by John Perkins
February 17, 2005

from WantToKnow Website

 

 

 

About JOHN PERKINS
From 1971 to 1981, John Perkins worked for the international consulting firm of Chas. T. Main, where he held the titles of Chief Economist and Manager of Economics.

He later founded Independent Power Systems, Inc., an alternative energy company.

Today, Perkins writes and teaches about achieving peace and prosperity by expanding personal awareness and transforming American institutions.

His previous books include Shapeshifting, The World Is As You Dream It and The Stress-Free Habit.


 

 

 


General Overview

Confessions of An Economic Hit Man is John Perkins' fast-paced autobiography, which reveals his career as an economist for an international consulting firm.

 

Perkins says he was actually an "Economic Hit Man" and his job was to convince countries that are strategically important to the United States to accept enormous loans for infrastructure development and to make sure that the lucrative projects were contracted to U.S. corporations.

Perkins takes the reader through his career and explains how he created economic projections for countries to accept billions of dollars in loans they surely couldn't afford.

 

He shares his battle with his conscience over these actions and offers advice for how Americans can work to end these practices, which he feels have directly resulted in terrorist attacks and animosity towards the United States.
 

 

 


What Is An Economic Hit Man?

Perkins defines economic hit men as,

"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."

In Perkins' case, he was hired as an economist for the international consulting firm of Chas. T.Main, Inc. (MAIN).

 

He was told in confidential meetings with "special consultant" to the company Claudine Martin that he had two primary objectives:

  1. He was supposed to justify huge loans for countries. These loans would be for major engineering and construction projects, which were to be carried out by MAIN and other U.S. companies such as Bechtel, Halliburton, Stone & Webster and Brown & Root.
     

  2. He was supposed to help bankrupt the countries that received these loans after the U.S. companies involved had been paid. This would make sure that these countries would remain in debt to their creditors and would then be easy targets when the U.S. needed favors such as military bases, UN votes and access to natural resources like oil.

Perkins' job was to produce economic growth projections that would make the case for a variety of major projects.

 

If the U.S. decided to lend a country money (in order to persuade its leaders not to align with the Soviet Union, for example), Perkins would compare the economic benefits of different projects such as power plants or telecommunications systems. He would then produce reports that showed the economic growth the country would experience due to these projects. These economic growth projections needed to be high enough to justify the loans. Otherwise, the loans would be denied.

The gross national product (GNP) was always the most important factor in these economic projections. The project expected to increase the GNP the most would be chosen. In the cases where there was only one project under consideration, it needed to be shown that the project would greatly benefit the GNP.

 

Luckily for the economic hit man, GNP figures can be quite deceptive.

"For instance, the growth of GNP may result even when it profits only one person, such as an individual who owns a utility company, while the majority of the population is burdened with debt."

All of these projects were meant to make huge profits for the contractors.

 

The U.S. engineering and construction companies involved would be assured of great wealth. At the same time, a few wealthy families and influential leaders in the receiving countries would become very happy and very rich thanks to these loans. The leaders of these countries would also have bolstered political power because they were credited with bringing industrial parks, power plants and airports to their people.

The problem is that these countries simply cannot handle the debt of these loans and their poorest citizens are deprived of health, education and other social services for several decades as these countries struggle economically to overcome their huge debts.

 

Meanwhile, the huge American media conglomerates portray these projects as favors being provided by the United States. American citizens in general have no trouble believing these messages, and in fact are led to perceive that these actions are unselfish acts of international goodwill.

Ultimately, due to the large debts, the U.S. is able to draw on these countries for political, economic and military favors whenever desired.

 

And of course, the U.S. corporations involved with the expensive projects become extremely wealthy.
 

 

 


The U.S. Government's Role

Economic hit men [EHM] don't actually work for a United States government organization such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The risk with such a direct association is obvious.

 

For example, if an EHM was working to put a country in debt to the U.S. with the main reason being for favorable military and political positions against the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union would be quite likely to take military action against the U.S. if that EHM were found to be working for the U.S. government. In the 1960s, America found a way to use economic hitmen without directly implicating Washington.

It was during the 1960s that we saw the empowerment of international corporations and multinational organizations such as the World Bank. This allowed for governments, corporations and multinational organizations to form mutually beneficial relationships. United States intelligence agencies were able to use these relationships to their advantage.

