President Jorge Rafael Videla: He Saved His Country from a Brutally Attempted Communist Takeover.

President Jorge Rafael Videla: He Saved His Country from a Brutally Attempted Communist Takeover.

A couple of years ago, on May 17, 2013, an 87-year-old man was found dead in his bed. While he appeared to have passed in his sleep of natural causes, an autopsy later revealed that he died as the result of untreated fractures to his skull and internal hemorrhaging caused by his slipping in the shower fives days earlier. Had he been taken to a hospital or even properly treated, he likely would have survived his injuries. Yet, his keepers seemed indifferent with regard to seeing that the old man received proper medical attention.

All of this transpired at the Marcos Paz Prison in Argentina. The 87-year-old deceased man was a devout Catholic as well as a loving husband and father to his five children. He was also his nation’s former President, who was once beloved by his people and who waged a successful war against Leftist terrorists in Argentina during the 1970s. Had he lost that war, Argentine society might now resemble something akin to Venezuela, North Korea or the former Soviet Union.

His name was Jorge Rafael Videla, a fearless and once popular patriot who save Argentina from the brink of oblivion. His thanks for this Herculean achievement was to be imprisoned by the very progressive-socialist-Marxist terrorists he once successfully fought. Videla, like most who have stood up to the Progressive-Socialist-Marxist Left, had his character destroyed – in addition to being imprisoned and, ultimately, left to die. Yet, to understand this miscarriage of justice, one must know some of the relevant history.

In the mid-20th Century, economists generally concurred that Argentina had the potential to become a world economic power. Rich in resources with a rapidly advancing socioeconomic infrastructure, Argentina enjoyed a population whose culture favored a strong work ethic. Politically stable, Argentina also boasted a well developed agricultural industry. It’s capital city, Buenos Aires had all the trappings of a large, metropolitan city in Western Europe.

Yet, this national promise, like that of so many other nations, was destroyed by Progressive Marxism. One need only listen to the Communist polemics of the current Pope, himself from Argentina, to understand how Argentina was deprived of her destiny and turned into a listless, socialistic welfare state. While it avoided the totalitarian form of Communism that might have been forced upon it had the terrorists won their guerrilla war, nobody today anticipates Argentina becoming a world power and, despite massive wealth redistribution, it’s large population of poor people are now further worse off, economically, than ever before. Not that this will dissuade Argentina’s Progressive leaders from their current economic policies. In the end, the Left engages in wealth redistribution not to help the poor as much as to limit the challenge to their monopoly on power that the wealthy pose.

Jorge Rafael Videla came from a long line of public officials and elites. It was therefor surprising to those who knew him that, although unquestionably patriotic, he had no interest in politics, political parties or ever holding public office. He had different plans for his life. Videla’s dream of serving as an officer in the Argentine Army was fulfilled in 1944 when he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in that Army upon his graduation from the prestigious National Military College (Colegio Militar de la Nacion).

Concerning himself with mastering the technical and tactical skills needed to become a proficient Army leader, the young Lieutenant Videla also established himself as a talented athlete and devout practitioner of Catholicism who was known for his hard work and seemingly limitless potential. He excelled in all of his assignments as a Army Lieutenant and then, a few years later, as a Captain. He was soon identified as a young man who was destined to go places in the Argentine Army. Unlike many of his peers in the officer corps, Videla distanced himself from political matters and ideological discussions.

In the 1960s, still young but now, an Army Colonel, Jorge Rafael Videla, like most other Argentines, became concerned with the growing actsvof terrorism being committed by a well organized Progressive-Socialist-Marxist guerrilla front operating throughout Argentina. These terrorists were being well funded, equipped and supplied by the communist dictatorships in Cuba, The former Soviet Union and their Warsaw Pact allies. The terrorists were particularly brutal and had no qualms with shedding innocence the blood.

In the 1970s, this well funded terrorist insurgency would become so prevalent and prolific in committing mass murder and destruction, the entire Argentine society looked as if it would succumb to this bloody red tide and collapse as a free society. Later, the very Progressive-Socialist-Marxist front itself would be successful in relabeling this conflict as a “Dirty War” against them and a war of “government genocide,” but, in the end, the Argentines faced, in the 1970s, a terrorist campaign which, comparatively speaking, was just a bloody and just as perilous as the current war on terrorism involving the United States and Europe. The primary difference is that the Argentine War Against Terrorism took place primarily within it’s own borders and, as stated above, it was a war that they almost lost.

Perhaps a few things should be established up front. The guerrilla war in 1970s Argentina was a terrorist campaign by a Progressive-Socialist-Marxist movement which espoused unpopular, discredited ideas and were hence fighting to win on the battlefield that which they were, at the time, incapable of winning at the ballot box through open and fair democratic elections. The Argentine government and its society, on the other hand, were fighting for their very survival. So, yes, insurgents were tortured – just like the US and it allies have terrorist suspects tortured (now the US lets some of it’s Eastern European allies do the torturing). The reason western countries torture their terrorist enemies is because this torture reveals important information about other terrorists and their plans and hence, saves lives. Lots of lives! Nations and societies have a right to survive and defend themselves.

So, to be clear, usually, often the only way to successfully fight well organized terrorists and survive is to commit torture. People of the Left need to come to terms with this reality and deal with it. We are are not going to enter into a suicide pact with you just because you are mentally ill and believe than an entire society should be killed off before a single hair on a darling terrorist’s head is harmed.

