Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Flashback: Tommy the Cork Brews His Own Guatemala Revolution in Behalf of United Fruit with the Help of the Dulles Boys. A Rather Grim Outlook for the Country—but He Dies As Reagan Takes Over, with Hope.

[Fifty plus years of politics written as a memoir for my kids and grandchildren.]

How long, you must wonder, did this lunch at the Madison Hotel take to digest the entire history of Thomas Corcoran the (a) presidential staffer. (b) first White House liaison ever to the Congress, (c) conservative anti-Communist who befriended Chiang Kai-shek through Claire Chennault and his lovely wife, later widow; (d) friend of LBJ who got him elected to the Senate through chicanery and contact with Justice Hugo Black, (e) lobbyist for United Fruit who wanted to knock out a tyrant in Guatemala…and so on? Answer: pretty long but I knew fairly well the story from his legend and just nudged him a bit. You’ll notice I’m not putting him in quotes although I have `em, in respect to a pledge made to a man dead since 1981; the summary quotes will come later.

John Foster Dulles named a Corcoran buddy to supervise the plan to dump the Guatemala dictator (“Operation Success”), William Pawley who had worked with Corcoran and Chennault to set up the Flying Tigers. A rebel “liberation army” funded by the U. S. was set up and trained in Nicaragua. The Guatemalan dictator got wind of it; Tommy worked with the Dulles boys to set up a radio “Voice of Liberation.” One of the operatives assigned to him was E. Howard Hunt, later of Watergate fame. The dictator seeing the odds of the U. S. government rallying forces to defeat him tried to stimulate the Guatemalan army but key officers told him they could no longer support him, so he hightailed it into Mexico.

From that point, Guatemala installed a pro-Western government which was anti-communist and pro-United Fruit. Then Tommy went back to making a rather mundane but exceedingly affluent living, dabbling in conservative foreign policies with the aid of Anna Chennault.

“It’s very important that we continue this [anti-communist] activity after Nixon is gone,” he told me. “Understand, Nixon isn’t very damn good. He’s duplicitous and has no ideals. But I worry that the Democrats are veering to the Left and that won’t do us any good at all.”

Later I touched base with him when Gerald Ford was president.

“He’s so non-ideological he doesn’t realize the stakes,” he said. “Too much time in the House where he ran the minority. There’s a kind of psychosis that creeps up on veteran House members who are in the minority as long as Jerry has been. Willing to avoid fights, take the leavings that fall from the table.”

But later when I talked to him about Jimmy Carter, he was morose. “This is the first time in my lifetime that I look at this guy and say how the hell did you get there? I fear he’s the symbol of a weakened United States. Look at his statement about `an inordinate fear of Communism.’ He should be back shelling peanuts.”

Ronald Reagan was his cup of tea. He sought manfully to try to be a player but the old heart wouldn’t hear of it. He died on Pearl Harbor Day, 1981. The funny thing is that some biographers call him a crook. Why I don’t know. He was a brilliant political player…willing to take risks…believing in absolutes. Since his death there has been no one like him. And sadly, maybe there never will be.

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