Saturday, June 14, 2008

JUNE 14: CHE’S 80TH BIRTHDAY - "Happy Birthday Comandante!"

A brief personal look at Che Guevara


IT was Pope John Paul II's custom to travel accompanied by journalists who would report later on the trip. During the flight, at some point the Pope would go to the cabin where the journalists were and talk with them for a while. Usually, they asked him not just about that particular trip, but whatever else, human and divine, that interested them at the time. The anecdote that I am going to recount is about a trip to Africa — John Paul II made several to that continent — around the late 1980s or early 90s. By that time, there was speculation about a possible visit to Cuba by John Paul II. It materialized in January 1998. In a newspaper or magazine of the time, I read the following, which I am now trying to reconstruct from memory:

In the airplane cabin, they had already discussed the decolonization of African countries, developments that were still relatively recent. If that issue was brought up, it was almost impossible to avoid referring in some way to Cuba and to Che, one of the leading figures in that process. The question was a direct one: "What does Your Holiness think about Che?" According to the article I read at the time, the Pope reflected in silence for a few seconds then broke it by saying, with enlightening simplicity, "I don't know him intimately, but I know he was concerned about the poor. Therefore, he deserves my respect." I realize that John Paul II's opinion led me to a more just consideration of Che. When judging a person's deeds, we should not avoid motivations that he or she had in doing them, in taking a certain attitude toward life. Che is no exception. The excesses that he may have committed in the framework of that "concern" is one thing; what men or groups do for the unjust reasons of selfishness and unbridled ambition is another, of a very different nature.

Like most Cubans, my first solid references to Che came with the beginning of the guerrilla struggle in the Sierra Maestra, after the landing of the Granma; in other words, in early December 1956. I was enrolled in the Havana Seminary and the disciplinary nature of that institution — now diverse — made it hard for us to obtain information about the political situation or practically anything else that was happening in our country or the world. Fortunately, I kept in frequent contact not only with my family, but with my friends, including university classmates. Che turned out to be the most enigmatic of the leaders of that process. We knew the Cubans; we were getting to know Che.

All the references coincide in affirming his almost rash daring in face of danger, as well as his spirit of discipline. We learned that he was a doctor, and stories circulated about his trip around Latin America, his presence in the Guatemala of Arbenz, his meeting-up with Raúl and Fidel in Mexico, etc. Almost everyone also valued, since that time, the consistency between his convictions and his actions in life. People also said that he was a voracious reader of good literature, with a notable preference for books on philosophy, and for classic authors, not just the Spaniards, but the Greeks and Latin, which I liked very much. He was said to have a Marxist-oriented political culture, which for many Cubans of the time was an obstacle to regarding him positively. I admit that for me, that was not so much the case, because although I disagreed with his lack of a metaphysical philosophy and with his denial of the limits Marxism, I sympathized with the emphasis on socialism. Obviously, Marxism was not, and is not, my philosophical/political orientation, but then neither was, or is, anti-communism, more visceral than rational. While some people saw him distrustfully as a foreigner, since back then, some of my friends, and I personally, related his presence within the Cuban Revolution with that of many other foreigners who collaborated with our 19th century independence movements, above all with that of Máximo Gomez. The Dominican generalissimo, as we well know, is an integral part of Cuba's patriotic and internationalist pantheon.

As we headed toward the revolutionary victory, and the final stage in Villa Clara of the guerilla struggle, the anecdotes about Che naturally multiplied. And so did the questions that I had about him. Together with the positive data, I saw what seemed to be a radical, avenging attitude, hard and cold, in response to human weakness and error; an attitude that has never seemed positive to me when I discover it in those around me, or in people who I come across in my studies of history. The early months of the revolutionary government, with Che installed in Havana, seemed to confirm, in my eyes, the excesses of that avenging spirit, both in Che and in most of the Revolution's historical leaders. Che's speeches and writings in that period were along the same lines.

However, my admiration also increased in face of his existential and intellectual consistency, as well as his social sensitivity. Some of my friends, personal friends, became close collaborators of Che during that time. They were a precious source of information about the richness and nuances of his temperament. We could not limit him to his words. Not him or anybody. And with that difficult sort of contradiction in my approach to Che, we arrive at his final stage, with first-hand knowledge of it through his Bolivian campaign "diary."

Unfortunately, I never came into contact with him. For a good part of the time he spent in Cuba, I was living and studying in Rome (August 1959 to August 1963). Che disappeared from Cuba — Africa, Bolivia and death by murder — without me having been able to fill the vacuum of not having had the contact that is almost indispensable to really knowing and properly appreciating someone.

Then came the years of enthusiasm about Che, inside and outside of Cuba, even among people and groups which distanced themselves from the Cuban revolutionary process. Years of growth, almost mythological, of his image, the one in memory and the one in iconography, with the latter centered on Korda's photograph. Let us remember May 1968 in Paris, and everything that has happened since, in relation — direct or not — to that unrepeatable month. Years, too, with the appearance of essays and biographies. Impossible to have access to so many works. On more than one occasion, I asked for guidance on the matter from Manuel Piñeiro, with whom I had a very good friendship, never damaged by dubious disagreements. For my part, well, they have been the years of the development of Che's image.

Now Evocación. Mi vida al lado del Che (Evocation. My Life with Che), the one-of-a-kind book by Aleida March, Che's wife and sentimental companion during his years in Cuba, the definitive and defining ones. She is the only one who could watch over the presence of those traits from his private life and testify to them now, from the distance of more than 40 years on, in her simple prose, like that of someone in an informal conversation. Just as they must have been recounted to her children, who had no better bridge to Che than Aleida, their mother. Now we have had the good fortune to have access to that testimonial, to take a look at these realities that cannot be grasped except in this manner, that of the testimony of his wife and the mother of his children. A complementary manner that is a must for those of us who want to "know" Che completely. To know him through and through, to the very fibers of his heart; to know him at that level of human being where so many small, everyday realities are decided, like those of social and visible importance, a level where errors and virtues, positive aspects and not so positive ones emerge, are decided and begin to be discerned.

All roads now merge for me in the comment by John Paul II quoted at the beginning of this reflection. Almost everything about Che should be contemplated in the light of his consistent and radical actions in defense of the poor; of his passion for what we used to call "social justice." So consistent and radical was his passion, so razor-sharp, that it led him to make the offering of his own life. And when an upright man goes to those extremes, the disagreements with him acquire another tone, because such a man deserves not only respect, but deep admiration.

Havana, May 27, 2008 (Taken from the website Che80)

BBC's Pro-Israeli Bias - by Stephen Lendman

BBC's Pro-Israeli Bias - by Stephen Lendman

In its near 86 year history, BBC has a long, unbroken and dubious distinction. Today it's little different from its corporate-run counterparts in America, Britain and throughout the world. In fact, on its tailored for a US BBC America audience, what passes for news matches stride for stride what people here see every day - mind-numbing commercialism, shoddy reporting, pseudo-journalism, celebrity and sports features, and other diverting and distracting non-news that should embarrass correspondents and presenters delivering it. It offends viewers and treats them like mushrooms - well-watered, in the dark, and uninformed about the most important world and national issues affecting their lives and welfare.

That's the idea, of course, and has been since BBC's inception. John Reith was its founder and first general manager. Reassuring the powerful, he set the standard adhered to thereafter: "(You) know (you) can trust us not to be really impartial." BBC never was and never is.

Impartiality has no place on BBC nor does its claim about "honesty, integrity, (and being) free from political influence and commercial pressure." How can it? Its Director-General, Executive Board Chairman, BBC Trust Chairman and senior managers are government-appointed and charged with a singular task - to function as a "propaganda system for elite interests." On all vital issues - war and peace, state and corporate corruption, human rights, social justice, or coverage of the Middle East's longest and most intractable conflict, Westminster and the establishment rest easy. They know BBC is "reliable" - pro-government, pro-business and dismissive of the public trust it disdains. Now more than ever.

This article covers one example among many - BBC's distorted, one-sided support for Israel and its antipathy toward Palestinians. In this respect, it's fully in step with its American and European counterparts - Israeli interests matter; Palestinian ones don't; as long as that holds, conflict resolution is impossible. Therein lies the problem. With its reputation, world reach, and influence, BBC's coverage exacerbates it.

Key BBC Terms In Its Israeli - Palestinian Coverage

In October 2006, Electronic listed BBC's "key terms" in its conflict coverage - to "find a balance" that, in fact, tilts strongly toward Israel. For example:

-- pre-meditated assassinations are called "killings" or occasionally "targeted killings" if Israeli sources say it;

-- the separation or apartheid wall is called a "barrier, separation barrier, West Bank barrier, (or simply) this wall;" sometimes "fence" is used as well; no hint of its real purpose or that the World Court ruled it illegal; no mention either that it's unrelated to security and simply a land-grab scheme and effort to heighten Palestinian isolation;

-- East Jerusalem - BBC recognizes West Jerusalem as part of Israel; East Jerusalem is considered occupied with its status "still to be determined in permanent status negotiations between the parties....We recognize no sovereignty over the city;" The phrase "Arab East Jerusalem" is avoided; so is any mention that Israeli settlements encroach on it and aim to annex it entirely; Palestinians want the city for their capital; it belongs to them; Israel won't allow it; BBC won't explain it;

-- Gaza - Israel nominally disengaged in summer 2005; in fact, it never did; it merely redeployed its forces, and maintains rigid control over the Territory's land, coast and airspace; it invades and attacks at will and maintains a brutish mediaeval siege; all movement in and out of Gaza is restricted; so are Gazans' access to food, water, health care, fuel, electricity and other life essentials; the result is a deep humanitarian crisis; BBC ignores it; instead it merely refers to an "end to Israel's permanent military presence," not an end to its occupation, repression, continued incursions, mass killings, targeted assassinations, and systemic use of torture;

The Green Line - it separates Israel from the West Bank, but BBC reporting blurs it; it doesn't call it a border because that implies internationally recognized status; instead it fudges by calling it "the generally recognised boundary between Israel and the West Bank;"

-- Intifada - more fudging when referring to causes; value judgments are avoided; so is truth; don't say Ariel Sharon's September 29, 2000 Haram al-Sharif provocation incited a popular uprising; package his visit with Palestinian frustration over a failed peace process and say it "sparked the (second) intifada (rather than it) led (to it or) started (it);"

-- Jewish - distinguish between "Israeli" or "Jewish" to avoid religious or racial connotations; stress political ones instead; ignore how Israelis stress Jewishness by relating to "the promised land," one "without people for a people without a land," a Jewish homeland, Israel's biblical connection, and raising the issue of anti-semitism against harsh Israeli critics; when they're Jewish call them self-hating;

-- Occupied Territories or Occupation - BBC refers to East Jerusalem and the West Bank, not the Golan Heights; after Israel "disengaged," Gaza is in political limbo; BBC distinguishes between the "occupied territories" and Palestinian Land or Palestinian Territories; calling Gaza and the West Bank "disputed territories" is preferred; in fact, there's no dispute; they're both Israeli occupied Palestinian land;

-- settlements and outposts - BBC distinguishes between them when, in fact, they vary only in size; BBC avoids calling them illegal; they're all illegal but adjectives aren't used unless they're vital to a story; in all reports, BBC is one-sided; it stresses that Israel disputes international law; anti-Israeli value judgments aren't made; the rule of law is dismissed; Palestinian rights are ignored; the growing number of Israeli settlers is fudged, downplayed and generally not mentioned;

-- Palestine - BBC acknowledges that no independent state exists but the "peace process" aims to create one; unmentioned is that negotiations are fake and their reports try to hide it; so do deceptive words to appease pro-Israel critics; BBC obliges them;

-- "relative calm" or "quiet" periods - it refers to quiescent Palestinian resistance, no Israeli deaths, but not ongoing Israeli attacks and killings;

-- right of return - BBC ignores international law and UN Resolution 194; it promotes the Israeli position instead; and

-- "terrorists" - a loaded term applying only to Palestinians; never Israelis; most often other words are used like "bomber, attacker, gunman, kidnapper, insurgent (or) militant;" Palestinian self-defense is never called resistance, and Israeli incursions aren't ever called aggression.

