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Book Review

The Devil’s Chessboard:

Allen Dulles, the CIA and the Rise of America’s Secret Government

By David Talbot, Harper-Collins Publisher

Reviewed by:

Eugene Stovall November 24, 2015

Oakland, California

America was at a turning point. As it interfered more directly and violently in the affairs of other nations, the US became more militaristic____ a country debased by war, assassinations, government corruption and constitutional subversion. Yet, few observers were keen enough to predict the coup d’état that took place on November 22nd 1963.

A democratic nation like the United States does not just turn into a fascist police state overnight. There must have been a beginning. Bestselling author, David Talbot, in his book, The Devil’s Chessboard, says that the American fascist police state began with Allen Dulles and the CIA’s secret government. Talbot chronicles how Dulles and the power elite represented by the clientele of the prestigious Wall Street law firm, Sullivan and Cromwell attacked the American constitution and the bill of rights from deep within the bowels of the American intelligence establishment.

On the eve of World War One, a young Allen Dulles toured Europe on behalf of his uncle, Robert Lansing, who was not only the former general counsel of United Fruit Company, one of Sullivan and Cromwell’s major clients, but also currently the secretary of state under President Woodrow Wilson. The young Dulles spied upon the growing labor unrest and creeping bolshevism in Europe for President Wilson. By the time the Unites States enter the “Great War,” the Secretary of State’s nephew, Allen Dulles, had become an accomplished spy. For the next five decades, Allen Dulles ___ along with his brother, John Foster Dulles, would ply his skill in espionage and spy craft on behalf of America’s power elite. After ‘the war to end all wars’, Sullivan and Cromwell, the Dulles brothers’ distinguished Wall Street law firm, backed by the power and prestige of the White House, assembled the intricate network of international banks, investment firms, and industrial conglomerates that handled Europe’s financial and physical reconstruction. Wall Street lent Germany the money that was paid to France and England as war reparations. England and France used these reparations to repay wartime loans provided made by American banks. The Dulles brothers served array of international clients including major German and American industrialists. Throughout the post-World War I reconstruction period, through the stock market crash and the great depression, the Dulles’ brothers guided their clients with an uncanny knowledge of future events. After WWII, the Dulles brothers once again found themselves in the position of deciding how their clients’ would earn their profits in the post-WWII period.

At there disposal, the Dulles had access to the billions of American tax payer’s money through the Marshall Plan ___ monies that found their way into the corporate coffers of Dulles’ clients ____ monies that fueled the anti-communist crusade and America’s secret government.

In his book, The Devil’s Chessboard, David Talbot tells the entire sordid tale of how Allen Dulles created a secret government on behalf of the power elite ___ as represented by the clients of Sullivan and Cromwell. Dulles assisted their client’s conduct their business corrupting, extorting, bribing, terrorizing and murdering individuals and governments, all over the world. Talbot also claims that it was America’s secret government that assassinated the one American powerful enough to stand in its way.

Powerful Men Demand Their Own Secret Government

The great titans of business ___ the Carnegies, the Rockefellers, the Morgans, the DuPonts ___ determined US policies in their corporate boardrooms. These men expected the White House and Congress, willingly or unwillingly, to codify their business decisions into law. The ‘robber barons’ engineered the stock market crash and the great depression for geopolitical purposes. But when Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal administration responded to the power elite’s machinations with their government takeover ___ threatening to drastically reduce the power of big business with a rash of social and economic reforms ___ only WWII could save them. WWII halted the government’s decline into socialism with an uneasy alliance between America’s power elite and Roosevelt’s New Deal government. Business ___ with its vast industrial capacity ___ gave Roosevelt’s government the wherewithal to win the world war and the government ___ by removing laws against war profiteering ____ allowed business to earn immense profits from war production. The government even allowed major businesses such as Ford Motor to profit from sales to Nazi Germany during the war. Ford provided the German army with transport vehicles as well as the engines for its dreaded Stuka dive-bomber.

After WWII, the Marshall Plan extended the global reach of American industry and finance creating a global empire. Marshall Plan funding helped American business corrupt officials, assassinate political opponents and instigate regime change. America’s vast corporate empire needed an equally vast network of spies and espionage agents to protect the empire against threats from labor unions, socialists and especially communists. At the behest of the secret government, America deployed its military might ___ including nuclear weapons ___ around the world in support of the sprawling American industrial colossus. The global deployment of American might was justified to the American people, who were paying the whopping billion dollar bills, as protection against the threat of international communism. Americans gave the national security establishment free rein to operate clandestine operations anywhere it deemed necessary. In reality, America’s fight against communism was a defense against threats to their wealth and stature of America’s corporate empire, real or imagined. American capitalists would brook no competition in the international marketplace. Dulles secret government responded to any threat to the American empire with the lethal force of America’s military might, unfettered by civil law or moral responsibility.