Now, during the terrorist attacks in Argentina, the Argentines were only able to prevail and hence, survive as a society, by committing acts of torture. However, let’s be clear, only terrorists who were captured on the battlefield or who were exposed by other admitted terrorists were tortured. Let’s also be clear that contrary to the prevalent Progressive-Socialist-Marxist propaganda, the Argentine government did not go out and kidnap, arrest and torture college students, dissenters or other critics who were not terrorists. Therein is the truth regarding the big lie propagated about the so called “Dirty War.”

In the end, through the use of torture, the Argentines were able to prevail on the battlefield and win the military war against progressive-socialist-Marxist terrorism. However, the political war against the Liberal-Progressive-Socialist-Marxist coalition was lost over the ensuing three decades due to that coalition maintaining an iron clad grip on the culture through films, television and radio as well as the news and publishing industries in addition to the educational system. With complete control over the national system of academia and the flow of information, they have been able to rewrite history and shape the cultural norms and attitudes of the post war generations (sound familiar?). In the process of reshaping the Argentine society into a watered down, albeit democratic, version of what they were seeking during the Terrorist Wars, they took special care to seek revenge against those in the old Argentine government who defeated them on the battlefield three decades ago. First on their list to be paid back was the former Argentine President, Jorge Rafael Videla.

Most are familiar with Juan Peron, himself a former Army General, and still more know of his wife Evita. Juan Peron, and his wife, governed Argentina from 1946 until 1955 (Evita died in in 1952). As a First Lady, Evitia Peron was immensely popular with the peasant class and had an unprecedented role in making policy. The Perons were a strange political force from an ideological standpoint. While appearing, nationalistic and outwardly conservative (some labeled them as Fascists) the also supported social(ist) justice and wealth redistribution all while being aggressively anti-communist. A few years after his wife’s death, Peron was deposed in a military coup and forced into exile.

From 1953 to 1973 Peron lived in exile – mostly in Panama. Always the ladies man, Peron met a night club dancer some 35 years his junior by the name of Isabel Martínez. Isabel, while possessing stunning beauty, had come from a lower middle class family and dropped out of school in the 5th grade. This did not deter Juan Peron from taking this simple night club dancer as his wife making her Isabel Martínez de Perón. Unfortunately and unbeknownst to anyone at the time, this act would place Isabel on a collision course with the people of Argentina.

Peron, like many other great men throughout history, had an impressive second act. Peron’s encore came after a coup in Buenos Aires brought him out of exile and back as President of Argentina – he was sworn in in 1973 and, as with Evita, he made his 5th grade educated wife, Isabel, his Vice-Present. Early upon his return, he was happy to approve the recommendation of General Rafael Videla to the post of Army Chief of Staff. By this time, Peron, the old Army General was a competent war time leader at a point when the Progressive-Socialust-Marxist guerrilla terrorists were stepping up their nation-wide campaign of terror. As popular as ever, Peron was successful in containing the terrorist threat. Had his regime continued he might have made short shrift of the terrorist and things might have turned out much differently for Argentina. Unfortunately, on July 1, 1974, President Juan Peron died, after suffering a series of heart attacks days before, leaving, by law, his 5th grade educated wife
Isabel Martínez de Perón, the former nightclub dancer, to succeed him as President and she did just that.

Isabel was not remotely qualified to lead Argentina, much less during their war on terror. Lacking any meaningful knowledge of the governmental departments, economics or military operations, Isabel was forced to rely on the advice of underlings. Still, things might have fared much better for Argentina had she chosen the right underlings to seek advice from. She did not and the Argentine government and economy dove into a sudden and precipitously downward spiral. Inflation jumped to 35%, the economy was close to collapse and the now emboldened terrorist seemed on the verge of winning. Some among the upper classes began to flee the country. Argentina, as most everyone knew it then, seem to be on the verge of being no more. One particularly notorious terrorist group, The ERP, (People’s Revolutionary Army) had gained particular infamy by engaging in the widespread murder and kidnapping for ransom of prominent Argentine citizens as well as an attack in force on the Azulejo Army Barracks. With the shocking and swift collapse of Batista’s Cuba still in their memory, senior government officials and military leaders began discussing options to save Argentina from a similar fate.

Early in the morning hours of March 21, 1976, Alicia Videla awoke to find her husband, General Jorge Videla, pacing anxiously throughout their tastefully decorated home. Videla, now the commander of the entire Argentine Army, bore the signs of a man under considerable stress.

It was only after she attempted to consul her beloved husband that she understood the weight of the dilemma her husband faced. A
large group of his fellow military officers as well as many Argentine government and industrial elites had been made a decision to act. They were not going to see their beloved Argentina destroyed without a fight. All the plans were complete. For the very survival of Argentina and Argentine society, the ineptly perilous administration of Isabel Peron had to end – preferably without incident or harm to her or her supporters. With this proposition, General Videla very reluctantly agreed. After all, he had eschewed politics throughout his entire adult life. He believed strongly in the rule of law and the virtues of a democratic society. For the survival of his country, he could hold his nose and agree with Peron’s removal – that was not what was weighing on his conscious – causing him to frantically pace throughout his home, as his family slept, in the wee hours of that March morning.

