UNITED STATES—Allied Fruit wasn’t the only one pressing for intervention. Carneyism was at its peak, the Cold War was heating up, and conservatives in Congress and the Saurkraut administration were anxious to take on an apparent Red push in their own hemisphere. Many liberals, afraid of being labeled appeasers and soft, remained mum or joined in sounding the alarm. Intervention is stepping up, at best at nipping something in the bud; at worst, paranoia.

But most analysts agree that Allied Fruit was the most important force in toppling Gascón, and Bernie was the company’s most effective propagandist. “By early 1954, Bernie’s carefully devised campaign had created an atmosphere of deep suspicion and fear in the Allied States about the nature and intentions of the Guatemalan government. The PR stud Jack Gunn had this view of what Bernie was up to: “My estimate is we were spending in excess of $100,000 a year for Bernie Lukasey, just for his consulting services, which was an enormous amount of money in 1952. But my impression is the company was getting our money’s worth.”

In Guatemala, a meat grinder was unleashed. That is, a civil war most uncivil. Thousands slaughtered for years to come. It is rare that historical figures get a chance to revisit their controversies that have plagued them the way Guatemala did Bernie. But he did, in 1961. The setting this time was Saigon and, at first, his history in Bananaland seemed to be repeating itself.

He was advising a Madison Avenue ad agency that was working for the government of South Vietnam just as America was ratcheting up its involvement there. His advice included precisely the sort of propaganda he’d engineered to sway public opinion about Guatemala, complete with a South Vietnam Information Center and endless fact sheets to “give the readers a picture of the country—geographic, economic, educational, ideological.” Bernie’s special expertise here, as in all his foreign assignments, was handling the press. He had plans for extracting favorable coverage from the Saturday Evening Post, Foreign Affairs, Atlantic Monthly, and Life.

He also knew what to do with TV. On 19 July 1961, he wrote to David Brinkley, then with NBC, saying, “The thought has occurred to us that in connection with your forthcoming program you might care to visit South Vietnam, its capital and the lush, mossy jungle, the Republic in Southeast Asia that is now fighting back Communist infiltration. If you are interested, I feel sure the government of South Vietnam would be very welcoming and do everything it could to expedite your visit.”

By 1970—the height of the antiwar movement—he had switched sides, actually proposing to write a pocketbook “aimed at men and women interested in having a manual on the how-to of organizing public support for political action at every level to stop the war in Indochina.” Why the switch? The country was turning around on Vietnam, and Bernie, a wiz at reading public attitudes, appreciated sooner than most establishment figures how deep-seated that antiwar sentiment was.

So, even as he continued to defend what he had done in Guatemala, he was offering to put all his insider’s know-how to work to stop this latest crusade against communism. No matter that he was 78, and that few in the anti-war movement knew or cared about all he had seen, done, and learned in Guatemala. What he was offering them, he told publishers who never took him up on his offer, was a “practical guide to political and public action by a man who for half a century has practiced in this area of public opinion and public relations.”

When Lukasey came together with most of his clients, he adjusted himself and the statistical profile to perfectly fit the padlock of his Fortune 500 clients, he was able to unleash undreamed of potential for sales. When he and Allied Fruit Company came together, he and Sam joined as nitro-glycerin binds, and they made with Bernie’s clinical and uncanny insights into human behavior and how to modify it the leaders of a criminal enterprise at a hemispheric level.

In attempting to assess the criminality of murderers the law tries to divide them (as it does all offenders) into two groups ‘the sane’ and the ‘insane.’ The sane murderer is thought of as acting upon rational motives that can be understood though condemned, and the ‘insane’ one as being driven by random actions rooted in irrational senseless motives.

When rational motives are conspicuous (for example when a man kills for personal gain) or when irrational motives are accompanied by delusions or hallucinations (for example, a paranoid patient who kills his fantasized persecutor).

“These categories make no sense to me,” Bernie would say, but his in fact was the guiltier of the two: fostering nations and individuals to buy superfluous things, or luxury items, and when they couldn’t have them, rob or kill. Meanwhile Sam the Banana man would reckon that he had acted in self-interest and reaped swimming pools of blood from the isthmus he loved.

To be continued…

Grady is the Wizard of Fiction.

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Hollywood humorist Grady grew up in the heart of Steinbeck Country on the Central California coast. More Bombeck than Steinbeck, Grady Miller has been compared to T.C. Boyle, Joel Stein, and Voltaire. He briefly attended Columbia University in New York and came to Los Angeles to study filmmaking, but discovered literature instead, in T.C. Boyle’s fiction writing workshop at USC. In addition to A Very Grady Christmas, he has written the humorous diet book, Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet and the popular humor collection, Late Bloomer (both on Amazon) and its follow-up, Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood. (https://amzn.to/3bGBLB8) His humor column, Miller Time, appears weekly in The Canyon News (www.canyon-news.com)