The Man Who Would Be King

There was something fateful about the unexpected meeting between an inconsequential son of a California businessman and the seneschal for the power elite. Richard Nixon, a cunningly ambitious lawyer who built his political career upon a far right anti-communist ideology, was destined to serve in Allen Dulles’ secret government. In 1946, Nixon was a Navy lieutenant assigned to a legal section in Washington. While reviewing war documents, the young lawyer discovered that the Dulles brothers had been laundering Nazi funds ___ counterfeit currency, silver and gold bullion ___ through the Vatican Bank. When Nixon confronted Dulles with his evidence, Dulles “cut a deal” with the ambitious attorney. In return for the Naval officer’s silence, the spymaster offered Nixon a membership in America’s secret government by financing Nixon’s first political campaign against Jerry Voorhis, a four–time democratic congressman and ardent New Dealer.

Wall Street, big oil and major banking interests considered Jerry Voorhis “the most dangerous man in America.” The fiery California congressman believed that the nation’s privately owned Federal Reserve Banks had rigged the financial system in favor of the power elite. Voorhis wanted the government to take over Federal Reserve Banks. He also wanted to create a national credit union, large enough to compete with the big banks.

Voorhis took on big oil. He blocked Standard Oil’s exclusive grant from the Navy to drill oil in the Elk Hills Naval oil reserve. He sought to eliminate the oil depletion allowance and he prevented drilling off of the California coast. Voorhis sent shivers through the ranks of the eastern conservative establishment by calling for the nationalization of the transportation, energy and utility industries. He also worked to expand the Social Security System and to establish a national minimum income.

Most importantly, Voorhis wanted to indict the Dulles’ brothers, John Foster and Allen, for their wartime collusion with Nazi cartels on behalf of their corporate clients. During the war Standard Oil and DuPont Chemical used the Dulles’ brothers as go-betweens in their business dealings with Germany’s I.G. Farben and Krupp industries. Voorhis investigated the Bank for International Settlement for receiving laundered Nazi loot. Voorhis discovered that the president of the bank, Thomas McKittrick, a close associate of Allen Dulles, was a Nazi criminal. The eastern conservative banking establishment willingly gave Richard Nixon a “tryout,” providing the brash newcomer unlimited financial support to rid the power elite of their arch-enemy from California.

Richard Nixon was ready for the big time and waged such a no-holds barred campaign for Jerry Voorhis’ congressional seat that his 1947 congressional campaign became legendary for its accelerated level of ‘fear mongering,’ character assassination and ‘red baiting.’ Nixon characterized Jerry Voorhis as a left-wing dreamer, a communist sympathizer, and a tool of red-dominated labor unions. Nixon told audiences that Voorhis support for school lunch programs was evidence of his obedience to the Communist Party line. Dulles provided Nixon with campaign workers ___ illegal immigrants fleeing Europe over the Vatican ratline to avoid prosecution as war criminals. Nixon’s campaign workers, claiming to be refugees from communist terror, provided voters with first hand accounts of what it was like to live under communist dictatorship. Nixon’s campaign workers made anonymous calls to voters throughout the district, accusing Voorhis of being a communist.

“Of course I knew Jerry Voorhis wasn’t a communist,” Nixon later admitted, “but I had to win!”

Nixon’s bare-knuckled destruction of Jerry Voorhis carried him to the House of Representatives. As a freshman congressman, Nixon served on the House Un-American Activities Committee, gaining national recognition for springing the trap that got Alger Hiss convicted for perjury. Allen Dulles could not have been more satisfied with his protégé. Two years later, as a US senator, Nixon joined forces with Senator Joe McCarthy, the most virulent anti-communist in Washington, assisting the alcoholic senator from Wisconsin usher in the dread reign of terror known as “McCarthyism.”

In Richard Nixon, the power elite found the ideal person to shift the nation’s policies sharply away from the New Deal towards right wing extremism. Dulles used Nixon to provoke the Cold War panic that hid the spymaster’s secret immigration of Nazi criminals into the US. While Nixon was rooting out the ‘fake’ communist menace, Dulles supplanted Roosevelt’s New Dealers with his die-hard fascists. So pleased was the power elite with Nixon’s anti-communist crusade that he became their unanimous choice for Dwight Eisenhower’s running mate in the 1952 presidential campaign. In an all-out bid to capture the White House, Dulles funneled Nazi loot into the Republican presidential campaign through various CIA front groups. The spymaster also leaked secret information to the press about President Truman’s handling of the Korean War. Both of these activities were indictable crimes under US law. However, when the 1952 election was completed, Dulles had elected a military hero with a secret past president and Richard Nixon, the anti-communist crusader became vice-President of the United States.