Government organizations such as the National Security Agency (NSA) were now able to screen for potential economic hitmen (as they did with Perkins) and then have them hired by international corporations such as MAIN.

"These economic hitmen would never be paid by the government; instead, they would draw their salaries from the private sector. As a result, their dirty work, if exposed, would be chalked up to corporate greed rather than to government policy.

 

In addition, the corporations that hired them, although paid by government agencies and their multinational banking counterparts (with taxpayer money), would be insulated from congressional oversight and public scrutiny, shielded by a growing body of legal initiatives, including trademark, international trade, and Freedom of Information laws."

 



Perkins' Story of Being Recruited as an Economic Hit Man

Perkins married a former college classmate in 1967. A good friend of her father's, referred to as "Uncle Frank", was a top-echelon executive at the NSA.

 

Uncle Frank immediately took a liking to Perkins and informed him that a job with the NSA would make him eligible for draft deferment, meaning he could avoid fighting in the Vietnam War.

After extensive interviews with the NSA, Perkins was offered a job, but declined it to instead join the Peace Corps. Surprisingly, Uncle Frank supported this decision, largely because it meant that Perkins would have the opportunity to go to Ecuador and live with the indigenous people of the Amazon region.

It was with the Peace Corps in Ecuador when a vice president of Chas. T. Main, Inc. approached Perkins about working for MAIN. The man explained that he sometimes acted as an NSA liaison, which made this job opportunity a perfect fit for Perkins, who had intended on accepting the NSA job when his Peace Corps tour was over.

Upon returning to the U.S., Perkins was hired as an economist for MAIN. He was told that MAIN's primary business was engineering, but that their biggest client, the World Bank, had insisted that the company keep economists employed in order to produce the "critical economic forecasts used to determine the feasibility and magnitude of engineering projects."

Shortly after being hired, Perkins was trained confidentially by Claudine Martin, a special consultant to MAIN. It was Martin who explained to Perkins what his real job was.

 

It was Martin who explained that he was now an "Economic Hit Man" and that once he accepted this job, he could never leave it.
 

 


Indonesia


Perkins' first assignment took him took to Indonesia.

 

Indonesia was an oil-rich country and had been described as "the most heavily populated piece of real estate on the planet." Perkins' job was to produce very optimistic economic forecasts for the country, showing that by building new power plants and distribution lines, the country's economy would explode. These projections would allow USAID and international banks to justify huge loans for the country, which would then be paid to U.S. corporations to build the projects.

In 1971, Indonesia had become even more important to the U.S. in its battle against Communism. Potential withdrawal from Vietnam had the U.S. worried about a domino effect of one country after another falling under Communist rule. Indonesia was viewed as the key. If the U.S. could gain control of Indonesia (with the debts that would incur thanks to the loans for these huge projects), they believed it would help ensure American dominance in Southeast Asia.

While spending three months in Indonesia to conduct interviews and study the economic potential for the country, Perkins was exposed to the drastic discrepancy between the wealthy and the extremely poor in Indonesia. While there were certainly signs of a striving economy with first-class hotels and mansions, Perkins also personally saw the tragic side of Indonesia where women and children bathed in wretched, sewer-filled water and beggars packed the streets.

 

He also met some of the country's native citizens and learned of their resentment of American greed and extravagance in the face of their starving children.

These close encounters with the Indonesians created a struggle of conscience for Perkins. He wondered if American capitalism was really the answer for the people of Indonesia. He wondered if the population as a whole would really benefit from the infrastructures the U.S. wanted to build in Indonesia, or would it only be a wealthy few who became even wealthier while the rest of the country became more entrenched in poverty and became even more anti-American?

While conducting his studies in Indonesia, Perkins was encouraged by his superiors to create strong forecasts for economic growth. He was told that growth rates of 17 percent per annum were expected. Also providing economic forecasts for MAIN was an older employee named Howard Parker.

 

Parker told Perkins not to be pressured by his superiors, he told him not to buy into the game, not to create unrealistic projections. He told Perkins that the electrification project could not create economic growth rates of more than 7-9 percent.

