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Diego Rivera mural
Diego Rivera's Gloriosa victoria, 1954

The “Soviet Threat” which became Washington’s foreign policy mindset was a self-serving creation of Allen and Foster Dulles. The consequences of their creation and its recreation by the US neoconservatives await us unaddressed.

Some years ago I reviewed Stephen Kinzer’s book, The Brothers, an extraordinary account of two men long serving at the top of the US government, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and CIA Director Allen Dulles. Both were appointed to office by President Eisenhower. Allen Dulles was the Director of the CIA, and John Foster Dulles was the Secretary of State. The interests of the two men’s law firm became in effect the agenda of the government of the United States.

Both men used their power in service of their powerful law firm, Sullivan & Cromwell. Both are examples of the privatization of government to serve private interests. Foreign government that got in the way of their firm’s clients’ interests, they plotted to overthrow.

To justify their use of the US government in service to the clients of their law firm, the brothers invented the “communist threat of world subversion” and inaugurated the Cold War. The brothers came up with six monsters to destroy.

The first was the first democratically elected leader of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh, certainly no communist. Mossadegh’s offense was that he nationalized Iranian oil, thus angering the British government. He also angered the brothers. Sullivan & Cromwell’s client, the J. Henry Schroder Banking Corp, was the financial agent for the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company on whose board Allen sat. The nationalization of Iranian oil also disrupted Foster’s activities in behalf of Chase Manhatten Bank.

Allen Dulles had negotiated for Sullivan & Cromwell’s client, Overseas Consultants Inc, an Iranian development plan from which the law firm and its client expected to earn massive profits together with an ideal base for John Foster Dulles to project American influence throughout Iran and the Middle East. But the Iranian legislature supported Mossadegh and vetoed the project.

Thus Mossadegh’s fate was sealed.

A narrative was created and opinion manipulated. Allen Dulles formed an overthrow team that paid US tax dollars to street thugs to attack the government, as the US did in the “Maidan revolution” in Ukraine. Foster Dulles created a propaganda campaign against Mossadegh presenting him as a weak leader about to be overthrown by Soviet agents. The story fed to President Eisenhower, Congress, and media was that Iran was in danger of being lost to expansionist communism.

It worked. This success of the brothers’ ability to easily manipulate the US government, parts of the Iranian population, and the insouciant American public gave us Iran’s enmity and the Cold War, which in its resurrected state after Reagan buried it threatens to bury us.

The brothers’ next target was Guatemala’s first democratically elected government. Guatemala, long ruled by Sullivan & Cromwell’s client, United Fruit Company, decided with its free election to take Guatemala’s rule out of the United Fruit Company’s hands. The new president, Jacobo Arbenz, nationalized fallow land held by United Fruit in order to put the resources in service to the country.

This sealed Arbenz’s doom.

Arbenz said he was concerned with Guatemala, not with international ideological rivalries. His statement gave Foster Dulles the opportunity to create a new threat to America–“creeping neutralism”–later defined by George W. Bush as “you are with us or against us.”

Being against us, Arbenz was quickly turned into a communist by the brothers and the American media that the brothers easily controlled. Arbenz, a nationalist leader, was turned into a communist whose beachhead into the Americas would seal our doom. Eisenhower, Congress and the media bought the official narrative hook, line, and sinker.

Allen created a fake “liberation army” and a fake radio station to report non-existent advances in Guatemala’s liberation against the alleged communist regime of Arbenz. Allen used US planes to bomb Guatemala military bases to make the armed rebellion look real.

But it wasn’t working. Poor illiterate Guatemalans were not as insouciant as Americans. So the brothers got American Cardinal Francis Spellman, the most prominent Catholic prelate in the US, to issue a pastoral letter designed to portray a Guatemalan nationalist leader as a communist. Priests read Spellman’s letter to their congregations, and the newspapers carried it throughout the country. As Kinzer says, it is “a masterpiece of propaganda, steeped in the vocabulary of faith, fear, and patriotism.” Here is an opening paragraph:

“At this moment, we once again raise our voice to alert Catholics that the worst atheistic doctrine of all time–anti-Christian Communism–is continuing its brazen advance in our country, masquerading as a movement of social reform for the needy classes.”

The brothers having successfully destroyed Guatemalans belief in their protector against foreign interests, replaced the elected president they had successfully demonized with their man.

What Kinzer shows is that the long, expensive Cold War, both in terms of US money and US civil liberties, was the creation of two holders of powerful US government offices used in defense of their law firm’s clients.