A Communist … 100 miles away!

Fidel Castro arrived in New York in September 1960 for the annual opening of the UN general assembly. It was the Cuban leader’s second visit to America. On his first trip, Americans opened their arms to the ‘freedom fighter.’ But on this visit, Castro’s reception was as vitriolic and mean-spirited as Dulles could make it. The Eisenhower administration did everything it could to embarrass and distress Fidel Castro and Cuba’s UN delegation. Allen Dulles along with J. Edgar Hoover pressured Manhattan’s four and five-star hotels to deny the fifty-member Cuban UN delegation lodging and forbid the Cubans from leaving Manhattan and seeking hotel facilities, elsewhere. In addition, the Eisenhower administration attempted to confiscate the Cuban airliner that transported Fidel and his delegation to the United States. In order to avoid seizure and save the airplane, the pilot was immediately refuel the Cuban jet airliner and flew back to Havana, as soon as the Cubans disembarked.

President Eisenhower was so petty that he even refused to invite Fidel Castro to the White House reception scheduled for Latin American leaders attending the UN opening. According to Talbot, “… Eisenhower expressed resentment when he had to invite ‘those niggers’ … to diplomatic receptions.”

But Castro turned white America’s hostility into a worldwide triumph when black Americans invited the Cubans to take up residence in Harlem’s Theresa Hotel. Incensed that blacks disrupted his diplomatic snub, Eisenhower got the Negro congressman, Adam Clayton Powell, to pressure the owner of the Theresa Hotel to evict Castro and the Cuban delegation. Congressman Powell announced to the white press that Castro was not welcome in Harlem. But Harlem’s black residents were ecstatic over the revolutionary leader’s visit. Castro focused a spotlight on America’s ugly system of institutionalized racism. The Cuban leader also exposed how white elites use of Negro leaders, like Adam Clayton Powell, to keep the ‘darkies’ in their place. One of the New York newspapers commented that Harlem’s black citizens were delighted that Cuba’s bearded leader had “told white America to go to hell!”

After the newspaper article, some of New York’s finest hotels offered the Cuban delegation entire floors for free, but Castro refused to move. World leaders including Khrushchev, Nasser and Nehru made the trek uptown to Harlem’s black ghetto in the full glare of the TV cameras and the international press corps. Official Washington was so thoroughly embarrassed that Allen Dulles leaked a story that the Cuban delegation was staying in Harlem because the Theresa hotel was overrun with hookers and prostitutes. Fidel responded to Dulles charges in his opening UN remarks, saying: “They began spreading the news all over the world that the Cuban delegation had lodged in a brothel. For white racists, a humble hotel in Harlem, a hotel inhabited by black people, must be a brothel.” In reality, the CIA was the brothel, Allen Dulles was the whoremaster ___ and Dwight Eisenhower was the ‘spook who sat by the door.’

The American secret government hated Castro. After taking power, the Cuban leader moved quickly to deliver on his promises to transform Cuba from an American colony to a sovereign nation. Castro nationalized the sugar and oil industries and expropriated American-owned plantations, factories and utilities. The Eisenhower administration immediately embargoed Cuban imports of sugar, tobacco and rum. But Castro found alternative markets. Then Dulles ordered his agents to firebomb Cuba’s sugar harvest, launching a campaign of sabotage, espionage and terror against the Cuban people. Allen Dulles’s worse atrocity against Cuban citizens was sailing a freighter filled with explosives into the Havana’s harbor and blowing it up. When workers attempted to rescue the injured and maimed dockworkers, the CIA detonated another bomb with even deadlier consequences. But Dulles’ campaign of terror failed to dislodge Castro. Upping the ante, Eisenhower authorized the training of a para-military force to invade Cuba, kill Castro and overthrow the Cuban government resulting in the so-called Bay of Pigs invasion.

“We shall not become another Guatemala,” Castro vowed ___ referring to the ousted government of Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán. To avoid Guatemala’s’ fate, Castro put right wing thugs and secret police ‘against the wall’ and purged the armed forces of its right wing officers. Castro identified and forcibly removed all of the CIA agents as soon as Allen Dulles inserted them onto Castro’s island. America’s power elite could not tolerate the Cuban threat to America’s global empire and demanded Castro’s immediate removal and with extreme prejudice.

