castro Boys Out of Top 10
But in looking over Wallechinsky's list -- which is a current all-star team, not a Hall of Fame that includes the undearly departed -- it's nearly impossible to see how the Castro brothers didn't make the cut. Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe killed 163 people? Way ahead of you: The Castros are at 15,000 and climbing, according to the extraordinarily conservative count of Miami's Cuba Archive. Sudan's Omar al-Bashir has driven 2.7 million people from their homes in six years? Dude, 10,000 Cubans looking for a way off the island jumped over the walls of the Peruvian embassy in Havana in one day in 1980.
Wallechinsky notes solemnly that Eritrea's Isaias Afewerki has locked up 10 local journalists since 2001. As a reporter, I certainly think that's bad news -- but just last week Cubans observed the sixth anniversary of the so-called Black Spring roundup, when the Castros arrested 75 independent journalists and political dissidents. Fifty-five are still in prison.
If Wallechinsky hasn't heard of Black Spring, I'm not surprised; the United Nations apparently hasn't, either, and made Cuba a member of its Human Rights Council.
So why aren't they on Wallechinsky's list? Probably for the same reason that Barbara Walters once threw Fidel Castro a dinner party, or that Franklin Delano Roosevelt's brain trust flocked to the Soviet Union to study Stalin's economic program, or that lovable old Will Rogers returned from a trip to Mussolini's Italy with the admiring observation that the ''dictator form of government is the greatest form of government -- that is, if you have the right dictator.'' Because, to paraphrase Lord Acton, power seduces, and absolute power seduces absolutely.
But others have been simple power groupies, including New York Times reporter Herbert Matthews, whose daftly admiring reports from Castro's guerrilla camps during the war against Batista almost single-handedly created the insouciantly charming image of Castro that persists to this day.
Before switching his affection to Castro, Matthews, too, had been an admirer of Mussolini. And his heroic portrait of the Italian army's 1932 invasion of Ethiopia infuriated Africans almost as much as his later stories did anti-Castro Cubans.
It was also Matthews who provided the rationale for subsequent generations of journalistic and political courtiers to avert their eyes from Castro's dark side: the show trials and their bloody aftermath, the squalid economy, the ramming of a tugboat full of women and children trying to escape Cuba. ''A revolution is not a tea party,'' Matthews wrote. On that, at least, we can all agree.