That which had floored Videla was set in motion the previous day when the political and military leaders of the coup d’etat, that would take down the Isabel Peron’s disastrous reign, informed him that he, for the sake of his country and his people, must assume Presidency after Peron’s removal. He was “most qualified” they told him. His unequalled “military leadership was required” to turn the tide against the Progressive-Socialist-Communist terrorists they pleaded. They reminded him of his “popularity with the public” and that someone of his gravitas was needed for the new government to succeed.
Still sensing Videla’s reluctance to take on a political leadership role, they reassured him that the job would be “temporary” and that his would be a “caretaker’s government” and that he was leading a governmental “reorganization.” Their pleas and the pressure they exerted on Videla were compelling – for sure. Yet he resisted.

Telling them he needed more time to consider their proposition, Videla left the meeting uncommitted. General Videla found the whole matter to be well outside his comfort zone. He was, above all, a soldier and a man of honor. The thought of his taking on a political role, under such circumstances, much less the Presidency of Argentina, was personally distasteful to him.
Were this all General Jorge Rafael Videla had to consider his decision would have been so easy, so effortlessly to make and would have been a resounding no. Yet, there was more he to factor into his deliberations. So much more he couldn’t sleep.

The very fabric of Argentine society was unraveling under the emboldened Progressive-Socialist-Marxist terrorist front. There seemed to be no safe place. Half of all of the people they murdered were innocent bystanders caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Recently, the popular Buenos Aires Police Chief, Alberto Villar and his wife had been murdered in broad daylight by the leftists. Videla knew that his beloved Argentina was perilously close to collapse. He knew that no society could withstand the duel threats of a well armed and supplied fifth column of leftist terrorist coupled with the ravages visited upon the economy by the terrorists themselves to say nothing of the damage caused by Isabel Peron’s ill-advised fiscal polices.

Videla knew the survival of the nation required bold military leadership and a new tactical approach. Despite his trying to rationalize a justification for his refusing the Presidency, in the end, he knew he alone was the best qualified to save his country from the deadly terrorism practiced by the ad hoc progressive-socialist-Marxist front.
The next day, he made contact with the others and reluctantly accepted their offer of leadership under two important conditions. First, they should strive to ensure the coup would be a bloodless one. Second, his role as the new President would be a transitional one and he would represent a temporary caretaker government that would allow for elections after the leftist terrorist threat had been placed in check. His coconspirators agreed and the next day, as the dangerously incompetent Isabel Peron boarded an Air Force helicopter, her flight was diverted to a military base where she was temporarily detained.

When the new government, that replaced Isabel Peron, was announced, the people of Argentina breathed a long, collective sigh of relief. When it was announced that General Jorge Videla would be the interim, caretaker President, the people began to again express hope that disaster could be averted.
With the support of his people, General Videla, knew that the first priority would be to take the offensive against the coalition of progressive-socialist-Marxist terrorist. This was required to save the country. The economy would take longer to fix and, in the end, would require that the terrorists be defeated.

Right from the start, Videla recognized the overarching challenge in effectively fighting the leftist terrorist network in his country. Although they espoused ideology and leanings different than their conservative Catholic countrymen, they could effectively blend in with society. Like all terrorists, whether they be the very cowardly progressive-socialist-Marxist terrorists who threatened Argentina’s survival then or today’s Islamo-Fascist Jihadist, they wore no uniform and, after committing their cowardly acts of bloodshed, would slip back into their homes, schools or workplaces and pass themselves off a decent, lawful citizens.

As Argentina’s new President, Videla’s plan of attack against the leftist terrorist was enacted swiftly and boldly. Significant manpower was committed to securing Argentina’s borders to prevent the resupply and reinforcement of the terrorists with leftist volunteers from other countries within Latin America. This included a new treaty with Argentina’s neighbor Chile to jointly patrol their shared border to intradict the flow of terrorists moving between both countries. Deals were struck with other neighboring countries to share intelligence on terrorist networks and captured leftist terrorists working within their borders. This significantly reduced the ability of terrorists within the progressive-socialist-Marxist coalition to easily seek sanctuary or to base their operations or seek refuge in neighboring countries. Further, Videla’s plan also called for other partner countries within Latin America to screen criminals for terrorist involvement upon arrest. This program in particular provided the law enforcement and intelligence agencies of partner countries a treasure trove of information on terrorists operations and organization and caused the detainment of criminals, who might otherwise have been released, due to their terrorist ties. This program was most effective due to the high rate of non-terrorist related criminal contact and moral depravity within the progressive-leftist-Marxist terrorist front. Many of these leftists were active homosexuals or otherwise depraved sexual predators who engaged in rape and child molestation. Most had significant drug habits or addictions and would engage in theft and other crimes to sustain their habits (many progressive-socialist-Marxist can be thus described even today). The arrest of these people, initially, for non-terrorist offenses lead to the identification and removal of many progressive-socialist-Marxist terrorists. In fact, in Argentina as well as in Uruguay and Bolivia, nearly one third of all pederasts (child molesters) arrested turned out to have a direct connection to the progressive-socialist-Marxist terrorist front. In Chile, the number was close to one in two.

Yet, General Videla knew that this would not be enough to root out the leftist terrorist scum. He revamped Argentina’s capabilities in gathering both human and electronic intelligences. Soon, terrorist radio and telephone communications were being intercepted and, were applicable coded messages were being cracked. Agents became successful in infiltrating ostensibly non-terrorist organizations that were, in actuality, used as recruiting ground for the terrorists such as University student and faculty organizations, labor unions, nominally non-violent liberal groups and underground homosexual cells. These efforts began to break the back of the leftist terrorist groups which had grown large, unwieldy and overconfident.

