[Marxism] John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Nov 10 10:16:56 MST 2013

NY Times Sunday Book Review November 8, 2013
Overt and Covert

John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War
By Stephen Kinzer
Illustrated. 402 pp. Times Books/Henry Holt & Company. $30.

Anyone wanting to know why the United States is hated across much of the 
world need look no farther than this book. “The Brothers” is a riveting 
chronicle of government-sanctioned murder, casual elimination of 
“inconvenient” regimes, relentless prioritization of American corporate 
interests and cynical arrogance on the part of two men who were once 
among the most powerful in the world.

John Foster Dulles and his brother, Allen, were scions of the American 
establishment. Their grandfather John Watson Foster served as secretary 
of state, as had their uncle Robert Lansing. Both brothers were lawyers, 
partners in the immensely powerful firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, whose 
New York offices were for decades an important link between big business 
and American policy making.

John Foster Dulles served as secretary of state from 1953 to 1959; his 
brother ran the C.I.A. from 1953 to 1961. But their influence was felt 
long before these official appointments. In his detailed, 
well-­constructed and highly readable book, Stephen Kinzer, formerly a 
foreign correspondent for The New York Times and now a columnist for The 
Guardian, shows how the brothers drove America’s interventionist foreign 

Kinzer highlights John Foster Dulles’s central role in channeling funds 
from the United States to Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Indeed, his 
friendship with Hjalmar Schacht, the Reichsbank president and Hitler’s 
minister of economics, was crucial to the rebuilding of the German 
economy. Sullivan & Cromwell floated bonds for Krupp A. G., the arms 
manufacturer, and also worked for I. G. Farben, the chemicals 
conglomerate that later manufactured Zyklon B, the gas used to murder 
millions of Jews. Of course, the Dulles brothers’ law firm was hardly 
alone in its eagerness to do business with the Nazis — many on Wall 
Street and numerous American corporations, including Standard Oil and 
General Electric, had “interests” in Berlin. And Allen Dulles at least 
had qualms about operating in Nazi Germany, pushing through the closure 
of the Sullivan & Cromwell office there in 1935, a move his brother opposed.

Allen Dulles spent much of World War II working for the Office of 
Strategic Services, running the American intelligence operation out of 
the United States Embassy in Bern, Switzerland. His shadowy networks 
extended across Europe, and his assets included his old friend Thomas 
McKittrick, the American president of the Bank for International 
Settlements in Basel, a key point in the transnational money network 
that helped keep Germany in business during the war.

The O.S.S. was dissolved in 1945 by President Truman, but was soon 
reborn as the C.I.A. Kinzer notes that Truman did not support plots 
against foreign leaders but his successor, Dwight Eisenhower, had no 
such scruples. By 1953, with Allen Dulles running the C.I.A. and his 
brother in charge of the State Department, the interventionists’ dreams 
could come to fruition. Kinzer lists what he calls the “six monsters” 
that the Dulles brothers believed had to be brought down: Mohammed 
Mossadegh in Iran, Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, 
Sukarno in Indonesia, Patrice Lumumba in the Congo and Fidel Castro in 
Cuba. Only two of these, Ho Chi Minh and Castro, were hard-core 
Communists. The rest were nationalist leaders seeking independence for 
their countries and a measure of control over their natural resources.

Ironically, Ho Chi Minh and Castro, strengthened perhaps by their 
Marxist faith, proved the most resilient. But the world still lives with 
the consequences of bringing down Mossadegh, who might have guided Iran, 
and thus world history, along a very different path. The 1953 
C.I.A.-sponsored coup that brought Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi to power 
was seared into Iran’s national consciousness, fueling a reservoir of 
fury that was released with the Islamic revolution of 1979.

The Iranian section of Kinzer’s book is especially strong. Here he calls 
attention to the cancellation by the Iranian Parliament of a contract 
for what was said to be “the largest overseas development project in 
modern history” with Overseas Consultants Inc., an American engineering 
conglomerate. But it seems likely that it was the Iranian Parliament’s 
vote to nationalize the oil industry that sealed Mossadegh’s fate. 
(Allen Dulles represented the J. Henry Schroder Banking Corporation, one 
of whose clients was the Anglo-­Iranian Oil Company.)

The Dulles brothers’ defenders argue that they and their legacy must be 
evaluated in the context of their era — the height of the Cold War, a 
time when the Soviet threat was real and growing, when Eastern Europe 
languished under Communist dictatorships sponsored by Moscow, and China 
had been “lost” to the Reds (although that term itself implies a curious 
claim of prior ownership). Moscow’s proxies were advancing in Africa, 
Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

The brothers’ Manichaean worldview proved to be a poor tool for dealing 
with the complexities of the postcolonial era. Leaders like Lumumba and 
Mossadegh might well have been open to cooperation with the United 
States, seeing it as a natural ally for enemies of colonialism. However, 
for the Dulles brothers, and for much of the American government, 
threats to corporate interests were categorized as support for 
communism. “For us,” John Foster Dulles once explained, “there are two 
kinds of people in the world. There are those who are Christians and 
support free enterprise, and there are the others.” Rejected by the 
United States, the new leaders turned to Moscow.

The brothers’ accomplishments in the geopolitical arena were not 
mirrored in their personal lives. Although Allen Dulles was a flagrant 
womanizer and John Foster remained devoted to his wife, they were, 
Kinzer observes, “strikingly similar in their relationships with their 
children. Both were distant, uncomfortable fathers.” John Foster’s three 
children were raised by nannies “and discouraged from intruding on their 
parents’ world.” Allen’s only son joined the Marines in a vain effort to 
impress his father, who “never found him ‘tough’ enough.” He was sent to 
Korea and almost died when shrapnel tore out part of his skull. He spent 
years being treated for his wounds. Allen’s older daughter suffered from 
depression throughout her life. Neither John Foster nor Allen attended 
the wedding of their “independent-­minded” sister, Eleanor, when she 
married a divorced older man who came from an Orthodox Jewish family.

There are also reminders in Kinzer’s book of dark events in the history 
of American intelligence. Sixty years ago, Frank Olson, a C.I.A. 
officer, was reported to have jumped to his death during mind-­control 
experiments “in which psychoactive drugs were administered to unknowing 
victims.” But last year, Kinzer reports, Olson’s family filed suit, 
claiming he had actually been murdered after visiting secret C.I.A. 
prisons in Europe. More detailed archival references here and elsewhere 
would have been useful. Although Kinzer provides a lengthy bibliography 
and extensive notes on books, articles and other materials available on 
the Internet, the references for the primary sources, which should 
detail archives, collections and precise file numbers, are meager.

Eventually, the United States government tired of Allen Dulles’s 
schemes. President Johnson privately complained that the C.I.A. had been 
running “a goddamn Murder Inc. in the Caribbean,” an entirely accurate 
assessment — except the beneficiaries were American corporations rather 
than organized crime. Nowadays, the Dulles brothers have faded from 
America’s collective memory. The bust of John Foster, once on view at 
the airport west of Washington that bears his name, has been relocated 
to a private conference room. Outside the world of intelligence 
aficionados, Allen Dulles is little known. Yet both these men shaped our 
modern world and America’s sense of its “exceptionalism.” They should be 
remembered, Kinzer argues, precisely because of their failures: “They 
are us. We are them.”

Adam LeBor’s latest nonfiction book is “Tower of Basel: The Shadowy 
History of the Secret Bank That Runs the World.”

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