Che-worship infects the land of shamrocks
Che Guevara was a homicidal maniac and a mass abuser of human rights - yet somehow he is revered in the West to this day. What does that say about our moral compass?
The West has long had a thing for Che Guevara, a doctrinaire Marxist and homicidal maniac of particular note. In the more than four decades since his death, his iconic countenance has adorned tee shirts, caps, and mugs, and companies have used his face to sell their products.
This past January, in fact, Mercedes-Benz’s chairman, Dieter Zetsche, unveiled a new car on a stage whose back wall featured a floor-to-ceiling picture of the Cuban revolutionary and Castro comrade-in-arms.
Still, the news that a town in Ireland – a land better known for shamrocks and Saint Patrick – has fallen victim to Che’s ghoulish appeal reminds us just how much historical ignorance and moral confusion plague the West, and it should prompt sober-minded people of all stripes to voice their displeasure.
At the seaside resort of Kilkee, in the city of Galway, planning is underway for a festival in September that will celebrate the life and times of Che, whose grandmother was born in Galway and who spent time there in 1961, according to reports from IrishCentral.com and other outlets.
Che’s eldest daughter will be the guest of honor and Galway plans to unveil a statue in his honor. The embassies of Cuba and Argentina, where Che was born, have offered financial help to build the statue.
“The Che Guevara image created by Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick has become as famous as the Coca Cola logo and is recognized as one of [the] enduring images of the 20th Century,” an event spokesman said. “We are proud to say that this image was the product of that fateful meeting between Guevara and Mr. Fitzpatrick in Kilkee.”
True, Fitzpatrick has done as much as anyone to make Che a figure of enduring Western fascination. But, that’s hardly a reason for Che-worship by the good people of Kilkee or Galway or Ireland – or anywhere else.
For those who need a refresher, Che Guevara was born in Argentina, radicalized by the poverty he witnessed during his early travels across Latin America, joined Fidel Castro’s revolutionary movement, and rose to second-in-command in the effort to topple Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.
He was ruthless and cold-blooded, one who glorified violence, killed and ordered others to kill without hesitation, and opted for murder even if merely suspecting that someone might oppose him.
“Here in the Cuban jungle, alive and bloodthirsty,” he wrote to his wife after reaching Cuba in early 1957, according to a New Republic retrospective of a few years ago by Peruvian writer Alvaro Vargas Llosa.
Also in early 1957, his diary reveals, he shot someone whom he suspected of leaking information, writing chillingly, “I ended the problem with a .32 caliber pistol, in the right side of his brain.”
Che put words to action most forcefully when Castro put him in charge of La Cabana prison. There, he presided over quick trials of former Batista officials, businessmen, journalists, and others. The revolutionary tribunal ruled, the appellate court (over which Che presided) confirmed the rulings, and the executions proceeded – anywhere from a few hundred to perhaps a thousand or more.
When not approving death sentences, Che was sending the revolution’s purported enemies to camps for years of hard labor. Labor camps evolved into concentration camps for the “unfit” – Catholics, dissidents, AIDS victims, and others – who were raped, beaten, mutilated, or otherwise traumatized.
A fan of the Soviet Union, he played a key role in creating a secret police to subjugate the Cuban people and enforce the revolution.
“Hatred is the central element of our struggle!” Che said in a 1966 speech, a year before he was captured while fomenting revolution in Bolivia and executed. “Hatred that is intransigent...hatred so violent that it propels a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him violent and cold- blooded killing machine...We reject any peaceful approach.
“Violence is inevitable,” he continued.” To establish Socialism rivers of blood must flow! The imperialist enemy must feel like a hunted animal wherever he moves. Thus we'll destroy him! These hyenas are fit only for extermination. We must keep our hatred alive and fan it to paroxysm! The victory of Socialism is well worth millions of atomic victims!”
Galway’s upcoming celebration has drawn a strong rebuke from House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who was born in Havana and fled Cuba when she was eight to escape the horror that Che helped to create.
“Che Guevara was a mass murderer and a human rights abuser, whose campaign led to the murder of countless people throughout Cuba, under the Castro regime, and Latin America,” she wrote recently to Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, asking his government to “honor the victims of Che and the Castro dictatorship by rejecting this proposal.”
That Ros-Lehtinen probably won’t get her way says something profoundly disturbing about the West’s moral compass.
Lawrence J. Haas was Communications Director and Press Secretary for Vice President Al Gore. He writes widely about foreign and domestic affairs
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