This book, "The Devil's Chessboard: Allen Dulles the CIA, and the Rise of America's Secret Government," by David Talbot, is the biography of the CIA as told through a half century of misdeeds orchestrated by one man: Allen Welsh Dulles. It is a true story as well as a truly scary story, one that should make all freedom and democracy-loving people shake in their boots.
It is scary because its subtext gives living testimony to the utter fragility of our democratic way of life. Among other things it shows how easily it really is to overrun and overturn our democracy in the name of some flakey ideology, or any well-concocted threat of the day.
We see as well, how easily the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (DCI) can use secrecy, unlimited budgets and complete lack of accountability, to lure one president after another into traps designed to either blackmail them, ruin their reputations, or set them up for failure. In a worse case scenario, as apparently occurred in he case of JFK, the DCI can even have them killed.
In each case, the effect is to leave the director himself in charge of all the major command posts of American power. Those that defy him, as JFK did, end up shot in the head at high noon. And then, for the next fifty years, "we the people" are led around by our noses on a wild goose chase, following a CIA-created legend designated to be the "lone nut Commie assassin pasty."
Lee Harvey Oswald was a man without a motive for shooting a president he loved. Beyond having nothing better to do than to serve as a radar expert at a very sensitive U2 spy plane air base in Atsugi Japan (at the same time that E Howard Hunt just happened to also be there) learn Russian (most probably at the Monterey language school for spies), travel to Russia (undoubtedly as a CIA dangle), marry a Russian wife and then return home just in time to kill the US president. Even a blind man can see that Lee Harvey Oswald was CIA through and through.
For the next fifty years "we the people" were fed a steady diet of the "lone nut theory" concocted by Dulles himself, who continued until his death to cooly orchestrate the cover-up of an exquisitely well-executed "Executive Action" on JFK, where LHO was the designated pasty.
The way the "Big Event" went down, it was all but impossible for it to have been done by anyone other than a professional hit team commissioned by an agency with the CIA's, scope, knowledge and expertise. The JFK assassination was undoubtedly a political hit carried out by the CIA, sanctioned and then paid for by Dulles' corporate paymasters.
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It was Allen Dulles alone, who deftly moved all the necessary pieces around the chessboard so that they were always just where they need to be. The pasty, the shooters and their spotters, the parade route, the security in the buildings along the parade rout, police and secret service escorts along the parade route, etc., were all moved about so that nothing would be left to chance during the "Big Event." No CIA fingerprints would be left on the body, or any CIA DNA evidence found in the long trail of evidence.
In short, here we see how through guile, lies, intimidation, murder and cover-ups, Allen Dulles became an extra-legal instrument of imperial rule, one who reigned unchallenged and unchecked above both politics, morality and the laws of our land for half a century.
This book is a scary read for yet another reason. Sadly it also shows how easily the American people can be duped and lulled into following a psychopath as he abruptly pulls us by our sensitive emotional chains, cajoling and prodding us, until, like Pavlov's Dog, we learn "when not to believe our own lying eyes" and "what boogeymen to fear."
At the same time that we learned about the JFK assassination through the Zapruder film, we also learned how to disavow the laws of physics, by pretending that when we saw JFK's head snapped violently back and to the left, that he actually had been shot from behind, by a gun aimed by Lee Harvey Oswald from a sixth floor window of the Dallas Book Depository Building (DBDB)? It is also at this time, that we further suspended disbelief and became ever more certain that JFK's assassination had occurred just as Allen Dulles had told us it had occurred: as the work of a lone nut communist-inspired assassin, without a motive: shooting from the sixth floor window of the DBDB.
In the same way that we learned to "rationalize away" the inconsistencies of "The Warren Commission's Report," (actually the "Dulles Report"), it is not too much of a stretch to suggest that we just as easily also could be trained like seals to do away with the parts of the US Constitution that we do not like, or, that no longer congruent with our pet ideologies or emotional issues of the day.
In fact, I would argue that it would be difficult to convince anyone who would suspend the laws of physics to believe the single-bullet theory, not to give up everything that is meaningful and sacred about our democratic way of life in exchange for the next piece of ideological candy of the moment?
Under the very pretext of protecting our way of life and defeating those who would stifle free-trade, undermine our democratic freedoms, usurp our liberties and otherwise undermine our way of life, we watched Mr. Dulles do exactly the opposite, as he repeatedly used the same carefully honed bag of dirty tricks that our enemies use against us, to usurp and undermine our democracy. Yet, many still see Dulles, like they see the corrupt cross-dressing homosexual, J. Edgar Hoover, as a genuine hero of the American way of life?