Media "Rules of Engagement" in Covering the Middle East

In June 2002, Robin Miller listed "The Media's Middle East Rules of Engagement." BBC's Israeli-Palestinian coverage adheres to them rigidly:

Rule 1 - "View the Middle East (ME) through Israeli eyes;" Palestinians are terrorists and aggressors; Israelis are victims who retaliate; self-defense is their motive; so is avoiding the truth;

Rule 2 - "Treat American and Israeli governmental statements as (truthful) hard news;" avoid any information that contradicts them;

Rule 3 - "Ignore the historical context;" avoid mentioning six decades of dispossession, occupation, and hundreds of preceding years during which Palestine was the Palestinian homeland; also suppress the idea that a Jewish homeland first originated with Zionism's late 19th century's founding and didn't exist prior to that;

Rule 4 - "Avoid the fundamental legal and moral issues posed by the Israeli occupation;" say nothing about Geneva, UN Resolution 194, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and all other recognized international human rights laws;

-- Rule 5 - "Suppress or minimize news unfavorable to the Israelis;" this rule is ironclad and unforgiving; open debate isn't tolerated; facts are suppressed; aggressors are called victims; self-defense is called terrorism; news is carefully "filtered," minds manipulated, and truth conspicuously absent; BBC excels at it and lets Israel get away with murder;

-- Rule 6 - "Muddy the waters when necessary;" major US media do it; so do human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch; they tread lightly on Israeli-Palestinian issues and slant their views accordingly; so does BBC;

-- Rule 7 - "Credit all Israeli claims (as fact), even if wholly unfounded;" if Israelis say it, it's true; BBC approves;

-- Rule 8 - "Doubt all Palestinian assertions, no matter how self-evident;" if Palestinians say it, it's false or at best an unsubstantiated claim; most often ignore, downplay or fudge it;

-- Rule 9 - "Condemn only Palestinian violence;" treat it as a crime against innocent Israeli victims; ignore any reference to self-defense against Israeli aggression and rule of law violations; and

Rule 10 - "Disparage the international consensus supporting Palestinian rights;" better still - ignore it or condemn it as biased or anti-semitic.

Add one more rule for good measure. Repeat any lie often enough and most people will believe it. It's foolproof and works every time.

Independent Analysis of BBC's Israel - Palestine Coverage

In 2005, the BBC commissioned a study to review the impartiality of its Israeli - Palestinian coverage. It consisted of an independent panel, the Communications Research Centre at Loughborough University, and British - Israeli international lawyer Noam Lubell. Their published April 2006 findings weren't what the broadcaster wished. Highlights from them showed BBC coverage:

-- rarely covered daily Palestinian hardships and repression under occupation;

-- was incomplete, misleading, and failed to consistently provide a full and fair account of the conflict;

-- overlooked important themes; in the study period it most notably ignored Israeli annexation of land in and around East Jerusalem;

-- omitted a substantial amount of important news vital to Palestinian concerns;

-- failed to convey the disparity in the Israeli and Palestinian experience; specifically that one side is dominant and the other under occupation and forced to endure dependence indignities and hard line repression;

-- seldom used the term occupation; mentioned military occupation only once during the study period;

-- reported nothing about nearly four decades of occupation and repression;

-- misportrayed Israel's Gaza disengagement as a positive step; failed to clarify it as a ruse and that Gaza remains occupied, invaded and attacked at will;

-- failed to report Israeli assertions that relocating Gaza settlers would strengthen Israel's control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem;

-- never clarified that Gaza settlements were illegal; that Gazans face ongoing hardships and stressed instead the "controversy" of withdrawing among Israelis;

-- misused or misportrayed the term "terrorism" and only applied it to Palestinians;

-- omitted any reference to historical background and failed to put stories in proper context;

-- provided inadequate analysis and interpretation of key events and issues;

-- failed to explain the meaning of Zionism;

-- failed to provide background of the 1967 and 1973 wars;

-- consistently misportrayed Hamas; described it as formally committed to Israel's destruction; ignored Hamas' acceptance of the Arab peace proposal and its willingness to recognize Israel in return for an end to the occupation;

-- mischaracterized the Oslo Accords as positive; ignored its deficiencies and betrayal;

-- mentioned the Intifada with no explanation of cause or justification;

-- failed to cite international law and UN resolutions; their call for an end to Israel's occupation; and the fact that Israel ignores international rulings contrary to its interests;

-- ignored Palestinians' legal right to return or restitution if they choose not to;

-- ignored humanitarian and human rights laws;

-- failed to explain extrajudicial executions are illegal;

-- mischaracterized the Separation Wall that the World Court ruled illegal;

-- misrepresented the status of Jerusalem;

-- gave unequal access to Israeli officials and spokespersons; stations none of its correspondents in Occupied Palestine; has them all inside Israel; results in a huge disparity in reports favoring Israel while disparaging Palestinians;

-- misportrayed Israelis as peace-seeking and Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims as aggressors;

-- stressed Israeli victimhood, the importance of Israeli deaths and injuries, and relative unimportance of a disproportionate number of Palestinian ones;

-- responded to criticism defensively; continued to repeat past errors cited; showed deference to Israeli issues and the pro-Israeli Lobby;

-- ignored its own established editorial standards, including on terminology; as a result, consistently showed bias, a lack of clarity and precision and did little to improve comprehension and understanding;

-- overall - BBC falls far short of fair and impartial reporting and has done little to redress pointed out deficiencies; one positive note - the analysis found no evidence linking anti-Semitic behavior to BBC reports; it also found none dispelling it.

Glasgow University Media Group Study of Middle East News Coverage - It's "Bad News from Israel" and BBC

Researchers Greg Philo and Mike Berry conducted the study between 2000 and 2002, and their above quoted 2004 book title discusses it. Little has changed from then to now, BBC's reporting highlights it, and it's "bad news" for kept-in-the-dark viewers of major UK news and current affairs coverage.

Former BBC Middle East correspondent Tim Llewellyn agrees and explained in his unsparing comments about his former employer. He called it "dishonest - in concept, approach and execution....(it) favours the occupying soldiers over the occupied Arabs, depicting the latter, essentially, as alien tribes threatening the survival of Israel, rather than vice versa." It depicts the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "as a battle of two (equal) forces (with equally) right and wrong responsibility. It is the tyranny of spurious equivalence." As the UK and world's leading broadcaster, BBC is justifiably blamed.

"Bad News from Israel" explains how - by consistently showing pro-Israel bias in virtually all its reporting and at times in the extreme. Beyond the book's timeline, correspondent Chris Morris' January 2004 "Lost hope in Mid-East conflict" report is a case in point. It's about an expectant Palestinian woman confronted at a checkpoint. Prevented from passing, she gives birth and miscarries.

Morris is sympathetic but sides with the soldiers. "You can't blame (them, he says) for being jumpy at checkpoints....because there are Israeli victims too, children among them, killed by snipers and suicide bombers from the West Bank. What would you have done? Would you have taken the risk? Or would you have played it safe, fearful of a trap? And so it goes on - another week in the Middle East."

Even worse, the greater issue is ignored - an instance reflecting daily life in Occupied Palestine plus regular killings and abuse. Morris turns a blind eye. He highlights suicide bombings instead - "A Palestinian mother in her early 20s blows herself to bits and takes the lives of four young Israelis, after tricking them into believing she was ill." He continues - "A Jewish settler is killed on the West Bank, leaving five children without a father, including triplets just three months old." Reports like his are commonplace on BBC. Israeli lives matter. Palestinian ones don't. Philo and Berry document the evidence.

Their study covers what media should report, a content analysis of their coverage, and how focus group interviews show how viewers are ill-served and left uninformed. Below are some results that apply to today:

-- little or no historical context was provided; origins of the conflict were omitted; in the 2000 timeframe covered, BBC (and ITN) devoted 3500 lines of text to the Intifada, but a scant 17 to context or history;

-- reporting consistently was pro-Israel and justified the most extreme actions and lawlessness; at the same time, Palestinian resistance was highlighted and condemned as terrorism;

-- in the authors' words: "There (was) no evidence from our analysis to suggest that Palestinian views were given preferential treatment on the BBC. The opposite (was) in reality the case;"

-- BBC justified Israeli violence as "response" or "retaliation;" in contrast, Palestinian resistance was called "horrific," an "atrocity," "terrorism," or even "mass murder;"

-- some BBC reports were rife with errors whether intentionally or from ignorance;

-- reports focused on Israeli security and right to exist; comparable Palestinian rights got little mention; nor did their impoverishment, deplorable daily existence, or a brutish four-decade military occupation;

-- Israeli deaths were highlighted; Palestinian ones played down or ignored; regular Israeli incursions got little mention or weren't reported;

-- as a result, only 4% of focus group respondents knew Palestinians were driven from their homeland; only 10% that Israel occupied Palestine; some believed Palestinians were the occupiers; some viewed the conflict as a border dispute; 80% didn't know the origin of Palestinian refugees or that they were dispossessed; two-thirds didn't know Palestinian casualties exceeded Israeli ones; more knowledgeable respondents had access to books and other material that dispel BBC bias and inaccuracies;

-- senior BBC journalists interviewed told researchers that they were instructed not to give explanations; to dumb-down the news for easy listening and do it in "20-second attention span" segments; researchers believe BBC has it backwards; this type reporting alienates viewers; accuracy and more context enhances viewership; under heavy Israeli Lobby pressure, BBC and other major media report propaganda; truth is the first casualty, and viewers remain uninformed; today it's worse than ever.

