November 6, 2005
-- by Gary Boatwright
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 diminsions during this time of globalization.
I should know; I was an EHM.
So begins the preface to Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins.
On his way to exposing the depraved moral crime commonly referred to as "economic development," Perkins shares the origin of the boogeyman with his readers:I had a romanticized vision of Indonesia, the country where I was to live for the next three months. Some of the books I read featured photographs of beautiful women in brightly colorred sarongs, exotic Balinese dancers, shamans blowing fire, and warriors paddling long dugout canoes in emerald waters at the foot of smoking volcanoes. Particularly striking was a series on the magnificent black-sailed galleons of the infamous Bugi pirates, who still sailed the seas of the archipelago, and who had so terrorized early European sailors that they returned home to warn their children, "Behave yourselves, or the Bugimen will get you." (emphasis added)
The reality of Indonesia was quite different:
But there was also an ugly, tragic side to [Jakarta]. Lepers holding out bloodied stumps instead of hands. Young girls offering their bodies for a few coins. Once-splendid Dutch canals turned into cesspools. Cardboard hovels where entire families lived along the trash-lined banks of black rivers. Blaring horns and choking fumes. The beautiful and the ugly, the elegant and the vulgar, the spiritual and the profane. This was Jakarta, where the enticing scent of cloves and ochid blossoms battled the miasma of open sewers for dominance.
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is a delightfully readable and well written expose of the dark underbelly of economic development and globalization. Very early on in his descent into the moral quagmire of life as an EHM, Perkins realizes that there is a fundamental problem with how America's economic empire is portrayed by the conventional wisdom:
I also realized that my college professsors had not understood the true nature of macroeconomics: that in many cases helping an economy grow only makes those few people who sit atop the pyramid even richer, while it does nothing for those at the bottom except to push them even lower. Indeed, promoting capitalism often results in a system that resembles medievil feudal societies. If any of my professors knew this, they had not admitted it - probably because the big corporations, and the men who run them, fund colleges. Exposing the truth would undoubtedly cost those professors their jobs-just as such revelations could cost me mine.(emphasis added)
As you listen to cable coverage and read newspaper stories of Bush's visit to South America, keep in mind that the very same analysis applies to the M$M. It makes no difference whether "economic reporters" are willfully ignorant or keepers of the immoral flame of free trade and globalization, America's global economic empire is steeped in blood and genocide.
The next chapter is titled Selling My Soul. Perkins' book should be required reading for all American school children and full grown adults who wish to be informed about the root causes of terrorism. They don't hate us for who we are. They hate us for what our leaders do in our name.
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I've read a bit of this and it's next on my book list, as soon as I finish working my way through Chip Berlet's Righwing Populism in America.
Thanks for bringing the issue up in such a timely fashion. This book is so very relevant to Bush's trip to try convincing Latin American leaders to sign their countries over the the US company store.
Posted by: Dr. Laniac at November 6, 2005 8:56 AM
You're welcome Dr. Laniac, and thanks right back at you for the tip on Berlet's book, Right Wing Populism In America.
Everything old and rotten is new again in Bush's world.
1. Would you agree that after the largest oil find ever in Indonesia that there emerged a need for increased security in the unsettled northern region of Afghanistan?
2. Would that need provide strong enough incentive for the oil industry, and American government strategists to enact policy which would in effect rely on military operations designed to forcibly secure the northern region of Afghanistan from existing drug lords and religious factions?
3. Do you believe that there exist any connection between Osma bin Laden's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the fifty-two million dollars given the Taliban prior to 9/11 by the republican led United States Government?
4. Prior to, or at anytime after the forced removal of the Taliban was that fifty-two million in foreign aid ever accounted for, or recovered?
5. Considering a ridiculously strong improbability of both trade center buildings collapsing identically like houses made of cards, and the even stronger probability that implosions strategically detonated by demolition experts made the uniform demolition possible, do you think the fifty-two million dollar allotment actually compensated contracting terrorists for their explicit roles in the New York travesty while others were conclusively responsible?
6. Did the war in Afghanistan provide the United States with an excuse to attack Iraq? Was our preemptive attack on Iraq based on fabricated documents, Sadam Hussein’s implied terrorist connections, and exaggerated, sometimes inaccurate government intelligence?
7. Do you believe that the current republican administration has ever, or would ever, resort to dishonesty, or criminal behavior in the interest of their own party? Would they cheat, manipulate, or out a covert CIA agent in order to pursue their profit hungry corporate serving agenda?
