In death Guevara has certainly managed to whitewash his image. A cleansing aided by such personality cultisms as the film The Motorcycle Diaries, which portrays Guevara as a young, wide-eyed do-gooder who travels South America looking to right social wrongs. Romanticized and corporate pimped, for most who even know who Guevara was they have no idea what he stood for. They merely accept that he was the South American Martin Luther King.
He was not.
Guevara was a brutal, egotistical killer without the smarts to enact lasting economic reform nor the guile to achieve true insurgent victory. His most significant military achievement -- the taking of Santa Clara during Castro's Cuban revolution -- might have been more a matter of financial bribery than military strategy.
What is in little dispute is the savagery of his tenure as the commander of the La Cabaña Fortress prison. Think of it as Cuba's Abu Ghraib. In a mere five months Guevara oversaw and personally signed off on the execution of as many as 500 people. Men, women, children. Not all merely loyalists to overthrown Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Also executed were political prisoners, dissidents, artist, intellectuals and homosexuals. A representative number of the left the revolution was supposed to be lifting up.
His bloody handiwork should come as no surprise. Before Guvera was a soap pitchman from beyond the grave, he was the "The Butcher of la Cabaña" who preached: "hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold-blooded killing machine."
Mr. Ridley makes a gross error of scale in comparing La Cabana to Abu Ghraib, but he is otherwise dead on in his treatment of Che.