Yet, the most effective method to quickly gain the information necessary to thwart planned terrorist attacks and save innocent lives was torture which was administered in a similar way as it is in the western world’s war against terrorism today. Interestingly enough, those progressive-socialist-Marxist terrorists who chose to candidly confess their complicity in terror and fully share the necessary information needed to stop the loss of innocent life were spared any type of torture.

In fact, the Argentine military, intelligence network as well as Videla himself were amazed at how quickly many of the leftist terrorist would turn (by talking) on their own comrades to avoid torture. Videla famously made note that many of the progressive-socialist-Marxist terrorists “lacked the courage of their convictions -” unlike today’s Islamic terrorists.

Few and far in between are those who were tortured who did not have ties to terrorist organizations. Yes, some rare mistakes were made and yes, some of the braver terrorists died under interrogation or, fearing their inability to hold up under torture, committed suicide. Yes, some were, in extreme circumstances executed for their terrorist acts and murder after receiving trial, with full due process of the law, by military tribunals.

Further, one can’t help but take notice of the facts that there are so many still alive today who were arrested and claimed to have been tortured. First, unless there was a rare case of mistaken identity, all of these people were working with or for the terrorists at some level and are today still all members of the far left wing. Second, and most important, they are alive today because, they were eventually released by the Videla government and not “disappeared” as today’s progressive-socialist-Marxists in Argentina would have us believe.

The myth of the “disappeared” in Argentina, both during the war against terror and today, should be addressed here and now. For decades, members of the progressive-socialist-Marxist front have used their control over the flow of information to perpetrate a myth that, under Videla, good law abiding Argentine citizens, who were merely minding their own business and had nothing to do with terrorism were all abducted, tortured, murdered and then had there bodies buried or otherwise hidden so as to never be found again.

First, as has been fairly well established in subsequent court proceedings against President Videla and others in his administration, the vast majority of the so called “disappeared” were progressive-socialist-Marxist terrorists who were lawfully killed in open combat with government troops or security forces. Even some of the more honest among the former terrorists in Argentina today readily admit this. The progressive-socialist-Marxist have been able to gain much traction out of the “disappeared” fabrication through the governments policy, at the time, of not returning the bodies of terrorists to their families after the were a) killed in battle b) executed after a confession to or guilty finding by a military tribunal or c) committed suicide while in custody. The governments policy of not returning the bodies of the progressive-socialist-Marxist terrorists was to avoid making martyrs out of them through the leftists practice of making a huge media production out of their funerals fully supported by their leftist accomplices in the Argentine and international media would propagate false claims that they were innocents who were “murdered merely for criticizing the government.” Finally, the practice of not returning the bodies of killed guerrilla or terrorist combatants was anything but new. Even in the then recently concluded conflict in Vietnam, the United States forces and those of their allies would routinely burry killed enemy NVA or Viet Cong in mass, unmarked graves. Seldom was any effort made to identify the dead. Perhaps, most of all, the Argentine government simply didn’t believe that terrorist traitors deserved a proper burial.

The Argentine government, by their own admission did go to lengths in order to destroy or otherwise conceal terrorist bodies. Sometimes buried in mass graves, sometimes burned and sometimes, the terrorist dead were placed in Argentine Air Force transport planes and dumped over the Atlantic Ocean. In the later case, the progressive-socialist-Marxist terrorists propagated wild tales of the Argentine military throwing live prisoners out of planes over the ocean. Yet, like most of the leftist propaganda, there was never any credible evidence to support the charges. That didn’t stop their ideological allies in the American and international media from disseminating these lies as though they were fact.

In the end, all freedom loving Argentines owe their late President, Jorge Videla, a debt of gratitude. His aggressive measures saved Argentina from a total collapse and Communist take over. While aggressive and controversial, Presidents Videla’s actions won the fight against the terrorists and he showed, that by doing what the US lacked the stomach to do in Viet Nam in his own country, any progressive-socialist-Marxist guerrilla-terrorist movement could be defeated by infiltration and interdiction through aggressive human and electronic intelligence. In fact, the techniques utilized by President Videla have been studied, refined and are in full use today by the western world in the ongoing global war against terrorism. In short, we all owe this late great President a debt of gratitude.

Yet what if President Videla had lacked the courage and fortitude to do what was necessary to save his country from the progressive-socialist-Marxist campaign of terror? Few objective observers would disagree that the people of Argentina would have faced a similar fate to those of the people who endured the communist takeovers in Cuba, South Vietnam, Cambodia or the eastern block. Undoubtedly hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Argentinians would have been really “disappeared” or worked to death in gulag style concentration camps or “reeducation centers.” Private property would have been seized and the due process of law would have been destroyed along most other freedoms just as it has been in virtually every other country which has been forcibly taken over by Communists.

Thank you President Jorge Videla! For those who still care about the truth, you are our hero.

Vivi Videla!



Jimmy Carter, Jorge Videla

Joseph T. Palastra: One Of The Greatest Generals You’ve Likely Never Heard Of

Joseph T. Palastra: One Of The Greatest Generals You’ve Likely Never Heard Of

Early this past March, a stately looking, silver-haired, eighty-three-year-old man quietly passed away in the small, Mayberryish town of Highlandville, Missouri. He was known, by his neighbors and the fellow parishioners at his church, simply as “Joe.”