Conversations with Parker led to more conscience battles for Perkins. Ultimately, he told himself that the decision wasn't really his to make, it would be up to his bosses and they could simply choose between his high economic forecast and Parker's lower forecast. When the final projections were presented to the executives at MAIN, Perkins' figures pleased his bosses with 17-20 percent growth rate projections while Parker's forecast came in at eight percent.

 

Parker was promptly fired and Perkins was promoted to Chief Economist at MAIN and received a nice raise.
 

 


Panama


In 1972, Perkins was sent to Panama to close the deal on MAIN's master development plan with the country.

"This plan would create a justification for World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and USAID investment of billions of dollars in the energy, transportation, and agricultural sectors of this tiny and very crucial country. It was, of course, a subterfuge, a means of making Panama forever indebted and thereby returning to its puppet status."

Again, Perkins experienced the enormous differences between the wealthy and the poor.

 

However, in Panama, the differences were most extreme in one area, the Canal Zone. In the Canal Zone, Americans lived in beautiful homes and enjoyed golf courses and first-class shopping.

 

Just outside of the Canal Zone, Panamanians lived in wooden shacks and among overflowing sewage. These harsh differences created high levels of animosity between the Americans living in the Canal Zone and the natives of Panama. It was not uncommon to see graffiti messages demanding that the U.S. leave Panama.

On his trip, Perkins met with Panama's president and charismatic leader, Omar Torrijos. Perkins was very impressed with Torrijos and became friends with the leader. Torrijos was well aware of the EHM practices and knew fully how the game was played. He knew that he could become a very wealthy man by cooperating with the U.S. companies that wanted to build their projects in his country, but he worried about Panama losing its independence and not taking care of its many citizens living in poverty.

Torrijos made a peculiar deal with Perkins and MAIN. He wanted Panama to take back control of the Panama Canal and in doing so he wanted to build a more efficient canal, a sea-level one without locks that would allow for bigger ships. The Japanese, the Canal's biggest clients, would be interested in financing this construction, which would anger Bechtel Group, Inc.

 

Bechtel was a company closely connected to Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush.

Omar Torrijos was concerned that these actions might send the wrong signals internationally. He wanted to make sure that Panama was recognized as an independent country and was not dictated by Russia, China or Cuba. He did not want Panama to be perceived as against the United States. Instead, he wanted it known that they were simply protecting the rights of the poor.

Torrijos did want to invest in huge advancement projects in electricity, transportation and communications for Panama, but he wanted to make certain that these projects benefited his entire country, including those living in extreme poverty. To do so would require huge amounts of money from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. Torrijos worried that his commitment to taking back the Canal would anger the top people at Bechtel so much that it would make it nearly impossible to achieve his plans for these projects.

So, Torrijos made a deal with Perkins and MAIN. He told Perkins that if he could secure the financing for these projects, MAIN could have all the work they wanted on this master development plan.

 

Perkins agreed to the deal and would do Torrijos' bidding.
 

 


Saudi Arabia


In response to the power of the international oil companies, which collaborated to hold down petroleum prices, a group of oil-producing countries formed OPEC in the 1960s.

 

The huge impact OPEC was capable of became evident to the world with the 1973 oil embargo. This embargo was a result of the United States' support of Israel when Egypt and Syria launched attacks on the country.

 

As the U.S. provided Israel with more financial aid, Saudi Arabia and other Arab oil producing countries imposed a total embargo on oil shipments to the U.S. While the embargo was short-lived, its impact was huge as Saudi oil prices jumped from $1.39 per barrel on January 1, 1970 to $8.32 on January 1, 1974.

As a result, Wall Street and Washington became obsessed with protecting American oil supplies and the U.S. was forced to recognize Saudi Arabia's importance to its economy.

"For Saudi Arabia, the additional oil income resulting from the price hikes was a mixed blessing."

Suddenly, the country's conservative religious beliefs were being replaced with a sense of materialism.

 

Washington recognized this movement and negotiated with Saudi Arabia for assurance that there would never again be an oil embargo from the country. The result of these negotiations was the United States-Saudi Arabian Joint Economic Commission, known as JECOR. The unprecedented agreement was the opposite of the norm, where countries had to borrow from the U.S. until it could never get out of that debt. Instead, this agreement relied on Saudi Arabia's own money to hire American firms to build up the country.

