Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

There's blood on them thar hands

I read in the last couple of days two lengthy articles about two Communist executioners: Chairman Mao, who holds the world title, throughout history, for the most deaths attributable to one man; and Che Guevera, a cold-blooded, sadistic killer who is this decade's fashion statement. Funnily enough, when reading both articles, I wasn't that much upset or surprised by the volume of death directly attributed to these two men, although it is appalling. For example, did you know this about Mao?

Mao’s regime confiscated Chinese harvests in these years so it could export food to Communist-controlled Eastern Europe in exchange for armaments and political support. Food and money were also exported to support anti-colonial and Communist movements in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In the first year of famine, 1958–1959, China exported seven million tons of grain, enough to feed 38 million people. In 1960, a year in which 22 million Chinese died of starvation, China was the biggest international aid donor in terms of proportion of GNP in the world. Thanks to Chinese agricultural exports, East Germany was able to lift food rationing in 1958, and Albania in 1961. In China, at the same time, a major food source for the urban population became the “food substitute” chlorella, a disgusting substance that grew in urine and contained a little protein. In the countryside, starving Chinese peasants were reduced to eating bark and compost and, in Anhui and Gansu provinces, to cannibalism. In Chinese cities in 1960, the maximum daily intake was 1200 calories, compared to the 1300–1700 calories a day fed to the inmates of Auschwitz. Mass homicide on the scale of the Great Leap Forward was something that Mao prepared for. He told the 1958 party congress it should not fear but actively welcome people dying as a result of party policy. It was a common theme of his at the time. In Moscow in 1957 he said: “We are prepared to sacrifice 300 million Chinese for the victory of the world revolution.” On the prospect of another world war, he told the party in 1958: “Half the population wiped out—this happened quite a few times in Chinese history. It’s best if half the population is left, next best one-third.” Hence, Mao’s eventual career tally of 70 million deaths was actually much less than he anticipated.
And, on a smaller, but equally grotesque scale, how about this information regarding that fashion icon, Che:
A Cuban prosecutor of the time who quickly defected in horror and disgust named Jose Vilasuso estimates that Che signed 400 death warrants the first few months of his command in La Cabana. A Basque priest named Iaki de Aspiazu, who was often on hand to perform confessions and last rites, says Che personally ordered 700 executions by firing squad during the period. Cuban journalist Luis Ortega, who knew Che as early as 1954, writes in his book Yo Soy El Che! that Guevara sent 1,897 men to the firing squad. In his book Che Guevara: A Biography, Daniel James writes that Che himself admitted to ordering "several thousand" executions during the first year of the Castro regime. Felix Rodriguez, the Cuban-American CIA operative who helped track him down in Bolivia and was the last person to question him, says that Che during his final talk, admitted to "a couple thousand" executions. But he shrugged them off as all being of "imperialist spies and CIA agents."
Nor was Che just the signature on the paper. He liked to pull the trigger himself:
A Cuban gentleman named Pierre San Martin was among those jailed by Che Guevara in the early months of the Cuban Revolution. In an El Nuevo Herald article from December 28, 1997 San Martin recalled the horrors: “Thirteen of us were crammed into a cell. Sixteen of us would stand while the other sixteen tried to sleep on the cold filthy floor. We took shifts that way. Dozens were led from the cells to the firing squad daily. The volleys kept us awake. We felt that any one of those minutes would be our last. One morning the horrible sound of that rusty steel door swinging open startled us awake and Che's guards shoved a new prisoner into our cell. He was a boy, maybe 14 years old. His face was bruised and smeared with blood. "What did you do?" We asked horrified. "I tried to defend my papa," gasped the bloodied boy. "But they sent him to the firing squad." Soon Che's guards returned. The rusty steel door opened and they yanked the boy out of the cell. "We all rushed to the cell's window that faced the execution pit," recalls Mr. San Martin. "We simply couldn't believe they'd murder him. "Then we spotted him, strutting around the blood-drenched execution yard with his hands on his waist and barking orders--Che Guevara himself. 'Kneel down!' Che barked at the boy. "Assassins!" we screamed from our window. “I said: KNEEL DOWN!" Che barked again. The boy stared Che resolutely in the face. "If you're going to kill me," he yelled, "you'll have to do it while I'm standing! Men die standing!" "Murderers!" the men yelled desperately from their cells. "Then we saw Che unholstering his pistol. He put the barrel to the back of the boys neck and blasted. The shot almost decapitated the young boy. "We erupted…'Murderers!--Assassins!'" His murder finished, Che finally looked up at us, pointed his pistol, and emptied his clip in our direction. Several of us were wounded by his shots."
I can almost imagine the Leftist propaganda movie, with Che casually blowing the smoke from the barrel of his gun and saying, "Serves you right, you imperialist fashion miscreant." No, all that was disgusting, but not surprising. What surprised me was how complicit western reporters were in propping up these blood soaked regimes. The same article about Mao, which reviews a book on the subject, expends a great deal of time talking about the various western journalists who, either because they were fellow travelers, or out of a misguided sense that Leftist was fashionable, cheerfully published Maoist propaganda. The worst of these was the first of these, a young man named Edgar Snow who, in the late 1930s, published Red Star over China, a book that swept the West and China, and that helped sweep Mao into power. This book told the whole familiar story of the Long March, Mao's heroic sacrifices to be with his troops, and Mao's freedom from Soviet control. Only problem was that every word of it was untrue. The truth?
