Hit Man Speaks
06 March, 2005
have been hinting at it since decades and the whole edifice of the World
Social Forum has been built on this premise: that the United States'
imperialist, invisible hand is behind all the structural reforms being
preached by international financial institutions in the name of development
for the developing countries; and that these prescriptions somehow had
the effect of enriching the already rich sole superpower of the world
while pauperising the countries that were supposed to become rich.
But now it is all
in the open, the hidden hand has become visible, unveiled by an American
himself, who feels it his duty to be loyal to the founding doctrines
of his country rather than to their current misshapen form. John Perkins,
once a self-described "economic hit man", who infiltrated
developing countries with suitcases of money, to capture their leaders
with bribes and loans and extract huge concessions from them for U.S.
business interests, has revealed it all in his courageous new book,
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.
One of the exciting
events at the World Social Forum (WSF) at Porto Alegre in Brazil this
year in the last week of January, was a dialogue with John Perkins,
the author himself, who, from being an economic hit man, has now crossed
over to the "other side" and joined those who have all along
believed that "Another world is possible". This event makes
the WSF's vision of another world not an "idle dream", as
many believe it to be, but that much more real and within reach. Now
the weird bunch of sloganeering anti-globalisation-ists at the WSF can
wag their finger at the rest of the world and say, "We told you
John Perkins started
and stopped writing Confessions of an Economic Hit Man four times over
the last 20 years. He says he was threatened and bribed in an effort
to kill the project. But he determined to reveal all when he stood at
"ground zero" after 9/11 and could still smell burning American
flesh. He shuddered at the thought that his 22-year-old daughter could
have been one of the victims and realised that this was the storm the
Americans were reaping for the wind that hit men like him had sown all
over the developing countries.
Perkins traced the
history of empire building by the U.S. to the post-World War II period.
The empire had no emperor but was controlled by the corporate sector
which Perkins has defined as "corporatocracy". The desire
for empire had its roots in the fear and insecurity generated among
Americans by the post-World War 1 Depression. The Bretton Woods institutions,
the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), were set up to
reconstruct Europe and Asia and prevent the world from ever experiencing
another Depression. But these institutions got politicised and gradually
their goal became one of proving that the U.S. way was the only right
the secret process by which the U.S. National Security Agency recruited
persons with a particular psychological vulnerability to be hit men.
The shadow masters behind the NSA played on his inferiority complex
stemming from his lower middle class background from a small town, and
manipulated his ambition to make it good in life. "The NSA offered,"
says Perkins, "money, power and sex", to make him do their
bidding. A glamorous older woman called "Claudine" trained
him early in his career and gave him "all that he dreamt of".
He was urged to join the Peace Corps in Ecuador to gain familiarity
with developing countries.
One of the first
successes of the empire builders was the reinstatement of the Shah of
Iran in 1951 in a coup without an army, which was engineered by U.S.
corporates. Perkins, as former chief economist at Boston strategic-consulting
firm Chas. T. Main, travelled the world as an economic hit man for 10
years to Indonesia, Panama, Ecuador, Colombia, Saudi Arabia,
Iran, and other strategically important countries, helping U.S. intelligence
agencies and multinationals. He was made to take an oath of secrecy
about his work.
His job was to cajole
and blackmail the leaders of LDCs (less developed countries) into serving
the interests of the U.S. corporatocracy (a coalition of government,
banks, and corporations) and bring business to U.S. companies, while
professing to alleviate poverty in these countries. The naïve chiefs
of these countries would be persuaded to take multi-billion dollar loans,
much bigger than they really needed, for big infrastructure projects,
such as power plants. The hit man would make sure that the projects
were contracted to U.S. multinationals.
John Perkins accuses
the American government and the international aid agencies WB,
IMF, USAID allied with it of cheating "developing"
countries out of trillions of dollars by lending them more money than
they could possibly repay and then, by dictating repayment terms, essentially
controlling their economies. It was not unlike the way a loan shark
or a bond-master operates. The promised aid money would end up at Halliburton,
Bechtel, Brown and Root, and other United States transnational engineering
and construction companies to build these projects. "If you do
that in a bank to an individual, it will be illegal. But if a nation
does it, it is not illegal because there are no international laws which
outlaw it," says Perkins.
The poor in these
countries would see that only a few wealthy families, who controlled
the planet's natural resources, were getting richer from these projects,
while they would get poorer. Perkins' confessions sweep away any doubt
or vestige of illusion one might have still entertained about the United
States being a moralist force working for the preservation of democracy
and freedom around the world.
Those who weren't
But there were some
leaders who did not buy the hit men's offers. "We failed to bring
Jaime Roldós, President of Ecuador, and Omar Torrijos, President
of Panama, around, and so the other type of hit men, the CIA-sanctioned
jackals who were always right behind us, stepped in." says Perkins.
Both presidents died in fiery air crashes. Perkins believes that their
deaths were not accidental and that they were assassinated by the CIA
because they opposed the corporate, government, and banking heads, whose
goal was a global empire. Omar Torrijos, in fact, became a personal
friend of Perkins. With aid money, he had shown that it was possible
to bring about genuine development of Panama by focussing, for instance,
on micro-credit, small farmers and sustainable fishing.
After the OPEC oil
crisis of the 1970s, the U.S. decided to target Saudi Arabia. Perkins
says that he was sent there to implement a secret scheme that funnelled
billions of Saudi Arabian petrodollars back into the U.S. economy. This
was the reason for the intimate relationship between the Islamic fundamentalist
House of Saud and successive American administrations. The House of
Saud was made to assure the U.S. that they would not fluctuate their
"We were so
successful in Saudi Arabia, that we tried the same thing in Iraq. But
Saddam did not buy. So we sent in the CIA to Iraq. But Saddam had such
loyal bodyguards that it was not possible to oust him. That's why and
when we sent the army," says Perkins.
"If there is
an evil empire, we are it," says Perkins, meaning America. One
per cent of Americans owned the empire while 50,000 people died every
day in poor countries. "History has shown that empires never last.
Some other empire comes up and may be worse than the previous one. We
have to change this history. We need a different kind of consciousness,
prophesied by indigenous cultures, which will bring the North and South
together," he pleaded.
He noted that, luckily,
the systems of globalisation that had created the problem, had also
provided the means of the solution. It was because of the airlines,
the internet, etc. that it was possible to hold the WSF. Perkins wanted
the World Social Forum to fight this evil empire. "Economics is
not a science at all. It is a way of justifying your means. It is time
we stood up and said that the debts owed by these countries are illegal"
`Turn off the
He noted that the TV was circumscribing Americans' lives and keeping
them ignorant. "We, Americans, need to turn off those TVs and start
talking," he said. Whereas 50 corporations controlled the media
in the U.S. in 1980, today there were only six.
Being a loyal American,
he owed allegiance to the tenets of freedom, democracy and equality
upon which Washington, Jefferson, etc., had built the U.S.
He was sorry to
admit that the U.S. had gone away from these ideals. He recalled a Shamanism
saying: "The world is as we dream of it". If the WSF does
not actively pursue this other dream, then terrorism will be the only
alternative for those being disenfranchised.
One reviewer finds
Perkins' story implausible and unconvincing, except perhaps to conspiracy
buffs. He complains that Perkins offers so few details that he often
But a larger number
of reviewers of his book find that his is a compelling story that reveals
the real reasons why America invaded Iraq and also offers hope and a
vision for realising the dream of a just and compassionate world.
to revive Enron beware.