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The Real Che Guevara:

Few people still admire Lenin and Stalin. Mao Zedong also has few remaining fans in the West (though he still hasn't gotten the negative recognition he deserves for being possibly history's greatest mass murderer). One communist icon, however, still has staying power: Che Guevara. Go to any college campus or hip hangout and you'll find no shortage of Che T-shirts, Che posters, and even Che cell phone messages. The truth, however, is that Che was no less a brutal killer than other communist leaders. If he failed to rise to the same "heights" as Lenin or Mao, it was largely for lack of opportunity.

Recent books by Humberto Fontova and Alvaro Vargas Llosa describe the real Che, and will hopefully cut down the number of his admirers. Among the lowlights, partly summarized by Fontova in this two part interview with CNS News (here and here), and by Vargas here:

1. Che was responsible for the execution of thousands of political prisoners in Cuba (most of them purely for their opposition to Castro's communist policies or for no reason at all).

2. Che enjoyed torturing and abusing the prisoners, including children.

3. Che was instrumental in setting up the Castro regime's massive forced labor camps and secret police apparatus.

4. Che tried to organize campaigns of terrorism against civilians in the US and elsewhere (though he largely failed in these efforts).

5. Far from being merely a Third World nationalist or pragmatic leftist, he was a committed, hard-line Stalinist, even going so far as to call himself "Stalin II" early in his career.

However, as Vargas Llosa points out in this New Republic article, Che was no uncritical admirer of the Soviet Union. To the contrary, he thought the Soviets had not taken communist totalitarianism far enough. In his travels through the Soviet bloc, Che was, by his own account, most impressed with North Korea - not coincidentally also the most oppressively totalitarian of all communist states at the time. Later, as Vargas notes, he criticized the Soviets for giving the private sector too much scope, and for their unwillingness to take even greater risks of touching off a nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In and of himself, Che Guevara was not that important. Cuban communism would probably have been comparably brutal even without him, and he failed miserably in his efforts to establish communist regimes elsewhere (eventually getting himself killed). However, Che's continuing popularity does matter as an indication of our failure to fully recognize the evil of communism and the magnitude of its atrocities. With some 100 million victims, communist regimes killed more people in the 20th century than all other forms of tyranny combined. Cuba's was not the worst communist regime, but its crimes were great nonetheless, if we take account of the country's small size. As Fontova points out, during the 1960s alone, the regime Che helped set up executed over 100,000 people, and incarcerated some 350,000 political prisoners out of a Cuban population that numbered only 6.3 million in 1960 (for more detailed figures, see the chapter on Cuba in the thorough Black Book of Communism). Undoubtedly, there would have been even more executions and political prisoners if not for the fact that so many Cubans were able to flee to the nearby United States.

It would be unthinkable, today, for hip college students to wear T-shirts praising a functionary from a right-wing authoritarian military regime, even though few if any such governments committed crimes on the same scale as Castro's. One small step towards putting the crimes of communism in proper perspective would be to finally consign Che to the ignominy he so richly deserves.

Sean O'Hara (mail) (www):
But what do you think of the ironic Che shirts with "This Shirt Brought to You by Capitalism"?
8.11.2007 2:10pm
Dave N (mail):
But, you see, Che and the Castro brothers were fighting American imperialism and American owned sugar companies and well, you know, you need to break a few eggs to make an omelette--or in this case, a worker's paradise.

So what if a few people had to be killed or children had to be tortured? He was against the United States and that excuses everything. After all, anti-Americanism is all George W. Bush's fault--oh wait, never mind.
8.11.2007 2:16pm
Ilya Somin:
But what do you think of the ironic Che shirts with "This Shirt Brought to You by Capitalism"?

I don't find them particularly funny, but neither are they offensive in the same way as the regular Che T-shirts are.
8.11.2007 2:27pm
Flash Gordon (mail):
The film "Motorcycle Diaries" was pretty good, but I was ignorant of its Che connection until the end. I loaned the DVD to a friend who loved it thanked me for being a Che fan and assured me that he was also. We aren't friends anymore.
8.11.2007 2:29pm
frankcross (mail):
I suspect most who wear the shirt aren't even aware it is Che, much less being informed of what he has done. I suspect college students would wear a T-shirts with a picture of (not necessarily praising) a rightwing military functionary from South America, if one had such a cool looking picture. Because they would be unaware of the fact it was a rightwing military functionary.
8.11.2007 2:33pm
liberty (mail) (www):
Hopefully these books can make a small impression to counter the hype still created by those who enjoy his propaganda, idolize him and write books and make movies about how great he is.

He promoted himself better than any other communist, he just failed a lot when he tried to implement his revolutionary dream - for which we should be grateful.
8.11.2007 2:34pm
Erasmus_:
So what if a few people had to be killed or children had to be tortured? He was against the United States and that excuses everything.

Isn't this the current Administration's mantra?

. . .

Ilya, in your mind, what made Guevara so bad? Was it what he did or was it the cause he did it for?

I suspect that everyone here (or nearly everyone here) will agree that Guevara was a despicable moral monster. But you could also construct a list of horribles that Bush has taken part in that would dwarf Guevara's list. Perhaps each item in that list wouldn't match up on a moral scale with what Guevara did. (While Bush, for example, has authorized torture, I doubt it is on the scale that Cuba took part in. Bush also hasn't, obviously, personally take part.) But given Bush's power, he certainly seems to have done more damage. How many hundred of thousands of people are dead around the world because of the United States' decision to invade Iraq? How many people have died of AIDS around the globe because of the United States' decision not to provide free condoms to organizations that also teach about family planning? How many people will suffer because of Bush's decision not to do more for stem cell research? Etc.

Nevertheless, I'm quite certain that for many decades to come, at least some people will wear Bush/Cheney shirts. Will you be just as offended?
8.11.2007 2:35pm
Dave N (mail):
Yes, we have all kinds of evidence that President Bush and Vice President Cheney have personally supervised the torture of children and the execution of the innocents. They have set up a secret police and rounded up their political opponents into concentration camps to await show trials (or less).

Oh, you mean they haven't? Because until you provide evidence that George W. Hush and Dick Cheney have done anything resembling Che's monstrous activities, then your comments betray a trollish form of moral relativism.
8.11.2007 2:43pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
"But you could also construct a list of horribles that Bush has taken part in that would dwarf Guevara's list."

Tell you what... can you find me one person he's PERSONALLY killed? If you can, then we can have this discussion.
8.11.2007 2:43pm
Mike Lief (www):
It's of a piece with the slacker-hipster working at my local Barnes &Noble, ringing up my purchase with a Soviet flag sporting the hammer and sickle proudly displayed on his lapel.

That he would wear the symbol of a regime that killed more people than did the Nazis is remarkable; that his employer tolerates it is reprehensible.

