“The Devil’s Chessboard – Allen Dulles, the CIA and the Rise of America’s Secret Government,” by David Talbot, 2015
Recent discussions of the ‘deep state’ underlying the U.S. congressional system belie a new understanding, even among liberals and left-liberals, that something is going on outside of elections in the relations of power in the U.S. Talbot here traces it to the still increasing power of the ‘security state.’ He thinks it is embodied in the CIA/military/FBI/NSA/State & Defense Departments/CFR, starting after World War II and consolidating itself in the government assassination of John Kennedy. In this sense, the latter really amounted to a ‘coup’ by the security state, which is still with us today Since events do not happen except in the form of real human beings, Talbot focuses on the role of Allen Dulles and his brother, John Foster Dulles. Allen was the first head of the CIA until being fired after the Bay of Pigs by Kennedy; his brother was the cold-war secretary of state under Eisenhower.
Much of the book is somewhat familiar territory to leftists, focusing on the Dulles’ and the CIA’s protection and use of Nazi’s during and after World War II. Allen Dulles helped install a former Nazi, Reinhard Gehlen, as head of West Germany’s secret services. At one point he tried to make a separate peace with Karl Wolff, the head of the Italian Nazi’s, which showed he already had his own private agenda compared to Truman. Allen himself pooh-poohed reports of the Nazi extermination camps. This directly contributed to the U.S. military's inaction. So trains full of Jews rolled on, even late in the war when the extermination of Hungarian Jews had commenced. He succeeded in getting some high-ranking Nazi’s overlooked by the Nuremberg trials. John Foster himself was a supporter of Hitler until sometime in the mid-1930s when he changed his mind.
Talbot details Dulles and the CIA’s involvement in the assassination of Lumumba, the overthrow of Mossadegh, the coup against Arbenz, the funding of the Italian Christian Democrats in Italy – all pointing to this ‘secret’ U.S. government’s reactionary role against national liberation movements and for international banks, exporters and factory owners. Eisenhower basically let the Dulles brothers control foreign policy, including ‘nuclear brinksmanship.’ While many quote Eisenhower on the 'military-industrial complex' he basically enabled it. Some of Allen’s tricky tactics were designed to split the Communist camp and make Stalin more paranoid than he already was In Czechoslovakia, for instance, it set Stalin off against successful national Communists, which resulted in 1,000s of arrests and the weakening of worker's rule there. Dulles justified all this as fighting ‘communism,’ but in reality it was a fig leaf used to justify opposing ANY progressive movement anywhere in the world, with or without communist leadership. The CIA even funded various cultural figures and institutions to combat ‘communism,’ which shows their reach. These policies continue to this day, just in a different form – which shows the ‘deep state’ is still operative, with military and control objectives absolutely unchanged.
Talbot draws links between Dulles’ early role as a white-shoe corporate lawyer for Sullivan & Cromwell, which defended banks and corporations, including German ones, and his circle of upper-class friends among the Rockefellers, in the Ivy League and across Wall Street. Allen had sympathizers in key positions in the government and in positions of influence, like the Counsel on Foreign Relations (CFR). James Jesus Angleton, the head of the CIA after Dulles, was a ‘Dulles man’ all the way, consulting with Dulles during the period of the Kennedy assassination and the white-wash of the Warren Commission, a commission virtually controlled by the former ‘spook.’ Dick Nixon, Jesse Helms, William Bundy, C Douglas Dillon, Curtis LeMay, Texas oilmen, key news owners like Luce, Sulzberger and Paley and many others were part of Dulles’ circle. Dulles even funded the first ‘red-baiting’ election in California in 1946, when Nixon ran against Voorhis, a progressive. Joe McCarthy was a ‘useful idiot’ until McCarthy started accusing friends of Dulles for being communist or gay.
Talbot draws a psychological portrayal of Dulles, showing him to be a cold, secret person with few emotions. His own wife was ignored. During the MKUltra program, Allen recommended his son, Allen Jr., be treated with similar methods. The CIA conducted mind-control, LSD, sleep-deprivation, insulin and electro-shock, biological agent and torture experiments – all the while accusing the USSR of doing what the CIA was doing. One scientist who was going to blow the whistle on these programs ‘fell out of a window.’ A later autopsy revealed he had not committed suicide but had been bludgeoned first.
