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The Devil's Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America's Secret Government Paperback – September 6, 2016
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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--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
“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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Update: I read the book a second time and changed my mind about being more interested in the JFK section than the Nazi section. This time around, the Nazi section unfolded in my mind like a movie. In fact, I'd like to see a movie based on this entire book. Yet again I am wowed by Talbot's research.
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 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 !
The author did an excellent job in researching and explain his findings.