Sunday, April 10, 2005

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (John Perkins)

This is a remarkably revealing book. It condenses a great deal of sensitive and shocking information spanning a period of forty years. Of course, John Perkins has the advantage of having been an "economic hit man" or EHM, and so is privy to a great deal more insider information than most of us would ever know. And this is what makes the book so interesting: it's not speculative, or philosophical, but based on personal experience and facts. It tells the story of a man who was originally hired for one specific purpose: to persuade countries to accept enormous loans for infrastructure development, contract lucrative development projects to U.S. corporations, and ultimately enslave the governments of those countries ridden under the weight of these large debts. This is a story of the corporatocracy of large corporations, international banks, and big government bent on establishing a global empire. Perhaps the single most revealing passage for this book is found in the opening pages as Perkins embarks on the training that would prepare him for his new career:

Claudine pulled no punches when describing what I would be called upon to do. My job, she said, was "to encourage world leaders to become part of a vast network that promotes U.S. commercial interests. In the end, those leaders become ensnared in a web of debt that ensures their loyalty. We can draw on them whenever we desire—to satisfy our political, economic, or military needs. In turn, they bolster their political positions by bringing industrial parks, power plants, and airports to their people. The owners of U.S. engineering/construction companies become fabulously wealthy."

The book covers a lot of territory, and reads like a thriller at times. Whether it's observing alpha-male behavior in the local strip bars of Panama escorted by his friend Farhad, dining in an opulent restaurant in Iran speaking with his secret contact Yamin leading to a mysterious rendezvous with Doc, or touring on a moped in Jakarta with his friend Rasy to witness a highly political Dallang puppet show, only to end up engaging some of the educated locals who seem to know more about global empire and geopolitics than most Westerners. It is difficult to forget the very apropos quote by one extremely bright Indonesian university English major:

"Surely," I protested, "you can't believe that the United States is anti-Islamic?"
"Oh no?" she asked. "Since when? You need to read one of your own historians—a Brit named Toynbee. Back in the fifties he predicted that the real war in the next century would not be between Communists and capitalists, but between Christians and Muslims."
"Arnold Toynbee said that?" I was stunned.
"Yes. Read Civilization on Trial and The World and the West."

Perkins sets the stage by describing the various mechanisms by which the corporatocracy achieves it's objectives of global empire. If the EHMs fail in their task of 1) convincing foreign governments to assume enormous debt, and 2) securing infrastructure development contracts for large U.S. corporations, then

an even more sinister breed steps in, ones we EHMs refer to as the jackals, men who trace their heritage directly to those earlier empires. The jackals are always there, lurking in the shadows. When they emerge, heads of state are overthrown or die in violent "accidents." And if by chance the jackals fail, as they failed in Afghanistan and Iraq, then the old models resurface. When the jackals fail, young Americans are sent in to kill and to die.

Those less developed countries which Perkins was directly involved with in the role of EHM, or for whom he was privy to geopolitically sensitive information, include the Islamic nations of Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq; and several nations of Latin America, including Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Chile, and Venezuela. Provided below is a brief summary of several of the key scenarios presented with partial disclosure of U.S. involvement. Overall, a shocking eye-opening encounter replete with intrigue, extortion, and murder all under the purview of a corporatocracy bent on establishing a global empire in the uncertain geopolitical climate of the modern era.


Sukharno emerged to declare independence of Indonesia in 1949, free from centuries of Dutch rule and Japanese occupation during War II. Close alliances were forged with Communist governments. Over time, opposition built, and a coup was launched in 1965, and army-initiated massacres of 300,000 to 500,000 followed. The head of the military, General Suharto took over as president in 1968. It was during this time the U.S. became determined to seduce Indonesia away from Communism. The master plan for the electrification of Java began in 1971, where Perkins was involved to provide the economic forecasts that greatly exaggerated projected growth in order to secure government approval and financing.

Saudi Arabia

The United States support of Israel in the Middle East conflicts of the early seventies was largely responsible for the 1973 Arab oil embargo. The position of the Arab states during this time was sufficiently powerful to potentially result in a panic in the U.S. not unlike the panic of 1929. Realizing this, after the oil embargo was lifted, the U.S. immediately proceeded to develop a relationship with Saudi Arabia, and form agreements for infrastructure development and modernization. The sentiment in Washington and Wallstreet was that such an embargo must never happen again—U.S. oil interests must be protected at all costs. The idea was to make the Saudi economy inextricably linked to the economy of the U.S. Agreements were devised which required Saudi petrodollars to be used to purchase U.S. Treasury notes, and the interest from these notes would be used to finance infrastructure development in Saudi Arabia through U.S. corporations. Saudi Arabia was to become dependent on U.S. corporations to maintain, service, and upgrade the advanced technological society being fashioned from the ground up. This heavy dependency in itself would hopefully prevent the catastrophe of 1973 from ever occurring again. But even more, this resulted in another round of development in the way of military infrastructure, to protect the newly modernized Saudi society from unstable and potentially destructive influences in the region. The agreement had the effect of entrenching the U.S. deeply into the Kingdom, fortifying the concept of mutual interdependence. Not only was the entrenchment technological, but eventually ideological, as Western values and beliefs inevitably followed. This would ultimately pave the way for Saudi-U.S. joint financing of the mujahideen in the Afghan war against the Soviet union in the 1980's. In time, the fast-growing jihad movement would lead to the House of Saud becoming the epicenter of terrorist financing around the world.


