Monday, October 08, 2007

Nuestro Amigo El Che

Here are two articles on the subject of Che Guevara. One an account of the evolution of Che's image as captured by Korda from the BBC and another an historical account of Che's role as an executioner from [machine translation]. The question "who was Che" is probably better framed as "how has he been marketed?" As the BBC story notes the Korda image of Che has become an "anti-war" poster; an environmental poster, a logo for ice cream and a t-shirt graphic to boost coca leaf sales. Anything except the executioner.

It is probable that the real Che Guevara was hard-hearted, dedicated Bolshevik. An executioner. That's what Bolsheviks were in those days. It came with the job. But we prefer not to remember Che that way. As the quote from the movie "Who Shot Liberty Valance?" says "if you are forced to print the truth or the myth, you always print the myth."

Nothing follows.


Blogger PeterBoston said...

Fidel, who was no slouch at the bullet-to-the-head loyalty solution himself, kicked Che out of Cuba because of his excesses.

My favorite photo of Che is on the slab with the gazillion bullet holes.

10/08/2007 03:41:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Part of the reason why Che's admirers prefer not to remember him as an executioner is that they don't want to accept that executions are part of the game.

Christopher Hitchens recently described how it felt to visit the family of Mark Daily, who was convinced by reading Hitchen's writing that there was a "moral case" to serve in Iraq. Daily died in an IED attack on his convoy. Hitchens came face to face with one of the saddest realities of human existence. The consequences of your actions.

There are always regrets. There would have been regrets if Hitchens had written the exact opposite. And the reason may be that the world is broken. Maybe that's the meaning of Original Sin. We are fallen and all our works come to naught. I don't know why it is. But it's an empirical fact that whatever you do there will be regrets.

And I think the realization must have been even harder on Hitchens because he is that rare specimen among Marxists, the conscious atheist. I know that all Marxists are theoretically atheists, but in reality most simply rebrand their old religion and rename their heaven. But Hitchens I think, belongs to that tradition that attempts to live in world without ultimate meaning with gritted teeth, sustained by gin, literature and will.

But in the presence of death none of that works. And the best Hitchens can do is write: "May it be so, then, and may death be not proud to have taken Mark Daily, whom I never knew but whom you now know, and—I hope—miss." But come on Christopher, you know that's just a figure of speech. Better if we should hope, however improbably, that Mark Daily's death really did matter. That's there's a running total somewhere, whoever keeps the score. The only proposition a committed atheist really has to fear is the possibility that life is not futile. Faith consists in the belief that this probability, however remote, is not zero.

But Che Guevara, I think, was one of those who had no such doubts. He was one of those types who was positively bursting with the sense of his own consequence. He mattered to himself, to history and to eternity. And that is the key to understanding how Che Guevara the handsome icon could execute people. Put a gun to their pleading bodies and pull the trigger. He believed the bullet mattered.

What separates a real Marxist revolutionary from dabbler is this unshakbeable conviction: that bullets to the brain do matter. All aspiring revolutionaries should remember that. What did Hemmingway write in "Death in the Afternoon"?

Madame, all stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true-story teller who would keep that from you.

That's a faith of its own kind.

10/08/2007 05:02:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

I thought this was a pretty close aproximation to an atheist admitting to the futility of the pursuit:
Mark Daily:

"One thing I have learned about myself since I've been out here is that everything I professed to you about what I want for the world and what I am willing to do to achieve it was true. …

My desire to "save the world" is really just an extension of trying to make a world fit for you.

Hitchens, the "Atheist's"

"If that is all she has left, I hope you will agree that it isn't nothing."

An authentic rational atheist would not soak his brain cells in Gin in a chemical pursuit of God!, it makes for some damned fine writing!

10/08/2007 05:25:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Argentina's Presidential Front-Runner Goes Global

10/08/2007 05:28:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

I want to set the record straight. I have nothing against gin, or literature or will.

But I honestly think, given the extent of our ignorance, that hope is not less rational than despair; and that our prejudices against gin should be no greater than our admiration for executioners.

10/08/2007 05:34:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...


"¡Costa Rica, Si! ¡Yanqui, Si!"

10/08/2007 05:40:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Kaplan on Uribe:

RK: Well, let me put it this way. Handicap for size the president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe Velez. He’s probably the most successful democratically elected ruler or politician on the Earth today. He’s in his second term with a 70% approval rating. He’s, more than anyone in decades, he’s really taken the fight, and alleviated his country’s suffering from narco-terrorists. When I was in Colombia in 2003, there were many parts of the country that I couldn’t go to, because they were insurgent-controlled. By insurgents, I mean narco-terrorist drug armies. When I went back in 2006, I went to places along the Venezuelan border, along the Ecuadorian border, that I simply couldn’t have gone three years ago, but these areas had all been reclaimed. He’s managing to disband one drug army. He’s got a second one on the ropes. And now he’s facing up against a third. He’s had like a Ronald Reagan foreign policy towards the drug armies, and a very liberalish domestic policy in terms of health care and other issues like that. He’s really been an incredible class act, and we’ve helped him by deploying Army Special Forces in Colombia, and Navy and Marines to train his people.
- Hewitt Transcript

10/08/2007 05:52:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Tigerhawk's Latest:
Do Shia Extremists Cooperate With Sunni Radicals?
ht Hewitt

10/08/2007 05:58:00 AM  
Blogger Teresita said...

