Time Magazine just listed Che Guevara among the world’s top 25 political icons. Che ranks number 9 between Adolph Hitler (8) and Ronald Reagan (10). Mao Tse Tung ranks 3rd, Genghis Khan 5th, and Mohandas Gandhi 1st.
So, okay – Time is obviously not making a moral judgment call here. “We look at world leaders whose legacies have stood the test of time,” they explained. Fine. Sounds perfectly reasonable and objective.
Time Magazine’s last ranking of Che Guevara in 1999 as among “The 100 Most Important People of the Century,” at first glance also appeared objective. That was, until you read further and found that Time placed Che in the “Heroes and Icons” section, alongside Anne Frank, Andrei Sakharov, Rosa Parks and Mother Theresa. On Fox News, Alan Colmes scoffed at my citing this – then gaped semi-apologetically at my proof.
“Nothing could be more vicariously gratifying than Che Guevara’s disdain for material comfort and everyday desires,” read Time’s encomium to Che Guevara in 1999, which was composed by Duke Professor Ariel Dorfman. Unfortunately, Dorfman’s “research” overlooked some important details.
“Che’s house was among the most luxurious in Cuba,” wrote Cuban journalist Antonio Llano Montes about the mansion-estate Che Guevara “acquired” promptly upon entering Havana in January 1959. After a hard day at the office signing firing-squad warrants and blasting teenagers’ skulls apart with the coup-de-grace from his .45, Che Guevara retired to his new domicile just outside Havana on the pristine beachfront. Until a few weeks prior, it had belonged to Cuba’s most successful building contractor. Today, the area is reserved exclusively for tourists and Communist party members.
“The mansion had a boat dock, a huge swimming pool, seven bathrooms, a sauna, a massage salon and several television sets,” continued Llano Montes. “One TV had been specially designed in the U.S., and had a screen ten feet wide and was operated by remote control. This was thought to be the only TV of its kind in Latin America. The mansion’s garden had a veritable jungle of imported plants, a pool with a waterfall, ponds filled with exotic tropical fish and several bird houses filled with parrots and other exotic birds. The habitation was something out of A Thousand and One Nights.”
The “austere idealist,” Che Guevara, hadn’t done too badly for himself in this real estate “acquisition” (read: “hand over all your property, Mr. Cuban contractor, or face a firing squad”).
Elsewhere in the Time encomium to Che, author Dan Fastenberg wrote, “Che was the embodiment of a man true to his word.”
Alas, the so-called “research” by Time Magazine’s Fastenberg again appears deficient:
“I am not a communist and have never been a communist,” Che Guevara deceitfully described himself to the New York Times on January 4th, 1959. “It gives me great pain to be called a communist,” he said.
Fastenberg continued: “Che was the embodiment of a man who never backs down and is willing to pay the ultimate price. After Guevara was captured fomenting revolution in Bolivia in 1967, he said, ‘Go ahead and kill me, I am just a man.’”
In fact, on his second to last day alive, Che Guevara ordered his guerrilla charges to give no quarter, to fight to the last breath and to the last bullet. With his men doing exactly that, Che snuck away from the firefight, and crawled toward the Bolivian soldiers doing the firing.
The details of Che’s capture are available in the official records of the men who captured him. Time Magazine’s investigative journalists are no more barred from reading those records than this writer. These documents record that this “embodiment of a man who never backs down” dropped his fully loaded weapons on October 8, 1967 and whimpered: “Don’t Shoot! I’m Che Guevara! I’m worth more to you alive than dead!”
His Bolivian captors saw it differently. They adopted a policy that has since become a favorite among Americans who encounter endangered species on their property: “Shoot, shovel, and shut-up.”
Justice has never been better served.