From Vietnam Veterans Against the War,

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The Brothers

By John Ketwig (reviewer)

The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War
by Stephen Kinzer

(St. Martin's Griffin, 2013)

In 2016, I reviewed a book titled The Devil's Chessboard by David Talbot. A biography of Allen Dulles, that book shined a bright and powerful light on America's foreign policies and history since the end of World War II. I wrote that that book was "a dark and troubling history of America's post-World War II subtle and insidious turn away from Democracy and the concept of one man/one vote to a secretive and deadly environment of manipulations and assassinations that became the Cold War, and perhaps even more." Former VVAW member and author of an array of books about that era, the late John Prados, told me The Brothers was an even better book, as the Dulles brothers worked together to steer America's foreign policies away from any cooperation with communists, leftists, or progressives anywhere in the world. To a considerable degree, the Dulles brothers were the architects of the Cold War and were instrumental in directing the focus of America's foreign policy away from peaceful pursuits.

The brothers grew up near Watertown, a small city at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, not far from the Adirondacks. Their father was the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, and their mother had grown up the daughter of a diplomat amidst all European and Latin society balls and dashing aristocrats. The boys were raised in an environment of rigid religion but also enjoyed swimming, sailing, hunting, and fishing. Their maternal grandfather had lived a colorful life of adventures "out west" and became Secretary of State under President Benjamin Harrison. Later, he invented a new profession, becoming a broker for corporations seeking preferential treatment from the federal government. It was an era of wealth and privilege, and the companies wanted easier access to overseas markets and natural resources. John Watson Foster was comfortably involved in a muscular, assertive foreign policy that forced weaker countries to trade with Americans on terms especially beneficial to American interests. He had a network of friends and business contacts, and he was increasingly successful in shaping American foreign policy to benefit his well-paying clients.

"Grandfather Foster" had no children and took a particular interest in developing John Foster and Allen Dulles. He brought them to Washington, where they lived amid exotic art objects from China, studied under private tutors, and attended by a liveried servant staff. They regularly sat at elaborate dinners where they met and listened to a dazzling array of America's most powerful political and business leaders.

John Foster Dulles had a harsh, solemn, reserved, and self-righteous personality and maintained those qualities throughout his life. A hardworking man, he was socially inept and prone to explosions of temper. He never complained but disdained those who fell short of his rigid standards. Foster used his connections to secure a job at Sullivan and Cromwell, a prestigious law firm specializing in new enterprise, guiding investors and entrepreneurs into relationships that became giant corporations. Foster's merging of rigid Christianity with ruthless capitalism brought him great success within Washington's power structure, and his influence enabled him to be successful at the point where politics intersected with global business.

Younger brother Allen, on the other hand, enjoyed a colorful world of clubs, parties, and women. He dressed in the latest fashions and found his way into the upper levels of New York and Washington society. Like his brother, he developed strong ideas that the military and government existed for the good of business. Allen was assigned to Switzerland and encouraged to report on the activities of the many spies. He had found his niche and quickly became a master of spycraft and intelligence gathering. His evenings were devoted to women and parties, and his charm made him a favorite in the most powerful diplomatic circles. Toward the end of World War II, he helped Nazi business associates hide their stolen wealth. When the war was over, he helped a colorful assortment of them emigrate to America or be assigned government positions due to their "experience."

The brothers began their rise to power before WWII, running a legal firm that helped American companies deal with the growing Fascist movements in Germany and Italy and vice versa. When the war broke out, Allen opened an office in Switzerland. The brothers enjoyed enormous financial and political rewards for laundering assets seized by the Nazis and discreetly finding buyers for the vast treasures seized by the Axis forces. As the war wound down, Allen was particularly effective in helping a number of his contacts, Nazi officials responsible for the Holocaust and many other atrocities, to escape prosecution and find post-war employment in positions of responsibility throughout Europe and, yes, in the US. Had FDR lived to see the end of the war, Allen Dulles would likely have been charged with treason as he worked to shield his Nazi friends from prosecution.