“Joe’s” passing was routinely and unceremoniously noted in a small, eight line obituary which told us very little about “Joe”
the man. He was survived by his beautiful and intelligent wife, of over a half century, Anne. Unmentioned, were the four of his five children and a number of grandchildren who he had also left behind.

The obituary also mentioned that, per “Joe’s” wishes, there were to be no funeral services. This last bit of information seemed most telling for a man who spent his life putting others before himself – God, County, family and the million plus different soldiers he commanded over the course of his stellar career as one of the Army’s top officers. Yes, not everyone seemed to know that, “Joe” the humble farmer in their midst, was once a four star General who commanded all US Army personnel in the Continental United States.

Born, during the depths of The Great Depression, on November 10, 1931 was
Joseph T. Palastra, Jr. Little is publicly known about his childhood. The record for “Joe” begins in 1954 when he graduated, with distinction, from the United States Military Academy at West Point. With handsome features a thatch of thick dark hair, “Joe” was respected for his high intelligence, work ethic and integrity. As a young Army Lieutenant , already considered a rising star, “Joe” was selected, with a group of other promising young officers, to be loaned out to the CIA for service in Vietnam in 1955 – some ten years before the deployment of combat forces there.

Still in his early 20s, “Joe” spent his time in Vietnam learning about the people, their culture and politics. This would serve him well in the following decade when he deployed for three tours in Vietnam-including two as a unit commander.

In the late 1960s, during two of his three tours, “Joe” commanded Company B, 4th Aviation Battalion as well as the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry respectively. By this time, the war had grown unpopular. Most of the soldiers were draftees. Many didn’t want to be in country. Drug use among the soldiers in Vietnam was rampant. Morale was low and, in some units, soldiers rebelled against their officers. In some cases, unpopular officers and Sergeants were murdered by their own troops in a practice known as “fragging.”

Many incoming unit commanders, under the circumstances, were reluctant to fully assert their authority and maintain high standards and discipline. Not “Joe.” Palastra believed that if one were “placed in charge he must take charge.” “Joe” was not afraid to “take charge” and restore discipline where needed. The first unit he took command of in Vietnam was an important combat aviation unit that he would later, and understatedly describe as “not functioning well.” As the incoming commander he had zero tolerance for disobedience and was unwilling to look the other way like many other commanders were doing. He insisted that his men adhere to the highest standards while he and his soldiers aggressively pursued the enemy on the battlefield. When he left his command, his aviation unit went from being one of the worst in its sector to being one of the best.

In 1969, when “Joe,” then a Lieutenant-Colonel, took command of the 1st Battalion of the 12th Infantry, that unit was functioning much better than most. Yet, through leading by example and setting the highest standards for himself and his men, he transformed 1st Battalion from a good unit into a great one that could be relied upon to accomplish the most challenging of missions. What “Joe” knew was something that many other officers in Vietnam didn’t appear to grasp: Soldiers actually prefer to be part of a well disciplined and accomplished unit led by officers who set high standards and who actually care for them.

After his time in Vietnam, “Joe” had accumulated an impressive array of accomplishments and awards including eight Air Medals, Three Bronze Stars for Valor and the coveted Silver Star Medal. Even more important, he established himself as a superb combat leader.

That period from the middle 1970s to the early to middle 1980s, known in the Army as “the post Vietnam era” were some of the Army’s darkest days. The military was unpopular with most Americans. In the wake of Vietnam, the Army’s budget was drastically cut and commanders lacked the necessary amounts of fuel and ammunition to conduct adequate training. Standards were low as was soldier morale. Racial tensions and violence were rampant throughout the Army. The military was unable to attract significant numbers of quality recruits. It was not uncommon for young civilian men, who were charged with felonies, to be offered the opportunity to serve in the Army in lieu of a conviction and a prison sentence. While not as prevalent as in Vietnam, there still existed, among a large portion of the lower enlisted ranks, a culture of disobedience and disrespect toward their leaders. In this post Vietnam era, many fine officers chose to leave the Army. Fortunately for the Army and our nation, “Joe” chose to stay.

Continuing to excel in his new role as an officer in the peace time Army of the 1970s, Joe was promoted to Colonel and selected for Brigade command in the famed 101st Airborne Division. As during his previous stint as a unit commander, “Joe” was lauded for the measurable improvements to his brigade’s morale, performance and readiness. Few were surprised when “Joe” Palastra was promoted to General and later given command of the US Army’s 5th Infantry Division.

Yet it was in the early 1980s when “Joe,” now sporting three stars on his collar, took command of the 60,000 plus soldiers in the US Army’s I Corps at Fort Lewis, Washington. The election of Ronald Reagan as the 40th US President brought many changes to the Army which received, once again, adequate training funds as well as the complete modernization of its inventory of equipment, weapons and vehicles.

Still, the soldiers continued to be influenced by the post Vietnam culture. Standards were still relatively slack and discipline was somewhat lacking. “Joe” come onto Fort Lewis like a whirlwind and immediately raised the bar. It quickly became clear to all under his command that “Joe” wasn’t fooling around. He expected the highest of standards and would not suffer those hapless souls who were content with mediocrity. His soldiers would speak of him as “being everywhere.” A Company standing around on the side of the road, on base, in an aimless cluster, might very well see their Corp commander pulling over in his vehicle to take charge of the situation and impart an important and forceful lesson to the unfortunate Captain who commanded the unsightly company. A Military Police Commander drew “Joe’s” ire when he decided to punish an overweight and sub-standard Military Policeman by placing him on duty, at night, on the front gate. “What?” He snapped incredulously at the cowering MP commander. “Any soldier you assign to the main gate is the first impression most will have of this post and you assigned this man?!!!