Would people be so sanguine if these idiots were wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the visage of Reinhard Heydrich or the flag of the Third Reich?
8.11.2007 2:43pm
liberty (mail) (www):
The only annoying this is that the title of the first of those books makes it impossible to buy for a liberal friend-- it just looks too hackish with "useful idiots" in the title. And the second book looks great but apparently just has a short debunking of Che and then two chapters of broad economic discussion: I would enjoy it I'm sure, but my liberal friend might not.
8.11.2007 2:44pm
liberty (mail) (www):
"How many people will suffer because of Bush's decision not to do more for stem cell research? Etc. "

How many people of died because of your unwillingness to send me $100 right now so that I can cure cancer! Do it now or their blood is on your hands!

[sorry, couldn't help it]
8.11.2007 2:47pm
Erasmus_:
Daniel, Dave, perhaps if you read my entire post instead of reading the first few sentences, constructed a straw man, and then hit reply, the response to your post would become apparent.

Daniel, apparently you think there's a difference between recklessly ordering the deaths of thousands of people and taking direct part in the killing yourself. I see no moral distinction. I prefer to agree to disagree on this point rather than wasting both of our times responding to your caricature of what I said.
8.11.2007 3:00pm
Dave N (mail):
I read your complete post--and I accused you of a form of moral relativism because you equate disagreement with a policy to the personal torture and killing of a human being.

They are very different. As I hope you know but obviously refuse to acknowledge.
8.11.2007 3:07pm
Ilya Somin:
Ilya, in your mind, what made Guevara so bad? Was it what he did or was it the cause he did it for?


Both.

But you could also construct a list of horribles that Bush has taken part in that would dwarf Guevara's list.

I don't buy it. Bush has done plenty of bad things. But he has never rounded up (much less killed) political prisoners, he has not established forced labor camps taking in thousands of people, and he has not tried to arrange acts of terrorism against civilians. And that's just a partial list of Che's offenses.
8.11.2007 3:08pm
Ilya Somin:
I suspect most who wear the shirt aren't even aware it is Che, much less being informed of what he has done.

The latter is probably true. The former I'm much less sure about. I agree that lack of awareness is part of it. But that reinforces my central point that there is not enough awareness of communist crimes.


I suspect college students would wear a T-shirts with a picture of (not necessarily praising) a rightwing military functionary from South America, if one had such a cool looking picture.


Maybe. But I'm sure there are lots of cool-looking pictures of right-wing military functionaries from South America. In fact, I saw some when I was in Argentina, Chile, and El Salvador. Yet very few if any college students wear them on on T-shirts. Not even in the case of Juan Peron. A telling contrast with Che.
8.11.2007 3:11pm
Jam:
Erasmus: Are you serious?

I am very happy that Mr. Fontova is getting proper recognition.

He was (or is) also a spear fisherman, a hunter, and a relative of a New Orleans man who beat up Lee H. Oswald.
8.11.2007 3:14pm
frankcross (mail):
Ilya, I see a market opportunity. A stencil of an unknown, rebellious looking rightist might be a big seller (some kids might think it was Che). With Peron, you could cross-market with the musical.
8.11.2007 3:19pm
William Newman (mail):
Ilya Somin responded to 'But what do you think of the ironic Che shirts with "This Shirt Brought to You by Capitalism"?' with 'I don't find them particularly funny, but neither are they offensive in the same way as the regular Che T-shirts are.'

Yes, I wouldn't be particularly impressed with such a variant shirt, but I think it is clearly a completely different message. Imagine if lots of people were going around wearing Hitler t-shirts, and someone got irritated and made a variant Hitler t-shirt stamped with "this t-shirt brought to you courtesy of the vigorous hybrids of the Berlin Olympics, the Radiation Laboratory, and Los Alamos." Whether or not one liked the variant t-shirt, it would be hard to interpret it as sympathy for the Third Reich.
8.11.2007 3:25pm
Erasmus_ (mail):
Dave, why did you substitute in "disagreement with a policy" with what I wrote regarding my opposition to the Bush administration? If that's a valid move, you could just easily recast my opposition to Che's regime as a "disagreement with a policy." (In that case, I suppose it would be easy to equate my opposition to both regimes -- it's just a simple disagreement on policy, that's all!)

I believe that, among other tings, recklessly taking part in the deaths of tens of thousands of people (if not more) -- including the torture of some -- is morally no better than what Che did.

You also might want to read up on moral relativisim. If I were a moral relativist, stating that what Bush did is as bad as what Che did would not grammatically make sense -- it would be like saying green is faster than red. You can disagree with what I wrote in my first post, but if you want to try to poison the well by tarring me as a moral relativist, you're going to have to redefine what moral relativism is.
8.11.2007 3:27pm
The Drill SGT:

1. Che was responsible for the often brutal execution of thousands of political prisoners in Cuba (most of them purely for their opposition to Castro's communist policies or for no reason at all).

2. Che enjoyed torturing and abusing the prisoners, including children.



Of course, Che's offenses against humanity are even more stark when you consider that he was a medical doctor (though he didn't practice apparently) So much for that "first do no harm" stuff

I always find it amazing that whether it is cutting off heads, genitals or electric shock torture, that the left can excuse any behavior if performed by the right people, but Gitmo, with American health care, 4,000 calorie meals and freedom of religion is apparently a carnal house of horrors.
8.11.2007 4:09pm
DCP:

Get ready for an even greater wave of Che hysteria amongst our fine, upstanding college students.

Steven Soderberg is filming a blockbuster biopic about Che with Benicio Del Toro in the lead role in what is already being criticized as an overly flattering portrayal.
8.11.2007 4:48pm
Dave N (mail):
Erasmus,

Perhaps I cast too harsh a brush by using the term moral relativism--in that the term is usually defined as saying that there are no universal truths and we cannot judge another society based on our own concept of what is just.

However, to equate opposing stem cell research with Che's monstrous crimes basically seems to take the position that we cannot judge evil because our policies are evil.

Sorry, I don't buy it. To change the focus slightly, by your rationale, Harry Truman is as monstrous as Che because he ordered the dropping of two atomic bombs to end World War II. Frankly, there is no comparison--and I doubt many others would disagree with me, either.
8.11.2007 4:51pm
Michael B (mail):
Marat, of Jacobin and French Terror fame, was a physician, also a scientist.
8.11.2007 4:54pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I don't think the lefty kids would balk at the Che thing if they knew.
This sort of stuff is a matter of revolutionary virility.
It's a turn-on.
It's like having real testicles by proxy.
I'm bad. I know I'm bad. You know I'm bad. I'm a bad ass.
And if I don't actually have what it takes, at least I have a Che tee to pretend.
As you have noted, lefty violence is celebrated. Mass murders by enemies of the US--great. See the massacre at Hue and the left's view.
Or the Killing Fields.
Don't think exposing Che's misdeeds would make him less popular.
The opposite would be true.
8.11.2007 5:48pm
Curt Fischer:
I am to the left of many of the commentors and contributors on this site. Yet, I join Ilya in condemning Che Guevara, as well as the mass murder and terrorism he practiced.