Once these questions are answered I am more than prepared to move on.
Posted by: Mike at November 6, 2005 10:43 AM
I decided since I said nice things about John Perkins book without having really gotten much into it yet, that I ought to sit down and check it out more. Let's say I have a few misgivings, having gotten a few chapters in. I did a little searching and see that others have raised similar questions.
I'm not saying I doubt the basic principle that large consulting and engineering companies essentially lure undeveloped countries into debt, profitting from it and providing only a few select and corrupt elites with a share of those profits, but I'm less than clear that the book is an accurate account of Perkin's life.
Here's an article from Boston Magazine that gave me some pause as well as some of the Amazon reviews that seemed to question facts and characterizations. I also note his other books are new agey shamanism type stuff, which further undermines my confidence.
I'm not sure yet what to make of it all, but it does seem a bit too conspiratorial. I'll continue reading the book and try to research it for factual accuracy. I'd like your feedback also. Perhaps it all checks out. Perhaps not. Whichever the case, Perkins is no hero. He participated and profited from his participation. Yet, he knew early on that what he was doing was wrong.
Posted by: Dr. Laniac at November 6, 2005 12:46 PM
I'm not saying I doubt the basic principle that large consulting and engineering companies essentially lure undeveloped countries into debt, profitting from it and providing only a few select and corrupt elites with a share of those profits . . .
I guess I'm a little puzzled why anything else is necessary. Are you surprised that current and former employees of Main, Inc. would deny that there is any truth to Perkins' book? I guess we can also dismiss conspiracy theories about anyone in the Bush administration manipulating WMD intelligence. They wouldn't have any reason to lie would they?
I have never read Boston Magazine or heard of Maureen Tkacik, so I did a google search. The first entry disclosed that Maureen is a staff reporter for the WSJ. Does your skepticism about Perkins extend to a staff reporter for the WSJ who does not disclose her WSJ affiliation at the end of her book review?
I haven't read any of Perkins' other books and also do not see why they are relevant. Is it relevant that he has done peyote and is honest about it? I guess FBI and CIA agents who have lied on their application about doing drugs, when they applied to work for the agency, have more credibility.
I have no way of knowing how factually honest or dishonest Perkins is in his book. What Perkins describes fits pretty well with accurate factual analysis by reputable sources I have read about how the World Bank, IMF and USAID operate. Is there any questiion that the vast bulk of American foreign aid benefits American corporations far more than the recipient countries? Is there any doubt that the U.S. routinely exploits the natural resources of third world countries? Is there anything Perkins described that would be out of character for Haliburton, Exxon or Bechtel?
Everyone is free to draw their own conclusiions. Perkins book rings true to a far greater degree than plausible deniability by Main, Inc. or the skepticism of a WSJ staff reporter.
I have been pondering your question of whether it is possible to verify any or all of the details in Perkins' book. I doubt that any biographical story can be fact checked in much detail and they are all subject to the romanticization of memory. In any event the memories of specific details will vary from one individual to another. A number of studies of eyewitness accounts in criminal investigations have documented the unreliability of memory as a reliable tool.
There are details of the countries that Perkins worked in that Main, Inc. could verify. Whether his account of those visits can be verified is another story, but certain details like his description of Texaco's exploitation of Ecuador's Amazon region can be fact checked. Did a trans-Andrean pipeline leak over a half million barrels of oil into the fragile rain forest - "more than twice the amount spilled by the Exxon Valdez? Probably. That's a detail that is probably not public knowledge outside of hard core environmental circles.
There are details and dates of his working trips to many South American and South-east Asia countries that could be verified by Main, Inc. His description of political events could be fact checked and whether they occured while he was in those countries.
Perkins' description of the operation of various private and governmental trade agreements could be fact checked. Is the substance of his descriptions of the impact on those countries accurate? I suspect that they are, but a skeptic could challenge his assumptions along those lines.
Pekins provides a "Personal History" from 1963 to 2004 at the back of his book with dates and places that could be fact checked. Perkins also provides footnotes for each chapter that could be fact checked. For example, Bob Somerby fact checked the footnotes in Slander, by Ann Coulter and discovered that there were blatant factual errors in her footnotes. Doris Kearnes Goodwin had a similar problem with a recent book.
As for me, I bring a healthy dose of skepticism to everything I read, including vague allegations of factual error that also cannot be proven one way or the other. As always, the reader is required to exercise their own judgement in how much or how little they choose to believe of any biographical or historical account.
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