Wretchard quoted: Madame, all stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true-story teller who would keep that from you.

But the best story of all is this one, told by our Lord:

"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live"

10/08/2007 07:28:00 AM  
Blogger Yashmak said...

I've always thought the best story was Ender's Game, told by Orson Scott Card.

But to each their own. :)

10/08/2007 07:49:00 AM  
Blogger R said...

Maybe some day we will all be treated to tee shirts where a picture of Nick Berg losing his head is displayed and proudly worn by "revolutionaries" who never heard of "Che" or Regis DeBray.

10/08/2007 07:57:00 AM  
Blogger Teresita said...

Yashmak: I've always thought the best story was Ender's Game, told by Orson Scott Card.

Ah yes...Harry Potter meets Starship Troopers.

10/08/2007 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger newscaper said...

Actually I think I find Card's first sequel, Speaker for the Dead, to be his greatest work.

Of course it had to have Ender's game to build on, and the deep characterization, focus on hope and forgiveness, blows the action of EG away IMO. Utterly moving.

10/08/2007 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger Doc Mike said...

My very favorite picture of Che:

10/08/2007 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

I think this must be it!

10/08/2007 03:58:00 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

The Che cult among the Hoi Polloi belies John Lennon's wry observation;

"If you're carrying pictures of Chairman Mao
You ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow"

I just did work for a guy who had on his bookshelf "Stalinism as a Way of Life" so who knows? I wonder if the subtitle is "Starving Peasants in 10 Easy Steps"

10/08/2007 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

der Spiegal chimes in with a Che-praising article...

A wave of Che nostalgia is rolling through Latin America on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of his death. Veterans of the Cuban Revolution have erected a mausoleum above the ditch by the side of the Vallegrande airstrip where Che's bones were found. The school in La Higuera has been renovated and converted into a museum. The laundry room in the Vallegrande hospital -- where the famous, Jesus-like photograph of Che's laid-out corpse was taken -- has become another pilgrimage site for "revolution tourists" from all over the world.

Bolivian President Evo Morales, who has a huge portrait of Che hanging in his office, is now inaugurating the "Ruta del Che" (Che Route.) In return for a small sum, young men from Vallegrande are to introduce visitors to the last remaining historical witnesses: the village's former schoolteacher who was able to speak to the revolutionary for a few minutes; the photographer who secretly photographed his corpse in the laundry room; the nurse who washed him before doctors pumped his body full of formaldehyde and cut off his hands.

Tourists from all over the world visit La Higuera on pilgrimage. A Frenchman has opened a hostel at the telegraph office where the guerrilla fighters made their last attempt to establish contact with the outside world. Next door, Cuban doctors provide treatment to the destitute farm workers free of charge. Images of the revolutionary hang in the villlagers' huts, and many people pray to "Santo Ernesto" who is said to bring about miracles.

10/11/2007 04:02:00 AM  
Blogger The Sanity Inspector said...

I liked how David Horowitz characterized his appeal to the 60s Left: Jim Morrison with an assault rifle.

10/11/2007 02:30:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Grynch said...

Little Green Footballs has an amazing piece on Iran's attempt to capatalize on Che's popularity with hilariously unsuccesful results:

The mullahs are now seeking to duplicate those glorious days of yesteryear, reaching out to the international self-hating left in a four-day seminar for useful idiots.

October 12, 2007 — ANXIOUS to create what they call “a global progressive front,” Presidents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela are sponsoring projects to underline “the ideological kinship of the left and revolutionary Islam.”

The theme - hammered in by Ahmadinejad during his recent visit to Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia - inspired a four-day seminar organized by his supporters at Tehran University last week (partly financed by Chavez).

The hope was that the conference would produce a synthesis of Marxist and Khomeinist ideologies and highlight what the Iranian leader has labeled “the divine aspect of revolutionary war.” But the event itself proved rather embarrassing.

The conference title was “Che Like Chamran,” a play on words designed to emphasize “the common goals” of Marxism and Islamism. It honored Mostafa Chamran on the 26th anniversary of his death, which coincided with the 40th anniversary of the death of the Cuban-Argentine guerrilla icon Che Guevara.

But there seem to be some minor differences in outlook between the useful idiots and those who would use them.

Things went pear-shape thanks to one keynote speakers, Hajj Saeed Qassemi, whose title is “coordinator of the Association of Volunteers for Suicide-Martyrdom.” Praising the late “Che” as “a true revolutionary who made the American Great Satan tremble,” he “revealed” that Guevara had been “a truly religious man who believed in God and hated communism and the Soviet Union.”

“Today, communism has been consigned to the garbage can of history as foreseen by Imam Khomeini,” Qassemi said. “Thus progressists everywhere must accept the leadership of our religious, pro-justice movement.”

Demanding the right to respond, Aleida Guevara told the conference that Qassemi’s claim might be based on a bad translation: “My father never mentioned God,” she said as the hall sighed in chagrined disbelief. “He never met God.”

The remarks caused a commotion amid which Aleida and her brother were whisked away, led into a car and driven to their hotel under escort.

Wlll the idiots learn anything from this experience? I’ll take a wild guess: no.

10/13/2007 03:10:00 AM  

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