The U.S. wanted Saudi Arabia to guarantee to maintain oil supplies at prices that would be acceptable to the U.S. and its allies. Due to Saudi Arabia's vast petroleum supplies, this guarantee would protect the U.S. even if other countries threatened oil embargos. In exchange for the guarantee, the U.S. offered the House of Saud a commitment to provide complete political and military support (this would guarantee that the royal family would continue to rule in Saudi Arabia).

 

The condition would be that the Saudis buy U.S. government securities with their petrodollars and that the interest earned on these securities would be used to pay U.S. companies to convert Saudi Arabia into a modern industrial power.

Perkins was brought in as an adviser in the early stages of these negotiations.

 

His job was,

"to develop forecasts of what might happen in Saudi Arabia if vast amounts of money were invested in its infrastructure, and to map out scenarios for spending that money."

He was told that not only would this job result in huge profits for MAIN, but that it was also a matter of national security.

This job was different for Perkins as the final objective was not to burden Saudi Arabia with debts it could never repay, but instead to "assure that a large portion of petrodollars found their way back to the United States." Basically, MAIN and other U.S. corporations needed to convince Saudi Arabia of the importance and benefits of transforming their country to a more modern nation.

 

This would ultimately make Saudi Arabia more dependent on U.S. corporations and make U.S. corporations extremely wealthy.

For his part, Perkins convinced a key player within the House of Saud, a man he calls Prince W., that these projects would benefit his country as well as him personally. Perkins was able to eventually persuade Prince W. by arranging for a beautiful prostitute to live with him. By arranging for the prostitute to live with Prince W., Perkins was able to gain his trust and eventually convinced him of the value of the deal.

 

The entire package was finally approved by the royal family of Saudi Arabia and MAIN was rewarded with one of the first highly lucrative contracts, which was actually administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

"The deal between the United States and Saudi Arabia transformed the kingdom practically overnight."

It also marked the beginning of an ongoing relationship between the House of Saud, the bin Laden family and the Bush family, which benefited greatly from a financial standpoint thanks to the deal.

 

 

 


Struggling with His Conscience

Perkins saw his career take off as he was promoted again and became the youngest partner in the history of MAIN.

 

He would go on to head major projects all over the world while taking home a huge salary. However, Perkins could not stop struggling with his conscience over the negative outcomes he believed he was causing as an EHM.

 

In 1978 and 1979, the consequences of EHM empire building became clear to Perkins by what he saw happen in Iran.

While the U.S. had supported the Shah, the results had led to class wars and passionate animosity towards the "corporatocracy" being implemented in Iran. Perkins had seen this hostility first-hand in several of the countries where he had helped to create similar situations with his EHM practices.

 

Citizens of these countries hated U.S. policy and blamed it for their corrupt leaders and despotic government. In Iran, the situation escalated and led to the shah fleeing the country for his own safety and Iranians storming the U.S. Embassy and taking 52 hostages.

It was then that Perkins fully realized that "the United States is a nation laboring to deny the truth about its imperialist role in the world" and he became overwhelmed with guilt over his role in this global movement.

 

Perkins sank into a depression and quit his job at MAIN in 1980.
 

 

 


The Impact of the Economic Hit man Continues

Perkins would continue to be haunted by the impact of economic hitmen even as he started his own company (a company that committed to producing environmentally friendly electricity), did special consulting for MAIN and other corporations, and became involved with nonprofit organizations and their efforts to work with and help indigenous people in Latin America.

In 1981, Perkins became deeply disturbed by the death of his friend and the leader of Panama, Omar Torrijos. Perkins believes that Torrijos' death in a plane crash was a CIA assassination because of his positions on the Panama Canal (Torrijos had achieved his goal of taking back the Canal) and his unwillingness to cooperate with American corporations.

 

Torrijos was replaced by Manuel Noriega, who "became a symbol of corruption and decadence."

 

Eventually, in 1989, the United States attacked Panama and the Arias family and the pre-Torrijos oligarchy, which had served as U.S. puppets from the time when Panama was torn from Columbia until Torrijos took over, were reinstated.

Perkins also watched closely throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s as the U.S. tried to get Iraq and Saddam Hussein to buy into the EHM scenario as Saudi Arabia had done before. Hussein refused and when he invaded Kuwait, the U.S. wasted little time and attacked Iraq. The economic hitmen failed again in their efforts following the invasion of Iraq and in 2003, the U.S. invaded Iraq once again.

