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View Diary: Che Guevara Smacks Bush! (205 comments)

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  •  I have to agree ... (4.00)
    I'm glad to see some changes in Latin America that the U.S. isn't directly in control of, but I don't think Che - in theory or practice - has much to do with that.

    I would have been happier to see in this Diary a paragraph or two of critique of some of the ideas and behavior of the man Chris has focused on to bring attention to what's happening in Latin America hoy en día. Not to mention his camarada Fidel, who has been far more a thorn in the side of Cubans than of the United States.

    Mr. Ortega also. I was in Nicaragua several times - for several months each time - during the 1980s. The vicious contra war pushed the Sandinistas into behavior they might not otherwise have taken. Reagan & Cronies should have done hard time for their policies there. But Ortega's totalitarian approach to socialism - much decried by political parties on his left - did almost as much damage to the country as Ollie North and his illegal weapons deals. If I were a Nicaraguan, I'd be hard-pressed to cast a ballot for him.

    •  My view is more nuanced (4.00)
      While I think there are legitimate critiques to be made of Che, Fidel, and Daniel Ortega, it's helpful to keep them in context.

      Both Che and Fidel developed their political style in the early days of the Cold War. Motorcycle Diaries was referenced up thread a bit, and it really is a great movie, showing exactly how and why Che developed his commitment to social justice. The movie leaves off, however, as Che is boarding a plane to Guatemala, where he takes part in the reformist government of Jacobo Arbenz.

      No one doubts Arbenz was using democratic means to implement the kinds of reforms Che felt were necessary, but we all know what happened to him. In June 1954, the CIA sponsored a coup to overthrow his government, and Guatemala entered a long period of successively more brutal and corrupt military regimes.

      Che fled Guatemala as the CIA siezed power, and in Mexico made contact with Fidel, who himself had just been released from the dictator Batista's prison. Together, they organized the rebel invasion of Cuba in November 1956. I would argue the Guatemala experience is formative for both Fidel and Che. Remember what Hamilton wrote in Federalist #8 about states which face the constant threat of foreign invasion:

      The perpetual menacings of danger oblige the government to be always prepared to repel it; its armies must be numerous enough for instant defense. The continual necessity for their services enhances the importance of the soldier, and proportionably degrades the condition of the citizen. The military state becomes elevated above the civil. The inhabitants of territories, often the theatre of war, are unavoidably subjected to frequent infringements on their rights, which serve to weaken their sense of those rights; and by degrees the people are brought to consider the soldiery not only as their protectors, but as their superiors. The transition from this disposition to that of considering them masters, is neither remote nor difficult; but it is very difficult to prevail upon a people under such impressions, to make a bold or effectual resistance to usurpations supported by the military power.

      As for Nicaragua, I would say that during the Sandinista government the party did a relatively effective job of keeping Ortega under control. Yeah, there were some abuses and an awful lot of bureaucratic inefficiency, but most of Ortega's descent into populism and corruption occurred after the FSLN had already been expelled by the US.

      •  Excellent post. (none)
        Che's early experiences with overthrown democracies definitely shaped his revolutionary views.
      •  And Gandhi already proved Che wrong (none)
        Che might have an excuse if Gandhi had not already been sucessful in India at this point in history. But Gandhi HAD been successful tossing the British Empire out of India using nonviolence before Che and Castro got started in Cuba.

        There was no excuse for the murderous actions of Che and Castro.

        •  Stop with Gandhi, already. (4.00)
          Yes, he was very effective. But you know what? He was effective because he was able to get a response from the sense of justice of the British people. MLK, likewise, appealed to the better instincts of Americans -- his success is to the credit of the basic decency of average Americans, once they could be brought to understand the wrong that was being done by Jim Crow.

          People, by and large, do have a sense of fairness, and in a democracy, this response can be appealed to... provided righting the injustice won't hurt them personally. Landowning classes, of course, do have plenty of rationalizations to defend themselves from perceiving that their ownership is inequitable. And the tactics of shaming don't work against out and out dictators. Dictators don't care about fairness. If they did, they wouldn't ever have gotten to be dictators, now would they?

          Batista, or Papa Doc, or Idi Amin, or Saddam Hussein would simply have had any aspiring Gandhis in their countries put up against a wall and shot. Would have? Heck, they probably did, many times over -- but we haven't heard anything about those people because they died unknown.

          Folly is fractal: the closer you look at it, the more of it there is. - TNH

          by Canadian Reader on Mon Dec 12, 2005 at 01:16:44 PM PST

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          •  Self-defense/just war is a different topic. (none)
            I really don't know what Gandhi thought about the concepts of self defense for a nation state or "just wars." I know Gandhi never tried to have the Indian Armed Forces disbanded, so he recognized at least some basic needs for self-defense for a nation-state.

            People do have the right to defend themselves from mass murderers, and there are defenses one can make in an armed conflict when things go terribly wrong on a battlefield. Things can and do go terribly wrong on battlefields. That's why we try to avoid war.

            What Che and Castro did that was so wrong was after the battles of their revolution were over. There is no justification of any kind for murdering unarmed prisoners who are in your custody.

      •  Jon Lee Anderson (none)
        What do you think of his biography Che?
    •  I had a friend who lived (none)
      under Samosa.  It was hard not to want anything but that crooked oligarchy but Ortega didn't hold up well either. Still it is all part of the growing pains I am afraid.

      Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities-Voltaire

      by hairspray on Mon Dec 12, 2005 at 08:53:32 AM PST

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