BBC's Coverage of Gaza Under Siege

BBC reports little about Gaza under siege and the humanitarian crisis it caused. Instead, accounts like its January 2008 one are common. It's headlined "Gaza's rocket threat to Israel" and highlights homemade Qassams "fired by Hamas and other Palestinian militants at Israeli population centres near the Gaza Strip." They've "killed 13 people inside Israel, including three children. In some months, more than 100 launches have been recorded by the Israelis."

No mention is made of Israeli incursions, their frequency, the use of F-16 air-to-surface missiles, their accuracy and destructive power, high-tech battle tanks in civilian neighborhoods, and other sophisticated weapons freely used, including illegal ones. Nor is there mention of hundreds of Palestinian deaths, injuries, inflicted Israeli destruction, and use of Palestinians as human shields. Instead, the Israeli town of Sderot is highlighted because it's "the only large Israeli population centre within the original Qassam's range." BBC describes them in detail to over-hype their destructive potential. In fact, they're crude, inaccurate and limited in range. They hardly compare to Israel's high-tech weapons that when unleashed against a civilian population are devastating.

Later in BBC's report, it admits "Qassams are very primitive missiles and their main effect on Israelis in the area is psychological torment (and that) Israeli casualties have been relatively light." In contrast, Israeli attacks on Palestinians kill and injure many hundreds and inflict immense psychological terror against a civilian population. It's gone on for six decades, shows no signs of ebbing, but BBC won't explain it.

Nor does it report on Gaza under siege, the collective punishment of its people, the humanitarian crisis it caused, and Israel's lawless act that BBC should expose and denounce. Instead it features reports like a May 10 one about a "Gaza mortar attack kill(ing an) Israeli." Israeli air strikes followed, five Hamas members were killed and four others injured. BBC featured an Israeli government spokesperson saying "We hold (Hamas) accountable for today's attack and the murder of civilians." No Palestinian response was aired, and BBC merely ended saying that "The Gaza Strip has been controlled by Hamas since last June when they ousted their rivals from the Fatah movement." No context, no background, no fair and impartial reporting, no truth, and no possible way for viewers to understand.

BBC suggests that Palestinians are responsible for their own condition, that a humanitarian catastrophe is their fault, and that Israel has every right to terrorize and starve them to submission for its own security and self-interest. By BBC's standards, Israel may rightfully lock down 1.5 million people, collectively punish them, continue a repressive occupation, and refuse to negotiate in good faith, or at all. BBC is dismissive. Palestinian suffering is inconsequential, yet consider its outrage from a single Israeli death. It's also contemptuous of Hamas, ignored its months-long unilateral ceasefire, and refuses to report its willingness to recognize Israel in return for a Palestinian state inside pre-1967 borders.

BBC views the conflict from an Israeli perspective. It features government officials to explain it, and reports whatever they say as fact. This turns reality on its head, makes lawless actions justifiable, results in double standard journalism, and lets Palestinians suffer the consequences. Why not and who cares. They're just Arab Muslims in the land of Israel where Jews alone matter and not a hint of even-handed reporting exists. Now more than ever in the conflict's seventh decade, and BBC's reporting exacerbates it.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate for the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to The Global Research News Hour on Mondays from 11AM to 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.

John McCain: War Hero or Collaborator responsible for the loss of sixty percent more U.S. aircraft over North Vietnam?

McCain told his North Vietnamese captors, "highly classified information, the most important of which was the package routes, which were routes used to bomb North Vietnam. He gave in detail the altitude they were flying, the direction, if they made a turn… he gave them what primary targets the United States was interested in." Hopper contends that the information McCain provided allowed the North Vietnamese to adjust their air-defenses. As result, Hopper claims, the US lost sixty percent more aircraft and in 1968, "called off the bombing of North Vietnam, because of the information McCain had given to them." 6

From Glory Boy to PW Songbird

John McCain: War Hero or North Vietnam's Go-To Collaborator?


If you have no idea what war is about, thank your gods. It is not what you see in Mel Gibson movies, nor is it hidden within the Big Lie Big Brother tells you about Pat Tillman's heroic "Army of One" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When my father was in New Guinea with the 32nd Division in 1942, his fellow American soldiers would point their long Springfield rifles skywards and shoot at American pilots flying overhead.

"Glory Boys," the long-suffering ground troops called them.

The pilots had comfortable quarters beside the airstrip in Port Moresby. When orders for a mission came down, they'd climb in their planes, rattle down the runway, and soar over the Owen Stanley Mountains with the clouds in spotless uniforms, breathing fresh clean air. The Glory Boys weren't trapped in the broiling jungle, in the mud and pouring rain, their skin rotting away, chewed by ghastly insects, bitten by poisonous snakes, stricken with cerebral malaria, yellow fever, dysentery, and a host of unknown diseases delivered by unknown parasites.

If the Fly Boys perished, it was in a blaze of glory, not from a landmine, or a misdirected American mortar, or a Japanese bayonet in the brain.

One day my father and his last remaining friend, Charlie Ferguson, were walking through the jungle up to the front line. One the way they passed a group of bare-chested Aussies in khaki shorts sitting round a grindstone sharpening their knives. Every once in a while one of the Aussies would hoist his rife and casually put a bullet into a Japanese sniper who had tied himself into the top of a nearby tree. Not in any place that would outright kill him, but some place painful enough to make the point.

A little further toward the front line, my father and Charlie came upon Master Sergeant Harry Blackman, an adult man in his forties, regular army, a grizzled combat veteran. A few days earlier in a fight with the Japanese, a young lieutenant, a "90-Day Wonder," had curled up in a fetal position when he should have been directing mortar fire. As a result, US mortar rounds landed on several US soldiers. Blackman, in front of everyone, took the lieutenant behind a tree and blew his brains out.

As my father and Charlie waked through the jungle they saw Harry Blackman perched on the lower limb of a huge tropical tree, babbling incoherently among the butterflies and flowering vines, driven stark raving mad by sorrow and jungle war with the Japanese.

Several days later my father was sent on a patrol into Japanese heldterritory. He was the last man in a formation moving single file through the jungle. Plagued by malaria and exhaustion, he kept falling behind. Around noon, a group of Japanese soldiers sitting high up in trees dropped concussion grenades on the patrol. As he lay on the ground, unable to move, my father watched the Japanese slide down the trees. Starting with the point man on patrol, they pulled down the pants and castrated each man, before clubbing him to death with their rifle butts or running a bayonet into his gut.

War. If you're a Glory Boy like John Sidney McCain III, you really have no idea what it is. You drop bombs on cities, on civilians, maybe on enemy forces, maybe on your own troops. Glory Boys like John McCain rarely get a taste of the horror they inflict on others. Their suffering rarely extends beyond the high anxiety that they might get shot down and that some bombarded mob on the ground might take its revenge.

Magically, my father was spared that day when his patrol was slaughtered. Against regulations, he had stolen a cross-swords patch and sewn it on his shirt sleeve. At the age of 16, he thought it looked cool. On the morning of the patrol, when the new "90-Day Wonder" told him to take it off, my father said "Sure." He and the lieutenant stared at each other for a while and then the lieutenant moved away. Insubordination was the least of anyone's worries. No one expected to survive the patrol, anyway.

When the Japanese who had ambushed the patrol got to my father, they stood poised to mutilate and kill him. Then they saw the cross-swords patch. They apparently felt that dear old dad was an important person with inside information about American forces. Instead of killing him, they took him prisoner. When they realized he was just a stupid kid, the Japanese sent him to a POW camp in the Philippines.

Being a POW is what my father and John McCain have in common; although their experience as POWs was as different as their class and their character.

Class indeed has privileges, and while the government refused to provide my combat-veteran father with medical benefits for his malaria, McCain, who spent ten hours of his life in mortal danger, was decorated with the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart.

And thus the "war hero" myth was born.


In the fall of 1967, Navy pilot John McCain was routinely bombing Hanoi from an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea. On October 26, he was trying to level a power plant in a heavily populated area when a surface-to-air missile knocked a wing off his jet. Banged-up John McCain and what was left of plane splashed into Truc Bach Lake.

A compassionate Vietnamese civilian left his air raid shelter and swam out to McCain. McCain's arm and leg were fractured and he was tangled up in his parachute underwater. He was drowning. The Vietnamese man saved McCain's sorry ass, and yet McCain has nothing but hatred for "the gooks" who allegedly tortured him. As he told reporters on his campaign bus (The Straight Talk Express) in 2000, "I will hate them as long as I live." (1)

Americans have to hate people, and dehumanize them as "gooks" or "rag-heads" in order to drop bombs on them. Stirring up such hatred is the forte of the US government, as witnessed by its Israeli-driven PR campaign against Arabs and Moslems. That's why Bush and his media minions tied "brutal dictator" Saddam Hussein to 9/11 – so Americans would hate Iraqis enough to kill and abuse them in a thousand ways, everyday, for five years. Or, according to McCain, for 100 years if necessary.

The flip side to the equation is that people generally hate those who drop bombs on them. When the Germans dropped bombs on London, the Allies called it Terror Bombing. The French resistance especially hated the Germans, especially after the Gestapo set up shop in occupied France in 1940.

Likewise, Iraqi and Afghani resistance fighters hate the Americans (who more and more resemble the Germans of 1940) for occupying their countries. They especially hate our Gestapo – the CIA – and its torturers. But that's War for you, and John McCain is lucky the locals didn't eat him alive – like Uzbek nationalists trapped in a horrid prison camp in Afghanistan nibbled on CIA officer John "Mike" Spann shortly after Spann summarily executed a prisoner. Spann was killed in the ensuing riot, shortly before the CIA and its Afghan collaborators massacred the remaining Uzbek prisoners on 28 November 2001.
The Vietnamese had good reason to hate McCain. On his previous 22 missions, he had dropped God knows how many bombs killing God knows how many innocent civilians. "I am a war criminal," he confessed on "60 Minutes" in 1997. "I bombed innocent women and children." (2)

If he is sincere when he says that, why isn't he being tried for war crimes by the U.S .Government?