Therefore, the claims of Richard Aubrey and the Drill SGT--that "the left" can excuse any crimes if committed by individuals favored by the left--are patently ridiculous. Both of you need to go to the hardware store and pick up a smaller paintbrush, please.
8.11.2007 7:14pm
The Divagator (mail) (www):
With Peron, you could cross-market with the musical.

frankcross, that made my day.
8.11.2007 7:27pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Curt. The left can condemn lefty violence afterwards. Stalin's a bad guy, now.
Mao---um, still an icon, but getting there. After he's been dead a few more years, he may be condemnable by the left.
Ho and Che? Nope.
Mugabe...not a chance. He has too much WCC lipstick on his skinny ass.
8.11.2007 7:29pm
The Divagator (mail) (www):
Steven Soderberg is filming a blockbuster biopic about Che with Benicio Del Toro in the lead role in what is already being criticized as an overly flattering portrayal.

DCP, doesn't surprise me...he's already shown himself to be a naif with his treatment of Potsdam in The Good German.
8.11.2007 7:30pm
Erasmus_:
Dave N, the definition you gave of moral relativism (which is a form of moral relativism) still doesn't do the work you wanted it to do. If I believed you couldn't judge another society, I wouldn't be able to compare Che's crimes with Bush's. It wouldn't make sense. You should try debating somebody on the merits of what they say, instead of throwing out labels you don't seem to understand in an attempt to discredit them.

Secondly, I never "equate[d] opposing stem cell research with Che's monstrous crimes." Perhaps it makes you feel better to recast my argument to make it appear absurd. Perhaps my argument itself is absurd -- I would obviously disagree -- but it appears as though you're not capable of actually debating what I said. In the case, I see little reason to continue this discussion.
8.11.2007 7:36pm
Michael B (mail):
Curt Fischer,

Your own example is anecdotal in addition to being retrospective. Apologetics forwarded, even in the very midst of episodes such as the French Terror, Stalin's Soviet, Mao's China, Uncle Ho's North Vietnam, Pol Pot's Cambodia - to name only some of the more conspicuous examples - hardly supports the notion of your "patently ridiculous" dismissiveness. No one is remotely suggesting every leftist consciously supports terror and mass murder (certainly not retrospectively); rather people have taken note of the empirical evidence, the historical record, which evidences the Left's hecatombs, their methodical terror and their brutal oppressions - together with the attendant apologetics, evasions and rationalizations.

In lieu of mere dismissiveness you, frankcross and others might attempt a better reasoned and a more empirically/historically based argument. And rather than the hardware store, a visit to the optometrist may be in order.

Anti-intellectualism - in the form of anti-empirical and anti-rational evasions - is rampant on the Left. Some corrections are in order. The Left needs to hold themselves accountable in the real world and in the present, not simply retrospectively and not via recourse to romantic or utopian visions of what the world "should" be.
8.11.2007 8:00pm
AWOL Civilization (mail) (www):
The remarks of Erasmus are a typical manifestation of the same naive sentimentality that drove Jane Fonda on her pilgrimages to Hanoi. We now have multiple generations in the West that have not experienced real hardship, and that have no experience with real oppression. Unprecedented levels of freedom have enabled their minds to accept the entire Orwellian fantasy world that is propagated by the Left, where heroes are the people who "stand up" to America, and the more people they abuse and kill, the more their halo shines.

The receptivity of the Erasmuses to these messages is only possible because they have never tasted real oppression and arbitrary state behavior. Anyone who has seen it or been close to it knows the difference, and would never succumb to the propaganda.

In a similar vein, the New York Times publicizes national defense secrets while they accuse the Bush Administration of muzzling free speech. Again, the product of a fantasy world that could only develop under cozy conditions of freedom and prosperity.
8.11.2007 8:22pm
gray (mail):
I won't argue that Che doesn't deserve some serious revisionism. He was the Stalinist "hard man" of the Cuban Revolution and a major factor in the character of the violence and repression that followed.

Still he remains in high esteem with people who are more informed than US or European undergrads. Why might that be? All those people from Latin America especially. Are they just dupes? Or perhaps they have some real world experiences that lead to them view him more positively inspite or despite of what he did.
8.11.2007 9:00pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
gray.

And what would those real-world experiences be? He killed very few yanquis. Mostly his own people, sort of the usual thing for lefties.

Some months ago, Kevin Drum asked himself publicly why he was reluctant to condemn the Iranian regime. It contradicted everything he stands for. His answer to himself was that saying bad things about Iran makes George Bush look good. And he's not going to to that. So Iran will go uncondemned by Drum, and by many on the left and for that and allied reasons. As Graham Greene said, he is not a Soviet sympathizer. It's just that the enemy of his enemy is his friend and Ronald Reagan is his enemy.
That sort of stuff is fair enough if you can figure out why the good guys--no camps, no gay executions, freedom of religion, women's rights--is the enemy.

Just for grins, see what the liberal protestant churches are saying about the Koreans kidnapped and murdered in Afghanistan.
8.11.2007 9:33pm
Elliot Reed:
Anti-intellectualism - in the form of anti-empirical and anti-rational evasions - is rampant on the Left.
Indeed, but only in the sense that "periodically needing to sleep" is rampant on the Right. Consider, e.g., the need to place simplistic models based on an unrealistic and unempirical theory of human nature over actual empirical observation, or afactual theories of history in which everything the U.S. does is justified. And I haven't even mentioned these folks.
8.11.2007 9:38pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Hey,Elliott. Who thinks everything the US does is justified?

I don't. I think our record, although not perfect, is better than anybody else's. Also, I sometimes disagree with certain assertions about US history.

But always justified? Nope. Haven't seen one of those around here.
8.11.2007 10:01pm
NickM (mail) (www):
I have a different version of a Che t-shirt. It features the famous black and white picture of Che - except this time there are two stellate black marks on his forehead (bullet holes).

None of my Cuban friends have had a problem with it (at least not once they looked closely).

Nick
8.11.2007 10:50pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Part of the problem with the criticisms of Che is that people want to pretend that only the left did these things in Latin America. The truth of the matter is that lionization of Che is about the same as lionization of Pinochet, which was quite prevalent on the right.

Latin American history over the last 100 years involves a lot of really bad characters on the left (Che, Castro, Daniel Ortega, etc.) and a lot of really bad characters on the right (Pinochet, the Guatemalan and Salvadorean death squads, Batista). The people who Che was fighting against were also torturers, murderers, and oppressors.

I don't wear Che Guevara t-shirts. But I don't pretend Pinochet saved Chile and ignore the thousands killed in that Soccer stadium either. A lot of Che's critics do exactly that.
8.11.2007 11:39pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Dilan. Seen any Pinochet tee shirts lately?
8.12.2007 12:00am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Decades ago, there was a panel discussion among journos on television about why the sympathy for the terrs vis-a-vis Israel.
Daniel Schorr--who was old even then--said the long-haired, flashing-eyed, AK-brandishing figure was romantic, while the Israeli soldier, disciplined, uniformly uniformed, undemonstrative, was BOOOOORING. The younger journos, he did not quite say, went all dry-mouthed and weak in the knees.

This is a phenomenon sort of like the nearly invisible and nearly non-existent right wing presumption that somebody bashing about in spit-shined riding boots and fancy uniforms is a good guy. If that was going to work, the Argie junta wouldn't have been a figure of fun clear over to National Review.

