4) “Che was a coward whose last words were ‘don’t shoot! I’m Che Guevara, and I’m more useful to you alive than dead!’ and who surrendered immediately with loaded weapons in the middle of battle when being surprised by a larger enemy force.
Che’s last words are now almost universally acknowledged as being “I know you’re here to kill me. Shoot, coward! You’re only going to kill a man.” This has been acknowledged by the soldier who shot him, Mario Terán, who has since always remembered Che’s infamous fearless gaze and who felt afraid of the unarmed, dirty and weak Che about to die, his imposing presence making him feel as if he could kill him with his stare. Mario Terán, on a sidenote, had his sight restored and cured of its cataracts by Cuban doctors in 2006, in a joint Cuban-Venezuelan medical campaign called “Operación Milagro” (Operation Miracle) and expressed his gratitude to Fidel Castro for not denying him his operation. He lives in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia’s largest city, in a middle-class neighborhood. He also doesn’t use his own name, being called Ramón Salazar, and his address is unknown, rumored to be under a protection service by the CIA so he may not be killed in revenge for killing Che. Also, he’s become a somber alcoholic who lives in constant fear of being assassinated, always haunted by Che’s ghost and the unspeakable crime he committed by killing him.
As for Che’s surrender, it didn’t happen as Che’s detractors claim. He was wounded in combat twice before being captured, with a third bullet piercing his beret and nearly killing him, and his M2 carbine (which he was firing) was rendered useless after being hit in the barrel by an enemy bullet. He also lost a spare magazine for his pistol, thus being rendered effectively unarmed. He attempted to escape and was then ambushed by Sergeant Bernardino Huanca, who pointed his gun at him and forced him to surrender. According to Wikipedia, Bolivian Sergeant Bernardino Huanca claimed that Che, after being wounded, shouted “don’t shoot! I’m Che Guevara and I am worth more to you alive than dead!” Still, this isn’t in Jon Lee Anderson’s book, which is the reference for this in Wikipedia. It’s not to be found anywhere in the biography. Rather, by doing a little research, we find that this is the event as told by Cuban-Unitedstatian CIA agent Félix Rodríguez, who supervised the operation in La Higuera and interrogated Che before his execution. Rodríguez is a known anti-Communist whose family had ties to the dictator Fulgencio Batista, and who in his youth joined the Caribbean Anti-Communist Legion created by the brutal and blood-thirsty Dominican president Rafael Trujillo, with the intention of overthrowing Fidel Castro in Cuba. Infamous for proudly showing his home to the press and telling anecdotes about what a sadistic murderer Che was, he has infamously said “I believe that eventually people will see what he really was. He was an assassin. (…) He was an individual with very little regard for life. He enjoyed killing people.”
This of course, coming from a CIA interrogator, terrorist, destabilizer and assassin who fights on the side of the country that oppresses Latin America. It’s only natural that Rodríguez spreads such lies, especially when considering how frustrated he must feel that the myth he wants to destroy is more alive than ever, that he killed a man who became a symbol while he’s a shady character and a tool of US imperialism worth only of contempt, and that Latin America rises and unites while the United States declines and suffers from secessionist movements like the one in Texas. It’s also worth noting that Rodríguez was a part of the Cuban mercenary unit sent to Cuba by president Kennedy to overcome the regime and oust Castro, known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion. The catastrophic failure of this operation and the massive support Castro had from locals (which people like Rodríguez tried in vain to undermine) must clearly frustrate this highly cynical man in order to spread such lies. I don’t doubt for a second that Rodríguez must be the main source of Che’s vilification in the media, and it’s sad to know that the entire world (through sources like Wikipedia) swallows the deceit without even being skeptical about its veracity. While tools like Wikipedia are very useful, as we can see here, they are very prone to keep transmitting already established lies such as these. Peace Walker’s briefing files give us some insight into this, while also pointing out Snake’s feelings towards his former country;
Hey Snake, mind if I ask you something?
Since when did you start asking permission?
..Ha. So, you used to be part of a CIA paramilitary unit, right?
Ever do any ops in Central America?
No, not personally. But there were other units who did all kinds of stuff.
Che in Bolivia, holding two Bolivian children.
I remember the Bay of Pigs invasion back in ’61. The papers had a field day with it.