In any event, the man who rescued McCain tried to ward off an angry mob, which stomped on McCain for a while until the local cops turned him over to the military. McCain was in pain, but suffering no mortal wounds. He was, however, in enough pain to break down and start collaborating with the Vietnamese after three days in a hospital receiving treatment from qualified doctors – something no other POW ever enjoyed.

War is one thing, collaborating with the enemy is another; it is a legitimate campaign issue that strikes at the heart of McCain's character…or lack thereof.

There are certainly degrees of collaboration. As a famous novelist once asked, "If you're a barber and you cut a German's hair, does that make you a collaborator?"

Being an informant for the Gestapo, or its stepson the CIA in Iraq, and informing on the resistance and sending them to their death, is different than being a barber. In occupied countries like Iraq, or France in World War Two, collaboration to that extent is an automatic death sentence.
The question is: "What kind of collaborator was John McCain, the admitted war criminal who will hate his alleged torturers for the rest of his life?"

Put another way, how psychologically twisted is McCain? And what actually happened to him in his POW camp that twisted him? Was it abuse, as he claims, or was it the fact that he collaborated and has to cover up?

Covering-up can take a lot of energy. The truth is lurking in his subconscious, waiting to explode. A number of US officials, including Andrew Card, have commented on McCain's inexplicable angry outbursts.

In a July 5 2006 article, former Senator Bob Smith (R-NH), was quoted as having said about McCain: "I have witnessed incidents where he has used profanity at colleagues.... He would disagree about something and then explode." Smith called it "irrational behavior. We've all had incidents where we have gotten angry, but I've never seen anyone act like that."

So, you say, McCain has a short fuse behind the plastered TV smile. So he calls his colleagues assholes and shit-heads. In high school they called him "McNasty." That's just how he is. Always was, always will be.

Well, maybe. And maybe it's not a quality we want in a president. And maybe that repressed anger actually has its roots in a Vietnamese POW camp, where John McCain betrayed his forefathers and his country.

The Admiral's Bad Boy

In the forced-labor camp where my father was tortured by the Japanese, the POWs killed anyone who collaborated. Indeed, the ranking POW in my father's camp, an English Major, made a deal with the Japanese guaranteeing that no one would attempt to escape. When four prisoners escaped, the Major reported it. The Japanese sent out a search party, which found the POWs and brought them back to camp, where they were beheaded on Christmas morning 1943.

The POWs held a war council that night. They drew straws, and the three who got short were given a mission. A few hours later, under cover of darkness, they crept to the major's hut. My father had gotten one of the short straws and kept watch while the other two POWs strangled the Major in his sleep.

That's how it happens in real life.

McCain, in his carefully prepared statements, claims he was tortured while in solitary confinement, and that is why he signed a confession saying, "I am a black criminal and I have performed the deeds of an air pirate. I almost died and the Vietnamese people saved my life, thanks to the doctors." (3)

However, on March 25, 1999, two of his fellow POWs, Ted Guy and Gordon "Swede" Larson told the Phoenix New Times that, while they could not guarantee that McCain was not physically harmed, they doubted it.

As Larson said, "My only contention with the McCain deal is that while he was at The Plantation, to the best of my knowledge and Ted's knowledge, he was not physically abused in any way. No one was in that camp. It was the camp that people were released from."

Guy and Larson's claims are given credence by McCain's vehement opposition to releasing the government's debriefings of Vietnam War POWs. McCain gave Michael Isikoff a peek at his debriefs, and Isikoff declared there was "nothing incriminating" in them, apart from the redactions. (4)

McCain had a unique POW experience. Initially, he was taken to the infamous Hanoi Hilton prison camp, where he was interrogated. By McCain's own account, after three or four days, he cracked. He promised his Vietnamese captors, "I'll give you military information if you will take me to the hospital."

His Vietnamese capturers soon realized their POW, John Sidney McCain III, came from a well-bred line of American military elites. McCain's father, John Jr., and grandfather, John Sr., were both full Admirals. A destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, is named after both of them.

While his son was held captive in Hanoi, John McCain Jr., from 1968 to 1972, was the Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Pacific Command; Admiral McCain was in charge of all US forces in the Pacific including those fighting in Vietnam.

One can only wonder when the concierge at the Hanoi Hilton started taking calls from Admiral McCain. Rather quickly, one surmises, for the Vietnamese soon took John Boy McCain to a hospital reserved for Vietnamese officers. Unlike his fellow POWs, he received care from a Soviet doctor.

"This poor stooge has propaganda value," the Vietnamese realized. The Admiral's bad boy was used to special treatment and his captors knew that. They were working him.

For his part, McCain acknowledges that the Vietnamese rushed him to a hospital, but denies he was given any "special medical treatment."

However….two weeks into his stay at the Vietnamese hospital, the Hanoi press began quoting him. It was not "name rank and serial number, or kill me," as specified by the military code of conduct. McCain divulged specific military information: he gave the name of the aircraft carrier on which he was based, the number of US pilots that had been lost, the number of aircraft in his flight formation, as well as information about the location of rescue ships. (5)

So McCain leveraged some details to get some medical attention. That's not anything too contemptible. And who among us civilians is to judge someone in the position?

On the other hand, according to one source, McCain's collaboration may have had very real consequences. Retired Army Colonel Earl Hopper, a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, contends that the information that McCain divulged classified information North Vietnam used to hone their air defense system.

Hopper's son, Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Earl Pearson Hopper was, like McCain, shot down over North Vietnam. Hopper the younger, however, was declared "Missing in Action." Stemming from the loss of his son, the elder Hopper co-founded the National League of Families, an organization devoted to the return of Vietnam War POWs.

According to the elder Hopper, McCain told his North Vietnamese captors, "highly classified information, the most important of which was the package routes, which were routes used to bomb North Vietnam. He gave in detail the altitude they were flying, the direction, if they made a turn… he gave them what primary targets the United States was interested in." Hopper contends that the information McCain provided allowed the North Vietnamese to adjust their air-defenses. As result, Hopper claims, the US lost sixty percent more aircraft and in 1968, "called off the bombing of North Vietnam, because of the information McCain had given to them." 6

The Psywar Stooge

McCain was held for five and half years. Collaborating during the first two weeks might have been pragmatic, but he soon became North Vietnam's go-to collaborator for the next three years. Given the quality of the military information he allegedly shared, his situation isn't as innocuous as the pragmatic French barber who cuts the hair of the German occupier. McCain was repaying his captors for their kindness and mercy.

This is the lesson of McCain's experience as a POW: a true politician, a hollow man, his only allegiance is to power. The Vietnamese, like McCain's campaign contributors today, protected and promoted him and in return, he danced to their tune.

Not content with divulging military information, McCain provided his voice in radio broadcasts used by the North Vietnamese to demoralize American soldiers.

Vietnamese radio propagandists made good use out of McCain. On June 4, 1969, a U.S. wire service headlined a story entitled "PW Songbird Is Pilot Son of Admiral." (7)

The story reported that McCain collaborated in psywar offensives aimed at American servicemen. "The broadcast was beamed to American servicemen in South Vietnam as a part of a propaganda series attempting to counter charges by U.S. Defense Secretary Melvin Laird that American prisoners are being mistreated in North Vietnam."
On one occasion, General Vo Nguyen Giap, the top Vietnamese commander and a nationalist celebrity of the time, personally interviewed McCain. His compliance during this command performance was a moment of affirmation for the Vietnamese. His Vietnamese handlers thereafter used him regularly as prop at meetings with foreign delegations.

In the custody of enemy psywar specialists, McCain became what he is today: a professional psywar stooge.

It is impossible to prove exactly what happened to McCain short of traveling to Vietnam and tracking down his captors, and picking up thee trail where it begins. According to The Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain, McCain says he only collaborated when he brutally tortured by his Vietnamese captors and a wicked Cuban he referred to as Fidel. (8)

He says his confession led him to a suicide attempt.

"In the anguished days right after my confession," McCain said in his autobiography Faith of My Fathers, "I had dreaded just such a discovery by my father."

But as McCain discovered, dear old dad did know.

"I only recently learned that the tape I dreamed I heard playing over the loudspeaker in my cell had been real; it had been broadcast outside the prison and had come to the attention of my father," McCain said. "If I had known at the time my father had heard about my confession, I would have been distressed beyond imagination, and might not have recovered from the experience as quickly as I did."

But wait! McCain did not commit suicide. In fact, he's alive, running for President on the "war hero" ticket, and promoting more war everywhere. The new McCain feels no distress at having been a collaborator or a war criminal – if he ever did.

According to Fernando Barral, a Cuban psychologist who questioned McCain in January 1970, "McCain was "boastful" during their interview and "without remorse" for any civilian deaths that occurred "when he bombed Hanoi." McCain has a similar recollection, writing in his [autobiography] that he responded, "No, I do not" when Barral asked if he felt remorse." (9)

McCain told [Barral] that he had not been subjected to "physical or moral violence," and "lamented in the interview that 'if I hadn't been shot down, I would have become an admiral at a younger age than my father.'"

"Barral said McCain boasted that he was the best pilot in the Navy and that he wanted to be an astronaut." The Cuban psychologist concluded that McCain was [a] 'psychopath.'" (10)

"He felt superior to the Vietnamese up there in his plane, with all his training," Barral recalled.

Psychopath McCain emerges, now, as a contemptible elitist, stewing in the crucible of his class conscience, the ultimate right wing psywar stooge.

McJekyll and McHyde

There are no public records from other POWs to confirm McCain's self-aggrandizing claims, but his detractors, like fellow POWs Ted Guy and Gordon "Swede" Larson, and Colonel Hopper, have yet to be discredited or silenced by McCain's PR team.

Hopper, Guy and Larson are part of a larger movement concerned with the fate of the 2,000 American veterans still missing in Vietnam. They've been pressing McCain to own up to his POW experience, drop the "war hero" posturing, and do more to provide a full accounting of the POWs and MIAs who were not as fortunate, privileged, or willing to collaborate as the would-be president.

McCain's supporters are trying to quiet detractors by ignoring them. "Nobody believes these idiots. They're a bunch of jerks. Forget them," said Mark Salter, McCain's chief mythologist. Salter is credited by casting McCain as a modern Teddy Roosevelt, "the war hero turned domestic reformer." (11)

By in large the Salter strategy has worked. The American media accepts McCain's "war hero" myth as gospel and, in so doing, bolsters the "straight talk" image so essential to his success in politics. In a recent TV interview with John Kerry, victim of the Swift Boat Heroes for Truth Movement in the last election, another "fortunate son," Chris Wallace, actually took umbrage when Kerry criticized McCain. Son of media admiral Mike Wallace, Chris made Kerry admit that McCain was a hero.
When it comes to psywar, the Vietnamese have nothing on the good old USA.

