By Eric Margolis
Sun, October 14, 2007
Che Guevara, a pop hero 40 years after his death, was the Osama bin Laden of the 1960s
Back in remote 1963, when I was attending Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service School in Washington, a classmate whose father was Ecuador’s ambassador, told me the following incident.
Ecuador’s then-president, Carlos Arosemena, showed up drunk at a dinner for American officials and yelled, “why don’t all you damned gringos go home and stop exploiting our country!”
An hour later, Ecuador’s army chief called the Pentagon and asked permission to overthrow the government. Washington gave the green light, the tanks rolled, and “El Presidente” was bundled off into exile.
Had I been a Latin American student in those distant days, I might well have become a revolutionary.
An Argentine student, Ernesto Guevara, nicknamed “Che,” did. He determined to launch a crusade against the American Empire. But the dashing Che, who has become a worldwide icon and cult figure of youthful struggle against injustice, ended up the tool of another empire, and a truly evil one, the Soviet Union.
Che Guevara joined Fidel Castro’s revolution against Cuba’s U.S.-supported Batista regime. Guevara quickly became Fidel’s right-hand man and hero of the revolution. Cuba went from dozy banana republic to Marxist police state.
But Guevara was no desk-bound revolutionary, and Cuba too small for two big egos. Che saw himself as natural leader and apostle of anti-western “liberation struggles” across the Third World. He went off, improbably, to Africa to launch world-wide revolution.
Commemorating the 40th anniversary last week of Che’s death, Fidel Castro hailed him as the “messenger of militant internationalism.” Old warhorse Castro added, “he still fights with us and for us.”
Fidel is right. The image of the sexy, cigar-chomping Che, raffishly bearded, sporting jaunty black beret, is universal. Youngsters born 25 years after Che was killed sport his image on T-shirts and quote his fuzzy revolutionary maxims.
Today, the Third World has another version of militant revolutionary Che. Osama bin Laden. Like Che’s vow to “liberate” Latin America, Osama launched a violent, one-man crusade to drive U.S. influence from the Muslim World.
Bin Laden commands the same degree of celebrity in the Muslim World that Che did in ’60s Latin America.
But for all his panache and swashbuckling, Che failed miserably as a guerilla leader, first in eastern Congo, then, fatally, in Bolivia.
Che believed Bolivia’s dirt poor peasants would revolt against the ruling, U.S.-backed oligarchy.
In reality, they turned their backs on Che and his band of Marxist insurgents.
Guevara was hunted down by a special U.S. unit, led by legendary, Cuban-born CIA agent, Felix Rodriguez. The wounded Che was captured and executed by Bolivian soldiers on Oct. 9, 1967. Interestingly, in 2005, Rodriguez called for “special action” against a new Marxist menace, Venezuela’s anti-American leader, Hugo Chavez.
The glamour cult of the sainted Che has obscured the fact he was an ardent Communist. Revelations from KGB files show that “anti-imperialist” revolutions in Bolivia, Nicaragua and El Salvador, and left wing groups in Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Chile, were secretly funded and armed by the Soviets. Moscow used both Fidel’s Cuba and Che to undermine U.S. influence in Latin America.
Guevara and Castro were hardline Communists from day one, not socialist agrarian reformers, as they pretended. Communism, for those too young to remember, was history’s most lethal political system that killed nearly 100 million people in the 20th Century, far dwarfing Hitler’s crimes.
Che and Fidel had nothing to do with Soviet crimes in Europe, but they supped with the devil in Moscow to advance their cause of anti-Yankee revolution.
Marxist revolution failed. But three decades later, democratic parties of the left have been elected across Latin America, including Bolivia.
Their calls for populist socialism and reduction of America’s influence over the region often sound rather like Che and Fidel’s fiery orations of yore.
However, this time around, the CIA is busy chasing a new revolutionary menace, this time wearing a white turban instead of black beret, one Osama bin Laden.
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