It appears the romance of the unbridled revolutionary, who has all the guts the parlor pinks lack demonstrated by killing helpless civilians (he not only has guts to kill, he has guts to ignore bourgeois conventions, be still my...heart) is not balanced by a similar tropism on the right. Fortunately.
8.12.2007 12:07am
Mitchell Freedman (mail):
I don't wear a Che t-shirt, favoring instead a "Eugene Debs for President" t-shirt.

However, let's not go overboard about Che Guevera. He did not kill or torture "thousands" in Cuba. Per Wikipedia's section on "Human Rights in Cuba," the estimates are that several thousand altogether were killed under the first 11 years of the Cuban Communist dictatorship. Che was gone from Cuba by 1964, still early in the regime's existence.

Also, in Wikipedia, per the section on Che himself, it notes he presided over "hundreds" of executions, mostly of police officers and deputies in the old regime, a number of whom had tortured peasants and others in Cuba during the reign of that old regime.

A dirty and brutal business, still, but I think it's important not to exaggerate. On the other hand, Wikipedia could be wrong (it's known to happen), but it strikes me as reasonably accurate in this instance based upon what I have read about the aftermath of the Cuban revolution over the years.

Now, if I could only find a Michael Harrington t-shirt...or maybe Allan Sherman?
8.12.2007 12:32am
Mitchell Freedman (mail):
I do wish to correct one statement above: There were several thousand executed as opposed to killed per historian Hugh Thomas (no left winger) cited at the Wikipedia site on Cuban abuses of human rights in the first 11 years of Castro. There were much higher figures when one includes those drowning trying to leave the island by boat or other methods across the ocean waters. Again, though, that is a lot different than what Ilyia accuses Che of doing.
8.12.2007 12:38am
JB:
I'm always amused by conservatives' failure to get the Che supporters.

Che fought against bad people. The people with the Che shirts wear them to signal their opposition to Che's enemies. They couldn't care less about Che himself.

It really isn't any more complicated than that.
8.12.2007 12:40am
JB:
Also, unlike Lenin and Mao, Che never had a state to be head of and royally fuck up. (That also explains Che's popularity vis a vis Castro--Castro is liked by some, but nowhere near as many as Che, despite their having worked together). He's like the Communist John F. Kennedy.
8.12.2007 12:42am
bb:
It would be unthinkable, today, for hip college students to wear T-shirts praising a functionary from a right-wing authoritarian military regime, even though few if any such governments committed crimes on the same scale as Castro's.

I wouldn't put much past the average college student.
8.12.2007 1:12am
NicholasV (mail) (www):
"Che fought against bad people."

A lot of people these days seem to think that fighting against bad people makes you a good guy. Even if your tactics are much worse than theirs, and you're fighting against them for the wrong reasons altogether.

I find that curious, and saddening.
8.12.2007 1:13am
Randy R. (mail):
I'm not surprised to see that the conservatives here never mention the fact that Che was no friend of gay people.

From a film review about the him: The bitter pill that caused gay people to be targeted at a greater rate than other groups was the revolutionary belief, adopted from the Soviets, that homosexuality was a phenomenon of indulgent bourgeois society that would not exist in a pure communist state, the book states.

Barbara Weinstein, professor of Latin American history at the University of Maryland and co-editor of the Hispanic American Historical Review, says, "People who were gay were not defined as weak or sick but deviant and decadent."

So, at least with regards to gay people, Che Guevara has quite a bit in common with the right wing of our country. Perhaps, then, Senator Brownback might want to wear his t-shirt?
8.12.2007 1:21am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Randy R. Up to now, you were almost reasonable.
To equate Che with US conservatives on the gay issue means you're no longer worth engaging.
8.12.2007 1:35am
Mitchell J. Freedman (mail) (www):
So Richard Aubrey, I am interested in why you think it's okay for Ilya to paint with the broad brush some college kids who wear Che t-shirts, but somehow want to march Randy R off the reservation because he painted with a broad brush those right wingers who promote hatred of homosexuals...
8.12.2007 1:53am
Elais:
I'm wondering why Richard is unable to see the apparent similarity between the attitudes of some conservatives towards gays and Che's views on gays.
8.12.2007 2:08am
Visitor Again:
The U.S.A.'s cruelty, ignorance, stupidity, arrogance, greed and indifference to the welfare of Latin American people are primarily responsible for the existence of the Castro regime and Che's popularity. Things might have been very different had the U.S.A. not propped up so many right-wing dictators throughout Latin America, including Batista in Cuba.

Whatever else you might want to say about Castro and Che, quite a few good things happened to the Cuban people when Castro took power. The infant mortality rate, once very high, is now very low. The literacy rate, once very low, is now very high. Health care is universally available. No one is starving to death despite every U.S. effort to make things economically difficult in Cuba. These are the sort of things--the welfare of the people--that the U.S.A. and the vicious and corrupt dictators it supported didn't give a damn about.

Don't blame college kids for Che's popularity. Blame the U.S. Government and the U.S. corporations who exploited Latin Americans.
8.12.2007 8:46am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Elais. Conservatives don't execute gays, nor lock them up in camps or psychiatric hospitals.

Visitor. Jeez. That one wore out decades ago. All over Latin America are churches, and even universities, and there were law courts and any number of other civilized activities functioning when European settlements in what is now the US were a few shacks no further inland than a ship's guns could carry. Just in case there was a ship in when necessary.
How'd we get to be so big and bad.
Look at Latin America now. They're screwing themselves up big time without our help. Problem is, we're no longer available as an excuse.
And the wonderfulness of Cuba...health care like that is for the apparatchiks only, the literacy is due to not counting the illiterate, and infant mortality down partly for reasons of miscounting and partly because it's down most places.
For some reason, people are still trying to get out. What's wrong with them?
8.12.2007 9:35am
Wonk:
Far more interesting and worthy of examination than the ignorance and tendency towards offensive behavior of white American college kids (news flash?) is the popularity of some of these characters in thier own regions.

Guevara is still iconic and idolized by folks all over Latin and South America and throughout the Carribean, folks who are, presumably, more familiar than your average NYU hipster with the reality of Guevara's rule.

Likewise in Russia, Stalinist revisionism is nearly a cult. Stalin is viewed positively by 40+% of the population and only viewed negatively by around 20%. His likeness hangs in nearly every large truck I ever rode in, is on t-shirts, cigarette packs, etc...

I don't know enough of Latin American history nor am I familiar enough with the language to really communicate with people, but in the case of Russia's Stalin obsession it is clearly a case of willful ignorance or acceptance of the "bad stuff" in the face of what many Russians see as the "good stuff." To many, Stalin's reign represented the peak of their global power, economic prosperity (not that they were particularly prosperous, but they were dramatically more prosperous than before), and improvement in the standard of living (for those who weren't killed). I imagine that the popularity of Guevara in Latin/South America is linked to a similar body of history.
8.12.2007 9:38am
Erasmus_:
AWOL Civilization, if you knew where I grew up, I suspect you would change your tune (hint: I lost both parents in a war when I was growing up). If I had grown up in a cozy suburb, I'm not sure how that would make my opinions any more or less valid. Again, I suppose it's easier to attack a straw man then engage the argument.
8.12.2007 10:04am
Curt Fischer:

In lieu of mere dismissiveness you, frankcross and others might attempt a better reasoned and a more empirically/historically based argument. And rather than the hardware store, a visit to the optometrist may be in order.