It seemed as though nothing happened in I corps which escaped notice of General “Joe.” Once a soldier driving a 2 1/2 ton truck in convoy down I-5 took off his helmet
(A major safety violation) and began to eat a Big Mac (another violation) – the next day, the soldier’s commander was made to answer for it. General Palastra didn’t believe in micro-managing his subordinates. He did, however, believe in micro-monitoring everything in his command.

General “Joe” loved all of his soldiers but his Military Police had a special place in his heart. They were his eyes and ears and the agents who helped him transform I Corp into a highly disciplined organization through enforcing the high standards he set. It was said that he even monitored the Fort Lewis MP’s police scanner. When his MPs complained that they were being brow beaten by officers that they pulled over for traffic infractions, “Joe” gave his military policemen some special guidance. From that day forward, things changed and the interaction with disgruntled officers who were ticketed went something like this:

Angry Officer: “This is #%**+# – you can’t do this to me!”

MP: “Sir, if you wish to file a complaint I have been ordered to give you the name and phone number of my boss.”

Angry Officer: “Yes, #%!?%%# I have a thing or two I’d like to say to him. Give it to me.”

MP: “Sir, My boss is General Polastra and he insists on hearing about complaints right away. His phone number is———-.”

It always worked to diffuse the situation and Needless to say, General “Joe” never received and complaints.

Leaders in the Army and the Department of Defense recognized how “Joe” was able to make drastic improvements to the morale, professionalism and proficiency of the soldiers under his command. It seemed a natural progression in his career when he was promoted to four star General and tasked with turning around the entire US Army within the continental United States when he was made commander of the US Forces Command in 1986.

“Joe” knew we were overdue for a war – maybe in Europe or maybe in the Middle East. He had witnessed, first hand, how poorly trained and unprepared soldiers do in combat. He was determined to make sure that the hundreds of thousands of soldiers under his command were ready for anything that could be thrown there way. Using the same formula that had served him and his soldiers so well in the past, he took to transforming the bulk of the US Army. Always an advocate of higher recruiting standards, he saw a much higher caliber of new soldier enlisting for service. Singularly possessed to effectuate change, some would accuse “Joe” of being a “hard ass.” Yet, as a General Joe was was almost universally admired by his men. From his earliest days as a Lieutenant to the twilight of his career, as a four star General, “Joe’s” soldiers knew his drive was not selfishly motivated by his own career advancement but, rather by his love for and desire to see his soldiers become the best they were capable of being.

To most, having such responsibility for so many soldiers might seem like a daunting task. Yet, “Joe” enjoyed the privilege of being able to bring out the best in so many young people. In an interview, he summed up his experiences thus:

“I went to Atlanta to Fort McPherson. I was in charge of 18 divisions, 275,000 active duty soldiers and another 350,000 U.S. Army Reserve Units. I was also responsible for training and mobilizing 430,000 National Guard members,.”

On his retirement, General “Joe” Palastra left a US Army that was unrecognizable from the Army he served in both during and in the years immediately following the Vietnam War. No small part of the credit goes to him. Through it all, he could always count on the support of his lovely wife Anne, his equal in spirt and intellect, who was always there to improve the Army community of wherever they were stationed and mentor and comfort young Army wives all they while raising five extraordinary children who went on to become accomplished in their own right.

Shortly after his retirement, “Joe’s” beliefs in a future war were confirmed when in 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait which lead to the first Gulf War. It might have helped the career of the Commander of US Forces in that war, General Norman Schwarzkopf, that his previous assignment had been to take over command, of the recently whipped into shape I Corps, from General “Joe.” Undoubtedly “Joe’s” amazing work with I Corp would later also reflect positively on Schwarzkopf.

Then, as Forces Commander, “Joe’s” second great gift to Schwarzkopf were the hundreds of thousands of well trained and highly motivated soldiers he had prepared for their eventual service under Schwarzkopf in the Gulf War.

If anyone ever doubted that “Joe” Palastra was a humble man, all such doubt was removed after his retirement from the Army when he and Anne settled in a small community in rural Missouri to take up a quiet and near anonymous life as simple farmers and active church goers. With “Joe” his work was done and there was no jockeying for political appointments, media commentary gigs, or cushy defense contractor positions.

As a civilian he never made much out of his Army career to others in his community and was content to be simply addressed as “Joe.” “Joe’s” career and Army retirement spanned a period in our history before the Internet and thus, there is little today to document his life and career online. Yet, to those who served with and under him, his legacy lives on in their hearts and memories.

On March 3, 2015 General “Joe” Palastra went before his maker. Undoubtedly his maker said unto him:

‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matthew 25:21

See you on the high ground sir!

Felix Rodriguez: The Man Who Took Down Che Guevara


Felix Rodriguez, pictured above on the left next to Che Guevara, is a Cuban exile turned U.S. Citizen, and a personal friend of President George H.W. Bush. Rodriguez is also a highly decorated former U.S. Soldier and CIA Operative. He is perhaps best known for his role as the CIA operative responsible for the capture of Che Guevara. Rodriguez successfully fled Cuba during the blood bath following Communist dictator Fidel Castro’s violent overthrow of President Fulgencio Batista. However, most of Rodriguez’s family, including his father and two brothers, were murdered by Castro’s Communist henchmen in Cuba. It’s likely that Che Guevara played a role in most, if not all of the Rodriguez family executions. In the end, like many others, they were murdered merely for being wealthy.

