"Who Put the Poison in the Wine?" Is Veteran Journalist Stephen Kinzer's Question When Reflecting on America's Foreign Affairs

Stephen Kinzer t the South End library with librarian Anne Smart When former Boston Globe reporter Stephen Kinzer packed his car in January 1983 to drive from South End's Holyoke Street to Manhattan for a new job with the New York Times, he joked he'd be back in three years "when the Big Dig is done." It took longer to complete the Big Dig, and forty years for the now award-winning veteran of foreign-policy coverage to return to live in the South End. "A manifestation of his good sense," quipped Herb Hershfang, who introduced the speaker. Kinzer told a standing-room-only crowd at the library last week that he had a special connection to the South End and that his  book, the acclaimed The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and their Secret World War," was written right here.

Hershfang said he admired Kinzer's "extraordinary deep and broad knowledge of foreign affairs." Having known him since he was an elected member of the Democratic Ward 4 committee, the retired municipal-court judge said  he cherishes Kinzer's books for the same reason that he does Common Ground, the groundbreaking documentation of Boston's school-busing crisis by J. Anthony Lukas: "It describes us," Hershfang explained.

"I don't like news because it distracts people from what's important, which is 'what happened yesterday' and 'what will happen tomorrow,'" Kinzer told the audience. His contextual approach to news frustrated his editors at the New York Times: in an overheard conversation, they asked, "Do you think Kinzer will ever write about something that happened less than a hundred years ago?" But, referring to the iconic question asked by Gary Grant in the movie Arsenic and Old Lace, 'who put the poison in the wine,' Kinzer defended his proclivity for understanding the news, especially in foreign policy. "I want to know who put the poison in the wine," he said. "If I were to write a memoir, that line would be the title of it."

Kinzer, who described himself as a 'recovering journalist,' emphasized "we need to know how we got to where we are." In The Brothers, he details an unbroken trail of violence and regime change organized by John Foster and Allen Dulles when they controlled the overt and covert functions of US foreign policy, as secretary of state and head of the CIA, respectively. At the same time, they moved in and out of the offices of the Sullivan & Cromwell law firm, where they were partners. When the investments of the law firm's corporate clients were threatened, their covert political interventions destroyed nascent democracies in Iran, Guatamala, Egypt, Indonesia, Indo-China, Cuba and Congo, among other places, and left deep scars among their populations. The brothers also deepened the Cold War, ignoring outreach by the Soviet Union after Stalin's death, among other efforts. The brothers saw the world in terms of good and evil and had no tolerance for nationalist movements, which they saw as invitations to communist takeovers.

In the US, the Dulles brothers' exploits have been forgotten, Kinzer pointed out. Their name is mainly associated with the Virginia airport, even though they were at the center of the international mayhem that has damaged US foreign policy with consequences felt to this day. The bust of John Foster Dulles was located for decades in  a closed conference room near Baggage Carousel Number Three but, Kinzer found out two weeks ago, recently was moved back into the airport itself, likely in response to the interest in the Dulles legacy as a result of his book.  "Power of the press," he said, flexing his muscles. "Are we reevaluating our foreign policy," he asked? Kinzer's answer:

glorious victory

The real sign of that would be the time when a 16-foot-long mural depicting the overthrow of the Guatamalan government by the Dulles brothers, painted by the world-famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera, is displayed in the Dulles airport. "With an explanation," Kinzer added. Currently, the painting, sarcastically called Glorious Victory, is rolled up in the basement of the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, where it has been for many years. Rivera had donated it to the USSR, but the Soviets didn't like Rivera. Leon Trotsky, the Russian Marxist and revolutionary,  had been his house guest in Mexico, among other transgressions...