“When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything.”
G. K. Chesterton
Ah poor Ireland. As the Faith has become weaker in the Emerald Isle, strange new gods are arising, and one of the strangest is Che Guevara, deceased Argentinian revolutionary and hero of politically correct fools everywhere. In Galway of all places the local government passed a measure approving of a memorial to Castro’s Himmler.
The minutes of Galway City Council’s meeting of Monday, 16 May 2011, include the following proposal: ‘That Galway City Council commit itself to honoring one of its own, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, descendant of two of our Tribes, the Lynch family of Lydican House, and the Blakes. The project to be furthered by liaising with the Argentinean and Cuban Embassies.’
Billy Cameron, an Irish Labor Party councillor in Galway, has scoffed at the claims made by fellow city councillors that they didn’t know they had voted to approve a monument in honor of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara.
That last comment is rich. What business is it of Ireland to honor a man who helped install a brutal tyranny in Cuba? Of course this is being done because nature abhors a vacuum, and without a belief in Christ, people will search for substitute religions and for many in the West Leftism of various stripes is the favored choice. It is gratifying that this attempt to honor “Saint” Che is drawing such fire. Castro’s hangman deserves it:
Javier Arzuaga, the Basque chaplain who gave comfort to those sentenced to die and personally witnessed dozens of executions, spoke to me recently from his home in Puerto Rico. A former Catholic priest, now seventy-five, who describes himself as “closer to Leonardo Boff and Liberation Theology than to the former Cardinal Ratzinger,” he recalls that
there were about eight hundred prisoners in a space fit for no more than three hundred: former Batista military and police personnel, some journalists, a few businessmen and merchants. The revolutionary tribunal was made of militiamen. Che Guevara presided over the appellate court. He never overturned a sentence. I would visit those on death row at the galera de la muerte. A rumor went around that I hypnotized prisoners because many remained calm, so Che ordered that I be present at the executions. After I left in May, they executed many more, but I personally witnessed fifty-five executions. There was an American, Herman Marks, apparently a former convict. We called him “the butcher” because he enjoyed giving the order to shoot. I pleaded many times with Che on behalf of prisoners. I remember especially the case of Ariel Lima, a young boy. Che did not budge. Nor did Fidel, whom I visited. I became so traumatized that at the end of May 1959 I was ordered to leave the parish of Casa Blanca, where La Cabaña was located and where I had held Mass for three years. I went to Mexico for treatment. The day I left, Che told me we had both tried to bring one another to each other’s side and had failed. His last words were: “When we take our masks off, we will be enemies.”
How many people were killed at La Cabaña? Pedro Corzo offers a figure of some two hundred, similar to that given by Armando Lago, a retired economics professor who has compiled a list of 179 names as part of an eight-year study on executions in Cuba. Vilasuso told me that four hundred people were executed between January and the end of June in 1959 (at which point Che ceased to be in charge of La Cabaña). Secret cables sent by the American Embassy in Havana to the State Department in Washington spoke of “over 500.” According to Jorge Castañeda, one of Guevara’s biographers, a Basque Catholic sympathetic to the revolution, the late Father Iñaki de Aspiazú, spoke of seven hundred victims. Félix Rodríguez, a CIA agent who was part of the team in charge of the hunt for Guevara in Bolivia, told me that he confronted Che after his capture about “the two thousand or so” executions for which he was responsible during his lifetime. “He said they were all CIA agents and did not address the figure,” Rodríguez recalls. The higher figures may include executions that took place in the months after Che ceased to be in charge of the prison.
Samuel Gregg at the Acton Institute has a brilliant look at this controversy and how it reflects a traditional Leftist antipathy to History when it reveals their heroes and heroines in a harsh light:
The Irish left’s initial reaction was to deny these facts and launch ad hominem attacks. When that failed, they produced extraordinary rationalizations which bordered on the absurd. One columnist, for example, wrote: “Yes, Che was ruthless and fanatical and sometimes murderous. But was he a murderer? No, not in the sense of a serial killer or gangland assassin. He was one of those rare people who are prepared to push past ethical constraints, even their own conscience, and bring about a greater good by doing terrible things.”
We shouldn’t, however, be surprised by such responses. They reflect a pattern. Getting contemporary French left-wing intellectuals, for example, to acknowledge the ideological genocide unleashed in the Vendée by the French Revolution in the 1790s is almost impossible. In present-day America, any mention of Planned Parenthood’s early association with the eugenics movement invariably results in stone-walling and, eventually, lame explanations that its founder Margaret Sanger was a “child of her time.” The same approach shows up in most American liberals’ studied refusal to discuss slurs employed by the likes of Bill Maher to describe conservative women.
But it’s when the left is confronted with the history of Communism that the denials, ad hominem vitriol, sullen silences, and feeble excuses really get going. Back in 1997, several French intellectuals, many with left-wing backgrounds, published The Black Book of Communism. This text exhaustively detailed how Communist movements and regimes had imprisoned, tortured, starved, experimented upon, enslaved, and exterminated millions across the globe throughout the 20th century.
Though a few brave lefty souls conceded the book’s damning evidence, the left’s general response followed the usual playbook: attacks on the authors’ credibility; arcane disputation of precise numbers killed (as if a million-less here-or-there made any meaningful difference to the overall thesis); claims that Stalin represented a “distortion” of Marxism; and even bizarre suggestions that such crimes shouldn’t distract us from Communism’s “genuine achievements.”
Go here to read the brilliant rest. One of the many reasons why I love History is that ultimately the truth comes out in it, warts and all. It sometimes takes a great deal of time, but ultimately people like Che have to face the bar of History, just as they face the judgment of God.