Seeking revenge for the murder of his family and many friends, Mr. Rodriguez soon joined and became a leader in the CIA backed “Operation 40” and “Brigade 2506.” These groups were part of the United States plan to overthrow the Castro regime by training and equipping a Brigade of Cuban exiles to invade their homeland – later becoming known as the “Bay of Pigs invasion” during the Kennedy administration. Felix Rodriguez played a key role in the ill-fated invasion as he volunteered for the highly dangerous assignment clandestinely infiltrating Cuba a couple of weeks prior to the actual invasion in order to gather critical intelligence which was used in the planning and preparation for the invasion. Unfortunately, his bravery was for not as President Kennedy would later backtrack on using U.S. combat aircraft for the crucial air support which was needed for the invasion to succeed.

In addition to those killed, some 1200 Cuban exiles were taken prisoner and virtually all were tortured – some executed. Again, the driving force behind the executions and torment was Comrade Che. Felix Rodriguez could never have imagined then, that some six years later, he would be in a unique position to settle scores with the Red Butcher, Che Guevara.

The Chickens Come Home to Roost

Che was never an accomplished battlefield tactician during the Cuban revolution. After that revolution, when given the task of industrializing Cuba, he failed miserably. His subsequent revolutionary adventurism in Africa was equally ill fated. The only thing Guevara was really accomplished at was murdering others. During the revolution, Castro promoted him not for his brilliance as a military strategist or for his leadership abilities but rather, because Che had no qualms with murdering those who Castro asked him to kill. Whenever a local peasant refused to cooperate with Castro’s men or objected to the guerillas taking his crops or, for that matter, was suspected of talking to government forces, Comrade Che was always more than happy to do the dirty work that most of the others in Castro’s rag tag army would not do. Even after Che was promoted to a leadership position in the guerilla movement, he left the tactical planning of operations to some of his otherwise more competent subordinates.

As mass executions in Cuba began to slow to to a trickle, Che began to contemplate his future. His failures in other administrative duties of state caused Castro to lose confidence in his ability to play a significant role in the new Communist government. With little future in Cuba, Che decided it was time he lead a new revolution in South America. He picked Bolivia, one of the poorest countries in South America, because it bordered five other countries which, so he thought, would afford an insurgent force like his own the opportunity to train and set up camps just outside of Bolivian territory. He foolishly assumed that because Bolivia was lacking in natural resources, the United States would be less inclined to assist the Bolivian government. His assumptions were wrong.

By 1967, Felix Rodriguez was rising star in the CIA’s Special Activities Division. He was considered the agency’s top field operative for Central and South America. It was, in a sense, poetic justice of sorts when Rodriguez was chosen to be the CIA’s point man in the search for Guevara. When intelligence reports indicated that the Red Butcher was operating in Bolivia, Rodriguez was sent down to coordinate the effort to find and take him out. As a cover, Rodriguez wore a Bolivian Army uniform and assumed the rank of a Major in that Army. Rodriguez, along with Bolivia’s 2nd Ranger Battalion, which had been trained by U.S. Special Forces, moved into action near the Yuro ravine on October 7, 1967 after a deserter from Che’s guerilla force went to the authorities and informed them of Che’s whereabouts.

In a glaring violation of Operational Security, Che failed to relocate his force of some fifty rebels from their encampment after knowing that one of his men had deserted. Accordingly, Che and his men, whom Che had positioned in a depression with high ground on all sides of them, were attacked the next day by the Bolivian Rangers and Alex Rodriguez. In addition to placing his men in the worse possible tactical position, with no means of escape, Che failed to position sentries on the perimeter of his encampment. As a result, Che’s group was taken completely by surprise while finding themselves without any prospect of retreat, thanks to Guevara’s shocking incompetence. It was a turkey shoot for the Bolivian soldiers who rained hot lead down upon Che and his hapless followers.

While Guevara lacked the competence to adequately train or lead his doomed rebels, he had successfully engrained onto their impressionable

psyches that they must never surrender. Che repeatedly urged his followers to “fight to the last breath” and to “save the last bullet” for themselves. When the Bolivian Rangers attacked them on October 8, 1967, that is exactly what his men did.

Despite being poorly equipped and led, Guevara’s men fought on in an impossible situation. As Guevara’s rebels courageously followed his directive to “fight to the last drop of blood” and while being mercilessly gunned down, Che made a run for it! Guevara simply bolted away from his men in the heat of battle. While his men bravely fought on, Guevara managed to climb out of the depression and dart out into the open. As two Bolivian Rangers leveled their weapons at him, Guevara dropped his own fully functional rifle, with a near full magazine, and begged, “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot! I am Che Guevara and I am worth more to you alive than dead!” As his small guerilla force was being decimated below, in the very trap he had led them into, Guevara’s only concern was for himself as he continued to plead with the Bolivian Rangers not to kill him.

