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The Devil's Chessboard by David Talbot


David Talbot's new book, The Devil's Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America's Secret Government, is out. The author of Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, has once again turned his writing talents to the underbelly of post-WWII America, and again with focus on the tumultuous Kennedy years.

The Devil's Chessboard is a biography of CIA spymaster Allen Dulles, covering the years from World War II till Dulles' death at the end of the sixties. The book begins with Dulles' intrigues on behalf of Nazis in the 1940s, and continues on to his glory years overseeing the Cold War in the 1950s from his perch atop the CIA, with his brother Foster as Secretary of State. Talbot catalogues the devastation wreaked on Guatemala, Iran, and the Congo. Talbot rightly calls attention to the timing of Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba's murder, which took place within a few days of the inauguration of Kennedy, who had publicly stated his sympathies with movements of national liberation.

The book's last part focuses on the Kennedy years, including the battles between Kennedy and the national security establishment told well in his earlier book Brothers, and leading to this book's charge that Dulles was the key player in JFK's murder. Any effort to tie Dulles to the Kennedy assassination is of course hobbled by the fact that uncovering proof of such involvement would be difficult even with subpoena power and a full-press investigation. The Warren Commission, which featured Dulles itself as its most active member, was hardly that. But where Talbot excels is in the painting of a portrait of the era, and the powerful men who inhabited it, finding interesting and little-noted connections, and building a compelling narrative that includes those dark aspects of the American saga that are usually left undiscussed in such books.

Talbot has an eye for quotes, and one memorable one is derived from the memoirs of French President Charles de Gaulle's information minister, Alain Peyrefitte. Talbot quotes at some length from the words de Gaulle spoke upon his return from the Kennedy funeral. After talking insightfully about the assassination - de Gaulle was a recent target himself - the French president observed the possibility of great upheaval in America, but concluded that it would all be swept under the rug: "But you'll see. All of them together will observe the law of silence.....They don't want to know. They don't want to find out. They won't allow themselves to find out."

The Devil's Chessboard, by David Talbot, available in hardcover, kindle, and audiobook form at amazon.com.

Reviews and Resources

Kirkus Reviews review of The Devil's Chessboard

Mother Jones interview with David Talbot

The Devil's Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America's Secret Government, a review by Prof. Edward Curtin at GlobalResearch

The Devil's Chessboard and the New Political Landscape, a "preview" by Bill Kelly at CounterCoup

Who Needs Soviet Propaganda?, a review by David M. Barrett at Washington Decoded

Did CIA Director Allen Dulles Order the Hit on JFK?, a review by James A. Warren at the Daily Beast

New Dulles, CIA, JFK Revelations, a podcast with David Talbot at WhoWhatWhy. See also "sneak peeks" of the book: part 1, part 2, part 3.

Also see the MFF's 2007 Unredacted interview with David Talbot about his book Brothers: the Hidden History of the Kennedy Years. The page contains the audio and transcript of the interview with Talbot, as well as reviews and other resources about his earlier book.


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