U.S. 'SECRET AGENT' Tells His Story
Hooking Countries & Binding Them to U.S. Servitude
"It's a game that's very very old. It's been played by empires for a
long time. And we've taken it to a whole new level of perfection
since World War II... When the Romans or the Conquistadors
or the English or the French sent their armies out to the world
and created these empires, everybody knew they were doing it...
But we've done it in a way that's much more subtle. A way that
many people in the United States still believe that most of our
aid is altruistic. It isn't altruistic for the most part. It's done in
the process of creating this empire... It's against the law. But
on the international scale, it's not against the law. We write the laws."
The story of modern-day colonialism and imperialism has changed somewhat with the Americans being temporarily the world's 'only superpower'. Beyond the CIA and the Pentagon, beyond as well the World Bank and the IMF, there is also a more complex world of international finance and intrique which a former American 'Hit Man' has now opened up for all to read about in the book CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HIT MAN.
As for John Perkins now telling his story in this book -- 'confessing' -- it appears his motivation in doing so (in addition to money and notoriety) is that after 9/11 he concluded the American people needed and deserved to know what more has been going on that has caused such a backlash against the U.S. in so many places. It also appears that in confessing Perkins has revealed, or maybe just suggested in view of the secrecy laws, that the CIA and NSA and Pentagon are indeed connected with such other institutions as the Peace Corps and international multinational corporations, thus making all Americans suspect and putting more Americans at risk. This whole situation of course has only escalated in recent years with the 'Patriot Act' legislation and it's own secret protocols.
In his gripping tell-all book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, a guilt-ridden authors explains in amazing detail that Americans like him are hired guns, employed by consulting companies under contract to the United States government, who purposefully loan shark billions of dollars to third world countries hooking them, addicting them, in order to control their policies and economies.
This is a book we do recommend to one and all who want to grasp further the realities of today's world in the Middle East and beyond.
John Perkins was recruited by the National Security Agency during his last year at Boston University's School of Business Administration, 1968. He spent the next three years in the Peace Corps in South America and then in 1971 joined the international consulting firm of Chas. T. Main, a Boston-based company of 2000 employees that kept a very low profile. As Chief Economist and Director of Economics and Regional Planning
at Chas. T. Main, Perkins says his primary job was to convince Less Developed Countries (LDCs) around the world to accept multibillion dollar loans for infrastructure projects and to see to it that most of this money ended up at Main, Bechtel, Halliburton, Brown and Root, and other U.S. engineering/construction companies. The loans left the recipient countries wallowing in debt and highly vulnerable to outside political and commercial interests. He documents his experience in the NEW YORK TIMES bestseller CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HIT MAN.
Transcript of NOW Program from 4 March 2005:
Host DAVID BRANCACCIO:
For much of his career, as a consultant in international development, John Perkins says he was an empire builder… though maybe not in ways you'd think.
Perkins calls himself an "economic hit man" — a kind of secret agent of U.S. power, armed not with a Walther PPK pistol but a set of corrupt economic spreadsheets. His job, he says, was to convince developing countries to borrow money to build expensive projects. Projects like roads, dams and power grids that would ostensibly improve the quality of life.
But there was a catch: These projects would also leave these countries with more debt than they could ever hope to repay. This crushing debt, Perkins says, left those countries with little choice but to follow America's lead on foreign and economic policies. His controversial book, CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HIT MAN has been on THE NEW YORK TIMES best seller list for 11 weeks.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: Well, John Perkins, welcome to NOW.
JOHN PERKINS: Thank you, it's great to be here, David.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: One of the things about reading your book is that you have to just take it on faith that you're being up front. I don't mean to be unkind, but even something as basic as the word in the title, "economic hit man," I mean it sounds like something a publisher came up with. But you say this was the term that was actually used in the biz.
JOHN PERKINS: Well, we used it tongue in cheek. But the term was one that really stuck with us because in fact, what we were called upon to do is very similar to what Mafia hit men do. Except we were a lot more efficient about it. A lot more secretive. A lot more professional and did it on a much larger scale.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: It's true that organized crime does use debt to exercise control. There's a way to do that. When someone is in hock, they are in your thrall, in a sense. And you've seen it--
JOHN PERKINS: Right.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: In this country. You're really translating that to the international sphere.
JOHN PERKINS: Yes. It's a game that's very very old. It's been played by empires for a long time. And we've taken it to a whole new level of perfection since World War II and especially in the last four decades. In fact we've managed to create what I believe is history's only truly global empire. And for the first time we've created an empire primarily without the military.
When the Romans or the Conquistadors or the English or the French sent their armies out to the world and created these empires, everybody knew they were doing it. The armies were obvious. But we've done it in a way that's much more subtle. A way that many people in the United States still believe that most of our aid is altruistic. It isn't altruistic for the most part. It's done in the process of creating this empire.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: But just for the sake of living with yourself when you're a younger man, I mean you must have said to yourself, "I am helping the population of this developing country, be it Indonesia, be it someplace else, by bringing, for instance, a hydroelectric project to them." Yes, it'll cost them a lot, yes, they'll have to borrow a lot. But ultimately you must have been guided by the sense that you're trying to help out poor folks.
JOHN PERKINS: Well, that's what I'd learned in business school and that's the model that the World Bank presents. But if you really get to know these countries, and I did, I spent a lot of time in them, what I saw was that the money that was going to build these projects like the hydroelectric projects or the highways or the ports, hardly ever actually made its way to the country.
