In the Devil’s Chessboard, David Talbot tells the story of Allen Dulles, a Wall Street lawyer with a soft spot for “good Germans” during World War II and covert operator with a hard-line on any government that dared defy Washington.
Dulles is present at the creation of the hostilities between Iran and the United States, the effects which are still visible in Tehran and Washington.
He antagonized French leader Charles DeGaulle, who faced down a right-wing conspiracy against his government in 1961.
And when he was fired by JFK, he continued to play the spymaster role with cynical–and Talbot would say, sinister–aplomb.
Talbot’s great service is to cast his compulsively readable narrative of post-war American power in the realist’s context of U.S. secret operations and international politics, not in the realm of conspiracy theories or American exceptionalism. Dulles’s story epitomizes how the national security state consolidated its power in Washington
You want to buy “The Devil’s Chessboard.”
From David Talbot, author of the forthcoming non-fiction thriller “The Devil’s Chessboard.”
“In April 1961, as President Kennedy wrestled with the CIA disaster at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba, another CIA-related crisis gripped JFK’s young presidency. President Charles de Gaulle of France was threatened with a military coup by rebellious French officers based in Algeria, who were enraged by de Gaulle’s decision to settle that bloody colonial war. As rebellious tank units and paratroopers prepared to descend on Paris to overthrow French democracy, de Gaulle took to the TV airwaves,
“Vous me blaguez! [You’re kidding me.] Cowboys and Indians!”
– French President Charles DeGaulle, on being briefed by a reporter on the lone-nut theory of the Kennedy assassination. Quoted by David Talbot in “The mother of all coverups.”
What would President John F. Kennedy have thought about the enigmatic circumstances of his murder?
Alternative history (courtesy of Stephen King’s book cover)
Fifty years later, I think we don’t ask this question often enough. Instead we argue about what Rachel Maddow and Bill O’Reilly think. Media criticism is important, but it is no substitute for historical analysis. There are certainly other ways to think about the story.
Counterfactually, for example.
Imagine JFK had survived the gunfire in Dealey Plaza. What would he have said about its causes?
Kennedy, of course, did not have time to comment on the gunfire that claimed his life, other than to say, after a bullet struck him in the back, “My God, I’m hit.” But that exclamation illuminated his instantaneous awareness of a lethal situation. JFK had been a soldier/sailor in World War II. Twenty years before he had faced gunfire. He had seen men die from it. He knew that he had been shot. Before he could say anything more another bullet struck him in the head, fatally wounding him.
That was not inevitable.