“Operation Zapata” – that was the CIA codename. The whole thing went south.
Then there was Che Guevara being hunted down in Bolivia. I heard the CIA had a hand in that, too…
There were several units similar to mine. MSP, SOG…
They’d recruit former Special Forces, train them as intelligence agents, and send them on “deniable” covert paramilitary operations. One of those units trained the Bolivian Army in counter-guerilla tactics….
…And then had them shoot El Che.
So the story goes.
Supposedly, Che’s capture as narrated by Rodríguez is considered the absolute truth in the Unitedstatian government (and by extension, Unitedstatian society). But still, we can’t know for certain what truly happened that day. We should first acknowledge that the word of a Cuban CIA agent and an anti-Communist Bolivian Sergeant cannot be trusted. Supposing that their claims were true and Che did actually say that, we can only assume that Che was trying to buy himself some time when noticing he could not possibly escape the situation after being wounded with no weapons, and that he could always escape imprisonment. What we do know for a fact is that he resented being captured,
uttering to his captors how he should have died in combat. His last words to Colonel Arnaldo Saucedo Parada, head of intelligence of the Eighth Division who delivered the official report on Che’s final moments were reported as: “I knew you were going to shoot me; I should never have been taken alive. Tell Fidel that this failure does not mean the end of the revolution, that it will triumph elsewhere. Tell Aleida to forget this, remarry and be happy, and keep the children studying. Ask the soldiers to aim well.”
This supports the theory that he had a slight glimmer of hope in not being executed. We also know Che was incredibly defiant and often spat at interrogators or debated with them to express his ideology and the reasons he fought. This is taken directly from a conversation he held with Sergeant Andrés Selich, from Anderson’s biography.
“Are you Cuban or Argentine?” asked Selich.
“I am Cuban, Argentine, Bolivian, Peruvian, Ecuadorian, etc. … You understand.”
“What made you decide to operate in our country?”
“Can’t you see the state in which the peasants live?” Che asked. “They are almost like savages, living in a state of poverty that depresses the heart, having only one room in which to sleep and cook and no clothing to wear, abandoned like animals …”
“But the same thing happens in Cuba,” Selich retorted.
“No, that’s not true,” Che said. “I don’t deny that in Cuba poverty still exists, but the peasants there have an illusion of progress, whereas the Bolivian lives without hope. Just as he is born, he dies, without ever seeing improvements in his human condition.”
People like Batista, Trujillo and Félix Rodríguez, sadly, choose to betray their countries and ally with the oppressors, those who cause and promote that poverty that made Che rise in arms in indignation. However, history has punished them accordingly as pitiful puppets of US imperialism, as mediocre tools with no legacy to give to future generations, while people like Che and Fidel are worldwide symbols of rebellion and insurrection against the unilateralist neoliberal vision of the US and its allies, with countless contributions in the form of ideas, books, poems, and deeds. Rebels and intellectuals inspire admiration, while puppets and tools irradiate contempt. Peace Walker references this directly;
Around here, they say “La CIA”, instead of “C-I-A,” huh?
Nothing strange about it. That’s how it’s pronounced when you read it in Spanish.
It has the feminine noun ending “a,” so they use the article “la.” Apparently some people have even taken to using the term UCLA.
That’s a new one to me. What’s it mean?
It stands for “Unilaterally Controlled Latino Assets.”
…Meaning their local agents?
Yeah, that’s the idea. Washington uses them like pawns, and nobody knows who they really are or what they’re doing.
Needless to say, Félix Rodríguez is the quintessential UCLA, a pawn used by the US and by corrupt Latin American elites to protect their own interests. People like him fight to protect these people and safeguard corrupt political and economic orders. Che summarized this entire situation perfectly; “Our America is integrated by a group of more or less homogeneous countries and in most parts of its territory U.S. monopolist capitals maintain an absolute supremacy. Puppet governments or, in the best of cases, weak and fearful local rulers, are incapable of contradicting orders from their Yankee master.”
-Che Guevara, Message to the Tricontinental, 1967
5) “Che wished for the United States to be obliterated by nukes and claimed he would not hesitate if this helped Socialist revolution.”
