Five men meet for dinner in a Washington, D.C. restaurant July 25, 1991, to chat and get to know each other prior to the third historic Conference of the Dead. The conference is to begin later that evening at the Washington Convention Centre. The theme of the conference is the New World Order, that is, the United States and what it has in store for the rest of the world.
Host of the dinner is the organizer, John McCrae, the author of "In Flanders Fields." McCrae, a Canadian doctor, died at an officers' hospital in France in 1918, his spirit broken by the carnage of World War I. He subsequently launched the first Conference of the Dead, so the dead could "discuss the future, what their dying meant." The second conference, held in 1950, focused on Stalin and the consequences of his power. And now, the third conference, triggered by the Gulf War.
McCrae is first joined by Salvador Allende, the president of Chile 1970-1973, who was shot and killed in a military coup backed by the U.S. government. Jan Masaryk and Mohammed Mossadegh then saunter in. Masaryk, foreign minister of Czechoslovakia, was thrown out a window to his death by communist agents, in 1948, as the Communist Party seized power in the country. Mossadegh, prime minister of Iran in the early 1950s, was overthrown in a coup engineered by the CIA. Mossadegh is the conference's keynote speaker.
The four reminisce, order drinks, banter wittily and sit down for dinner. Why are they here? McCrae divulges the reason for the conference: how the Gulf War and slaughter of the Iraqis touched off memories of World War I and its horrors. Allende, Masaryk and Mossadegh share some of their own stories, revealing themselves to be remarkable people, each with a fascinating life of passion and determination. McCrae charges that the United States, directly and indirectly, is responsible for millions of deaths, for torture, and for untold atrocities.
Jacobo Arbenz then belatedly arrives. Arbenz was president of Guatemala from 1951 to 1954. Like Mossadegh, he was ousted by a CIA-organized coup. The conversation becomes increasingly animated. Emotional storm, anger and despair, jocularity, exploration of things past, the excitement and antagonism of ideas and debate...talk and feeling tumble forward. One discovery willy nilly leads to another. The ironies, jokes and cases of absurdity pile up. The audience becomes immersed in a profound sense of tragedy and disillusion.
This is what happened. This is how a big country plays with small countries and their peoples. What are the living to do about it?