Che's bloody legacy flows on in dissident and republican alike
When are we ever going to stop this adolescent idolisation of fanatical gunmen, asks Eilis O'Hanlon
THE 600lb bomb that was defused along the border last week was twice as large as the one which killed 29 people in Omagh 10 years ago. It was also the third significant attack thwarted by security forces this year alone. But then terrorists, as always, work on the principle that they only have to get lucky once. And get lucky they will.
Conor Murphy is the Sinn Fein MP for the area in which the bomb was found. His response was swift: "I challenge those who planted this bomb to explain why they have done so." It didn't, Murphy insisted, bring Irish unification one step closer.
Then again, nor did the Provisional IRA campaign, and Sinn Fein were not outraged by that. On the contrary, they're still making a packet by flogging souvenirs extolling the virtues of that particular band of murderers in their stores and on their websites. Dissidents could be forgiven for asking what's the big difference.
So some republicans no longer think killing people will bring about Irish unity, and some of them still think it's worth a shot. It's just quibbling over details really. Especially when Gerry Adams himself is appearing in a documentary film called Chevolution, made by one of his close friends and launched last week, which tracks the influence of that famous poster image of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.
According to the Sinn Fein president, Che was one of the inspirations for the Northern Irish civil rights movement, adding: "I suppose people from my background were drawn to that image because of what Che Guevara represented."
Bearded man of violence inspires millions of devoted followers: now why on earth would Gerry find that such a pleasing thought?
The irony will be lost on Sinn Fein, because they don't generally do irony, but
it must have crossed their minds at some point that there is something more than a little contradictory about lecturing dissident republicans on the futility of violence whilst simultaneously lauding a man with such bloodied hands as Ernesto Guevara.
Che was a brilliant soldier and tactician, and a good writer, and an undoubtedly charismatic individual who inspired devotion amongst many who met him. But really, when are we ever going to stop this adolescent idolisation of fanatical gunmen? Che Guevara was also a ruthless killer, who had no qualms about dispensing what he called "revolutionary justice" to those who weren't as enthusiastic about his political ambitions as he was, and whose legacy to Latin America was rivers of blood spilled by his disciples.
By any psychiatric standards, Che Guevara was as mad as a box of frogs -- or maybe that should be a Bay of Pigs. During the Cuban missile crisis, Che was furious that the Russians withdrew their nuclear warheads from Cuban soil. He later told a reporter that he had been ready to fire them all at the United States. What are the deaths of hundreds of thousands to the man of principle, as long as it advances his revolutionary aims?
That some of those dead hordes would include the Cubans for whose liberation he claimed to have fought was obviously an irrelevance. You free them from the shackles of imperialism one day and then let them fry the next: it's the Marxist way.
Far from being a noble inspiration, Che Guevara's crazed dreams of nuclear obliteration find their closest parallel in the psychology of serial killer Peter Kuerten, the so-called Vampire of Dusseldorf, who raped and murdered men, women and children alike in a pathological frenzy which he insisted was his attempt to "strike back at oppressive society", whilst becoming sexually excited by car crashes and fantasising about destroying entire cities.
But intellectuals and movie stars and pop singers who would be horrified by Kuerten gladly worship at the altar of a man who made the Vampire of Dusseldorf look like an amateur in the business of slaughter. Jean Paul Sartre, who, like all French geniuses, made a habit of saying remarkably stupid things, even called him "the most complete human being of our age". It's the terrorist as Renaissance Man again. No wonder Gerry Adams jumps on the bandwagon so willingly. Middle class left-wingers get off on the iconography. Che, handsome brute that he is, is their political bit of rough. For the men, it all gets a bit homoerotic.
Che's legacy lives on in, amongst other places, Greece, where a group calling itself Revolutionary Struggle had claimed responsibility for the recent bombing of the Athens stock exchange, and issued
a statement threatening to extend the campaign of violence to all "big shareholders, golden boys and capitalists" -- and in Al Qaeda, three of whose members were found guilty last week of plotting to blow up transatlantic flights from Heathrow.
It also lives on in the Real IRA and Continuity IRA, and in Oglaigh na hEireann, the splinter group of a splinter group which is believed to have been behind the latest attempt at carnage. Che can't simply be claimed by those nice, respectable republicans whose past Guevara-tinged bursts of revolutionary justice are supposed to be all forgiven and forgotten now. Che Guevara certainly wouldn't disown the dissidents so hypocritically. The blood of the Irish rebels flowed in him, and his spirit flows in them. Hearing Gerry Adams joining the fan club surely only makes the dissidents more convinced that they were right all along.