Death of an Evil Coward
The 54th anniversary of Che Guevara’s comeuppance.
“Che Guevara’s contribution to the Bay of Pigs victory was crucial,” writes Che hagiographer Jorge Castaneda, also a New York Times contributor, visiting Professor at Columbia, Princeton, Harvard, and NYU, and former Mexican Foreign Minister. “Che's military leadership was permeated by an indomitable will that permitted extraordinary feats."
Well, “extraordinary” is certainly one way of putting it. I refer to Che Guevara’s being wounded during that tragic battle. The wound, you see, came from a bullet that entered Che’s face just under his chin and exited under his ear doing only slight cosmetic damage to that forthcomingly famous Hollywood and Madison Avenue visage. Alas, the bullet was fired by Che himself from his own pistol!
But don’t bother looking for this extraordinary and sure-fire “human-interest” snippet in his Benicio Del Toro–acted and -produced, and Steven Soderbergh-directed, Hollywood hagiography titled Guerrilla! -- compared to which Audie Murphy in To Hell and Back comes across as a bumbling ninny.
Fascinatingly -- though his U.S-based propagandists carefully avoid or underplay this “extraordinary” military exploit -- Cuba’s own Communist party rag is perfectly up front about it.
In fact, Che’s Bolivian Diaries — completely unrevised by any crackerjack comic scriptwriter -- could have provided Del Toro and Soderbergh with a rollicking comedy to rival anything by Blake Edwards (who directed the original Pink Panther), Carl Reiner (who directed The Jerk), or Jerry Lewis. To wit:
“We walked for five hours straight, covering about 12 kilometers,” reads an entry from May of 1967. “Here we came upon a campsite made by Benigno and Aniceto.” (These were men in Che’s own guerrilla group! Apparently they’d been walking in circles!)
“This brings up several questions,” continues the unwitting comic Che in his diary. “Perhaps that’s where Benigno and Aniceto were fired upon? Perhaps the aggressors were Joaquin’s own people?”
Joaquin was other member of Che’s own guerrilla group! In other words, Che’s men were not only walking in circles but also shooting at each other!
Guerrilla mastermind Che Guevara and his men had entered the Bolivian jungles after learning the wrong local language (Quechua rather than the local language Guaraní), failed to recruit a single Bolivian peasant from the area and proved unable to correlate a compass reading to a map!
“Che Guevara waged a guerrilla campaign where he displayed outrageous bravery and skill!” rhapsodized Time magazine while naming him among the Hero"es and Icons of the Twentieth Century!” alongside Anne Frank, Rosa Parks, Mother Theresa, and Mahatma Ghandi.
Think I jest? Check it out.
Oh, well, at least Time used “outrageous” instead of “extraordinary” to hail Che’s prowess as a master of guerrilla warfare.
Ah, but there was indeed a field where Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s skill could properly be described as “extraordinary!” and “outrageous!” I refer to his extraordinary aptitude at murdering hundreds of (unarmed and utterly defenseless) men and boys.
“My nostrils dilate while savoring the acrid odor of gunpowder and blood!” raved Guevara in his Motorcycle Diaries (though this aspiration was omitted from the famous movie). “Crazy with fury I will stain my rifle red while slaughtering any vencido that falls in my hands! With the deaths of my enemies I prepare my being for the sacred fight and join the triumphant proletariat with a bestial howl!”
The Spanish word vencido, by the way, translates into “defeated” or “surrendered.” And indeed, “the acrid odor of gunpowder and blood” rarely reached Guevara’s nostrils from anything properly describable as combat. It mostly came from the close-range murders of unarmed and defenseless men – and boys.
As commander of the La Cabana execution yard, Che often shattered the skull of the condemned man (or boy) by firing the coup de grace himself. When other duties tore him away from his beloved execution yard, he consoled himself by viewing the slaughter. Che’s second-story office in La Cabana had a section of wall torn out so he could watch his darling firing-squads at work.
Romanian journalist Stefan Bacie visited Cuba in early 1959 and was fortunate enough to get an audience with the already quasi-famous Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Upon entering Castro’s chief executioner’s office, Bacie noticed Che motioning him over to the office’s newly-constructed window. Bacie got there just in time to hear the command of “Fuego!” and the blast from the firing squad and to see a condemned prisoner crumple and convulse. The stricken journalist immediately left and composed a poem, titled, “I No Longer Sing of Che.” (”I no longer sing of Che any more than I would of Stalin,” go the first lines.)
On his second to last day alive (Oct, 7, 1967) and under hot pursuit by Green Beret-trained Bolivian soldiers, Che Guevara ordered his guerrilla charges to give no quarter, to fight to the last breath and to the last bullet. “Che drummed it into us,” recalls Cuban guerrilla Dariel Alarcon, who indeed fought to his last bullet in Bolivia, escaped back to Cuba, defected, and died in Paris 4 years ago. “Never surrender,” Che always stressed. “Never, never!” He drilled it into us almost every day of the guerrilla campaign. “A Cuban revolutionary cannot surrender!” Che thundered. “Save your last bullet for yourself!”
With his men doing exactly that, Che snuck away from the firefight, crawled towards the Bolivian soldiers doing the firing—then as soon as he spotted two of them at a distance, stood and yelled: "Don't shoot! I'm Che! I'm worth more to you alive than dead!"
His captor’s official Bolivian army records that they took from Ernesto “Che” Guevara: a fully-loaded PPK 9mm pistol. But it was only after his (obviously voluntary) capture that Che segued into full Eddie-Haskell-Greeting-June-Cleaver-Mode. "What's your name, young man?!" Che quickly asked one of his captors. "Why what a lovely name for a Bolivian soldier!"
From that stage on, Che Guevara’s fully-documented, but scrupulously blacked-out by his hagiographers) Haskell-isms only get more uproarious (or nauseating.)
“Che’s decency and nobility always led him to apologize,” wrote the aforementioned Jorge Castaneda, whose more recent career highlights consist mostly of relentless denunciations of former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies (i.e. the upholding of U.S. law).
Not to be outdone, Che hagiographer Jon Lee Anderson -- also New York Times and The New Yorker contributor whose print hagiography of Che formed the basis for the Del Toro-Soderbergh film hagiography of Che -- exults: “Bravery, fearlessness, honesty, and absolute conviction. He lived it—Che really lived it!”
In fact, his pathetic whimpering while dropping his fully-loaded weapons as two Bolivian soldiers approached him on Oct. 8, 1967 ("Don't shoot!" I'm Che!" I'm worth more to you alive than dead!") proves that this cowardly, murdering swine was unfit to carry his victim’s slop buckets.