The story that drew them [the Chinese volunteers] there, however, was a fiction. The new biography Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday shows that every major claim made by Snow was false.[1] Rather than opposing the Japanese invasion, Mao had welcomed it. He hoped the Japanese would engage and destroy his rival, Chiang Kai-shek, and would also draw Soviet troops into China. Mao avoided armed conflict not only with the Japanese but also with the Nationalists. Rather than being a champion of independence for his country, Mao since the 1920s had been an agent of the Soviet Union, taking its arms and money, doing its bidding, and accepting its control of the Chinese Communist Party. He knew his only hope of gaining power in China was with Soviet support, a belief ultimately confirmed in his takeover of the country in 1949. Mao was no agrarian reformer. He redistributed no land and liberated no peasants. His initial “red base” at Ruijin in Jiangxi province, southern China, had been achieved not by a revolutionary uprising of the masses but through military conquest by the Red Army, armed and funded by Moscow. His rule was identical to that of an occupying army, surviving by plundering the local population and killing anyone who resisted. Much of Snow’s account of the Long March was also untrue. The march’s objective was to establish a new base in the north, near the Mongolian border, in order to have ready access to Soviet supplies and arms. Many of Snow’s tales of outnumbered Communist forces bravely breaking through Nationalist lines were pure invention. Chiang Kai-shek, in fact, largely determined Mao’s route by giving him free passage through selected regions, while blocking alternative routes. Chiang’s aim was to use the arrival of the Red Army in the territories of otherwise recalcitrant provincial warlords to coerce them into joining him, thereby exploiting the Communist presence to unify the country under Nationalist rule. Some of the most famous battles of the Long March never took place. The celebrated crossing of the suspension bridge over the Dadu River at Luding, for instance, had not been in the face of Nationalist machine gun fire. No Communists were killed there at all. And Mao shared few of the privations of his troops. Instead of trudging over mountains and through swamps, he and the other leaders were borne throughout most of the march in litters, shaded by tarpaulins, carried by long bamboo poles on the shoulders of their bearers. In fact, Mao arrived at the end of his journey in northern Shaanxi province with only 4,000 of his original 80,000 force still intact. Snow presented his book as the work of an intrepid reporter who had made a risky journey to get his story and to tell it like it was. He wrote in the first edition that no censorship had been imposed on him. The truth, however, was that the initiative for the book came from Mao himself, who in 1936 decided he needed a friendly foreign journalist to give him a more benign and positive image. The party’s Shanghai underground vetted and approved Snow and arranged his passage, accompanied by a secret Comintern agent. Snow had to submit his interview questions for approval in advance. Mao checked everything Snow wrote and amended and rewrote parts himself. After Snow left to arrange publication, his wife, Helen, remained in Yenan, mailing him further corrections to the manuscript made by the Communist leadership.
That was the first, and most effective Maoist, western propaganda coup, but by no means the worst. During the 1960s, when Mao was brutally killing and starving millions of his own people, a new generation of western journalists continued to shill for him:
During the Great Leap Forward, a small number of Chinese escaped by swimming across to Hong Kong where they broke the news about the nationwide famine and the brutality of the regime. The press gave them little credence. Instead, the West was fed a steady diet of propaganda from respectable political leaders and writers who asserted the opposite. The future Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau visited in 1960 and wrote a starry-eyed, aptly titled book, Two Innocents in Red China, which said nothing about the famine. Britain’s Field Marshal Montgomery visited in both 1960 and 1961 and asserted there was “no large-scale famine, only shortages in certain areas.” He did not regard the shortages as Mao’s fault and urged him to hang on to power: “China needs the chairman. You mustn’t abandon this ship.” The United Nations was completely ineffectual. Its Food and Agricultural Organization made an inspection in 1959, declaring that food production had increased by 50 to 100 percent in the past five years: “China seems capable of feeding [its population] well.” When the French socialist leader, François Mitterand, visited in 1961, Mao told him: “I repeat it, in order to be heard: There is no famine in China.” Mitterand dutifully reported this assurance to a credulous world. At the same time, Mao enlisted three writers he knew he could trust—Edgar Snow, Han Suyin, and Felix Greene—to spread his message through articles, books, and a celebrated BBC television interview between a fawning Greene and Chou En-lai.
If you read the article, you'll just find more and more of the same. I won't even get into the Che worship that continues here, even now. Those of you who watched the sickening spectacle of the 60 Minutes Castro lovefest the other day, or who have seen sweet-faced babies nattily attired in Che onesies, don't need to Hear about it. What we do have to ask ourselves, though, is what it is about our journalists, for the past 60 years, that allows them to excuse the greatest murderers in history, and to treat them as cutting edge fashion icons (I've discussed Mao, but those of you over 40 also remember how every college student used to carry around, again as a hip fashion statement, Mao's Little Red Book). These are not journalists who believe themselves to be blood-thirsty ideologues. These are people who can sing every word of John Lennon's maudlin opus, Give Peace a Chance. And when they laud killers such as Mao and Castro and Che, they don't do so in blood-thirsty terms. That is, they're not praising the death toll as a necessary evil to advance a political agenda. Instead, they're wrapping these killers in pink gauze, and presenting them as kind, and loving men, humanely serving their countrymen. Thinking about it, of course, this is exactly how the Nazi press portrayed Hiter: the vegetarian, the lover of children, the man who advanced the cult of motherhood. There, too, the press conveniently managed to ignore the rivers of blood dripping from him. What kind of a press is it that castigates George Bush as a monster and an idiot but, entirely consistent with brainwashed Nazi reporters giving a free pass to Hitler, continue to idealize and publicize each new generation of Leftist killers? I ask the question, but I leave you to come up with your own answer.