Welcome to Che’s main reason for his constant vilification, the most controversial stance of the revolutionary. If we have ever seen demagogy in action, it certainly is with how Che’s stance regarding nukes has been twisted around by his detractors. It’s extremely easy to be fooled by what is said regarding Che and nuclear warfare, and only intense skepticism and stubborn research can tell us exactly how he viewed nuclear warfare and the usage of nukes. Here, we will provide insight into why this is said about him, how easily his words have been manipulated by his detractors and why the average stance today is that of Che being an eager advocate of nuclear warfare.
This is from the Metal Gear Wiki:
“Che Guevara is frequently mentioned in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, and is viewed in a positive light by many of the game’s characters, though he remains both a revered and reviled historical figure in real life. It is to be noted that some fans found controversy in Hideo Kojima’s decision to have some of the characters praising him, as Guevara in history had also declared an intention of using any nukes that remained in Cuba to wipe out anyone who disagreed with his pro-Socialist beliefs, specifically New York and the heartland of the U.S., which directly contradicted Kojima’s anti-nuke message for the entire series.”
This is the evidence they reference to support this, from a supposed 1962 interview of Che with Sam Russell in the London Edition of the Daily Worker. It is the main reason people today believe Che was a nuke-crazy genocidal maniac, and it is in Wikipedia as well, probably the main reason this carefully-constructed lie has been circulating mercilessly around the Internet;
“If the missiles had remained, we would have used them against the very heart of the U.S., including New York. We must never establish peaceful coexistence. In this struggle to the death between two systems, we must gain the ultimate victory. We must walk the path of atomic liberation even if it costs millions of atomic victims.”
Sounds pretty evil, right? Now this is the part you don’t get to read. Apparently the original source of this quote was probably not the Daily Worker, but from Time magazine, one of the most anti-Communist magazines in the Cold War.
This is the full article where this quote stems from, “Cuba: Castro’s Warhawk,” by Time Magazine;
“Fidel Castro is uncharacteristically silent these days. So is little brother Raul. But it is hard to keep them all quiet in Cuba’s talky regime. To a correspondent from the London Daily Worker, Minister of Industries Ernesto (“Che”) Guevara, who was Castro’s one-man braintrust back in the hills, last week gave an interview defiantly proclaiming Cuba’s firm intention to go right on trying to export its revolution throughout Latin America. What is more, said Che, ‘if the rockets had remained, we would have used them all and directed them against the very heart of the U.S., including New York, in our defense against aggression. But we haven’t got them, so we shall fight with what we’ve got.’ Guevara’s more bellicose remarks were blue-penciled out by the Worker’s London editors— Moscow has decreed a softer line these days. Che, among other things, told the Worker correspondent: “We know that some people in Europe are saying that a great victory has been won. We ask whether in exchange for some slight gain we have only prolonged the agony. So far, all that has happened is that a confrontation has been avoided.” Taking the Chinese “war is inevitable” position. Che went on: “The Cuban revolution has shown that in conditions of imperialist domination such as exist in Latin America, there is no solution but armed struggle. Cuba has shown that small guerrilla groups, well led and located at key points, can act as a catalyst of the masses, bringing them into mass struggle. We say that this can be done in a large number of Latin American countries.” For all his bluster, Guevara will find the going hard. When Castro defiantly declared himself a “Marxist-Leninist,” he alienated most Latin American governments and lost much of his popular support among workers and educated idealists. Some woolly-headed university students and leftists still naively regarded him as a made-in-Cuba revolutionary simply marching in voluntary step with the Communist world. But after Khrushchev dealt directly with Kennedy on the Cuban missiles, bypassing Castro as an unimportant puppet, the Cuban dictator lost even those supporters. Latin American leftists have been bitterly disowning both Castro and Communism ever since.”
Apparently, this article was written just a week after the interview, and it claims that this line was taken out of the published version. This makes it seem more likely that this could’ve just been made up, or that Time had some really good access to leaks in the Daily Worker. Besides, Cuba never had direct control over the Soviet nukes, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to he would say this. The decision to retaliate or attack rested entirely on the Soviet leadership.