I agree with your statement. I would certainly recant my statement if Aubrey or Drill SGT had made empirically/historically based arguments. I know from their prior posts that Aubrey and Drill SGT are reasoned, intelligent commenters, so was disappointed when I read their posts here.

Part of the reason I like to read this blog is that so often the level of discourse is much higher than in other blogs. For example, "Left" blogs like Daily Kos are saturated with more or less identical versions of the posts that I feel Aubrey and Drill SGT made:

These posts are characterized by i) the use of blanket labels such as "Left" and "Right" that lump all political thought into two categories, ii) the false ascription of abhorrent views to all members of the disfavored category, and iii) condemnation of all aspects of the political thought of disfavored group, based on the "fact" that they supposedly espouse patently abhorrent views on one particular issue.
8.12.2007 10:24am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Dilan. Seen any Pinochet tee shirts lately?

No, but the right does treat anti-Castro terrorists who blow up civilian airliners (with women and children on them) as heroes and says nothing when the Bush Administration shelters them from prosecution.
8.12.2007 10:45am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
j.f. thomas. Seen any airlinerblowerup tee shirts recently? You know. At, say, Rotary Club meetings?
8.12.2007 11:24am
Anonymous111:
Surely, you jest. You think for a second that the cruel, vicious, and inhuman liberals think that that the blood-thirsty regime of Che is a reason to disown him - hah! Contemporary American Liberals look to him for inspiration.
As the leading candidate, Barack Obama, America should always stand by and watch in the case of genocide. Death, murder and suffering is what motivates liberalism.
8.12.2007 11:24am
sbron:
Ilya, what do you think of the open-borders
movement embrace of Che iconography? (Just google on
"immigration march che".) Perhaps the open-borders/amnesty crowd is not quite so noble?
8.12.2007 11:27am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
wonk: The Shining Path guys--never condemned by US lefties, were mostly the university kids. Few peasants. The SPs were killing the peasants.
Iconic status means nothing. Walt Disney brought Davy Crockett to iconic status, which changed nothing of what he did, whether you think it good or bad.

It would be easier to not ascribe abhorrent thoughts to each member of a large group--lefties--if, 1, they condemned the abhorrent acts in real time, not after generations, and, 2, didn't condemn those who object as, for example, "McCarthyite" or some such.
8.12.2007 11:30am
AWOL Civilization (mail) (www):
Erasmus wrote: AWOL Civilization, if you knew where I grew up, I suspect you would change your tune (hint: I lost both parents in a war when I was growing up). If I had grown up in a cozy suburb, I'm not sure how that would make my opinions any more or less valid.

You are correct, Erasmus, I am guilty of making a false assumption. Now that I know something about your background, your statements are all the more shocking. You don't have the excuse of the typical American cozy suburban kid whose education and popular culture emptied his mind of the capacity to reason. (I go into more detail on this subject here--I apologize in advance for the false assumptions.)

I never doubted the "validity" of your opinions, I was merely analyzing them.

You sound like someone who has a lot of intellectual energy and a good spirit. Please consider using your strengths and talents for the cause of freedom. REAL freedom.
8.12.2007 11:42am
Ken Talton (mail) (www):
But I don't pretend Pinochet saved Chile...

You don't have to pretend. He did.

Atrocity-wise he was also a piker compared to Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao, Castro, and others.

That doesn't make his atrocities go away or really make him in any way worthy of admiration.

He certainly doesn't rate T-shirts here on the "right".

However, he was more successful than Che' and when defeated in an election he actually stepped down. I think this is why he is so hated by the left. He was a bastard but comes off rather better than the bastards they have tended to support and admire. It certainly can't be his brutal methods that turn the left off....or we wouldn't have Che' shirts would we?
8.12.2007 12:42pm
Anonymouseducator (mail):

It would be easier to not ascribe abhorrent thoughts to each member of a large group--lefties--if, 1, they condemned the abhorrent acts in real time


The way that the right condemned Saddam Hussein in the 80's? Left and right are both capable of turning a blind eye to atrocities.
8.12.2007 2:10pm
Jam:
Humberto Fontova has many articles at LewRockwell.com.

I would like to recommend the movie The Lost City. Andy Garcia directed and produced it. He also play a leading role. It is set in pre-Castro Havana and shortly after Castro takes over. It is a really good movie, worthy of an Oscar. Do not miss the extra in the DVD. One of the extras to watch is the real account of how Che became in charge of the economy of Cuba.

BTW, whne pronouncing Guevara, in SPanish, the u is silent.
8.12.2007 3:09pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Ken Talton:

Thanks for proving my point. So, executing thousands of political prisoners in a soccer stadium, overthrowing a democratically elected government, and refusing to step down for 15 years is just fine as long as you privatize social security?

Really, the right has NO standing to criticize Che Guevara t-shirts.
8.12.2007 3:12pm
Randy R. (mail):
Aubrey: " Conservatives don't execute gays, nor lock them up in camps or psychiatric hospitals. "

No, they don't execute gays, but then I didnt' say that Che executed gays either. But conservatives do in fact lock them up in camps and 'reparative therapy' hospitals. Source: Wayne Besen, "Anything But Straight"

If you google ex-gay camps, you will find plenty of information. These camps exist to change gay youth into straights, with no success, of course. However, many have been charged with abhorrant practices, including electro-shock to the genitals, and isolation from family and friends. Last year, there was a issue with Truth In Love, which is one of these camps, when one of the kids there blogged about what was happening to him while there. It got enough attention that the state of Kentucky finally shut them down.

Calling us deviants, immoral, and part of a culture war, these are all part and parcel of the conservative movement. You need only read a opinion by Justice Scalia, who is considered a leader of the conservative movement, or the Catholic Church which has labeled us officially as 'intrinsically evil", or Pat Buchanan, or Jerry Falwell, to see that their views are not very far from Che's with regards to gays. Even on this website, I have seen people say that gays are drug addicted, insane, diseased and so on.

So please don't tell me that conservatives are not like Che with regards to gays. Remember: when you go to the far side of the left, you find you reached the far side of the right.
8.12.2007 3:16pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Randy R. You conflate bad attitudes with vicious actions, doing it, as Craig does in the gay vet thread, to increase the numbers. Strictly speaking, that means a dirty look is equal to an assault.

The camps I referred to as not existing are the ones we don't have which the government is not running and is not involuntarily committing gays to. What parents do is a bad idea, presumng it's violent and painful, but most reparative work is psychological, unfortunate examples notwithstanding.
8.12.2007 3:58pm
Q the Enchanter (mail) (www):
I'm not too keen on the subject of Che Guevara, so didn't take a gander at the links. But I just now happened upon Humberto Fontova on C-SPAN. I still don't know anything about Guevara, but I do know Fontova doesn't exactly exude scholarly credibility. To wit, he comes off like a total hack. So what I'm wondering is: Are you seriously suggesting we should accept this guy as a sober historical authority? Or is he just an amusing ideologue with whom you happen to agree?
8.12.2007 4:32pm
Randy R. (mail):
True, there is a difference between government and private actions. But as for the victim, what's the difference? The effect is the same.