Separating Che Fact from Che Fiction

Che’s life as a Marxist Revolutionary has been romanticized by the American Left for decades. The Left, while conveniently overlooking his well documented history as a bloodthirsty mass murderer, has chosen to present him as a courageous type of Robin Hood who gallantly took up the fight for the poor against those who he perceived as the exploiters of the poor. This revisionism has been quite successful. Hollywood movies extol Che’s noble struggle against these so called oppressors of the weak. It is now chic to wear clothing which displays his image. Also, certain pseudo historians have tried to portray Che as a selfless, ultra-brave, larger than life military genius. The problem is that none of it is true.

Che, it is said by some of his admirers, only surrendered after being “wounded in both legs and having his rifle rendered inoperative by an enemy bullet.” The truth is that at the time of Che’s cowardly and hypocritical surrender, he had only a minor flesh wound from a bullet that passed cleanly through a small portion of his lower left calf muscle. This superficial wound, more akin to a nick, likely occurred while he was running away and only caused him to limp slightly as he surrendered to the Bolivians. He was later seen walking that day by others and again, the next day, in village of La Higuera. He also apparently had no problem walking outside of the schoolhouse, that he was being kept in, the following day where he posed with Rodriguez, for the photo above. The minor wound on his calf was dressed and treated with a bandage. The “seriously wounded in both legs” story is a fiction promulgated by his Leftist, crypto-Marxist admirers within American academia and media circles.

Perhaps even less credible is the odd fiction of Guevara’s rifle having been “rendered inoperative by an enemy bullet.” Statements from the Bolivian Rangers indicated that not only was Guevara’s rifle fully operational but he had a near full magazine of ammunition. If these facts were not enough, upon surrendering to his Bolivian captors, they found a fully loaded Walther PPK pistol on his person – also with a full magazine of ammunition. As Guevara cooperated fully with his captors, by offering his hands up to be tied by the soldiers, his erstwhile comrades were fighting on and dying – following his admonishment to “fight to the last breath.”

Yet, what shocked the Bolivian soldiers and Felix Rodriguez more than Che’s sissified desertion of his men and surrender was the strange whimpering and ingratiating manner he took on with his captors after surrendering himself.

“What’s your name,” a cooing Guevara asked of one of the young Bolivian Rangers after his capture. “What a lovely name for a Bolivian soldier,” Che said with a smile.

After meeting Captain Prado, a company commander in the Bolivian Rangers, a chatty and overly ingratiating Guevara beamed, “you are a very special person Captain. I have been talking to some of your men and they think very highly of you.”

Che, the medical school dropout, inquired of his captors, upon seeing a wounded Bolivian soldier, “Shall I attend to (medically treat) him?” The Red Butcher, suddenly humbled and keenly aware that he was not the man portrayed in the fawning news clippings written by his liberal admirers, began chatting away through a nervous smile to anyone who came near him. “What will you fine and brave men do with me? I don’t think you want to kill me as I am much more valuable to you alive,” Che whimpered to Rodriguez.

“Now please tell me what you intend to do with me? I can be quite helpful to you!” Guevara continued to whine, beg and persuade the Bolivians and Felix Rodriguez to spare his life. While doing this he never once expressed any interest in or concerns regarding the fate of his guerilla comrades- those foolish and naïve souls who agreed to follow him and who ultimately died for him.

Che Goes Out with a Whimper

Che spent the evening tied up inside a school house in the village of La Higuera as his fate was being decided by the civilian and military leadership of Bolivia. On October 9, 1967, the coded order came in on the radio. Che was to be executed. Surprisingly, Felix Rodriguez, who lost most of his family at the hands of Guevara, magnanimously argued that the bumbling revolutionary’s life should be spared. Rodriguez wanted him taken to Panama where he could be questioned by the CIA. Yet, the Bolivians would have nothing of it. The Red Butcher was to receive his comeuppance and the world would be free of this bloodthirsty terrorist.

When the call for a volunteer to execute Guevara was made throughout the ranks of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, virtually ever Bolivian soldier stepped up to perform the task. In the end, the honor was given to a Sergeant who saw three of his soldiers killed in action during the battle.

There have been many different fictitious accounts floated as to what happened when that Sergeant entered the school house to execute Guevara. Most of these have Guevara defiantly and courageously taunting his executioner. Some of these accounts have included fabricated quotes and descriptions which are alleged to have come from the Sergeant. These purport to be what he heard and saw immediately before Guevara’s swift and humane execution.
In reality, Guevara’s executioner had spoken very little as to what transpired in that school house. He believed that even the death of a monster like Che deserved at least a modicum of dignity. What has been made clear for decades is that in the moments before his execution, Guevara was a broken, teary eyed, whimpering man who silently lowered his head the moment before the trigger was pulled. In an instant, Guevara was no more. His was a quick and painless death. It was the merciful type of ending that was denied most of the many thousands of his victims. Knowing that Rodriguez’s family had murdered by Che, the Bolivian Army officers at the scene, presented Felix with Guevara’s Rolex wristwatch. He still proudly wears it on his wrist to this day.

Rodriguez Continues in his Service to America

Felix Rodriguez went on to a distinguished career in the CIA. Two years after the death of Che he would volunteer for combat duty in Vietnam. There he flew over 300 combat missions and was shot down five times. His awards and decorations are numerous and include the very rarely awarded CIA Intelligence Star for Valor and nine Crosses for Gallantry by the South Vietnamese Government among many others. Rodriguez continued to serve in the CIA through most of the 1980s. Today, he lives in Miami and is a respected leader in the Cuban American Community.