The brothers set the pattern for the future. It has been eons since any US government policy served any public interest. What public interest is served by open borders, creating enemies out of Russia and China, demonizing white people, teaching white school children that they are racist, weaponizing law, offshoring high productivity jobs, creating endless money and financial bubbles? You can add to the list.

President Reagan succeeded in ending the Cold War despite the opposition of the CIA and the powerful military/security complex and the senators and representatives dependent on the military/security’s complex’s campaign donations. But the neoconservative dominated Clinton, George W. Bush, Obama, and Biden regimes resurrected the Cold War which is warming into a hot stage in the Ukraine conflict.

Putin and Xi have been slow to understand the situation that they face. In their deluded thinking they believe they can negotiate a solution with the West or simply out wait the West. They do not understand that just as their national existence is an existential issue, for Washington its hegemony is an existential issue. Without hegemony Washington cannot pay its bills and control its Western empire.

As both the Russian and Chinese leaders are incapable of comprehending the reality that confronts them, the chance of avoiding a Third World War with nuclear weapons is not high.

Kinzer’s account of a Secretary of State, who used the fear of communism that he implanted as a cover for serving the interest of his law firm’s clients, and a CIA director, who not only used his office in defense of his law firm’s interests but to live an exciting James Bond life complete with endless women, demonstrates a US government captured by private interests. There is no “public sector.”

These two men using government to serve their interests created the Cold War that almost brought our end in the Cuban Missile Crisis and turned government into the service of private interests. Lincoln had turned domestic policy to the service of private interests, and the Dulles brothers turned foreign policy to the service of private interests.

President John F. Kennedy fired Allen Dulles for trying to sandbag him into supporting the CIA’s Bay of Pigs invasion. It was probably Allen Dulles who plotted the assassination of President Kennedy, and it was Allen Dulles who was appointed to the Warren Commission to cover up Kennedy’s assassination.

The Vietnamese nationalist Ho Chi Minh was the next on the list to be turned into a communist threat. Brandishing the “domino theory,” the brothers led us into the Vietnam war. The brothers extraordinary manipulative powers were again demonstrated, but they failed to dislodge Ho, and the brothers experienced the bitterness of defeat.

Their next plot was against President Sukarno of Indonesia, and it also ended in a mess.

The next was the prime minister of Congo, Patrice Lumumba. Again it was the Soviet threat narrative and a Soviet bridgehead in Africa. The CIA had Lumumba murdered in Katanga. Next was the long plot against Castro, elements of which were exposed by the Church Committee hearings in the 1970s.

The brothers were behind much more mischief. Allen created a 14,000 Tibetan army that was crushed by China. Tens of thousands of Tibetans were killed, and the Delai Lama had to flee Tibet. Allen declared his operation a success. It had baited the Chinese into repression and produced propagand value. Just as in Ukraine today, Washington paid thousands of other people’s lives for its propaganda posters.

The CIA had a hand in the Hungarian Revolution crushed by the Soviets. Frank Wisner, the CIA’s man who instigated the Hungarian uprising, never recovered from his realization that Washington never intended any help for the Hungarians. The intent was not Hungary’s freedom but anti-Soviet propaganda at the expense of Hungarian lives.

What began as the removal of obstacles to their law firm’s clients ended in an anti-communist crusade in which the brothers became believers of their own propaganda. Today the revival of this propaganda again positions Washington at sword’s point with Russia and China. Anti-Russian propaganda is so much a part of Washington’s consciousness that it appears to be embedded, continuing to cause foreign policy mistakes and overthrows of countries. Washington’s overthrow of Ukraine has led to an ever-widening war, the consequences of which remain to be seen. The legacy of the brothers might well be nuclear Armageddon.

The official narrative is that the brothers protected us from the Soviet threat. Others see it differently. Diego Rivera’s mural has John Foster Dulles in the center wearing a flak jacket and cruelly grinning. Allen Dulles is sneering with a satchel of dollars hanging from his waist. Eisenhower’s face decorates a bomb. Dead Guatemalan children lie at their feet.


Paul Craig Roberts is the John M. Olin fellow at the Institute for Political Economy and former senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. Dr. Roberts has held academic appointments at Virginia Tech University, Tulane University, University of New Mexico, George Mason University where he had a joint appointment as professor of economics and professor of business administration, and Georgetown University where he held the William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy in the Center for Strategic and International Studies. In addition, Dr. Roberts was President of the Inlet Beach Water Company, President of Economic & Communication Services; advisor to J.P. Morgan Asset Management, Tiedemann-Goodnow, and Lazard Freres Asset Management; and a member of numerous corporate and financial boards. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Virginia.

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