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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 878

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This is the grave of John Foster Dulles.

Born in 1888 in Washington, Dulles was the scion of the nation’s most elite foreign policy family. His grandfather John Foster was Secretary of State under Benjamin Harrison and his uncle was Robert Lansing, Wilson’s Secretary of State. His brother Allen later became CIA director and his sister, Eleanor, was an extremely capable foreign policy hand herself who couldn’t rise to the same heights as her brothers because of her gender.

Dulles grew up super wealthy went to Princeton, blah blah blah. All the usual societies and privileges. He then went to George Washington Law, got himself a sweet position after passing the bar, then was rejected from the Army in World War I because his eyesight sucked. Instead, being Lansing’s nephew, he was given another sweet gig as a major on the War Industries Board. Lansing sent him to Central America to get those nations to declare war on Germany, or at least not do any business with them. How Costa Rica or Panama declaring war on Germany made one bit of difference is not easy for me to figure out, but whatever. Amazingly, but not surprisingly, when Dulles tried to get the head of Panama to declare war, he offered suspending the fee the U.S. charged Panama for the Canal Zone. Yes, that’s right, we charged them for our imperial possession splitting their country in half. Now that’s the kind of thing John Foster Dulles would spend his career supporting! Dulles would also get a plum gig as counsel for the U.S. delegation at Versailles after the war. He was a member of the War Reparations Committee and, to his credit, was a major supporter of the League of Nations.

After the war, Dulles went back into the world of foreign relations as a private citizen, mostly through his law firm. He was a big player in the Dawes Plan that reduced the reparations payments crippling the German economy. By this time, Dulles was a big pro-German guy and had moved toward isolationism. What this meant in reality is that he really, really, really did not want to give up his legal work and investments in the nation when the Nazis took power. He was pretty close to pro-Nazi for several years in the 1930s. It only took his partners, including his brother, telling him he had to cut ties before he very reluctantly did so in 1935. Nice guy.

During World War II, he pushed for what became the United Nations but he remained a staunch Republican and was a close advisor to Thomas Dewey in his 1944 election campaign. He opposed the use of the atomic bomb as monstrous and would call for international control of atomic energy, though he backed off on this when he came to realize the threat of the Soviet Union. He opposed the Truman Doctrine as not aggressive enough. It wasn’t enough for him to contain communism. He wanted to use all available tools to roll back communism.

In 1948, the great labor supporter Robert Wagner retired from the Senate due to bad health. Dewey was governor so he appointed Dulles to the Senate. But that lasted for all of 4 months until Herbert Lehman beat him in the special election. That would be as close to elected office as Dulles would ever hold. Instead, he would dedicate himself to using the American military to overthrow any government he deemed a threat to the corporate-government alliance he sought, promoting his personal financial interests as well as his ideological interests.

Although Dulles was an important advisor to Truman on Asian issues, even as he was writing a book on how containment was a sell-out position to communism, he was as Republican as ever and of course supported Eisenhower in 52 after Dewey’s failure in 48. Dulles thus became Secretary of State. One of the most powerful people to ever hold the position, he also was one of the most evil. See, Dulles was a very, very narrow thinker. For him, communism was the godless evil. And when you see everything in such stark terms, you lose the ability to manage the complexities of the world. For example, neither Iranian leader Mohammad Mossadegh nor Guatemalan president Jacobo Arbenz were communists. They were nationalists. They wanted to control their nation’s resources to help their nation instead of just giving them away to western corporations. But Dulles couldn’t see this. All he could was communism. His brother Allen, now heading the CIA, saw the world basically in the same way. So they used the CIA to overthrow both democratically elected governments. We need to be clear here–the problems both nations provide the U.S. today are directly related to these disgusting coups. The CIA placing the Shah on the throne led to lots oil flowing to the U.S. and also to massive repression that eventually manifested itself in the Islamic Revolution that continues to lead Iran today. Guatemala became increasingly unstable, with civil war and massive violence par for the course once political democracy was not allowed by the U.S. That included genocide in the 1980s and the rise of gang warfare as the drug trade sent product up north for Americans to put in their noses and veins. Anyone trying to understand why “migrant caravans” are coming from Guatemala to the U.S. today has to understand that John Foster Dulles played an oversized role in creating this mess. He was an evil, evil man. Moreover, let’s not forget that Dulles was United Fruit lawyer! Basically, UFCO called the Dulles boys and told them to get rid of the commie. They needed little convincing. What a disaster.

It was much the same in Vietnam, where Dulles couldn’t abide by uniting the nation as according to the 1954 peace agreement, thus moving the nation toward the Vietnam War. I mean, Dulles actively called for direct American military invention against the Viet Minh in 1954, which Eisenhower was OK with this if the British were, but Anthony Eden said it was a terrible idea and so it was not implemented. He was very close to Eisenhower, perhaps the most overrated president in modern American history and who agreed with basically everything Dulles was up to. Dulles was of course critical in all the other major parts of Eisenhower’s foreign policy, from creating SEATO and the Formosa Conference in 1955 to trying to undermine Nassar in Egypt and concluding the Austrian Peace Treaty.

It’s also worth noting here that Dulles’ entire life was dominated by his strong and unwavering Presbyterianism. He saw the world in a very narrow minded Protestant way. That didn’t get passed on to his son Avery, who became a leading Catholic priest in the United States. But typical of John Foster, he saw his son’s conversion through foreign policy lenses, as he could now talk to Catholic nations about something personal. In fact, Dulles was such an important religious figure in the Presbyterian Church that all the way back in 1924 he was the defense counsel for the trial of Harry Emerson Fosdick for liberal heresies around teaching modernism, which led to Fosdick stepping down from his Presbyterian congregation. Dulles was a modern man if nothing else I guess.

By the late 50s, Dulles was getting sick. In 1956, he was diagnosed with colon cancer. He tried not to let that get in the way of his goal of overthrowing nationalist governments, not to mention his embrace of brinksmanship on nuclear issues. He was able to put off the cancer for awhile, but in late 1958 was hospitalized with diverticulitis. His cancer came back and he resigned in April 1959, dying a month later. He was 71 years old.

There is so much else to say about this awful, awful man. I strongly recommend Stephen Kinzer’s The Brothers, which is a great look at this vile family and gets into both just how despicable their actions were and the personalities that created such monsters.

John Foster Dulles is buried on the confiscated lands of the traitor Lee, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

If you would like this series to visit other Secretaries of State, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Christian Herter, who replaced Dulles, is in Millis, Massachusetts and Dean Rusk, who replaced Herter, is in Athens, Georgia. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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