Lawrence Osbourne in the NYObserver remarks, acidically, on the Che mystique. Now, LI would welcome a withering look at that mystique, since it has done nothing but put lefty causes back in Latin America -- the emphasis on gesture instead of goal, the poetry of action promoted above the prosaics of providing, well, a decent system of production, etc., etc.

But Osbourne isn't after a Casteneda like critique. No sir. According to Osbourne, we are about to witness a fad for Che, with Hollywood bringing out a version of the Motorcycle Diaries. Much as a doctor prepares a shot to prevent infectious diseases, Osbourne loads his article with the hygenic doses of anti-communist rhetoric, applying them to that 'totalitarian terrorist" Che. Osbourne quotes every righwingers favorite historian, Robert Conquest, who quotes the British ambassador to the effect that Castro was a loveable rogue, while Che was a murderous hypocrite.

He also includes this graf:

"Of course, it was Che�s role in the Cuban Revolution that turned him into the poster boy we all know. But it was a quixotic participation in many ways. Che was known inside the revolution as a strict disciplinarian, ready to sign death warrants and mete out sundry brutalities. And yet, for all that, he was spectacularly ineffective. From 1961 to 1965, Che was Cuba�s Minister for Industries; before that, from 1959 to 1961, he was the head of the national bank. Both stints ended in farce."

Well, murderous hypocrisy, eh? Perhaps we should look to what our good old US of A was offering as the alternative to Che's death warrant signing (really? signing death warrants during an insurgency isn't a common thing -- but if Osbourne thinks Che was death warrent happy after the installation of Castro's government, he is surely misinformed) -- so we went to Brazil. A happy land in which, in 1964, a coup was staged. A coup that drove out commie symp president Goulart, who was elected (just because the people make a mistake, as Henry the K. once said, disguising his death warrants as policy positions, is no reason not to correct it), with the US making its own position known by sending the U.S. Navy to lurk off the coast. Here's a summary of a book on the subject, one of the few in English:

"Unlike its role in Chile from 1970 to 1973, the U.S. role in Brazil in 1964 was more subtle. The U.S. Air Force was ready with six C-135 transports and 110 tons of small arms and ammunition, and a "fast" Carrier Task Group was ordered to take positions off the Brazilian coast. They weren't needed because the U.S. had been subverting labor groups, reform-minded populists, and big media for many months, while pumping up the police and military. The coup was almost bloodless since everyone knew it was unstoppable; the military took over and Goulart fled to Uruguay. Most of the blood came later -- by the time this book appeared [1977], Brazil had a well-deserved reputation for political repression and torture."

Perhaps Mr. Osbourne (who writes about the CIA installing an "amenable" regime in Guatamala) should put down one of his Conquest books -- fascinating as they no doubt are -- and bone up a little bit about who killed whom in Latin America. The BBC has intermittently covered a story not covered at all in the NY Observer -- the discovery of mass graves in Brazil. The press, which has recently rushed to the mass graves in Iraq, might want to make a world tour. It would certainly make for interesting stories:

"In 1990, a mass grave containing 1,200 bodies was discovered on the outskirts of the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo. It is thought that most of these were poor people and vagrants, but political dissidents were also buried there. Now British scientists are helping to identify the bodies, which are believed to date from the days of military rule, which ended in 1985."

Ah, but these were the processed deaths of responsible military men, Rumsfeld types, not the 'terrorist" punks of Castro's outback band. Probably -- I'm just gonna make a wild guess here -- no death warrent was wasted on those 1200. Brazil has an organization dedicated to researching the disappeared, but there are still currents that long for the good old days -- as Osbourne, who knows the only good terrorist totalitarian is a dead one, will no doubt be ;leased. Back in 1996 the courts found that the military government had, uh, caused the deaths of two leftist guerrillas. Brazil News reported on the incident with a revealing little quote from an officer:

"The Brazilian military didn't like the decision. Some of them, in anonymous comments, called it a "historical toad," but apparently they didn't have any other choice but to swallow the Justice Ministry's decision that guerrillas Carlos Marighella and Carlos Lamarca were murdered by the military dictatorship in a situation where had no way of defending themselves. Until now, the official version was that Marighella, leader of ALN (National Liberating Action) and former Army captain Lamarca, the leader of VPR (Revolutionary Popular Vanguard), had been killed while resisting arrest. Lamarca was killed in 1971 in Bahia and Marighela in 1969 in S�o Paulo. Now the families of both will receive a state pension. After the decision by the Justice Ministry's Special Commission on Political Dead and Disappeared People, retired deputy-captain Jair Bolsonaro, probably expressing the feelings of some of his colleagues in the military, commented: "Our mistake was not having eliminated all the traitors, including President Fernando Henrique Cardoso."

A remark Mr. Osbourne might well mumble a version of (if only Batista had crushed that little cockroach shit!) when he's munching his popcorn, watching Che's exploits on the screen this winter.