The money was transferred from banks in Washington, DC to banks in Houston or San Francisco or New York where most of it went to big US corporations. The ones we heard a lot about these days like Halliburton and Bechtel. And these corporations then built these projects and the projects primarily served the very rich in those countries.
The electricity, the highways, the ports were seldom even used by the people who needed them the most. But the country would be left holding a huge debt and it would be such a large debt that they couldn't possibly repay it. And so at some point in time, we economic hit men, we go back into the country and say, "Look, you owe us a lot of money, you can't pay your debts. Therefore sell us your oil at a real cheap price or vote with us at a UN vote or give us land for a military base or send some of your troops to some country where we want you to support us."
DAVID BRANCACCIO: You think that from the word go that this kind of lending was meant to essentially put these countries into hock?
JOHN PERKINS: There's no question in my mind that this was what I was intended to do was to go out and create these projects that would bring billions of dollars back to US corporations and create projects that would put these countries into such deep debt, that in essence, they became part of our empire. They became our slaves in a way.
And, it's important to understand that what I was doing was not illegal. It is not illegal. It should be. But it isn't. Now, if I were a banker and I were to go to you and convince you to take a loan that I knew you'd never be able to repay, that's criminal. I could be taken to court for that or ...
DAVID BRANCACCIO: Yeah, it's like selling a naïve investor some sort of fancy investment vehicle. It's against the law.
JOHN PERKINS: It's exactly, it's against the law. But on the international scale, it's not against the law. We write the laws. And if you go to the textbooks in the business schools you'll see that increasing gross national product is toted as something that's good for development. And that's and we usually did that. However, in most of these countries or many of these countries, when you increase gross national product, you may only be increasing the wealth of a very few families who own most of the major resources in the country.
The people who live off subsistence farming and other activities or close to subsistence, don't gain anything. In fact, you build a hydroelectric dam across their river, destroys much of the life downstream. It destroys their farms, it destroys their fishing. It does them a great deal of damage. And they're left holding this debt that should be going to pay for their education, health services, other social services. But can't, because it's owed to us.
The reason I wrote the book, David, is because finally after 9/11 I realized that the American people must know what's going on. Because most Americans don't know. And the that 9/11 was just symbolic of a tremendous amount of anger around the world. And we in the United States don't are not aware of that. September 11th made us somewhat aware of it although I think we've really covered that aspect of it over. We say this is a rogue terrorist.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: Or that it's based in sort of religious passion. Or that it's something about Saudi Arabia in particular. This isn't really about the United States and its international relations. That's the argument.
JOHN PERKINS: That's the argument. But in fact, if you go to Catholic countries in South America, you'll see that Osama bin Laden is a is a hero amongst a lot of people. He's on billboards. He's on T-shirts. It's very unfortunate that this mass murderer has become the symbol of a David who is standing up to a Goliath. The way they see it. He's like a Robin Hood to many people.
Twenty-four thousand people die every day from lack of nutrition. Thirty thousand children die every single day from - diseases for which we have cures. For which we have medicines. And that shouldn't be happening. It doesn't need to happen. That's over 50,000 people every single day dying terrible, painful, awful, needless deaths. So 3,000 at the World Trade Center was atrocious, terrible; 200,000 or whatever the tsunami is atrocious and terrible. And they make the news. But these 50,000 plus that die every single day needlessly, don't ever make the news. And their families and the people in those countries are very angry. Because we could prevent that. And in fact, our policies and especially many of our corporate policies, foster those kinds of conditions that create situations where those people are dying of lack of nutrition and lack of medicines.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: There will be Americans who reflect on this and say look we tried to share the wealth and for whatever reason, it came to naught.
JOHN PERKINS: We didn't try to share the wealth. We Americans believe that that's what we're doing. We're a good hearted compassionate people. But the fact of the matter the ones who make the decisions I was in that position. This is a lot of people out there today in that position. They're getting very wealthy. Their corporations are getting wealthy, and a few families in these developing countries who collaborate with us in this process, are getting fabulously wealthy, too.
But the poor are getting much poorer and the gap between rich and poor has increased tremendously over the last 30 years. Over this time when the World Bank and the United Nations has told us that we're making improvements in fact the gap is has more than doubled.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: You know, I saw a World Bank official quoted in regard to your book, hadn't read the book. Saw some account. But thought that your view of all this was really out of date. And regardless of whether or not your vision of this is really what happened, World Bank has moved on.
Even now they've shifted. I saw a statistic in 1980 something like three or five percent of their lending went into things like health and pensions and education. Now it's up to 22 percent. They're not giving so much money to big dam projects that runs up the debt.
JOHN PERKINS: If you really look behind those numbers of schools and hospitals and those kinds of things, you'll see that yes, we've spent more money on constructing those types of facilities — building the schools and the hospitals. The big construction companies have gotten rich building them.
But look behind the numbers and see how much money we've put into training health specialists. Doctors and nurses and technicians or how much money we've put into teaching into training teachers. To fill the schools. It's not enough to build schools and hospitals. You've also got to create the whole system that allows for better education and better health care. It's- I'm very sad to say it's a system that has really pulled the wool over people's eyes. We paint a very good picture, but when you go deep in, you find a very different story.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: John, I appreciate this. The book is called CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HIT MAN. John Perkins, thank you very much.
JOHN PERKINS: You're welcome, David, it's been my pleasure.
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