Things taken out of context and manipulated are great, aren’t they? It’s very easy to turn someone like Che into a mindless monster in order to drive people away from his ideals. Che talked of hypothetical situation where the US decided to attack Cuba. Che wasn’t stupid. He wouldn’t provoke a scenario of complete annihilation for Cuba, the revolution and the world by attacking the US first. If anything, look at the situation from his own interests.
The English versions of the Che Guevara article in Wikipedia references Anderson’s book when providing proof for the “Che Guevara wants to nuke the US” quote, and what we find in Anderson’s that justifies this is the following;
“In an interview with Che a few weeks after the crisis, Sam Russell, a British correspondent for the socialist Daily Worker, found him still fuming over the Soviet betrayal. Alternately puffing a cigar and taking blasts on his asthma inhaler, he told Russell that if the missiles had been under Cuban control, they would have been fired. Russell came away with mixed feelings about Che, describing him as “a warm character whom I took to immediately … clearly a man of great intelligence, though I thought he was crackers from the way he went on about the missiles.” They also discussed another subject close to Che’s heart—global Communist strategy. Che was extremely critical of the Western Communist parties for adopting a “peaceful parliamentary strategy for power.” Russell wrote that Che felt this would “deliver the working class bound hand and foot over to the ruling class.”
Apparently, Anderson’s book has popularized this theory, but taking another book where Che’s thoughts in this interview are more fleshed out, we find interesting facts largely ignored by Anderson. In “Compañero; The Life and Death of Che Guevara,” Jorge Germán Castaneda actually mentions parts of the Sam Russell interview, namely the following;
“If they attack, we shall fight to the end. If the rockets had remained, we would have used them all and directed them against the very heart of the United States, including New York, in our defense against aggression. But we haven’t got them, so we shall fight with what we’ve got.”
“If they attack” is notoriously omitted by Anderson in his ambiguous mention of the interview, something I believe has added to this myth of Che wanting to nuke the world away. Whether this was done on purpose or not, we can find more interesting things in Anderson’s biography that actually serve to debunk Che’s perceived love for atomic warfare;
“This people [of Cuba] you see today tell you that even if they should disappear from the face of the earth because an atomic war is unleashed in their names … they would feel completely happy and fulfilled if each one of you, upon reaching your lands, can say:
‘Here we are. Our words come moist from the Cuban jungles. We have climbed the Sierra Maestra and we have known the dawn, and our minds and our hands are full with the seed of the dawn, and we are prepared to sow it in this land and to defend it so that it flourishes.’
And from all the other brother nations of America, and from our land, if it still survived as an example, the voice of the peoples will answer you, from that moment on and forever: ‘It shall be so: may liberty be conquered in each corner of America!’ “
Hardly a war-mongering speech, and clearly seeking prosperity and better living conditions for new generations, which is what Che’s struggle was all about. And, as we will see shortly, Che never said he’d use nukes first.
Although both the English and Spanish Wikipedia articles of Che support the Daily Worker/Time Magazine (one referencing Anderson’s biography of Che and the other referencing “Castro’s Warhawk” Time article), in the English version of the Cuban Missile Crisis article Che is not even mentioned. The Spanish version though, paints a more interesting quote by Che about the Cuban Missile Crisis. To put this quote into context, Che is referencing the Cuban peoples who went to the streets to show their rejection by the withdrawal of the Soviet missiles, as they had felt used by the Soviets. Che reflected on the role of the Cuban people during those days, saying the following;
“It’s the chilling example of a people who are willing to blow themselves atomically so their ashes may serve as a foundation for new partnerships and when done, without consulting a covenant by which the rockets are removed, no sighs of relief, gives thanks for the truce; jumps into the fray to give his own unique voice, your own unique fighter position, and further, joining the fight although he was alone.”
To further illustrate Che’s views and put his words into greater context, here is an excerpt from Anderson’s biography;
“But Che was now ready to go farther than he ever had before in public. He invoked the specter of an atomic apocalypse. He said it was a real prospect, given the inevitability of confrontation between the “liberation movements” and the “forces of imperialism,” which could unleash a nuclear war through an error of calculation. “Thousands of people will die everywhere, but the responsibility will be theirs [the imperialists], and their people will also suffer. … But that should not worry us. … We as a nation know we can depend upon the great strength of all the countries of the world that make up the Socialist bloc and of the peoples who fight for their liberation, and on the strength and cohesion of our people, on the decision to fight to the last man, to the last woman, to the last human being capable of holding a gun.”