McCain learned his lesson well from the Vietnamese propagandists who used him for their psywar projects. But it's not the collaboration that makes John McCain unfit for office; it's the fact that he has managed to rewrite his collaboration into political capital. "He's a war hero, respect him, or die."

As a pedigree, the McCain family's stature rests on the status and prestige of its achievements in the military: rank, medals, and most importantly to John McCain's presidential campaign, the image of warrior masculinity: the straight talking maverick of the Republican Party, the 21st century rendering of Teddy Roosevelt.

Not exactly. In his current presidential campaign, he's cozying up to the hate-mongering Christian right he once criticized. He's reversed positions on so many issues that his Democratic rivals have assembled his contrasting statements into "The Great McCain Versus McCain Debates. (12)

Underlying the Jekyll-Hyde reversals is McCain's hidden past of collaboration. Somewhere in the unplumbed human part of John Sidney McCain III, he knows his POW experience contradicts the war hero image he projects. This essential dishonesty, this lie of the soul, is a sign of a larger lack of character - like the major in my father's POW camp, but without the come-uppance.

McCain is not some principled leader, not a maverick cowboy fighting the powerful. He's a sycophant. He believes in nothing but power and will do anything to attain it. He explodes in anger when challenged because, when a criticism hits to close to home, it goes to straight his deep-seeded shame.

McCain's handlers have turned his unspeakable reality into a myth worthy of Teddy Roosevelt. No wonder the Glory Boy has stuck around Washington so long.

Doug Valentine is the author of The Hotel Tacloban, the story of his father's experiences in a Japanese POW camp in World War Two. The Hotel Tacloban is available at Mr Valentine's websites and
Brendan McQuade assisted Mr Valentine by providing timely research for this article.

Mr McQuade can be reached for interviews about this article at: 860-334-3661


1. C W Nevius, Marc Sandalow, John Wildemuth, "McCain Criticized for Slur," San Francisco Chronicle, 18 February 2000

2. Ted Rall, February 6, 2008.

3.Ted Rall, February 6, 2008
4. Sydney Schanberg,, 25 April 2000, citing Isikoff, Newsweek, 1 January 2000.

5. Ted Sampley, "Luck Of The Admiral's Son Not For "Grunts" U.S. Veteran Dispatch, October 1999.
6. Sampley page.

7. See attached PDF version of Eugene Cannon 2 June 69 press release.


9. Manuel Roig-Franzia, Washington Post Foreign Service Tuesday, March 11, 2008; C01

10. Ibid.

11. Sasha Issenberg, Boston Globe.



U.S. Military's Middle East Crusade for Christ by Robert Weitzel

Global Research, June 14, 2008

Last August the watchdog group, Military Religious Freedom Foundation, foiled a Pentagon plan that would have allowed the shipment of "freedom packages" to soldiers and Marines in Iraq. The parcels were put together by the fundamentalist Christian ministry, Straight Up, and contained Bibles, proselytizing tracts in English and Arabic, and the apocalyptic "Left Behind" computer game, in which Christian Tribulation forces convert or kill infidels—nonbelievers, Muslims and Jews.

On May 1 the Senate approved the promotion of Brigadier General Robert L. Caslen Jr. to Major General. Currently the commandant of cadets at West Point, he will become the commander of the 25th Infantry Division. He is also president of the stridently fundamentalist Officer'sChristian Fellowship, whose vision is a "spiritually transformed military, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform, empowered by the Holy Spirit"

General Caslen was promoted despite the Defense Department's recommended disciplinary action against him and several other senior military leaders because they had "improperly endorsed and participated with a nonfederal entity while in uniform" by participating in a promotional video for the Campus Crusade For Christ's Christian Embassy, an evangelical organization that ministers to Beltway politicians and sponsors weekly Bible studies at the Pentagon.

According to the DoD Inspector General's report, one of the generals involved "asserted that Christian Embassy was treated as an instrumentality of the Pentagon Chaplain's office for over 25 years, and had effectively become a 'quasi federal entity.'" Arguably, he believed his participation in the video was in the line of duty.

Considering both the Pentagon's evangelical proclivity and a 2006 Pew survey which found that of the major religious groups in America, evangelicals have the most negative views of Islam and Muslims, the U.S. sniper who was recently caught using the Quran for target practice in the Baghdad neighborhood of Radhwaniya might be excused for thinking the book was a legitimate target upon which to perfect his craft . . . excused for thinking hewas acting in the line duty.

And is it any wonder that with evangelicals and fundamentalists at the very top of the military's officer corps —to say nothing of their Commander in Chief—that an enlisted Marine was passing out Christian "witnessing coins" inscribed in Arabic at a checkpoint in Fallujah? One side of the coin asked, "Where will you spend eternity?" An evangelical favorite, John 3:16, was on the flip side.

Sheik Adul-Rahman al-Zubaie, a tribal leader in Fallujah who was outraged by the Marine's proselytizing said, "This event did not happen by chance, but it was planned and done intentionally."

While the Marine's proselytizing is not the official policy of the predominately Christian force occupying the predominately Islamic Iraq, it was done "in the line of duty" with a wink and a nod from his chain of command. Think Abu Ghraib!

From Fort Jackson, the Army's largest basic training facility, where trainees are encouraged to attend Campus Crusade's weekly "God's Basic Training" programs, to the U.S. Air Force Academy where students are pressured to attend the Crusade's weekly "cru" (short for crusade) Bible study, American military personnel are, as Campus Crusade's Scot Blom gloats, "government paid missionaries" when they complete their training.

As the demands of fighting a perpetual war against "radical Islam" begins to strain both the military's resources and the country's resolve, the Pentagon has begun outsourcing larger chunks of the war to private contractors. Predictably, our "government paid missionaries" have become more expensive and much less controllable or accountable.

The Bush administration's favorite contractor, Blackwater, is the most powerful private army in the world. It commands thousands of mercenaries in Iraq and Afghanistan, has over a billion dollars in government contracts, and enjoys complete immunity from prosecution for its theater of operations' conduct.

Blackwater's founder, Erik Prince, a staunchly conservative Catholic, has also served on the board of directors of Christian Freedom International, a crusading missionary organization operating in the overwhelmingly Islamic countries of Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Prince envisions an evangelical "end time" role for his warriors, "Everybody carries guns, just like Jeremiah rebuilding the temple in Israel—a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other."

No one in the last decade has contributed more to end time, apocalyptic evangelism than John Hagee, a televangelist seen by millions of viewers weekly and pastor of the 19,000-member Cornerstone Church. Hagee preaches that in order to bring about the Second Coming of Christ and the Rapture of true believers, Islam first has to be destroyed.

In a 2006 interview with National Public Radio's Terry Gross, Hagee told her, "Those who live by the Quran have a scriptural mandate to kill Christians and Jews." He went on to claim that there are 200 million Muslims waiting for the chance to attack Israel and the United States. From his pulpit, Hagee makes it clear to his congregation and the radio and television audience what they can expect from American Muslims if such an attack ever took place, "While American Muslims live in America, 82 percent are not loyal to America and are not willing to fight and defend America."

In his book, "Jerusalem Countdown - A Warning to the World," Hagee warns that the war between Islam and the West "is a war that Islam cannot and must not win."

John Hagee is not just a mad evangelizing prophet. He is the mad evangelizing prophet who is courted by a war president, a hawkish presidential candidate and members of Congress from both parties. His Islamophobic bilge has trickled down from Capital Hill, through the labyrinthine corridors of the Pentagon, and into the chamber of a sniper's rifle and the hand of a Marine guarding a checkpoint in Fallujah.

Officers in the military are expected to lead by example. Enlisted personnel are expected to follow that example. If the recent incidents at Radhwaniya and Fallujah are not just the acts of renegades, then the chain of command seems to be working the way it was designed.

Robert Weitzel, MWC NEWS editor, is an educator and freelance writer who lives in Madison, Wisconsin. His essays regularly appear in The Capital Times of Madison.



Havana. June 13, 2008

CHE IN 1959

• From 1959, the heroic guerrilla became one of the central leaders of the revolutionary process as a result of his proven determination, versatility and abilities and because of the dynamic of the tremendous events resulting from the aggression against Cuba • Héctor Rodríguez Lompart recalls Fidel Castro's strategy for combating the blockade that is now more than 45 years old, and the role played by Che, who would have been 80 years old on June 14


• THE Cuban Revolution has always been forced to defend itself from the hostility of the U.S. government, as far back as the days of the Sierra Maestra.

As early as March of '59, just three months after the triumph of the armed struggle, then-Vice President Richard Nixon left a meeting he had held with Fidel in Washington and convinced President Eisenhower that action had to be taken to overthrow him.

That same year, the United States persuaded the British government to cancel a sale of Hunter fighter planes to Cuba. In the opinion of the U.S. authorities, those aircraft would have posed a problem for the invasion it was preparing, and which was carried out in April 1961 in the Bay of Pigs. With the same goal, the French ship La Coubre was blown up in February 1960 as munitions were being unloaded on Havana's docks. Dozens of Cubans and French citizens were killed in that terrorist act, attributed in Cuba to the CIA. Simultaneously, Washington prevented a consortium of Western European banks from approving a loan to Cuba of $100 million.

Sometimes the revolutionary government adopted the tactic of retaliating to economic blows. On June 6, when the Standard Oil, Texaco and Royal Dutch Shell oil companies refused, under U.S. government orders, to refine oil that Cuba had bought from the Soviet Union, the Cuban government did not hesitate to take over the refineries less than one month later. The sparring continued with the boycott that the Eisenhower administration promoted among oil exporters and shipping companies.

Cuba responded by nationalizing its refineries on August 6.

Che Guevara participated in all of those events and the corresponding decisions, not just as a combatant and politician, but as an economist, or better said, a strategist of the economy together with Fidel, a function for which he is not so well known.

Beginning with Che's first official civilian responsibility as director of industries for the Institute of Agrarian Reform, and also as president of the National Bank as of November of '60, and minister of industries as of 1962, it was his duty to act principally in the economy, to implement the line of diversification that the Revolution had charted both in production and international trade. An exceptional witness to the trajectory of Commander Guevara is Hector Rodríguez Llompart, who met Che in the La Cabaña fortress — where Commander Guevara was the military chief — in early 1959. Llompart was the municipal commissioner of Regla, and visited him together with Captain Miguel Angel Duque de Estrada, who was in charge of the Revolutionary Courts. Here are some of his valuable memories and assessments.

How do you remember those first days of the aggression?

--Aggressions of all types by the U.S. government against Cuba began very early on.

