In Stephen Kinzer’s The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War, the last vestiges of the nexus between Christian messianism and imperialism emerge, triumphant. Thanks to the patronage of Dwight Eisenhower, the Dulles brothers — Secretary of State John Foster and CIA director Allen — represent the culmination of their grandfather John Watson Foster’s policies. Foster was himself secretary of state to Benjamin Harrison and who arranged for tidy ferment on the Hawaiian islands that led to the abdication of Queen Liliuokalani. But John Foster and Allen surpassed him. Mossadegh, Arbenz, Patrick Lumumba lost first favor and then power after the CIA at Ike’s orders destabilized their respective regimes with psy-ops that included leaflets, the bribing of nascent oppositional forces that pledged their troth to the American free market, and the suppression of journalism critical of the dirty tricks. Foster was the starchy prig with halitosis (“Dull, imaginative, uncomprehending,” Churchill said once. “So clumsy I hope he will disappear.” Also: “Foster Dulles is the only case I know of a bull who carries his own china shop around with him”); Allen the pipe-smoking womanizer besotted with the romance of cloak and dagger heroics, an enthusiast of Ian Fleming (the agency’s failure to duplicate Fleming’s inventions for James Bond disappointed him). When Foster died of stomach cancer at the end of the Eisenhower administration, the white European world aligned with the U.S. mourned his loss. Allen got a new DC airport named after him. And dat’s dat for the last fifty years.
Their reputations in abeyance and pedigrees forgotten as declassified documents by the hundreds of thousands reveal their skullduggery, the Dulles brothers deserve reexamination and renewed opprobrium. Forget the maxim about their legacies living on. Our foreign policy remains spellbound by a neo-Wilsonian vision of the soothing power of Starbucks opening in Guinea, of Gap in Suriname. In 2013 you will find few liberals who question the dictum that capitalism and democracy are synonymous.
Thank the Dulles boys. Foster got his start in Sullivan & Cromwell, the law firm whose tentacles would have terrified Frank Norris and whose transactions would re-energize Trilateral Commission conspiracists. Like many blueblood plutocrats and conservatives of his type he had sympathy for the Nazis because they stabilized a chaotic post-Great War nation-state that was bled dry by loan obligations. At debt conferences Foster negotiated what Kinzer calls “complex restructurings” of debt that eased German access to American banks. As an anti-Bolshevik Hitler won Foster’s affection. “In his mind,” Kinzer writes, “defending multinational business and fighting Bolshevism were the same thing.” Allen meanwhile partnered with “Wild Bill” Donovan at the OSS — the World War II precursor to the CIA — and recruited the likes of Julia Child and Sterling Hayden. By the time Harry Truman signed National Security Directive 68 and thus made containing Soviet Communism the express goal of American foreign policy, CIA operations changed from the collection of data to White House secret police. To the end of his life Truman insisted that the CIA “was intended merely as a center for keeping the president informed on what was going on in the world.”
I’ve praised Ike as the best of the Cold War presidents, a judgment tempered by knowledge that he rarely met an intelligence operation that didn’t arouse him. He personally authorized the overthrow of Third World potentates like Arbenz , whose crime was resisting the transformation of Guatemala into a United Fruit Company fiefdom; and of Iran’s Mossadegh for daring to take literally the anti-colonial rhetoric of FDR and Truman (if free peoples could buy U.S. goods instead of from a malnourished British state, FDR reasoned, all the better). Thanks to the Dulles axis in State and the CIA, Ike received counsel unmitigated by bureaucracies that knew much more about these non-European peoples. Kinzer, who writes with force and clarity but will say in two paragraphs when one will do, savors the historical ironies, such as the prominence of Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt; Kim’s talent for deposing governments came almost fifty years after his grandfather TR brought the United States into the regime change era. The credulity of the American press, steered and cajoled by a phone call from Foster, cannot be overstated. Thus assertions like the following in Life magazine:
To call Mossadegh a fanatic maybe correct, but it explains almost nothing. Mossadegh is a far more complex character than the most baffling men the West has yet to deal with, including misty yogis like Nehru and notably unmisty commissars like Josef Stalin…Mohammad Mossadegh, with is faints, his tears and wild-eyed dreams, is a whirling dervish with a college education and first-rate mind.
Whirling dervishes. Commissars. Yogis. Thanks to Henry Luce and the Dulles brothers, universities boast thriving programs in orientalist studies. In his place the Americans placed the pliant Reza Pahlavi on the Peacock Throne; as shah he ruled as a feckless cruel despot until student fundamentalists abetted by the Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew him in 1979. The sapience of this fact matters because Hollywood liberals like Ben Affleck helm critically and Oscar-validated bosh like Argo that propagandizes the CIA mythos of ugly men in worse rooms smoking and hatching plans for freedom’s sake.
Drunk with success, the Dulles brothers turned to Cuba and the Congo, whereupon their determined ignorance of popular unrest caught up to them at last. Belgium had done such a magnificent job purloining resources and treating its subjects as savages that the erratic, bumbling Lumumba briefly became a hero, which was a no-no to Ike. With the help of Belgians and rebels bought by CIA dough Lumumba was placed under house arrest. He escaped, was recaptured, and tortured. No evidence could exist though. Disinterred, the corpses were dismembered and thrown into barrels of sulphuric acid. When it ran out the men burned what remained. Kinzer: “The skulls were ground up and the bones and teeth scattered during the return journey. The task proved so disgusting and so arduous that both Belgians had to get drunk in order to complete it.” They completed it. The Cuba story we know well. Allen’s late life torpor meant his assistant Richard Bissell supervised the Bay of Pigs operation, planned and approved by Eisenhower in the last months of his term and accepted without question by John F. Kennedy. Keepers of the holy flames of Camelot accept JFK’s version of the events: the tearful young president seeking Ike’s counsel at Camp David; Ike gently excoriating him for not allowing dissent (for eight years Eisenhower tolerated no dissent regarding his conduct of foreign policy); JFK accepting the criticism. He should have done, received wisdom says, what Ike boasted he would have done under similar circumstances between 1953 and 1961 and somehow never did, to the despair of Hungarians in 1956: once committed, send in the goddamn army. Kennedy accepted the resignations of Allen and Bissell.
But the Dulles clan persists. Foster’s son Avery became a cardinal. According to Kinzer he criticized the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for “being too ‘extreme’ in seeking to expel accused pedophiles from the priesthood.”