by Stephen Kinzer
"The Cold War became a holy war against the infidels, a defense of free God-fearing men
against the atheistic Communist system," . . .
In 1947 Dulles helped draft the National Security Act, which created the Central
Intelligence Agency. This CIA was radically different from other Western secret services,
especially those of Great Britain, widely considered the world's best. Those services
were shaped around the principle that intelligence gathering and analysis must be kept
strictly separate from covert action, to avoid the temptation of skewing intelligence
reports so they would lead to the conclusion that covert action was necessary. The CIA
was created without this firewall. Indeed, Dulles conceived it as an agency designed not
to help American leaders understand the world, but to help them change it - by any means
The first two foreign leaders the CIA set out to overthrow after Eisenhower's
inauguration had both tormented the Dulles broth- ers when they were lawyers at the
legendary firm of Sullivan & Cromwell. The first, Prime Mohammad Mossadegh of Iran, had
been instrumental in killing a huge contract Allen Dulles had negotiated between Iran
and one of his clients, an engineering consortium called Overseas Consultants Inc. After
that, Mossadegh had nationalized his country's oil industry, which had been owned by the
British government and used another Sullivan & Cromwell client, the Schroeder Bank, as
its financial agent. In just a few weeks during the summer of 1953, the CIA threw Iran
into chaos, promoted a military coup, pushed Mossadegh from power, and placed the Shah
back on his Peacock Throne. That led to 25 years of royal dictatorship, followed by a
revolution and the emergence of a violently anti-American regime.
Less than a year later, the Dulles brothers struck against President Jacobo Arbenz of
Guatemala. His sins were equivalent to Mossadegh's. He was promoting land reform that
affected the interests of a longtime Sullivan & Cromwell client, United Fruit, and
seemed too friendly with Communists. The CIA organized a motley band of exiles into a
bogus invasion force, bombed targets inside Guatemala, ooded the country with
anti-Arbenz propaganda, and pushed military o cers to stage a coup. Arbenz was
overthrown in June 1954. That set off a 30-year civil war in which an estimated 200,000
people were killed. Guatemala has never recovered.
Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers believed Mossadegh and Arbenz posed political as well
as economic challenges to the United States. Both leaders were neutralists who refused
to take sides in the Cold War. By deposing them, the United States sent a message: it
would consider all countries not fully pro-American as enemies.
Over the next few years, the CIA set out to destabilize governments in neutralist
countries from Costa Rica to Egypt to Cambodia. One of its largest-scale efforts was in
Indonesia, where President Sukarno had emerged as a hero of the emerging "third world."
In 1956 the CIA began promoting a civil war aimed at destroying Sukarno's government or,
if that failed, splitting the country so that part of it would secede and become
. . . American leaders misunderstood the world, shaping it to fit their own
preconceptions rather than appreciating its complexity. "The Cold War prism created in
the minds of diplomatic and military strategists a clear-cut world of black and white,"
he lamented. "There were no grays."
"Regime Change American Style," The Wisdom
Fund, February 15, 2001
"Why Do They Hate US?," The Wisdom Fund,
December 19, 2015