Perhaps the conservatives only talk the talk, but they don't walk the walk with regards to their views on gays. But I wasn't talking about actions, but about their viewpoints. Vicious acts always begin with bad attitudes. That doesn't mean bad attitudes always lead to vicious acts, but isn't conservatives who always argue that words have meaning? They do, in any case.

There are differences, of course, but only of degree, not kind, but that only goes to how far Che was willing to implement his policies. How far does James Dobson want to go to implement his? I need only remind you that Dobson was behind the whole Amendment 2 in Colorado in the early 90s, which was overturned by the Supreme Court. And Scalia has said that if he had the power to do things he wants to do, it would be world very different from what we have now. (He's a little cryptic on this, I admit).

So as I see it, the only thing that has constrainted the conservatives from achieving their stated goals of eliminating gays and their rights from our society is that we live in a democracy, not a banana republic. Thank goodness for that!

The bottomline: Che regarded gays as deviant and decadent, and so does the conservative movement in the US.
8.12.2007 4:43pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Whatever else you might want to say about Castro and Che, quite a few good things happened to the Cuban people when Castro took power. The infant mortality rate, once very high, is now very low.
...according to the Cuban government.
The literacy rate, once very low, is now very high.
...according to the Cuban government.
Health care is universally available.
...to favored party members, but not to ordinary Cubans, who can't afford to hire Spanish doctors when they're ill.
No one is starving to death despite every U.S. effort to make things economically difficult in Cuba. These are the sort of things--the welfare of the people--that the U.S.A. and the vicious and corrupt dictators it supported didn't give a damn about.
Uh, yeah. That's why people die trying to escape from Cuba. Because their welfare is so good.
8.12.2007 7:04pm
Randy R. (mail):
"The infant mortality rate, once very high, is now very low."

i just saw an official report that places the US as number 42 in terms of infant mortality rate.

Hurray! George Bush, please take a bow -- we couldn't have done it without you!
8.12.2007 8:58pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Randy R. Hold on. Maybe more babies will die and you can be even happier. In the meantime, wipe your chin. And try to see how silly you look. Think things were better under Clinton? Get a clue.

However, in the cold water mode, the reason is how the deaths are counted. Most countries do not count as a live birth a challenged kid who, despite heroic measures, dies after a day or so. We do. The death thus counts as infant mortality, while in other countries it does not.

A demographer named Eberstedt discovered that if illegitimacy were a disease, it would be the worst disease faced by children in the country. Turns out to be true in Europe, as well, with their differing approaches to health care.
8.12.2007 10:25pm
r78:
Who has killed more civilians - Che or George Bush?
8.13.2007 12:11am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Che, of course... Bush didn't even show up in Vietnam, remember?
8.13.2007 12:31am
David M. Nieporent (www):
i just saw an official report that places the US as number 42 in terms of infant mortality rate.
Sigh. We've been over this before. Different countries count infant mortality very differently, so cross-country comparisons are problematic at best.

And of course, it's not clear what you think George Bush, or the government generally, has to do with this figure. Unless he's walking around neonatal units smothering babies with a pillow, I don't know why you think it reflects on him.

That's not even addressing the question about what's wrong with being number 42. Ordinal rankings are a poor way of measuring success; regardless of how well countries do by this metric, someone has to be 42nd, barring the mathematically improbable scenario of each country being exactly equal.
8.13.2007 1:00am
Ken Talton (mail) (www):
Thanks for proving my point. So, executing thousands of political prisoners in a soccer stadium, overthrowing a democratically elected government, and refusing to step down for 15 years is just fine as long as you privatize social security?




Did you READ my post?...I made no mention of soccer stadiums...privitizing social security or anything else you suggest I said.


I certainly did not say or suggest in any way that his actions were "just fine". What said I said was....
That doesn't make his atrocities go away or really make him in any way worthy of admiration.



I also called him a bastard.

How condeming Pinochets villany while pointing out that he was better than the alternative is either endorsing him or is proving your rather absurd relativistic point is beyond me.

For perspective:
Pointing out that Stalin saved the USSR from is ex buddy Hitler is not an endorsement or excuse of Stalins horrors.

Note though that rat bastard that Pinochet was, He stepped down when he lost the election....he HELD the fricking election...in that sense he is far ahead of most of the darlings of the left for the last several decades.

And no...being better than a bunch of Jacobin cutthroats is far too low a bar to garner praise...I point again to the lack of Pinochet shirts on the right.

I never said he was anything other than a bastard...the best that can be said is that he was better than Che...a low bar indeed.
8.13.2007 7:27am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Ken Talton.

Maybe you've hit on something. Pinochet stepped down. He really didn't have what it takes to infatuate the left. Loser.

Yeah. And the old. "So it's okay...."

Amazing how supposed adults think that's a gold-plated gotcha.
8.13.2007 7:32am
Michael B (mail):
"Anti-intellectualism - in the form of anti-empirical and anti-rational evasions - is rampant on the Left."
"... only in the sense that 'periodically needing to sleep' is rampant on the Right."

More true than one might be led to conclude on first blush only.
8.13.2007 9:35am
Seamus (mail):
Steven Soderberg is filming a blockbuster biopic about Che with Benicio Del Toro in the lead role in what is already being criticized as an overly flattering portrayal.

I'm not expecting much from that movie. I read that Del Toro (who is himself Puerto Rican) was practicing a Cuban accent so he could portray Che "authentically," apparently unaware that Che was an Argentine.
8.13.2007 10:48am
Nate F (www):
Threads like this make me question the value of allowing comments at all. Today I learned that US conservatives are just like Che Guevara and that if I vote Democrat, I am an atrocity-loving, freedom-hating pinko. Ugh.
8.13.2007 11:02am
Hans Bader (mail):
Cuban-Americans and other Latin Americans who fled Marxist oppression should bring "hostile educational environment" lawsuits against universities that permit Che Guevara T-shirts to be worn, under the theory that such T-shirts constitute national-origin harassment.

National-origin harassment is just as forbidden by federal law as racial and sexual harassment. See Amirmokri v. Baltimore Gas &Electric (4th Cir. 1995). And "hostile environment" censorship applies on campus as in the workplace. See, e.g., Jennings v. University of North Carolina (4th Cir. en banc 2006).

While left-wing Che Guevara apologists might (correctly) object that such lawsuits raise First Amendment problems, their objection would be hypocritical, since leftists don't care about free speech (for anybody but themselves), and like to ban speech on campus and in the workplace by claiming that it is racial harassment (if it involves criticism of affirmative action or illegal immigration) or sexual harassment (if it involves criticism of feminism or sexually-themed humor that does not include politically-correct man-hating). (See Brief of Amicus Curiae Students for Individual Liberty, et al., 1998 WL 847365 (Dec. 8. 1998) in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education (Supreme Court, 1999) (listing examples of campus speech on political issues targeted based on left-wing claims that it constituted racial or sexual harassment)).

