Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man, By John Perkins
May 3, 2012 by Bob Livingston
That’s what politicians and the corporate media would have you believe. But the truth is quite different. John Perkins, who spent years as an economic hit man, tells what is really involved in U.S. foreign policy. Once you read this book, you’ll understand why people around the world hate America, and you’ll realize that said hatred is often justified. It will also shed new light on what is involved in American empire.
What is an economic hit man? Perkins explains that right out of the gate. The preface’s first words are:
Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign “aid” organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources. Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization. I should know; I was an EHM.
Perkins first penned these words in 1982 as he considered writing a book dedicated to the presidents of two countries: Ecuador’s Jaime Roldόs and Panama’s Omar Torrijos. These were two men Perkins had worked with in his capacity as an EHM who were assassinated because “they opposed that fraternity of corporate, government, and banking heads whose goal is global empire.”
According to Perkins, when EHMs failed to bring Roldόs and Torrijos around, another type of hit men, CIA-sanctioned jackals, took the men out.
This book reads like a fictionalized spy novel. But, frighteningly, it’s the truth. And it paints a not-so-pretty portrait of the influence American corporations have on U.S. foreign policy and U.S. actions against Third World countries. It also explains how corporations and U.S. foreign policy conspire to loot the treasuries of the U.S. and foreign nations to the benefit of select corporations.
Perkins tells how American industry goes to Third World countries to pillage their natural resources. EHMs like Perkins provide inflated economic forecasts touting the benefits of improving infrastructure and convince the political leaders — through bribery (with money, drugs and prostitutes) or extortion — to commit to vast projects they can’t possibly afford. Those countries borrow U.S. taxpayer dollars provided through the World Bank, International Monetary Fund or USAID to pay for the projects that are constructed by U.S. companies. It’s all done with a wink and a nod by the U.S. government because, once those countries become wholly indebted to the United States, they become U.S. puppet states and part of the American empire.
The precursor of the EHM was Kermit Roosevelt, Theodore’s grandson, who as a CIA agent used payoffs and threats to organize street riots and demonstrations in Iran that led to the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh and the installation of Mohammad Reza Shah. Realizing the danger posed by having the United States outed as an agent provocateur if future similar operations failed, new strategies of using corporations and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) in that capacity were devised. This led to the creation of EHMs.
After being trained for weeks in a clandestine manner (he was instructed not to tell anyone about his training, not even his wife) by a woman introduced to him as “Claudine,” Perkins’ first project for his company, MAIN, Inc., was in Indonesia in 1971. He was to write the projections for an electrification project that was part of a plan to ensure American dominance in Southeast Asia.
Even though he was not a trained economist, economic projections were his specialty, he writes, and the more outlandish they were the better. That’s because leaders of the Third World countries were more likely to be swayed by the more grandiose projects; and the more expensive the project, the more profit his company would stand to make.
While working on his Indonesian project, Perkins saw among the Indonesian population the worst poverty he had ever seen. Yet he and his team — and other Americans who were part of the project team for other companies — lived lives of luxury in posh hotels, wining and dining at ritzy restaurants designed to cater to Americans. Years later, when Perkins again visited Indonesia, the poverty among the Indonesians remained — and possibly had grown worse — despite the completion of the project. Yet a select few in government had become extremely wealthy.
In the mid-1970s, Perkins writes, coming out of the Arab oil embargo, Saudi Arabia became a major player on the world scene and American corporatocracy leaders and foreign policy experts realized that another embargo couldn’t be allowed to happen. So a plan was put in place to partner with the Saudis.
Saudi Arabia was awash in cash, so Washington began negotiating with its leaders to provide technical support, military hardware and training and an opportunity to bring its infrastructure into the 20th Century in exchange for petrodollars and assurances there would never be another embargo. When completed, the deal came down to this: Saudi Arabia would use petrodollars to purchase U.S. government securities; in turn, the interest earned on these securities would be spent by the Treasury Department in ways that bring Saudi Arabia out of its medieval existence and into the modern world. In other words, interest compounding on billions of dollars of the kingdom’s oil would be used to pay U.S. companies to fulfill wild visions created by Perkins and EHMs of other companies.
The firms would be hired by Treasury, at Saudi expense, to build infrastructure projects and entire cities throughout the Arabian Peninsula. The firms included MAIN and some companies that may be more familiar: Brown and Root, Kohlberg Kravis and Roberts, Halliburton, etc.
Perkins’ book covers the period between 1971 and the book’s publication in 2004 (he picks up where one left off in his second book). He talks about Enron and the influence of the Bush family and the family’s ties to the Mideast. He touches on Saddam Hussein, and sheds light on the U.S. relationship with him.
There are many familiar names in the book — Robert McNamara, George Shultz, James Baker, etc.; men who figured prominently in shaping U.S. policy through their government positions. Understanding their relationships with certain corporations and foreign governments opens new doors to your understanding of events of that more than 30-year period of U.S. history. The facts Perkins presents about those men’s ties is like drawing back a curtain on a new room of knowledge.
For anyone who truly wants to understand what goes on in the halls of power (what drives the decision-makers to make the choices they do), this book is a must read.