A President Defies The Secret Government

In The Devil’s Chessboard, David Talbot recalls the incident that starts the secret government on the road to the coup d’état that overturned the constitution of the United States and the bill of rights. In April 1962, President John F. Kennedy negotiated a deal between the big steel companies and the labor unions. Kennedy wrung wage concessions from labor so as to prevent a rise in steel prices. The Kennedy administration feared a price hike would have an inflationary impact on the US economy. But just four days after the steel pact was signed, US Steel chairman, Roger Blough, announced a 3.5% price hike. US Steel’s announcement triggered similar price increases from the other steel companies. The eastern establishment decided to show the world that they actually controlled the United States. Henry Luce’s Newsweek declared Blough a hero for reneging on the deal and embarrassing the president. JFK was furious.

Over the next three days, President Kennedy used the full power of the federal government to crush the steel rebellion. Attorney General Robert Kennedy announced a grand jury investigation of steel price-fixing and followed up his announcement with subpoenas and FBI raids on the headquarters of US Steel and other steel companies. Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, announced that he would review government steel purchasing practices and favor only those companies that did not hike their prices. Inland Steel was the first to fold. Next Bethlehem Steel said that it would honor the “no price hike” agreement. One day later, US Steel capitulated.

Henry Luce, a permanent member of America’s power elite, was outraged. Luce, who was born in China to missionary parents and who had created the first multimedia conglomerate, envisaged the US power elite achieving worldwide domination in his time. Luce published an article in his Fortune magazine, reminding JFK of Julius Caesar’s fate. “Beware the ides of April,” warned the publisher.

JFK offered Luce an ‘olive branch’ by inviting the publisher to a private White House luncheon. The Times-Life media mogul took the opportunity to lecture the president, at length, on the dangers of communism and ended by demanding an immediate invasion of Cuba. JFK retorted accusing the publisher of warmongering. Henry Luce stormed out of the White House even before dessert. Luce remained President John F. Kennedy’s arch-enemy until the day he died.

Talbot says that soon after his White House luncheon, Luce convened a war council at his New York headquarters, declaring that if Kennedy wasn’t bold enough to overthrow Castro, his corporation would take on the task. Directly challenging the president, Luce began funneling money into the CIA to finance the anti-Castro crusade. Dulles accepted the illegal funding without the president’s approval. But Kennedy would not back down. Just weeks before his assassination, he filed price-fixing charges against US Steel and other steel companies. But after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, Luce and America’s power elite, now solidly in control of the secret government, decided to take action ___ closer to home.

The Game of Thrones

The Texas oil crowd ___ as well as the Rockefellers ____ was furious when President Kennedy threatened their tax loopholes. Big oil was particularly incensed over the Kennedy plan to eliminate the oil depletion allowance, which was costing the American taxpayers billions. Lyndon Johnson promised to protect oil interests, but LBJ was unwelcomed in the Kennedy White House. Johnson ‘tore his britches’ with the president when he tried to seize control of the entire intelligence and military establishment. His attempted coup earned the vice-president, JFK’s lasting enmity and the president intended to dropping LBJ from the ticket in 1964. Kennedy had a plausible excuse for dumping LBJ when scandals involving LBJ closest aid Bobby Baker began surfacing in the press. Baker was reported to be engaged in influence peddling and shaking down lobbyists on LBJ’s behalf.

Stories about Bobby Baker’s widespread network of corruption, his campaign slush funds and his Capitol Hill parties where call girls catered to the sexual appetites of political bigwigs were common knowledge among Washington’s insiders. But when these stories began appearing in the press, the vice-president suspected that Bobby Kennedy was responsible for leaking them. However, Bobby Baker’s sex parties were a poorly kept secret. It was also common knowledge that when Washington politicos visited Dallas and wanted a good time, Bobby Baker took care of them at Jack Ruby’s Carousel Club ___ a notorious underworld hangout.

Lyndon Johnson hated Bobby Kennedy even more than he hated JFK. LBJ’s hatred of the Attorney General was fueled by the younger Kennedy’s higher status in the secret government ___ a status Bobby Kennedy achieved as the legal counsel to Joe McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Sub-Committee on Investigations. Bobby Kennedy’s higher position in the secret government meant that Bobby not Lyndon would likely become the Democratic Party’s 1968 presidential nominee. LBJ, a man whose ambitions were as immense as his ego was fragile, was mortified by his fall from power. But the Kennedy brothers did not realize how dangerous wounding Lyndon Johnson’s fragile ego could be until both were laying in their graves.