The left-wing Che Guevara sympathizers might argue that some Cubans like Che Guevara and that such T-shirts therefore cannot be national-origin harassment of Cubans.

But this objection, too, would be hypocritical, since left-wing judges and civil-rights bureaucrats like the EEOC insist that harassment need not be intentional, but rather is based on the perceptions of the complainant, and can be based on a disparate-impact theory even absent intentional discrimination. That's why they allow women to sue for sexual harassment over jokes that many women don't find offensive and that are not even aimed at the female complainants, much less aimed at them based on their gender. See cases such as Dernovich v. Great Falls discussed in Professor Eugene Volokh's writings; but see moderate and conservative court rulings rejecting "disparate impact" harassment claim, catalogued in the amicus brief of the Individual Rights Foundation, et al., in Lyle v. Warner Brothers (California Supreme Court, 2006) (rejecting female writer's assistant's sexual harassment claim based on comments by male writers not aimed at her based on her gender).
8.13.2007 11:46am
rarango (mail):
Its the infant mortality statistic again--Please please talk to an epidemiologist before you use that stat again. It is only as valid as reporting nation's choose abide by WHO guidlines for live birth. By all means, sign up for the aveerage cuban's citizen version of health care. You are going to be really disappointed.
8.13.2007 12:52pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Ken:

Pinochet did not save Chile, despite his free market policies. He ruined Chile. Allende's government certainly was in trouble, but there was a democratic system in place and the conservative coalition would have certainly won the next election. Instead, not only did Pinochet destroy democracy for 15 years, and murder thousands of political opponents, but he put in place constitutional provisions that ensure that right-wing devotees of Pinochet will continue to run the military, with an independent source of funding and independent of civilian control. He also put in provisions that make it very difficult to hold anyone to account for what happened in his administration.

Pinochet didn't "save" Chile, even in the sense that, as you put it, Stalin "saved" the USSR.

Look-- it's broader the Pinochet. There are all sorts of horrible people whom right wingers praised in Latin America. Remember how the drug-running, human rights violating Contras were, according to Ronald Reagan, the "moral equivalent of our founding fathers"? Ever heard of the United Fruit Company? The coup in Guatemala? The death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala? Reagan's and later Gingrich's policies that refugees from communism get accepted while refugees from right-wing death squads get sent home to get killed?

My problem is with right wingers who want to use the lionization of Che Guevara to make a point about how despotic the left is. The right was just as despotic when it came to Latin America.
8.13.2007 2:21pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Dilan. You seem to think those little brown people south of the border can't come up with nastiness without our help.
"Heard of the United Fruit Company?" That's a meme which is supposed to function as shorthand for all kind of bogus or exaggerated evil--which will not be detailed.

This nation used to do what is known as "realism" in foreign policy, which meant getting into bed with some awful people from time to time. Lefties disliked it, until Bush went for idealism, at which time the lefties now want realism, dealing with the world as it is and not trying to spread democracy to the lesser breeds. Nice flip-flop.

I was in El Salvador for a few days in 1987 and found the death squad killings--pre Tutela Legal, a Catholic human rights organization--were down by about 99%. In that decade, there was the junta first, with which we had little to do, and Duarte afterwards, whom we supported with more resources. The conflation of the first and second half-decades in terms of human rights and US support is a deliberate lie.
8.13.2007 2:45pm
r78:
Chapman - good one.
8.13.2007 3:33pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Richard:

We supported the death squads. The CIA gave covert support to many of the people who formed them. The Reagan Administration refused to admit that they existed. We refused so many refugees whom the death squads were targeting that Catholic Churches in the Southwest started disobeying the law and gave sanctuary to the refugees. And the Salvadorean government was doing nothing to rein the death squads in. Indeed, the Reagan administration was so afraid of communism and even the FMLN that there really wasn't a lot of support for reining them in. We wanted to have paramilitaries to fight communism in Latin America.

And I didn't just mention El Salvador. There's a whole bunch of instances of the American right supporting all sorts of bad people in Latin America.

Again, to be clear, I would NEVER wear a t-shirt with Che's picture on it. But this pretense that the left is the only side that supported despotism in Latin America and the right's hands were clean is what bugs me. Both sides supported "their guys" for a long time.
8.13.2007 4:05pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Dilan. You missed the memo. The Sanctuary movement was a hoax. See, among others, "On Thin Ice" by Roy Beck, then of the UMC Reporter. I got onto that subject more or less backwards, reading the letters to the editor in the Reporter before I came across the article. The tone of some of the letters was "how dare you take this issue away from us! Not that he was wrong.

I've heard of "support" being refusing to throw the guy out ourselves. The definition is too malleable.
But from time to time you have to pick the least bad. But the difference is that the right doesn't lament the passing of their guys.
8.13.2007 9:06pm
JB:
NicholasV: I'm not defending the che-heads. I just think it's very clear where they're coming from, and utterly disingenuous for Prof. Somin to pretend he doesn't know this.
8.13.2007 9:53pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Richard:

First, the sanctuary movement was a reaction to something that really happened-- the Reagan Administration's INS refused to consider Salvadorean and Guatemalan refugees to have a reasonable fear of persecution. And the reason was because the right wing in this country didn't want to admit that there were death squads and that they had links to the governments we were supporting and to the CIA.

Second, I don't think that the right wing guys were "less bad". That's the whole point. Batista, for instance, was WORSE than Castro-- slave labor, a prostitution-gambling-mafia economy, huge amounts of race discrimination, no health care or education systems except for rich whites. And yes, I understand how bad Castro is.

But the right wing doesn't understand this. They measure everything on one metric-- communism vs. capitalism-- while ignoring that there were other ways that governments could violate human rights besides being communist.

Third, you may be right that the right doesn't lament these guys' passing (although certainly a lot of right wingers repeated the canard that Pinochet saved Chile when he died). But I would argue that to the extent that is true, that's because the right has conveniently forgotten it ever supported these guys. The best example of this, of course, is South Africa. The right wing constantly told us how the ANC was dangerous, Mandela was a communist, his wife was a terrorist, and all the black-run governments in Africa were corrupt cesspools. And many opposed sanctions, opposed disinvestment, etc. Guess what-- when Mandela finally took power, NONE of that materialized, and the right wing conveniently forgot that it ever supported Apartheid.
8.13.2007 10:17pm
Bruno (mail):
You probably won't get this far to read this, but anyway, another book you may be interested in is "Family Portrait with Fidel" by Carlos Franqui. Franqui was a 26th of July activist and a journalist in Fidel's revolution. He was disgusted by the totalitarian direction the regime was taking--specifically by co-opting the 26th of July movement--and fled Cuba in the early '60s. He offers an unequaled portrait of the regime in its early years, which includes the missle crisis. You probably already know about Guillermo Cabrera Infante, who had a similar history to Franqui's under Castro. He's a wonderful writer and has many essays on Castro's Cuba. He won the Cervantes prize for literature (Spain's answer to the British Booker Prize). He died recently in London.
8.13.2007 11:52pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Dilan. Your last paragraph about Africa. Turns out the conservatives were right. You heard what's going on there?