The Shah came to power in 1941 after the British and Soviets overthrew his father whom they accused of collaborating with Hitler. He was forced into exile in 1951, when the popular democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh came to power. Mossadegh came into conflict with a British oil company, and nationalized all Iranian petroleum in response. An outraged England sought the help of her long-time ally the U.S., but rather than deploy the military and provoke the Soviet Union, Washington dispatched CIA agent Kermit Roosevelt. Roosevelt fomented a plot through payouts, bribes, and threats, to organize a series of street riots and violent demonstrations, which created the impression that Mossadegh was both unpopular and incapable. Finally, Mossadegh was deposed, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. The pro-American Shah was reinstated, became the unchallenged dictator of Iran, and launched a series of revolutionary programs aimed at developing the industrial sector and bringing Iran into the modern era. This was the event that reshaped the politics of global empire, as it testified to the effectiveness of propaganda and payouts in over-throwing foreign governments in non-wartime conditions. However, after years of behind-the-scenes corporatocratic rule, a violent Islamic uprising finally exploded onto the scene in 1979. The Shah was forced to flee into Egypt, and the Ayatollah Khomeini took power and declared Iran a cleric state.


The Reagan and Bush administrations wished to transform Iraq into another Saudi Arabia. However, over time it became apparent that Saddam Hussein was not open to the EHM scenario that was successfully employed in the neighboring countries of Saudi Arabia, and Iran during the rule of the Shah. This resulted in escalated tensions between the U.S. and Iraq, and attempts to oust Hussein from power. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 gave the U.S. government the ideal pretext to employ the military card. Although the campaign was not a success as far as the corporatocracy was concerned, an uncooperative tyrant had been severely chastised and relegated to a position of relative powerlessness. It would not be until about a decade later under the new Bush administration, that the U.S. government would employ another catastrophe—the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center—as the latest pretext to complete the task that was left unfinished in the early nineties: the complete removal of Saddam Hussein, the installation of a pro-American government, and behind-the-scenes corporatocratic rule.


At the beginning of the twentieth century the United States demanded that Columbia sign a treaty turning the now Panamanian isthmus over to a North American consortium. Columbia refused, and in 1903 U.S. soldiers landed, seized and killed a popular local militia leader, and declared Panama an independent nation. A puppet government was installed and control of Panama and the Panama Canal was in U.S. hands. In 1968, a coup overthrew the puppet dictator Arnulfo Arias, and Omar Torrijos, a non-communist who was not involved in the coup, emerged as head of state. Omar Torrijos was one of those rare principled leaders who was genuinely interested in helping his people, offered asylum to refugees from all sides of the political fence, and sought to resolve conflicts between the various factions among the Latin American countries. Perkins met with Omar Torrijos, and ended up agreeing to work more honestly with him, and in return contracts were guaranteed. However, this situation was distinctly different than others, in that President Torrijos was determined to use the money to help his people rather than enslave them. And in 1977 he successfully negotiated new treaties with President Carter that transferred the Canal Zone and the Canal itself over to Panamanian control. Several years later, President Torrijos adamantly refused to give in to the Reagan administration's demands to renegotiate the Canal Treaty. He subsequently died in a plane crash in 1981.


In 1922 oil was discovered in Venezuela, and by 1930 the country was the world's largest oil exporter. Oil revenues for the next forty years allowed Venezuela to evolve from one of the poorest nations of the world to one of the richest nations in Latin America. During the 1973 oil embargo, oil prices soared, and Venezuela's national budget quadrupled. The EHMs were brought in, and international banks flooded the country with loans that paid for vast infrastructure and industrial projects. Oil prices eventually crashed, and Venezuela could not pay it's debts. In 1989 the IMF imposed harsh measures and pressured Venezuela to support corporatocratic policy in various ways. Poverty increased dramatically, and Venezuela reacted violently in riots killing hundreds of people. In 1998 Hugo Chavez was elected as President in a landslide victory. He made rapid and extensive changes, by taking control of several institutions including the courts, dissolved the Venezuelan Congress, introduced a hydrocarbons law, doubled the royalties charged to foreign oil companies, and replaced the top executives of the state-owned oil company. The Bush administration eventually brought in Kermit Roosevelt's Iranian model of propaganda, payouts, and threats, and in 2003 Hugo Chavez was overthrown. However, in a matter of days Chavez was back in power with the help of his loyal military. It appeared to be only a matter of time before the U.S. military would be sent in to overthrow Chavez and install a pro-American government. But the U.S. was already embroiled in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and could not afford another war in Latin America; Venezuela would have to wait.