Though not as high up in America’s secret government, LBJ had been the godfather of the East-West Institute located in Oahu, Hawaii. The East-West Institute was the Pacific home for all the CIA’s Asian operations. Allen Dulles used the East-West Institute with LBJ’s knowledge and cooperation to provoke the Korean War, overthrow the Indonesian government and assassinate Ngo Dinh Diem, South Vietnam’s first president. At President-elect Kennedy’s Inaugural Ball, Clare Booth Luce teased Lyndon Johnson about his sworn oath never to accept the vice president position even if JFK “got down on his hands and knees.” But, according to David Talbot, the big Texan leaned close to Henry Luce’s wife and whispered: “Clare, I looked it up. One out of every four presidents has died in office. I’m a gamblin’ man, darlin’, and this is the only one chance I got.”

Though LBJ lost favor with the Kennedy administration, he retained the support of America’s secret government. Johnson had long been the dominant political figure with the booming aerospace and defense industries, many of which were headquartered in Texas. Johnson kept them supplied with multi-million dollar no-bid contracts. The vice president had long cultivated generals, admirals and top intelligence officials. Allen Dulles knew he could depend upon the future US president from Texas.

“The Big Event”

In October 1962, cold war tensions came close to exploding in a nuclear conflagration during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Every one of JFK’s national security advisers urged the president to take the aggressive action calculated to trigger a nuclear war. As the world held its breath, President Kennedy supported only by his brother, Bobby, and Robert McNamara, worked with the Soviet premiere, Nikita Khrushchev, to step back a nuclear holocaust. Kennedy removed obsolete Jupiter missiles from Turkey in exchange for Khrushchev removing missiles from Cuba.

America’s military and intelligence establishment were furious. They believed the Cuban Missile Crisis gave the US the ideal opportunity to launch a full-scale military invasion and knock out the Castro regime, once and for all. Kennedy’s peaceful resolution of the crisis left the right wing cold warriors bitterly resentful. And by early 1963, Kennedy was seeking to defuse Cuba as an international flashpoint. He withdrew funding from anti-Castro militant groups and cracked down on raids against the Cuban island. At this point Allen Dulles told the rabid-CIA sponsored Cuban “freedom fighters” that he was de-escalating the US campaign against Havana and redirecting their activities. The spymaster then turned his violent anti-Castro network of spooks, extremists, mercenaries and assassins inward. Dulles changed his plots to remove the president of Cuba, into a plot to assassinate the President John F. Kennedy and stage a coup d’état against the US constitution and the bill of rights.

On November 2, 1963, the Secret Service uncovered an assassination plot against President Kennedy. After landing at O’Hare Airport, President Kennedy was to ride in a motorcade to Soldier Field for the Army-Navy game. The Secret Service cancelled the motorcade when they discovered that assassins planned to ambush the president from a tall warehouse building as his limousine slowed down for a hairpin curve. The plot involved a sniper team composed of a disgruntled ex-Marine who worked in the building and Cuban marksmen. The identical plan was carried out in Dallas on November 22nd, just twenty days later.

The consensus within the American power elite was that President John F. Kenney was a national security threat. The good of the country required that the secret government remove Kennedy from office. The power elite turned to Allen Dulles, the man with the stature, connections and will to make it happen. Dulles had a killing machine that operated overseas. According to David Talbot, Allen Dulles inserted his killers into Dealey Plaza, murdered JFK and used his secret government to institute the coup d’état that removed the Bill of Rights and turned the United States into a fascist police state.

Shoot ‘em In The Head

CSNBC’s Chris Matthews interviewed the controversial former governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, on November 5, 2015 about the closing of Guantanamo Bay. “What can we do with the prisoners,” Matthews asked the politician whose sexual escapades lost him his governorship. “We have kept some of them locked up for over ten years. The government says that we don’t have enough evidence to take the to court, but we can’t just let them go. What should we do?”

“We have a tradition in this country of taking people out the back door of jails,” Mark Sanford replied. “Some we shoot in the back of the head, others we let go.”

Mark Sanford gives an accurate description of how the American secret government operates. Currently a congressman from South Carolina, Mark Sanford confirms exactly what David Talbot describes in his book, The Devil’s Chessboard. America’s secret government shot both the president of the United States and his brother in their heads.

But there is no statute of limitations on murder and until the Kennedys’ assassins are brought to justice, the world will find no peace.