As you can see, Che never wished to fire nukes first. He feared that scenario because he understood its consequences. He understood well the horrors of nuclear war, as was referenced in Peace Walker’s briefing tape, in which his visit to Hiroshima and his disgust at how Unitedstatians could bomb Japan with such weapons is described. But Che also knew what imperialism did to Latin America and the world. Thus, his ideology was that of (in a context of nuclear war) making sure to retaliate and never hesitate, as he knew his enemies wouldn’t. After all, the United States is the only country in the world to have ever used nuclear weapons in time of war. Che knew this, and this is why he made sure Cuba secured nuclear weapons to dissuade Unitedstatians from attacking and to have an ability to fight back on a similar scale.
This mirrors Fidel’s thoughts too; here’s what he said to Nikita Khrushchev in a cable after Khrushchev misinterpreted Fidel;
“And I did not suggest to you, Comrade Khrushchev, that the USSR should be the aggressor, because that would be more than incorrect, that would be immoral and contemptible on my part.”
Che and Fidel thus never wished to use nuclear weapons unless provoked or in a state of all-out nuclear war. It is true Che and Fidel would not have hesitated to fire nukes in a scenario of nuclear war, but this was merely due to their thinking that nuclear conflict was inevitable because of the nature of the Cold War. They also thought that in the worst case scenario of nuclear apocalypse, society would always be reborn out of the ashes. To them, who always saw the bigger picture, the damage to humanity caused by imperialism and capitalism at a worldwide level (poverty, exploitation, slavery, oppression, racism, crime, murder) was greater than all the victims of a possible nuclear war between the US and the USSR (if you read about Che’s witnessing of massive poverty in South America you’ll know why). Thus, it can be concluded that Che and Fidel, unlike president Truman, would have never used nukes first, as they understood well the impact of nuclear warfare, and would only have resorted to that in case of a Unitedstatian nuclear attack.
Here is the transcript of Peace Walker’s briefing file on Che’s visit to Hiroshima;
The year the Cuban Revolution was won, Che visited Japan as a member of an economic delegation. While he was there, he visited Hiroshima.
Since he was there to discuss economic issues, Hiroshima wasn’t part of the original itinerary. Some said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t want to let him go. But he went anyway. He snuck out of his hotel and took an overnight train.
Traveling guerrilla-style – sounds like Che, all right.
He visited the Peace Memorial Museum and the Atomic Bomb Survivors Hospital. Apparently it gave him quite a shock. As a doctor, it must have been painful for him to see how the victims suffered.
Nukes destroy everything…
He was quoted as saying, “They put you through this, and still you do whatever America says?” …Those words really hit me hard. Especially when I think of my mom. He said something else, too: “Let us all love Hiroshima, and its people.”
I can believe it. Che never managed to numb himself to other people’s pain. That’s why people loved him. And why he died.
It’s very interesting to note than never before had Kojima included such anti-US content in the game, not even in the highly anti-nuclear MGS1, and some fans noticed this, complaining in IGN forums and in other Metal Gear forums about Kojima taking things too far with his anti-Western views. Is it really taking it too far? It certainly must be for Unitedstatians, who never endured being attacked with nuclear weapons in their own homeland. Kojima, after researching Che, certainly must have felt drawn to him in this common ground, with Che’s solidarity with Hiroshima victims and the Japanese people as a whole. This is why Kojima portrays Che as a very humanitarian and noble person. At the end of the day, the US did cause a genocide of atomic victims merely to prove their superior military power to the other superpowers, especially the USSR. Contrary to what people believe, the weakened Japan did not need to be nuked so as to “save the lives of countless Unitedstatian soldiers.” This action was taken to prove superior military might, to deter the USSR from getting a piece of Japan just like it happened in Germany, and yes, to end the war, but the war was going to end regardless as Japan had lost its allies and was surrounded by bitter enemies like Russia, China and the US. Instead, the US chose the path of nuclear war, leaving a shameful legacy of atomic malformations that persist up to this day. And this criminal action, sadly, is always looked as necessary from a historical stance, unanimously considered crucial to end the war in the Pacific. Thus, we see the double moral the US is known for in action once more; Che using nukes to achieve his goals is wrong. The US doing the same is right. And the best part is, from what you were able to read here, that Che and Fidel never wanted to strike first, unlike President Truman. This example clearly shows how people often swallow what they’re told as the only truth, and how a completely criminal and genocidal action such as deliberate atomic bombings to end a dying war can be defended and justified.