The Assassination of Kennedy:
So now we come to the topic of assassinations. A commonly-used tactic by the CIA internationally, the CIA also could use the tactic nationally. Most stunning to me was the international plot by the CIA and reactionary French generals to overthrow and perhaps assassinate Charles DeGaulle as president of France because he wanted to pull out of Algeria. The coup was foiled by a mass outpouring of French workers and citizens. In the U.S., a CIA operative admitted that Huey Long, the Louisiana left-populist, was killed by the CIA and that Joe McCarthy might have to be liquidated too. As it was, it was not necessary.
So why was Kennedy killed? Oswald himself said he was a ‘patsy’ and never showed a dislike for John Kennedy. He called his CIA handler from jail, which sealed his fate when Jack Ruby, a mob-connected assassin, killed him to shut him up.
Kennedy upset the reactionary cold-warriors in the security state, government, media and corporate suites for these reasons: 1. Cuba/Bay of Pigs – Kennedy’s failure to invade Cuba when things went wrong; 2. The successful Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the USSR; 3. An attempted revamp of the CIA after the Bay of Pigs fiasco to get rid of the hardliners; 4. Kennedy ordered the military not to invade Laos to support the war in Indochina; 5. Steel firms were forced not to increase prices 3.5% by the Kennedy administration; 6. The Justice Dept. filed price-fixing charges against steel firms; 7. The Cuban missile crisis. Kennedy made a deal with Khruschev, while hard-liners instead wanted to invade Cuba again; 8. A sort of overall early détente with the USSR; 9. The government withdrew official funding of armed Cuban exiles. 10. The Kennedy administration told the CIA to end their alliance with the Mob; 11. Kennedy did not order tanks to knock-down the Berlin Wall or Checkpoint Charlie when the wall was built; 12. The Kennedy administration’s support for ‘apertura’ - an opening to a block between the Italian Socialists and Christian Democrats in Italy; 13. Ordering a stop to plots to kill Castro (which went on anyway…); 14. The oil-depletion allowance was to be closed for oil firms; 15. LBJ was to be off the Kennedy ticket in 1964.
Kennedy had offended almost everybody in the ruling elite. Daniel Ellsburg, who worked in the Pentagon at the time, said, “There was virtually a coup atmosphere in Pentagon circles.”
Talbot considered Dulles to be at the center of a ‘government in exile’ after his firing in 1961. Talbot goes into the somewhat familiar finger-prints of Allen Dulles and the CIA in the Kennedy assassination. Howard Hunt at the end of his life partially explained the role of the CIA in the assassination, naming Bill Harvey, David Morales, David Atlee Phillips, Cord Meyer and Frank Sturgis as key CIA operatives he knew about. Hunt himself was seen in Dallas during that period. Dulles spent the days immediately after the shooting – during the Kennedy autopsy and killing of Oswald – oddly enough at CIA operational headquarters in Camp Peary, the “Farm,” even though he was no longer ‘officially’ with the CIA. Dulles met with Meyer before the assassination, but never mentioned this to the Warren Commission. He himself lobbied hard to get onto the Commission, and after being appointed, some said it should have been called the “Dulles Commission’ instead, based on his control of its workings.
Talbot’s hero in this book is C. Wright Mills, who was one of the few left progressives who stood up to the Dulles and Eisenhower in the 1950s and 1960s, writing the classic book, “The Power Elite.” Talbot seems to think that Mills corrected Marxists by showing that power was not just among a ‘ruling’ class, but a web of links between the capitalists, the state and civil organizations. Yet I think this analysis just fleshes out what how a ruling class functions in modern times. The understanding of the ‘deep state’ is a different terminology, but again, is another name for a similar thing. The ‘state’ represents, defends and preserves the economic relations of any society, including those who dominate it. Talbot here only refers to the more international ‘security’ side, but it also encompasses the domestic laws, court system, judges, lawyers, cops and jails of the 'national' security system. They are ultimately all one. It will not change, even if a new politician is elected, until the form of economic production of society changes.
Prior book reviews on assassination: “American Assassination: the Strange Death of Paul Wellstone,” “Orders to Kill,” (about MLK); and “They Killed Our President: 63 Reasons to Believe There Was a Conspiracy to Assassinate JFK” by Jesse Ventura.
And I bought it at Mayday Books!
January 1, 2016