- Hardcover: 704 pages
- Publisher: Harper (October 13, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780062276162
- ISBN-13: 978-0062276162
- ASIN: 0062276166
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 570 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Devil's Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America's Secret Government Hardcover – October 13, 2015
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An Amazon Best Book of October 2015: Salon.com co-founder David Talbot’s The Devil’s Chessboard paints a riveting but unflattering picture of longtime CIA chief Allen Dulles (and of his Secretary of State brother, John Foster Dulles) in a nonfiction account covering decades of espionage, questionable tactics, and outright conspiracy. Heaping detail after detail into a dense but fast-flowing account, Talbot has written a book that reads like part Cold War history and part Tom Clancy novel. Both brothers protected the rich and powerful. Both felt they could act outside the rules. Both feared the Soviets and would do seemingly anything to oppose them. Readers will be glad these men are gone, even as they drink up every word written about them. And some will wonder if others have quietly taken their place.--Chris Schluep
“A Cold War villain of realpolitik whose successes and blunders were unrivaled. As framed by Talbot, Dulles’s extra-legal interventions, coups, slush funds, and ex-Nazi collaborations were as much pro-corporate as anti-Communist, more Cheneyish than Nixonian.... He’d fit right into our globalized, subcontracted, and hypersurveilled era.” (New York Magazine)
“Dulles is unmasked as the backstage manipulator of US policy (foreign and domestic) from the Cold War up to his skillful defense of the highly suspect Warren Commission report. Those who scoff at conspiracy theories might have a change of mind after reading this book.” (Boston Globe, Pick of the Week)
“A frightening biography of power, manipulation, and outright treason…The story of Allen Dulles and the power elite that ran Washington, D.C., following World War II is the stuff of spy fiction…All engaged American citizens should read this book and have their eyes opened.” (Kirkus, starred review)
“A damning biography—of the CIA’s longest standing director—and an exposé of American politics…. One would be hard pressed to find a book that is better at evoking the strange and apocalyptic atmospherics of the early Cold War years in America.... Neither le Carré nor Graham Greene could do any better.” (Daily Beast)
“Offers a portrait of a black-and-white Cold War-era world full of spy games and nuclear brinkmanship.” (Mother Jones)
“This year’s best spy thriller isn’t fiction — it’s history…. By the time ‘The Devil’s Chessboard’ eventually climaxes with the events that unfolded in Dallas in 1963, Talbot’s argument that Dulles had both the power and temperament to execute such a plot is more than believable.” (Salon)
“A chilling psychological depiction.... The vast surveillance system so dramatically revealed to the world by Edward Snowden could never have come to pass without the culture of fanatical secrecy and habitual lawlessness handed down by Dulles and his loyal agents.” (Justyn Dillingham, Bookslut.com)
“This aptly titled book portrays Allen Dulles as the dark prince of the Cold War who manipulated the media, deceived presidents, helped stir up coups... [and might] have been involved in Kennedy’s assassination. Readers who enjoy espionage’s dark history will have a tough time putting this book down.” (Library Journal)
“Essential reading, especially for readers with even a passing interest in post-WW2 U.S. foreign policy.” (CounterPunch)
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It took me several weeks to finish this book, only because I found myself agitated and enraged to the point of having to put the book down in order to regain my composure. Having a CIA father who was seduced by Allen Dulles (or should I say allowed himself to be seduced by Allen Dulles), my own past demons again rose from the dead for one last dance. Talbot's interviews with Allen Dulles's daughter Joan were also deeply poignant. There are so many things Talbot brings to light in this book for the greater good of all.
If I have any criticism, it would be that Talbot's footnotes are too superficial and structured badly. A book like this needs to be THOROUGHLY documented, sometimes with great detail. A fine example of this would be how Jim Douglas handled his footnotes for "JFK & The Unspeakable." Douglas left no ambiguity when it came to documenting critical details he presented.
The other shortcoming here is that Talbot never covered one of the most important documents ever revealed by the CIA. That document (https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=6515#relPageId=2&tab=page ), signed by my own father who chaired the meeting that took place at the highest levels in the CIA on September 20, 1967, reveals unequivocally the CIA's involvement in the JFK assassination. As Jim Garrison’s challenge to the Warren Commission emerged into the national foreground in 1967, the public was unaware of what was taking place at CIA headquarters. Present at this meeting was the CIA’s Executive Director, General Counsel, Inspector General, and others, including Raymond Rocca who was James Jesus Angleton’s chief lieutenant in the office of Counterintelligence. Rocca was quoted as stating in the meeting that he felt that "Garrison would indeed obtain a conviction of [Clay] Shaw for conspiring to assassinate President Kennedy."
That statement was nothing less than prima facie evidence of the CIA’s involvement in the assassination of a sitting U.S. President, which amounted to an open, documented admission by a high level CIA officer – during an internal CIA meeting – that Clay Shaw (as well as the CIA itself) was “indeed” part of the conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy. Since its release in 1998, few JFK assassination researchers have even mentioned this document, much less understood its true significance. This event, among others, will be thoroughly addressed in a new, forthcoming third edition of "Mary's Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and Their Vision for World Peace" in September 2016.
Thank you David Talbot for the true understanding of who Allen Dulles really was and the destruction of the republic that he brought about !
Note: Be wary of one-star reviews for this book. Some trace back to commissioned-review services, the same services that give five-star reviews to shady/suspicious health and beauty products. Go figure.
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 but emotionally satisfying ideology, or any well-concocted threat de jure.
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 Monterrey 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.
It was Allen Dulles alone, who deftly moved all the necessary pieces around the chessboard so that they were always just where they needed to be. The pasty, the shooters and their spotters, the parade route, the lack of security in the buildings along the parade rout, the lack of proper 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." JFK would be killed with a certainty and no CIA fingerprints would be left on the body, or any CIA DNA evidence found in the multi-decade 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 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."
For instance, 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 JFK's head snapped violently back and to the left, that he actually had been shot from behind by a gun aimed at him by Lee Harvey Oswald from a sixth floor window of the Dallas Book Depository Building? 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 Dulles/Warren Commission's 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 -- especially the parts that we do not like, or, that no longer accords 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 his rich ruling circle 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 turned 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 same kind of 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 very 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 that "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 them 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 happen in a 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 engage in an infinite amount of evil and do an infinite amount of damage. 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 within the U.S. He committed all of these acts, not to defend US interests, but solely to protect the narrow corporate interests of a handful of billionaires.
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 triggering a nuclear holocaust in the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK knew how high the stakes were, 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. He fired Dulles and the upper tier 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 much 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, Foster, 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 so tightly around the necks of the Dulles led cabal, 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 the year, David Talbot has re-played and 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 perplexed Presidents Eisenhower and Harry Truman 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 this monster? Five stars