Che Guevara, revolutionary icon! Idol of college professors and rebellious adolescents of all ages! Master of women and the battlefield! Steely-eyed executioner of prisoners and economies! The Argentinian firebrand who traveled to Cuba, to Africa, and to South America to help the downtrodden peoples of the world throw off foreign intruders like... um... himself. Best-selling books have been written about him, award-winning movies have been made but trust us, this is a Che Guevara you've never seen before.
Che's treatment in history and culture was a pioneering case in the mainstreaming of evil: Hannah Arendt talked about the 'banality of evil' when she described Adolf Eichmann at his war crimes trial; But that banality doesn't just arise naturally. It has be manufactured.
As a military leader Che was an incompetent, as we see particularly in his African "campaign" and at the Bay of Pigs, where the CIA kept him and his troops out of the battle by means of a fireworks display set off on a small boat. Much more important to guard against that than rush off to where all those cannon and machine guns were firing.
(One might also mention that the African fiasco was so off-putting to Castro that Cuba did not meddle outside the western hemisphere again for nearly two decades, until the Soviets basically hired them to campaign in Angola and Rhodesia.)
As a political leader, he was lost. As minister of finance, he managed to bankrupt a country that was one of the world centers for gambling. He went broke with an island full of casinos and brothels to skim.
Che was, a best, a thug. An inept thug. But give him an enemy on his knees, and he was a tiger. Che personally oversaw hundreds of political prisoners heroically executed after the revolution.
Yet most people, with the assistance of a compliant western media and intelligentsia, never saw the bodies. In love with the glamorized Cuban Revolution, Errol Flynn's melodramatic Cuban Rebel Girl come to life, not to mention Time and Look, what they saw were the photographs of the triumphant procession into Havana and the glamorous Korda photographs of Che looking off into an undefined future like a homicidal extra in another Korda's Shape of Things to Come.
Now, years later, you have kids running around in Che t-shirts who have no idea who the hell the guy they're wearing was. His real evil and the greater evil he represents have been diluted into inconsequentiality and social acceptability.
As David Carter writes in his introduction, "...while the devil would no doubt swell with pride if he were to be confronted with a mere recitation of his iniquities, it is said that he hates laughter, particularly laughter at his own expense. Ridicule is a powerful weapon, sometimes more powerful than a thundering denunciation, and there is a dimension to Che’s characterthat invites mockery, to wit, his sheer incompetence..."
So read this book and laugh, and while your laughter is marinating Che's roasting soul in hell, give some thought to some other contemporary figures worthy of your scorn, and indulge yourself there as well.
And if that's not enough...
THERE'S A MONKEY WITH A KNIFE!