I was in college with a minor in SubSaharan African studies when the apartheid thing started gaining traction.
I was able to follow it with some background.

Conservatives, to the extent they supported apartheid, were apprehensive about what would follow. And they were right. While the lefties were divesting from the Rand, it turned out that apartheid--South Africa--was worse than genocide--Afghanistan. I tried finding out what the lefties were up to wrt the latter. Removing the entire country from the atlas was their goal, to avoid embarrassing questions about what their buds were up to in Afghanistan.

I know what the ostensible reason for the Sanctuary movement was. But it was a hoax. I asked a reporter who'd been strong on the subject about where we could find planeloads of refugees forced back onto planes bound south. "Uhhh." Never occurred to him.
And these poor folks in the modern version of the Underground Railroad were forever giving two weeks' notice of public presentations and...not being arrested.
Hell, even Amnesty International busted the Sanctuary folks about misquoting them.
Bogus.
Internal docs....we have to raise the consciousness of the American people...even if it's not true.
My church (PCUSA) was big in Sanctuary,which is why they got a proportionate share of egg in the face.

The real complaint of the lefties is that they keep having elections down there. No crypto-fidelista tyranny. Damn. I traveled there with a bunch of lefties, half ordained. What a crew.
When we found the death squads were down by about 95%+, they were disappointed. Needs them dead bodies, by golly.
You know all this landmine stuff people are doing now? The ordained lefties had no problem with the FMLN using them.
Nope.
The lefties haven't shown me much in the last forty years.
The far-right can be obnoxious, but their victim list is in the low thousands. That's why an ambitious researcher can lay out the figures in a single post, regarding Chile or Argentina. Doesn't need much room.
8.14.2007 12:33am
Ramiro (mail) (www):
I think that that is a very biased view of history. That's not the real Che, and probablly the kids with the t-shirt got no idea of who he was either. You gotta to read a little bit more from less biased authors, such as right wing Vargas Llosa. And you got to understand Che's history and voyage thru LA to understand what unjustice means and why communism was view (I think wrongly) in those days as an alternative. Don't agree with ya at all.
8.14.2007 11:20am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
No Richard, conservatives were not right about South Africa. Mandela dismantled apartheid with a minimum of acrimony. And while Mbeki has been terrible on the AIDS crisis, nonetheless South Africa is a very successful state. NONE of the parade of horribles predicted by the right has come to pass.

And by the way, the right wing's record in Afghanistan isn't so great either-- the mujahadeen that conservatives celebrated turned out to be the building blocks of Sunni extremist terrorism, i.e., Al Qaeda.

And you are wrong about the death squads and sanctuary too. There are court decisions of the Reagan Administration being reversed and refugees who were going to be killed getting let into the country. These are published and can be easily found.

There were plenty of victims of the death squads. They killed priests, they killed labor organizers, etc. This is all documented.
8.14.2007 11:22am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Yeah, dilan. I know about the death squads. I met a priest who was later killed.
But the support of the US for the death squads is not proven.

It must really jar your preserves to recall that in the first election after Duarte's term was over, the Salvadorans voted for ARENA, the home of the (supposedly) dreaded Roberto d'Aubuisson. The Americans had been expecting the Christian Dems to win. Think the Salvadorans knew more than you? Pshaw. Little brown people knowing more than a gringo lib? Never.

You ought to read P. J. O'Rourke's account of being in Nicaragua for the election that got Violeta Chamorro in. Before you do, maybe you could get one of those inserts that prevents damage from grinding teeth.

South Africa is a miserable place. Crime is off the charts. Africa is such a horrid place for women that the western fems have stepped over their multiculti, which usually trumps the urge to condemn authentically multiculturally diversely non-western societies' crimes against women. And let me tell you. That takes some doing.
8.14.2007 11:45am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Richard:

I won't bother to argue with you about death squads. As I said, that's documented, including support from both the CIA and the governments we supported.

But your statements about South Africa are just offensive. Mandela is one of history's great heroes. He could have turned out like Robert Mugabe, a vengeful, corrupt man. Instead, he sought reconciliation between blacks and whites and asked nothing more of the whites who had done such unspeakable acts but that they tell the truth to a commission.

South Africa certainly has problems, but the enormity of apartheid is such that this is simply not comparable. And, importantly, the problems that the right wing predicted-- that Mandela would be anti-democratic, that he was a terrorist and a communist-- never came to pass. Thanks to the conservative movement, blacks were enslaved and treated like dirt and discriminated against and killed for decades or more while the criminal regime was propped up.

In fact, compared to its neighbors, South Africa is a paradise. It is amazing how well the black governments have done there in a very rough part of the world. The one issue they've really blown is AIDS, though, again, they haven't been any worse than their neighbors.

It sounds to me like you pine for the days of white supremacy in South Africa. While you're at it, why don't we repeal the Thirteenth Amendment in this country and let the South secede again?
8.14.2007 3:40pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Dilan.
Mandela is whoever he is, now that he's shed of Winnie, who used to be pretty popular, too, with the lefties.

Conservatives knew the primary support for apartheid was the Boer farmer class, who also happened to be the class least inconvenienced by the preening class's sanctions.
Conservatives listened to, among others, the leader of Black Sash, Helen Suzman, who opposed sanctions, as did most blacks.
Liberals know you can't have a revolution unless the population is made miserable. Sanctions were a tool in that direction. I happened to be in a grad class in the Sixties discussing the issue. I made the point that revolution wasn't happening because the population wasn't desperate enough to undertake the guaranteed horrors of revolution. "They'll have to be made miserable," said another student. Black guy. Wishing death and destruction on millions of Africans so he could ... I don't know.

But Mandela's personal history diverged from the reality of South Africa--which is supporting Mugabe, btw--long ago.

The place is crumbling.
8.14.2007 4:07pm
Tim Fowler (www):
8.14.2007 6:45pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Richard:

You are way off if you think conservatives were just listening to black South Africans. Apartheid pushed all sorts of subconscious and conscious conservative buttons. South Africa was a vestige of colonial government, and the "uncivilized" natives were restless. South Africa positioned itself as anti-communist, and the ANC took money from communist organizations (although, really, the ANC took money from anywhere they could get it from). South Africa was also cooperating with Israel on nuclear weapons development. And, of course, South Africa was run by whites, and plenty of conservatives never really bought into racial integration or the idea that blacks could be trusted with the reins of government. There was also a strain of conservativism that likes to think of itself as "tough" and "pragmatic" because it is willing to endorse morally repugnant choices (one can still see this in the conservative responses to the torture debate; they believe they are tough and pragmatic because they are willing to drown a terrorist suspect to make him talk, whereas the left is a bunch of pollyannas).

I don't think, actually, that most people on the American right gave a crap about ending Apartheid or listening to black South Africans. In any event, South Africa simply pushed a lot of their buttons, and once nothing they predicted actually came to pass, they just shut up about it, preferring to talk about how the left was wrong in other places. Really, a serious mea culpa is in order.
8.14.2007 8:36pm