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Post The Non-State Soldier: Suggested Readings
Created by John Eipper on 09/28/19 3:54 AM

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The Non-State Soldier: Suggested Readings (Timothy Brown, USA, 09/28/19 3:54 am)

Professor Brian Blodgett (September 27th) has brought up a fascinating and very important theme. I look forward to seeing his syllabus.

Having dealt both professionally and academically with a few armed non-state militant organizations over the decades, from Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and the Philippines to Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mexico, French Guiana, Suriname and Paraguay, let me venture a few of my perhaps unorthodox views, beginning with Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

By all means include Ernesto "Che" Guevara's Guerrilla Warfare, since virtually everything he did in the field was directly opposite to what no competent guerrilla commander would have done--establish a fixed HQ near a busy roadway, communicated for extended periods over antenna that had not been remoted but placed close to his HQ for extended periods. No competent guerrilla would ever have done any of these things. But "Che" did, and he got himself killed because he'd made himself extraordinarily easy to locate.

If it were in English I'd recommend instead "Benigno" (Dariel Alarcón Ramírez) Vida y muerte de la Revolución, Barcelona: 1997. I can almost hear the bewildered saying to themselves, "who"? Well, Benigno was with Guevara during the Cuban revolution and his top field commander in Bolivia. After playing a role in the so-called "Bay of Pigs," he defected to France where he met up with a comrade you may have heard of, Elisabeth Burgos Debray, a Venezuelan revolutionary who evaded the authorities there, escaped to Cuba where she married French Marxist Regis Debray, was trained in guerrilla warfare alongside him and became a key member of "Che's" clandestine support cell in La Paz and later "ex-filtrated" to Paris. During a trip to the US when she deposited her personal collection in the Hoover Archives, I videotaped her story and she gave me a copy of "Benigno," its actual author.

Of course, this leads to a bit of self-promotion of my own book When the AK-47s Fall Silent--Revolutionaries, Guerrillas and the Dangers of Peace, Hoover, 2000. Chapters 2-6 are by former senior Marxist revolutionaries. Chapters 7-10 by former ERN (popularly, and successfully, labeled as the much-hated "Contras"), and chapters 11-14 by four that had engaged in post-hostility work in Nicaragua (a former US Ambassador to Colombia, a Canadian General, and OAS peacemaker--and yours truly.

More--or no more--later, if you're still interested.

JE comments:  Elisabeth Burgos-Debray is famous as the author-amanuensis of Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchú's testimonio autobiography.  Tim, you first mentioned your meeting with Burgos in this 1999 WAIS post.  That was a long time ago, but can you tell us more?  Yes...I'm still interested!


WAISers love putting together reading lists, and I have several responses to Brian Blodgett's request.  Next:  Harry Papasotiriou writes from Athens.

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  • Elisabeth Burgos (Timothy Brown, USA 09/29/19 4:02 AM)
    In response to John E's question, I haven't seen Elisabeth Burgos since my last trip to Paris some years ago. I first met her when she was donating her research collection to the Hoover Archives, when I videotaped an interviewed her on her experiences on a one-on-one Oral History, after realizing she had been misled by her own "comrades" into saying Rigoberta Menchú had never taken up arms, when in fact she was once an armed Guatemalan revolutionary.

    Had that been known, Menchú would not have been eligible for a Nobel Peace Prize. When some time later Menchú used her Nobel Prize renown to run for the presidency in Guatemala, her fellow Guatemala Maya villagers voted against her. It was their votes that defeated her.

    JE comments:  Tim, I was aware from David Stoll's exposé that Menchú was not truthful in her testimonial account, but how do we know she took up arms?  (My recollection is that her father did.)  Has your interview with Burgos ever been made public?  If not, it looks like I'm overdue for another trip to the Hoover archives.

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