The armed aggression against the island's production centers, terrorist attacks and armed threats were answered by the Revolution by the improved organization of its military and security apparatuses, acquiring weapons, and creating the National Revolutionary Militias, Committees for Defense of the Revolution, etc.

The support and determination of our people to fight for victory under the slogan of 'Homeland or Death' made the political trenches impregnable.

The plans for economic aggression were more surreptitious, but just as dangerous

How did Che participate in the fight against those plans?

—The almost total dependence on the U.S. market and our economic ties of 50-plus years with the former colonial power made the situation of our open economy even more complicated.

It was essential to find other markets for the sale of our products, as well as for imported goods.

In late 1959, a Soviet exposition was set to take place in Mexico, and the Soviet delegation was being led by then-Deputy Prime Minister Anastas Mikoyan.

At that time, I was an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and it was precisely Commander Guevara who told me that I should go to Mexico to officially invite Mikoyan to bring the Soviet exposition to Havana, and for him to personally lead, if possible, the Soviet mission.

As one personal anecdote, I remember how the newspapers announced Che's visit; the day I arrived in Mexico, there were many reporters and photographers at the airport. The newspaper El Universal reported the news that day under the headline: "They were expecting a bearded one, and a smooth-cheeked one arrived."

After a number of setbacks related to an ecclesiastical congress that was taking place in Cuba at the time, the visit was proposed, and finally happened in February 1960.

The Cuban delegation led by Commander Guevara and the Soviet one held a number of talks about the need to place our sugar sales in the USSR [market], in the face of the imminent suspension of purchases by the United States.
A trade agreement and another on credit were finally signed on February 13, 1960 by the Commander-in-Chief [Fidel Castro] and Anastas Mikoyan.

At that time, the USSR promised to buy 5 million tons of Cuban unrefined sugar over five years, and granted us a credit of $100 million, to be repaid over 12 years with 2.5% interest.

At the UN Conference on Trade and Development on March 25, 1964, speaking in the name of our government, Commander Guevara summed up that first period as follows: "Subsequently, this aggression was characterized by measures aimed at paralyzing the Cuban economy. The idea was to deprive Cuba, in mid-1960, of the fuel it needed for the operation of its industries, transportation and electric power plants. Under pressure from the State Department, independent U.S. oil companies refused to sell oil to Cuba or to make their tanker ships available for its transport. Shortly afterward, an attempt was made to deprive the island of the necessary hard currency for foreign trade. On July 6, 1960, then-President Eisenhower cut Cuba's sugar quota to the United States to 700,000 tons, totally eliminating that quota on March 31, 1961, a few days after the announced Alliance for Progress and days before the Bay of Pigs invasion. There was an attempt to shut down Cuba's industry, by depriving it of raw materials and spare parts for its machines and, to that end, on October 19, 1960, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued a resolution prohibiting the shipment of numerous products to our island. That ban on trade with Cuba became greater, until on February 3, 1962, then-President Kennedy declared a complete embargo on U.S. trade with Cuba."

Having failed in all of its aggression, the United States moved to implement an economic blockade against our country, aimed at preventing other countries from trading with us. First of all, on January 24, 1962, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that it was prohibiting entry into the United States of any product made, wholly or in part, with Cuban products, even if they were manufactured in another country. In another step signifying the establishment of a virtual economic blockade, on February 6, 1963, the White House issued a press release announcing that merchandise bought with U.S. government money would not be loaded on to ships with foreign flags that had engaged in trade with Cuba after January 1st of that year. That was how the blacklist began, which is now applied to more than 150 ships from countries who did not bow down to the illegal U.S. blockade. And in another step, to hinder trade with Cuba, on July 8, 1963, the U.S. Treasury Department froze all Cuban assets in U.S. territory and prohibited all transfers of money to and from Cuba, as well as any other transaction in dollars via third countries.
What were the objectives of that tour?

—The decision to deprive us of fuel, suspend purchases of Cuban sugar and other economic aggression had already materialized by October 1960, when, as deputy secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I received a telephone call from Jaime Barrios, who worked with Che, informing me that in the coming days I should join a delegation that would be led by Che and would visit all of the socialist countries. At that time, Che was already talking to us quite a lot about the need to build relations with those countries.

Later, I would learn more details about our mission; the primary objective of diversifying our trade by placing most of our sugar production in those markets and replacing the majority of our imports with products from those places.

Once in the USSR, an emergency meeting took place in Moscow that included almost all of the foreign ministers of the socialist countries. In the meeting, Commander Guevara explained the serious situation facing the Cuban Revolution given the imperialist aggression, and as the main theme, the need to place four million tons of sugar in those markets, at a price of four cents per pound. This price was higher than the rate on the New York Stock Exchange at the time.

He also said it was necessary for Cuba to buy its essential products from those countries.

You should remember that at the time, Cuba did not yet have a Ministry of Foreign Trade, and we had very little information, and even less experience, in that area. All we had were solid political arguments and a letter signed by our prime minister, Commander Fidel Castro, which had the abovementioned request, and its bearer was Commander Guevara.

What were the agreements reached?

—As a result of those negotiations, the USSR promised to buy 2.7 million tons of sugar; China, one million tons; and the other socialist countries, 300,000 tons.

In addition, Korea, Vietnam and Mongolia bought symbolic quantities as an expression of support and solidarity with the socialist countries.
In Moscow, a multilateral agreement on payments was also signed.

With the goal of reaching trade agreements that included lists of the products to be bought and sold, payment agreements and credit agreements, the delegation led by Che also visited Czechoslovakia, China, Korea and the Federal Republic of Germany.

During his stay in China, and to save time, Che decided that he would visit the Democratic Republic of Korea, and had me lead a small group to Vietnam and Mongolia, countries with which we also established diplomatic relations at the time.

At the end of his stay in Berlin, Che had to return to Cuba, informing us that he would make a short stop in Budapest and that the delegation I was leading from then on should travel to Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania.

Was there already talk of the need to change Cuba's trade structure?

—After arriving in Cuba, Commander Guevara appeared on television on January 6, 1961, to report on the signing of the agreements with the socialist countries:

"It was an extremely difficult task, a difficult task, because we have had to change the structure of our trade in just a few months. From the end of 1959, exactly one year ago, Cuba has passed from being a country with a totally colonial structure, with domestic and foreign trade systems completely dominated by the large import companies dependent on monopoly capital, to being — in 10 months, as of October, when the cycle definitively ends — a country where the state holds a complete monopoly over foreign trade, and also a large part of domestic trade."

He also referred to additional difficulties that we were facing, given that in those countries, the decimal metric system was used, while we continued to use the colonial practice of weighing in pounds and measuring in yards, with different systems for measuring pressure or a simple pipe fitting.

Electrical equipment in Cuba uses 60 cycles, while in the socialist countries, it was 50 cycles per second.
In short, we were facing all types of difficulties, but with the determination to overcome them and triumph over them in face of the dilemma created for us by the imperialist aggression.

Interesting anecdotes emerged out of these initial experiences.

For example, in China, when evaluating the list of products to be traded, there was a difference of $3 million favoring the Chinese side.

Before signing the final protocol, the Chinese prime minister at the time, Chou En-lai, told Che that China should not appear to be receiving more in products than what it was exporting to Cuba.

So it was decided to have a line of $3 million in arts and crafts exports, given that at the time, we could not find any other products that met our needs.

It was out of that protocol contingent of Chinese arts and crafts that lots of stories circulated in Havana about the large volume of Chinese walking sticks and umbrellas being sold in our stores.

Actually, the Chinese sent us valuable craftwork that I am sure exceeded the value previously mentioned.

I always believed that neither they nor we really valued those wonderful things.

On the contrary, certain foreigners who were living in Cuba temporarily did take advantage of the situation, enriching themselves through the illegal sale of those art treasures.

Another source of anecdotes and jokes was the snow removers. I think that these actually had a basis in truth, in machines that were the same or similar and were purchased to be tried out in our mining industry.

I will never forget the look of amazement on the face of the Soviet translator who, in reading the list of things we needed, did not know what to say when a typing error led him to read the need for thousands of "monkey lips" (bembas de mono) instead of "hand pumps" (bombas de mano).

We joked amongst ourselves about the decision by Commander Guevara to buy all the canned meat we could, and also all the machine tools that we could.
A few months later, we would realize how correct those decisions were, when, mobilized to occupy trenches or as a volunteer in cutting sugar cane, I thought the Russian meat tasted glorious, after having made so many faces when we first tried the samples they had given us.

We had the same internal satisfaction of knowing that the problem created by the blockade of a shortage of spare parts could be solved through the machine tools we had bought, which a comrade on the delegation had commented on by going so far as to say that on the next King's Day, we would have to do propaganda among the country's parents so they would give each child the present of a machine tool.

Personally, I have unforgettable memories of those days together with a man as peerless as Che.

I had the opportunity to meet prominent individuals like Mao Zedong and Chou En-lai, Nikita Krushchev, Walter Ulbricht, Pham Van Dong and other outstanding leaders of the socialist camp.

But it is with special affection and admiration that I remember one agreeable and helpful young woman who helped us as a German translator in the FRG, Tamara Bunke Bider, who years later would go down in history as Tania the guerrilla fighter.

On February 23, 1961, the Ministry of Foreign Trade was created, with Alberto Mora appointed as its minister.

What problems were created by those changes in foreign trade, and what role in did Commander Guevara play in resolving them?

— Some time after returning from the trip to the socialist countries, I was appointed deputy minister of foreign trade.

During those early years of organizing and readapting our foreign trade, and despite having multiple responsibilities, Commander Guevara played an exceptional role in attending to and developing it.

During those years, Che referred publicly to foreign trade activity, sometimes to refute those who, like the [newspaper] Diario de la Marina, maliciously criticized the first agreements with the Soviet Union. He did that during a talk he gave at the University of Havana on March 2, 1960, and days later, on March 20, 1960, as part of the inaugural lecture of the TV program "The People's University."
He also referred to the main difficulties we were facing at the time in taking on these tasks, such as during the speech he gave at a planning seminar in Algeria on July 13, 1963, where he said:

"Our foreign trade had changed completely in location. From 75% with the United States, it went to 75-80% with the socialist countries. A beneficial change for us in every respect, political and social, but in the economic respect, it required a large amount of organization.

Hundreds of specialized importers used to make their requests to the United States by telephone, and the next day they would arrive by ferry, direct from Miami to Havana. There were no warehouses or foresight of any kind.