President Truman realized he was in over his head as the Soviet Union and China emerged from World War II as world powers, and he allowed the Dulles brothers, along with several other anti-Communist ideologues, to orchestrate a great East vs. West struggle that would become the Cold War. It was their life's work to eradicate Communism and to fight it to the death wherever it might be suspected, much less found. John Foster Dulles became President Eisenhower's Secretary of State, and Allen became head of the new Central Intelligence Agency soon after President Truman created it from the old OSS.

Allen Dulles delighted in mixing with the rich and powerful, dressing extravagantly, playing with the ladies, and conducting the risky undercover business of international espionage. He was highly respected for his clandestine abilities and daring but also feared. He seemed to find mortal enemies everywhere under the category of Communism, but he swore no real allegiance to any country, political party, or government. Dulles was a technician, a zealot focused on the international destruction of an ideology he despised, and his attention changed regularly. He organized the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran and the youthful and charismatic Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala, and he played a crucial part in organizing an unsuccessful coup attempt by the French military against President Charles DeGaulle. The CIA was deeply involved in the overthrow and assassination of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo, a campaign that was directly opposed to the wishes of President Kennedy. Dulles recognized no limits to his mission to safeguard America's national security. He allowed the CIA to create a vast scientific study into "deprogramming" and "mind control" that might be used to extract information from supposed Soviet agents. The experiments were performed upon unwitting American GIs and prisoners, with no accountability for the results.

Left to his own devices, Allen Dulles built the CIA into an all-powerful, super-secret foreign policy band of rogue agents who created and administered America's foreign policy with scant regard for the "official" business portrayed in the evening news. He maintained surveillance of every member of the government and employed an array of tactics to intimidate them into leaving our country's foreign relations to his lawless gang. When Fidel Castro's rebel army took over Cuba from the corrupt Batista regime, they nationalized several American companies. They closed a chain of successful casinos and resorts run by the American mafia. Allen Dulles quickly recruited the mob to help with his plans to remove Castro, and President Eisenhower allowed him to form, train, and equip a small army of Cuban refugees to invade Cuba and remove the pro-Communist presence from the Caribbean.

After he was elected, President Kennedy allowed the CIA and Joint Chiefs of Staff to continue planning the invasion. Still, he refused to allow any American air cover or "boots on the ground" military involvement. The Bay of Pigs invasion was a disaster, and Kennedy soon recognized that the CIA's bold strategy had been intended to force him to yield and allow air support when things began to go wrong. No one had expected Kennedy to resist, and Dulles and many of his cohorts labeled the new President a "Communist." JFK resisted their urgent pleas to nuke Havana, then Laos, Berlin, Peking, and even Moscow. Ultimately, the President fired Allen Dulles and his top lieutenants from the CIA, but Dulles maintained a powerful group of associates and dedicated anti-Communists. Things were heating up in Southeast Asia, especially as the CIA became involved in refining and transporting opium and heroin to the world's markets.

Soon after, Kennedy broke with all Cold War precedents and announced that the US would seek opportunities for peace and freedom worldwide. He fired Allen Dulles and other top CIA officials. He was assassinated. President Johnson named Allen Dulles to the Warren Commission to investigate and report on the assassination.

The Brothers is a frightening and shocking book you won't put down. Amazingly, so much evil, manipulation, disinformation, ideological murder, international intrigue, and raw treachery could be accomplished by two zealot brothers working within the US Government. When the late John Prados read my review of The Devil's Chessboard a few years ago, he recommended I read The Brothers. It remained in my stack of books waiting to be read, and now that I have accomplished that task, I highly recommend the book to anyone who wonders how the United States has changed so drastically in our lifetimes.

John Ketwig is a lifetime member of VVAW, and the author of the best-selling memoir …and a hard rain fell: A GI's True Story of the War in Vietnam, and Vietnam Reconsidered: The War, the Times, and Why They Matter.

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