That his reputation throughout the world is one of righteous heroic revolutionary stands as proof that our educational, cultural and media institutions are more interested in style over substance and convenient fiction over inconvenient truth. The spectacular failure of socialism in the 20th century led to the discrediting of nearly all of the left's cultural icons, most notably Mao, Stalin, Lenin and Marx; it's hard to explain away the unnecessary deaths of a 100 million people on ideological grounds or the chronic economic failure of every country that embraced socialism. That's why Che is so important to them. He not only represents the fight against the oppression of the masses by supposedly evil capitalists but, along with Castro, he's also the last heroic icon from the 'good old days'.
In his book Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him, Cuban exile Humberto Fontova outlines the reality of the person behind the myth.
Fontova reminds us that the first thing to understand about the legend of Che is that it is almost entirely invented from whole cloth by the Castro propaganda department.
Che is described as being an idealistic Argentine doctor who abandoned his profession and his native land to pursue the emancipation of the poor yet there's no proof that he actually ever earned a medical degree.
Far from being personally heroic, Che was generally nowhere to be found when the going got tough and bullets started flying. In a fashion typical of cowardly psychopaths, once victory had been achieved in the Cuban revolution, Che oversaw not only the executions of tens of thousands of innocent people but also, in true sadistic style, had a window added to his office so that he could watch the executions being carried out. He was also in charge of forcibly collectivizing thousands of small farms. In fact, Che Guevara conducted the longest counter-revolutionary campaign in the Americas, with a brutal 6-year war against Cuban peasant farmers.
As Fontova writes, "When mothers or wives came to plead for the life of their loved one, he would show his 'ferocious love for the other' by picking up the phone and ordering that man or boy’s immediate execution in front of the sobbing woman."
The reality is that Che was run out of Cuba by Castro himself, as he had become tired of the competing cult of personality and Che's profound incompetence at anything he turned his hand to - other than as murderous executioner. Che's spectacular failure in Africa and South America where he rallied no one to his cause - and was ignored, or mocked, by guerrillas on the ground there - was also an increasing embarrassment to Castro and the worldwide socialist movement.
Time magazine helped create the enduring legend of Che by featuring him prominently, which it continues to do its 100 most influential people list.
His execution in Vallegrande at the age of 39 only enhanced Guevara's mythical stature. That Christ-like figure laid out on a bed of death with his uncanny eyes almost about to open; those fearless last words ("Shoot, coward, you're only going to kill a man") that somebody invented or reported...The real story is that the only place Che’s defiant last words appear are in Cuban accounts; created by their propaganda department and promoted around the world by Useful Idiots in universities such as radical Duke professor Dorfman and in the media such as by the NYT's Chief Useful Idiot at that time, Herbert Matthews. Every eyewitness tells a different tale — of a Che Guevara trying to ingratiate himself to every guard, officer or CIA agent at the scene, spinning the notion constantly that he would be "worth more alive."
There are some pathetic stories in Fontova's book including that of guitar hero Carlos Santana who provided comic relief with statements that "Che was all about peace and love, man," or his loopy comment that Che was the first person to allow women in Cuba's casinos. Of course, Che mainly closed the casinos, persecuted anyone who listened to rock and roll — much less performed it — and his big contribution to feminism was granting women equal access to face firing squads.
One gets the feeling that Che would fit right in with today's Islamic totalitarians in Iran, Palestine and the Middle East generally. Perhaps that's why today's breed of Useful Idiots are such fervent supporters of Ahmadinejad.