That whole apparatus, without those technicians, enemies of the government, had to be established in what was first the Foreign Trade Bank of Cuba and later the Ministry of Foreign Trade, and centralize all of these purchases there with inexperienced people, to do them now, not one day away by telephone, but two months away, in long talks. And at the same time, raw materials that had a different name. And even more: if you all go today to a factory in this country and want to know what kind of steel is used for a given spare part, you will find that it has a number in a catalog, the SKF-27, for example. The SKF-27 in that company's sales catalog corresponds to a particular component; how could that be requested in the socialist countries? We had to do analyses of steel, sometimes machine fabricate one or two particular parts. Almost impossible. We had to import the machines here in Cuba, with a shortage of highly-qualified technicians."

Those were Cuba's everyday problems — and still are.

Was he pleased with the course of those trade relations?

— Che foresaw and warned of the difficulties and obstacles that, in our own experience of trade relations with certain socialist countries, led to the latter following capitalist patterns in the conduct of their relations with underdeveloped countries.
So, in a speech he gave in Algiers on February 24, 1965, at the second Afro-Asian Economic Solidarity Seminar, he said:

"Socialism cannot exist unless there is a change in people's consciousness, creating a new, fraternal attitude toward humanity, both individually, within the society in which socialism is being or has been built, and in relation to the world, with respect to all of the nations that suffer imperialist oppression." •

1. Jaime Barrios, a Chilean, was killed on September 11, 1973 at La Moneda Palace.

Barack Obama's stance on Israel exposes his agenda for change as a sham, says ALEXANDER COCKBURN

What happened to the man of change?

On June 3 Barack Obama claimed the greatest prize the Democratic Party can offer, namely his nomination as its candidate for the presidency. The very next day the salesman of 'change' raced from Minnesota back to Washington and publicly abased himself at the feet of an organisation whose prime mission is to ensure that change unpalatable to the state of Israel will never be pressed by the United States government. the United States government.

The terms of Obama's surrender before the American Israel Public Committee exploded like rhetorical cluster bombs across the Middle East. To Israel and its Arab neighbours it surely signalled that, whoever moves into the White House next January, there will be no swerve from Bush's role as guarantor of Israeli intransigence.

Before he began his drive to the nomination Obama took good care to get the support of influential American Jews in Chicago like the Crown family, associated with the aerospace firm, General Dynamics. Worried about rumours fanned by the Clinton campaign that he was still a secret Muslim, Obama insisted that before the April 22 primary in Pennsylvania, a state with a politically significant Jewish vote, his campaign start a Hebrew-language blog in Israel.

So Obama came to this year's AIPAC conference determined to dispel all remaining doubts that he's a Friend of Israel. "We will also use all elements of American power to pressure Iran," he assured AIPAC. "I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon... Everything and I mean everything." He swore he wouldn't talk to the elected representatives of the Palestinians, Hamas. To thunderous applause he declared, "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."

As Uri Avnery, the veteran Israeli writer expostulated furiously in the wake of this last sentence, "Along comes Obama and retrieves from the junkyard the outworn slogan 'Undivided Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel for all Eternity'. Since Camp David, all Israeli governments have understood that this mantra constitutes an insurmountable obstacle to any peace process. It has disappeared - quietly, almost secretly - from the arsenal of official slogans.

"No Palestinian, no Arab, no Muslim will make peace with Israel if the Haram-al-Sharif compound (also called the Temple Mount), one of the three holiest places of Islam and the most outstanding symbol of Palestinian nationalism, is not transferred to Palestinian sovereignty. That is one of the core issues of the conflict. On that very issue, the Camp David conference of 2000 broke up."
Obama's foreign policy advisors were tearing their hair out and the next day his campaign issued a clarification. "Jerusalem is a final status issue, which means it has to be negotiated between the two parties" as part of "an agreement that they both can live with". All the same, Jerusalem in Obama's eyes must be the capital of Israel.

Although Obama's statements at AIPAC got wide coverage across the Middle East, what was obvious here in the US was the utter absence of comment in the mainstream press. It was evidently taken as a given, unworthy of editorial remark, that a man who might very well be the next president was de-activating the policy of 'change' precisely where it is most needed at the behest of the men the popular TV comedian Jon Stewart edgily derided as "the elders of Zion".

Obama's most egregious talent is the ability to adapt his rhetoric with ominous speed, to allay any suspicion among the powerful that he could rock the boat in a way they might not care for. Earlier in the campaign he was criticised for not wearing the American flag as a lapel pin. At the AIPAC event he wore a double lapel pin, with both the US and Israeli flags.

Is there a 'real Obama' waiting to emerge, once the messy business of pleasing the voters is over? Not really. The making of the 'real' Obama is an ongoing project, and the AIPAC speech an important marker in the evolution of 'change' into immobility.

INTERPOL Clarifies it Never Determined Authenticity of Laptops that Implicate Venezuela AND Uribe is Planning to Assassinate Chavez

INTERPOL Clarifies it Never Determined Authenticity of Laptops that Implicate Venezuela
June 12th 2008, by James Suggett -

Mérida, June 12, 2008 ( Representatives of the International Police Organization (Interpol) told Ecuadorian Presidential Adviser Fernando Bustamante in a meeting last week that its investigation of laptop computers which Colombia claims belonged to the FARC "does not determine if the computers provided were found in the guerrilla camp of the FARC during the incursion on March 1st, if they effectively belonged to Raúl Reyes, and even less so their contents," according to a recent missive released by the Ecuadorian Foreign Relations Ministry.

Bustamante, the chief advisor to Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, met with INTERPOL representatives last Tuesday during a United Nations conference in New York. At the meeting, INTERPOL "confirmed that their forensic informational analysis does not imply the validity or the exactitude of the user files that [the computers] contain," the Ecuadorian government disclosed.

Today, Venezuela's Vice-President, Ramón Carrizalez, echoed Bustamante's evaluation when he said about the computer files, "This is an information that no serious person can validate. Anyone who knows how to read and write and who has some common sense will notice that these are proofs that cannot be used anywhere in the world."

The Colombian government claims the files prove that Venezuela financed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and that Ecuador provided refuge for the insurgents. Colombia also claims to have found the computers in the wreckage of a FARC camp inside Ecuador that the Colombian armed forces bombarded last March 1st, killing FARC second-in-command Raúl Reyes, to whom Colombia says the computers belonged.

INTERPOL clarified to Bustamante that the report was an act of "independent technical assistance" and that it only confirmed that after March 3rd, Colombia complied with international standards for the treatment of evidence. Proper handling of the evidence could not be determined for the period between the attack and March 3rd.

"Between March 1st and 3rd... there are no indications that user files have been created, modified, or eliminated, but neither is there evidence that demonstrates that this has not been done," INTERPOL told Bustamante.

Based on this clarification, the Ecuadorian government reiterated Tuesday its "position of not granting any legal validity to the information found in the computers supposedly belonging to Raúl Reyes." Ecuadorian Foreign Relations Minister María Isabel Salvador previously set this policy in mid-May when the INTERPOL report was first released.

The Ecuadorian government also reiterated its concern over Colombia's manipulation of the results of INTERPOL's report to make it look like the report proved the accusations against Venezuela and Ecuador, a falsity that has been perpetuated by the mainstream international media.

Bustamante suggested that Ecuador should have been allowed to participate in the investigation, to which the INTERPOL delegates replied that Ronald Noble, the General Secretary of INTERPOL, would be willing to visit Ecuador to discuss the details of the report.

Meanwhile, President Correa echoed Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's recent call for the liberation of all FARC hostages yesterday after meeting with the father of a Colombian soldier who has been held prisoner by the FARC for 10 years.

Correa also asserted that Ecuador "is not going to ask anybody's permission [to continue with] the humanitarian action that is incomplete," referring to the process of humanitarian hostage releases underway before Colombia's March 1st attack, which ended the humanitarian exchange.

FARC: Uribe is Planning to Assassinate Chavez

FARC leader Iván Márquez, who had met with Chávez to discuss hostage release last year, alleged in a communiqué last weekend that President Uribe "attempted and continues trying to kill" Chávez and Correa with the help of the United States.

The Colombian Department of Security Administration (DAS) has already infiltrated Caracas with 100 paramilitary forces to assassinate Chávez, and a similar plan exists for Correa, Márquez alleged.

In the statement, Márquez also railed that the laptops examined by INTERPOL are fake and used by Uribe to threaten neighbors and to cover up the political scandal in Colombia in which Uribe allies have recently been convicted of contracting paramilitaries to perform politically motivated assassinations.

Ecuador and Colombia expressed their willingness to renew diplomatic relations last Friday with arbitration by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter's Carter Center, which commented that both presidents were open to "the possibility of immediately re-establishing diplomatic relations between both governments without preconditions."

Source URL:
Printed: June 12th 2008
License: Published under a Creative Commons license (by-nc-nd). See for more information.


Che Guevara ;"an inspiration for every human being who loves freedom"
–Nelson Mandela.

Che Guevara is "not only an intellectual but also the most complete human being of our age"
—Jean-Paul Sartre.

"The first thing to note is that in my son's veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels, the Spanish conquistadores and the Argentinean patriots. Evidently Che inherited some of the features of our restless ancestors. There was something in his nature which drew him to distant wanderings, dangerous adventures and new ideas. "
— Ernesto Guevara Lynch, Che's Father

1965 was a very eventful year in Algeria. Jammu and Kashmir leader Sheikh Abdullah , who had been released from prison in India ,under the pretext of seeing Algerian Revolutionary leader and President Ben Bella turned up in Algiers and met with Chinese Prime Minister Chou en Lai , also visiting Algeria .Soon after, President Ben Bella himself, residing at the Peoples Palace , just across my flat on Rue Franklin Roosevelt ,was overthrown in a peaceful coup d'etat by Houari Boumeddienne ,the military chief of the Algerian Liberation Army . Twice, preparatory meetings for the Second Afro Asian Summit failed to agree on an agenda or the date or even the venue.

But it is the 80th anniversary of Che Guevara's birth on 14 June and the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution which Che helped plan and execute with Fidel Castro , which brought back memories of the visit to Algeria of that legendry revolutionary icon of 1960s and beyond.

Having won its independence from France three years earlier after a bloody 8 year long guerilla war , in which a million Algerians out of eleven million population were sacrificed ,Algeria was then at the forefront of struggle against colonialism and imperialism. Its capital Algiers was a thriving hub for freedom movements and revolutionary groups from all over Africa, Asia and elsewhere. Every week there were seminars, meetings and summits for Arab, Afro-Asian and Third World solidarity and struggle. It was for one such seminar in February 1965 that Che Guevara himself , then Minister of Industry in the Cuban government turned up He was indisputably the dazzling star of the show. After the meeting people queued up to shake his hand and so did I , then posted as a young diplomat at Algiers . I said hello and perhaps added how are you. It was like getting an autograph of a celebrity.

