his collapsing guerilla “Army,” and then been resigned to his death. He’d never been able to recruit a single Bolivian campesino to his cause, only university Marxists who were long on Communist theory and short on field utility. Unable to count on a sea of peasant support, his men had taken to robbing the starvation-poor farmers of their limited food, leaving behind a trail of eager informers.
Ché wrote — or had ghostwritten, it’s not clear — a handy manual of guerilla warfare. There’s nothing very deep in it but it does have some simple “best practices”. If he’d read his own book, he might still be bouncing grandchildren on his knee. Instead, he spent most of the intervening years in an unmarked hole in Vallegrande, Bolivia, before being exhumed and reinterred in a Napoleonic sarcophagus in Cuba. (Most of him, anyway. Some body parts remain whereabouts unknown. Best guess: in a jar in the basement of the old HQ building at Langley. Sorry ’bout that).
Most of Ché’s public image is myth. Far from being a great warrior, he lost every time somebody fought back, being chased out of the Congo by an African conscript army before being beaten by Bolivian conscripts for the last time. (It’s true that in both cases the native troops fighting the Cuban invasion had SF and CIA assistance and advice). Far from being the doctor of legend, he dropped out of medical school. Far from being a great humanitarian, he was one of the Western Hemisphere’s greatest mass murderers. He personally killed thousands — he sometimes boasted, ten thousand, but he’s not a very credible source — and no one has ever accurately documents the tens or scores of thousands killed as his command.
Augusto Pinochet, a Chilean dictator who voluntarily yielded power in elections, is reviled by most of the same people who lionize Ché. The reasoning may be political: Ché was a Communist, while Pinochet overthrew one of that cynical and bloody cult. But Pinochet’s crime, such as it was, was to preside over a shadow war in which some 3,000 members of his opposition — including armed opposition members — were dispatched over 10 years.
The number of dead at Ché’s direct hands may never be known; one site lists 180 known victims, but including those he ordered executed extrajudicially, the number is probably in the tens of thousands, and he did it all in two years in Cuba, a tiny, backward island with a population a fraction of modern Argentina’s. (He killed only a handful of people — mostly his own guerillas who had crossed him in some way — in the DR, the Congo and Argentina. Not for want of trying, but because he was such an incompetent warrior).
Ché himself took great pride in his slaughter. He wrote: “To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary…These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate. We must create the pedagogy of El Paredón (the shooting wall)”.
For some bizarre reason — perhaps because he took a good photo — this monster has an unending supply of fans, especially in that garden of photogenic airheads, Hollywood. One of his biggest fans is Venezuelan caudillo Hugo Chavez, recently “reelected” behind closed doors by his own hand-picked vote-counting committee. Chavez has caused dozens (at least) of memorials to Castro’s trigger man to be erected throughout the country. And the patriots and free men and women of Venezuela, God bless them, destroy them as soon as military security is removed.
Now that’s some brave freedom fighters, not some creep in a beret and beard shooting bound men and boys.
So, for all these reasons, and to honor American participation in the training and advice of the Bolivian Rangers who put Ché in his place (places plural, really, i.e. an unmarked grave and those reputed jars), we celebrate Dead Ché Day.