The double moral the US uses with nuclear weapons is reflected in how it doesn’t allow other countries to have nuclear programs as it would threaten its unilateralist control of the world. Basically, the nuclear policy of the US can be translated as “only we are allowed to have nuclear weapons.” Iran and North Korea are constantly targeted by the US because of this, since they are allies of nuclear-capable enemies of the US such as Russia and China, and in Latin America, Brazil, which has all the resources to have a nuclear program and maintains a very strong space program, was pressured to abandon its nuclear program by the US, which claimed Brazil could form part of an “axis of evil.” After much international pressure by other nuclear powers, especially the US, Brazil agreed to never develop a nuclear program of its own. It is a known fact that the US flexes its anti-nuclear diplomatic muscle every time it seeks to subtly force an enemy into submission; the hypocritical way to nuclear disarmament the North American nation promotes is actually a strategy to rid every single country of nuclear weapons until only the US harnesses that power.
I’ll end this section by saying that although Anderson gives us some insight into Che’s stance regarding nuclear warfare, we cannot completely trust Anderson either for obvious reasons. In any case, Anderson’s book never gives evidence as Che willingly admitting to wanting to use nukes first, if anything he gives us reasons to believe Che would not hesitate to retaliate. His fear of nuclear war was rooted in the fact that he knew the two diametrically historical opposing forces of the financial elites and the poor they oppressed would eventually clash, and like in all conflicts, many would die in the process, including possibly, in a nuclear war. But not because Che wanted it that way. Those who have the power will strongly cling to it and violently attack those who attempt to remove them from their privileged positions as exploiters, and it’s to be expected that deaths will ensue in the process. Putting it simply, you play the game, and abide by its rules. And if we have learned anything from history, is that humans have always clashed in violent conflicts for supremacy, and that nobody voluntarily gives power away. This is how Anderson puts it, referencing the speech above;
“If anyone had missed his point, which he had reiterated and refined over time, Che had said it again, in starker terms. The global battle against imperialism was a struggle between two diametrically opposed historical forces, and there was no sense in protracting the people’s agony through doomed attempts to forge tactical short-term alliances with the enemy. The root causes of the problems would remain and inevitably lead to conflict. Moderation ran the risk of giving the enemy an opening where he could seize an advantage. History, science, and justice were on the side of socialism; therefore, it must wage the necessary war to win, whatever the consequences—including nuclear war. Che did not shrink from that outcome, and he was telling others they should not, either. Many would die in the revolutionary process, but the survivors would emerge from the ashes of destruction to create a new, just world order.”
Once again, I do not see a single hint of Che advocating the arbitrary use of nuclear weapons anywhere here, rather, I see Che predicting the forces of imperialism would probably resort to nuclear war when threatened by socialism, and that we should not run from the inevitable ensuing conflict so they may continue to exploit us forever. I honestly do not see anything farfetched in what Che says there; the increasing gap between rich and poor in the Western world and the financial crises whiplashing modern civilization all point out to a massive conflict between upper and lower classes happening in the near future. The destruction of the middle class is always an omen of catastrophe, of violent upheaval, and what we’re seeing is precisely millionaires and oligarchs getting richer and poor people getting poorer, with a steady disappearance of the middle class. The US, the political, economic and military superpower of the 20th century, isn’t what it used to be for a reason, while China, a communist country, has swiftly taken the role of superpower from the US. The US is rife with economic inequality, and while China is too, it is noticeably more egalitarian than the US. In the US, 1% of the population owns 34.6% of the nation’s total wealth. That’s why the US is in the shape it is, and why many are already predicting severe catastrophes will happen to the political and economic infrastructure of the North American nation. In the words of French economist Thomas Piketty; “extremely high levels of wealth inequality are incompatible with the meritocratic values and principles of social justice fundamental to modern democratic societies, and the risk of a drift towards oligarchy is real and gives little reason for optimism about where the United States is headed.”