With only a few years into the diplomatic service after an engineering degree from Banaras I was still reading up on history and international relations and was not fully cognizant of the Che Guevara phenomenon and his revolutionary past . But the man had a charismatic presence in green olive fatigues and black beret at a rakish angle. The very best of the Hollywood and Bollywood stars all rolled into one ; say our Ajit, Raj Kumar, Dharmendra ,Errol Flynn et al. Later when I recounted my meeting and shaking hands with Che, many students ,leftists and ladies would shake my hand to partake some of that revolutionary 'barkat' which might still be lingering in my fingers.

Later I learnt more about Che ( so nicknamed because of his constant use of Che - dear) , his full name being Ernesto Guevara de la Serna .Born in 1928 in a well educated middle class Argentine family , he was the eldest of five siblings . He played excellent chess as a child and was an aggressive rugby player. During adolescence and later he remained passionate about poetry, especially that of Neruda, Keats , Machado, Lorea, Mistral ,Vallejo and Whitman ,He could also recite Kipling and Hernandez from memory. A home library of more than 3,000 books, allowed him to be an enthusiastic and eclectic reader of philosophers and poets , even writings of Jawahar Lal Nehru (with whom Che had lunch during the visit to New Delhi ), apart from Marxist and existentialist writers.

He had a brilliant medical academic career and was an exceptional athlete in spite of asthma. But his motorcycle trips across Latin America , where he encountered American imperialism at first hand changed his vision of the world. A bloody revolution was necessary to throw out capitalism and imperialism.

"After graduation, due to special circumstances and perhaps also to my character, I began to travel throughout America, and I became acquainted with all of it. Except for Haiti and Santo Domingo, I have visited, to some extent, all the other Latin American countries. Because of the circumstances in which I traveled, first as a student and later as a doctor, I came into close contact with poverty , hunger and disease; with the inability to treat a child because of lack of money; with the stupefaction provoked by the continual hunger and punishment, to the point that a father can accept the loss of a son as an unimportant accident, as occurs often in the downtrodden classes of our American homeland. And I began to realize at that time that there were things that were almost as important to me as becoming famous for making a significant contribution to medical science: I wanted to help those people." --- Che Guevara in 1960.

After finishing his medical studies , he reached Guatemala in December 1953, where President Jacob Arbenz Guzman heading a democratically elected government, through land reforms and other measures, was attempting to improve the condition of the peasants. Che wanted to settle down in Guatemala ,but for the overthrow of the Arbenz government by Washington which confirmed Guevara's view that USA as an imperialist power would oppose and attempt to destroy any regime that sought to redress the socio-economic inequality endemic to Latin America and other developing countries. This strengthened his conviction that Marxism achieved through armed struggle and defended by an armed populace was the only way to rectify such a condition.

Che then shifted to Mexico city in September 1954, and renewed his friendship with the Cuban exiles he had known in Guatemala. In June 1955, he met with Raul Castro and later his older brother, Fidel Castro . the revolutionary leader who was planning to overthrow the dictatorship of US backed Fulgencio Batista in what became hallowed as the Cuban Revolution. Guevara recognized at once that Castro was the cause for which he had been searching for. He joined Castro and was promoted as Commander in Castro's 26 July Movement, playing a pivotal role in the successful guerrilla campaign to overthrow the Batista . After Castro's army rolled victoriously into Havana the revolutionary government in February, 1969 proclaimed Guevara "a Cuban citizen by birth" in recognition of his role in the triumph.

After the revolution Che served in many prominent governmental positions, including as president of the national bank, minister of industry, and "supreme prosecutor" over the revolutionary tribunals and executions of suspected war criminals from the previous regime. He also went traversing around the globe to meet with an array of world leaders to explain and promote the Cuban socialism .Che was a prolific writer and diarist. One of his most prominent published works includes a manual on the theory and practice of guerilla warfare.

Time Magazine, which described Che Guevara as one of the hundred most influential persons of the 20th century wrote that ; "Che convinced Castro with competence, diplomacy and patience. When grenades were needed, Che set up a factory to make them. When bread was wanted, Che set up ovens to bake it. When new recruits needed to learn tactics and discipline, Che taught them. When a school was needed to teach peasants to read and write, Che organized it."

The Cuban revolution , still survives in spite of American endevours to undermine it and many attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro himself .Cuba remains a beacon and has inspired revolutionaries and leftist regimes around the world specially in Latin America. More so after the collapse of the Soviet Union and ongoing transformation of China into a bourgeoisie state. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is a most striking example. Many other independent leaders are being elected in Latin America , who are following the pro-people policies of Chavez and trying to extricate their countries from the grip of US and other multinationals .

Che had come to Algeria after visiting many important Afro-Asian nations like China, India, Yugoslavia, Egypt .This visit turned out to be his last public appearance on the international stage. In a speech at the economic seminar on the importance of Afro-Asian solidarity ,he specified the moral duty of the socialist countries and accused them of tacit complicity with the exploiting Western countries. He proceeded to outline a number of measures which he said the communist-bloc countries must implement in order to accomplish the defeat of imperialism.

Che appeared closer to Mao's Chinese ideology. It was an implicit criticism of the Soviet Union , Cuba's main support and bulwark against implacable US hostility , which continues to this day . Ideological differences with Castro on USSR 's policies brought some coolness in relations between Castro and Guevara. After Algiers , Che did return to Cuba but left soon after and dropped out of public life and then vanished altogether.

There were many media reports of his appearance with USA's CIA very much on his trail and keenly interested in his activities .It appears that he first helped Patrice Lumumba's cause in Congo , but did not achieve much success. In late 1966 he went over to Bolivia to set up guerrilla training groups to help dissidents to the regime. US was keeping a watch on his movements but Che was unaware that Washington had sent CIA and other operatives , including one Felix Rodriguez into Bolivia to aid the government forces which had been trained, advised, and supplied by US Army Special Forces trained in jungle warfare .

In October, 1967, Che's group was attacked by the Bolivian army. Guevara, who was wounded in the attack, was captured , but he died defiantly. A panicky Bolivian regime , afraid of reaction around the world if he were tried and US demands ,got him executed . Moments before his execution Che was asked if he was thinking of his own immortality. "No," he replied, "I'm thinking about the immortality of the revolution." A jittery and shaking Bolivian soldier chosen to kill him , had trouble pulling the trigger. Che asked him to steady himself and take a clean aim. He was only 40 years old . Few revolutionaries like Mao and Fidel live to grow old. And Mao's China is far from a revolutionary state now. More of a statues quo regime with wannabe imperialistic ambitions.
In July ,1997 , Che Guevara's remains though not exhumed were definitely identified by two experts who were "100 percent sure" ,were discovered in Vallegrande in Bolivia . A 19 July ceremony in Havana, attended by Fidel Castro and other Cuban officials, marked the return of Che's remains to Cuba and in an 17 October ,1997 ceremony attended by Castro and thousands of Cubans, Che Guevara's were reburied in Santa Clara, Cuba

Che's unflinching will, self sacrifice and idealism have given him a saint like halo and reverence among his followers around the world. His theories and treatises on guerilla warfare still remain a beacon for the young and the revolutionary as they were for the 1968 students uprising in Paris and elsewhere , for example , among the leftist Marxist students of Turkey in early 1970s, who also studied the Naxabari movement and lapped up theories of Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal from Indian Bengal. But there was also Geetanjali and Geeta along with Marxist literature found with leftist students in Ankara. Soon after 9/11, many Muslim radicals in the Arab world wrongly tried to compare Osama ben Laden with Che.

Che's memories now live on in photos, music, theater pieces, movies, poems, novels, sculptures and scholarly texts. To coincide with his 80th birthday celebrations , a collection of vintage Che Guevara prints are on display in Austria, including the iconic 1960 Alberto Korda portrait of him in a beret. Exhibitions of his photographs including of his visit to India in 1960s is being held in New Delhi .A new statue has been unveiled in his native Argentina. The larger-than-life "Monument to Che" statue weighs three tons and towers 13 feet high, topped off with the revolutionary's famed starred beret. Guevara had left the city in 1953 as a young doctor embarking on a trip throughout Latin America, a journey depicted in the 2004 movie "Motorcycle Diaries."

But the universal consumer society today exploits even Che's fame and name to sell designer clothes, beer, films and books.

The "Brand Equity" writers in USA who claimed " End of History " aka triumphalism of US capitalism have said much and written numerous volumes about the failure of socialism in former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe but little about the failure of capitalism for two thirds of humanity, the four billion people that live below the poverty line. Nikolai Ceausescu remains the most important leader in Romania's history according to a recent poll. Russian leader Vladimir Putin , whom US President George Bush once asked to implement democracy as in Iraq ( some sick joke) consistently gets over 70% in popularity poll , while Bush's popularity is at an all time low of any US president ,touching a low 30%.

The result of globalization ,policies of IMF and WTO with consequent increased income inequalities in USA and elsewhere and sliding of the capitalist system towards failure, will only add further misery to poverty ridden masses around the world . The crash of expectations built on rabid and unabashed consumerism and financial speculations based on fiat currency created liquidity leading to high oil prices and scarce and expensive food is already leading to strikes over energy price increase and riots over food shortages around the world..

The era immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall would be remembered for the political , social and economic decline in human evolution and condition ;in regard to basic rights, equality, fraternity and well being. USA and UK are becoming police states with constant surveillance and spying on its own citizens and abridgment of civil liberties .Corporate media and government controlled BBC churn out spins , half truths and blatant lies. And how to describe US spending on defence (against whom) which is as much as the rest of the world put together. Not to protect USA but to maintain unbridled hegemony as shown in its naked and illegal aggression on Iraq for its oil , followed by rampant and continued looting and destruction of that country .Over a million Iraqis have been killed , millions of children rendered orphans and 4 million Iraqis made refugees in a population of 25 million .US leaders had the obscenity to describe the March 2003 invasion as 'Operation Iraqi freedom" as part of a so called plan to 'spread democracy' in the Middle East . Now, daily ,Iran is being threatened with bombing ,even with nuclear weapons by Israel and USA. Where will this unbridled greed , capitalism and globalization would lead to?

But there is some hope. The fierce Iraqi resistance against US military machine now bogged down in a quagmire. Unmasking of aura of invincibility of Israel by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters. Defiance by Iran against US and 3 European powers. The fast changing scene in Latin America favouring pro-people governments and decline of US hegemony. Overthrow of the monarchy in Nepal and Maoist movements in many Indian states ruled by corrupt political elites.

K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Copy right with the author.