It seems clear from this book, that Allen Dulles did what he did to America for only one reason: to protect the interests of the rich ruling circle, his clients. That is, he did it for the leaders of the big corporations, the reactionary generals, the intelligence apparatus, and for the handful of men who controlled the media.
Invariably these turn out to be a handful of plutocrats who consider unfettered profiteering and mindless accumulation of wealth as the nation's highest value. These are exactly the men who have ruled our country throughout American history -- from the days of pirating on the high seas, to colonial settlements, clear up to Allen Dulles himself.
It is these men, cut from this same piece of cloth as the Pirates, who have now enlisted the CIA to do their bidding. They continue to promote the bankrupt ideas: that unfettered profiteering and the right to mindless accumulation of wealth are among our nation's highest values. More than this, they equate the right to accumulate such obscene amounts of wealth, with the very precepts of "freedom and liberty."
Allen Dulles was allowed to steal our government away from us; and then to institutionalize that theft. He created a rogue institution that still lives on well after his death, one that is still engaged in the same deadly bag of dirty tricks that Dulles invented and used to the great detriment of our nation. His misdeeds went unchecked for half a century.
David Talbot is right in saying that what Dulles did was to turn into a fairy tale the idea that American power is about the "ebb and flow" of political parties, the "checks and balances" between the branches of government, and the independence of our electoral process. Allen Dulles' life rendered Lord Acton's oft repeated aphorism about how "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," into a truism for our nation and our times.
As Director of the CIA, Dulles illustrated what happens when one man is allowed to use the keys to the kingdom only to protect the interests of a small ruling clique rather than to protect our democracy. The power he assumed gave him control over all the command posts of American power, and the right to operate above the plane of the law -- and to do so with impunity, effectively crowing himself and the agency he controlled, as a one-man alternative government. This could never have happened in a true self-respecting self-conscious fully functioning democracy.
At the top of the CIA, Dulles was allowed to create an institution made in his own psychopathic image, one that quickly acquired a life of its own; and one that operated for half a century as a powerful unaccountable, secret, "deep structure shadow government."
It was a shadow government with an open-ended budget large enough to allow a psychopath to do an infinite amount of evil. And under Dulles' leadership, the CIA did indeed run amok. He not only assassinated democratically elected leaders around the world, but he also consistently distorted and undermined institutions in the U.S. He committed all of this evil at the behest of a handful of billionaires, solely to protect their narrow corporate interests.
Dulles succeeded twice in putting JFK into his trick bag, setting him up to fail in both the Cuban Missile crisis and the Bay of Pigs incident. However, after barely escaping a nuclear holocaust in the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK knew how high the stakes were, woke up and balked when Dulles tried a third time to lead him astray in Vietnam. Instead of acquiescing to Dulles and his like-minded military chiefs, JFK struck back and turned the tables on them, firing Dulles and the upper ring of the clock tower in Langley, promising to further scatter the agency into the wind.
But Dulles, ever the wily cold warrior, regrouped and set up his own government in exile at his Q street house in Georgetown, where in retirement he continued CIA business as usual -- only this time the project at hand had his hated nemesis JFK, squarely in its crosshairs.
Little did JFK know that by firing Dulles, he had lit the fuse to a time bomb that would literally blow up in his face two years later at high-noon in Dallas. JFK had crossed swords with the wrong man: the geopolitical chess master of the free world, a man, who along with his brother, had enforced the corporate imperial will of the handful of amoral and evil men that represented the real seat of power in the US.
And while the author falls just short of pinning the JFK assassination donkey's tail on Dulles, he does build a fence of circumstantial evidence around the Dulles led cabal so tightly that there is no way for them to escape. And when all of the lies, perjured testimonies, falsified evidence, intimidated witnesses and locked away documents are carefully examined, there will be no jury in the known universe that will not convict Dulles of being the executive mastermind behind the cabal of rich men who murdered JFK and RFK.
In one of the most sober and eye-opening reads of this year, David Talbot has re-examined the games played on the Devil's chessboard. Each move has been studied in-depth. He leaves no moves and no stratagems unexamined. And in the end, what he comes up with is what all Americans have been thinking over the last fifty years. We ask ourselves the same questions that Presidents Eisenhower and Harry Truman wanted answers to just as the CIA was being established: Just what kind of a Frankenstein monster did the National Security Act of 1947 create? And now that we have seen the devil's handiwork, is it not time for "we the people" to do away with it? Five stars