Perkins began to write
Confessions of An Economic Hit Man on several occasions, but stopped due to bribes or threats. But after 9/11, Perkins knew he could no longer wait and felt he had to expose these practices and the devastating consequences they create.

 

 

 


What to Do Now

Perkins now spends his life trying to educate people about the role of the economic hit man and how we can end their practices and achieve more global peace and prosperity by transforming our institutions.

 

He believes,

"we have convinced ourselves that all economic growth benefits humankind, and that the greater the growth, the more widespread the benefits."

We must realize that the American capitalism we are trying to push on other countries may not be what's best for the rest of the world.

We can't just blame this movement on a conspiracy.

"The empire depends on the efficacy of big banks, corporations, and governments - the corporatocracy - but it is not a conspiracy. This corporatocracy is ourselves - we make it happen - which, of course, is why most of us find it difficult to stand up and oppose it. We cannot bring ourselves to bite the hand of the master who feeds us."

Perkins offers several ways to help stop "the corporatocracy and to end this insane and self-destructive march to global empire."

  • Read between the lines of each and every media report and help others do the same. The majority of our media outlets - newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, television stations, radio stations, etc. - are owned by huge international corporations and these corporations aren't afraid to manipulate the news they deliver. Always seek the truth and encourage others to do the same.

  • Cut back on oil consumption and shopping. When you are shopping, be very aware of the products you buy and the companies you're supporting.

  • Downsize your personal possessions, including your home, your car and your office.

  • Protest against unfair free trade agreements.

  • Protest against companies that exploit desperate people in sweatshops.

  • Protest against companies that pillage the environment.

  • Look for ways to educate others about what is going on in the world. This can be done by writing letters and emails to friends, newspapers, school boards and local organizations.

  • And finally, ask yourself the following questions:

    • Why have I allowed myself to be sucked into a system that I know is unbalanced?

    • What will I do to make sure our children, and all children everywhere, are able to fulfill the dream of our Founding Fathers, the dream of life liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

    • What course will I take to end starvation, and make sure there is never again a day like September 11?

    • How can I help our children understand that people who live gluttonous, unbalanced  lives should be pitied but never, ever emulated, even if those people present themselves, through the media they control, as cultural icons and try to convince us that penthouses and yachts bring happiness?

    • What changes will I commit to making in my attitudes and perceptions?

    • What forums will I use to teach others and to learn more on my own?

These are the essential questions of our time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


-   Book review of Confessions of an Economic Hitman by David Korten   -
How the Richest of the Rich

...Steal from the Poorest of the Poor
by David C. Korten

from DragonFlyMedia Website

recovered through WayBackMachine Website

 

 

 

David C. Korten is the author of WHEN CORPORATIONS RULE THE WORLD and THE POST-CORPORATE WORLD: Life After Capitalism.

 

 

 

John Perkins was for 10 years a player in a high-stakes game of global empire.

 

Confessions of An Economic Hit Man is his very personal account of the events that forced him to choose between conscience and a glamorous life of power, luxury and beautiful women.

 

It is also an adventure thriller worthy of Graham Green or John Le Carré that connects the dots between corporate globalization, American Empire, and the dynasty of the House of Bush.

During my own 30 years as a development worker in Africa, Latin America and Asia, I came to realize that the institutions of the aid system and the global economy persistently serve the interests of the rich at the expense of the poor.

 

I sometimes wondered whether the outcome might have been orchestrated by some secret inner circle of power brokers who knew exactly what they were doing.

By Perkins' account, he was recruited and trained by just such a circle. He served their cause until he defected in a fit of conscience and, later, decided to spill the beans. Confessions tells stories of deals Perkins helped to broker with key oil exporting countries such as Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia.

 

Naming names, he explains in riveting detail exactly how the system works - and illuminates the reality behind the hostility of those the United States now condemns as terrorists.

Perkins' job as chief economist for Chas.T.Main, a secretive consulting firm with close ties to the U.S. intelligence and corporate communities, was much like that of an Enron accountant. He cooked the books in a gigantic international con game. More specifically, he produced and defended grossly inflated projections of economic growth that were then used to justify super-sized infrastructure projects financed with debts to foreign banks that could never be repaid.

Intentionally making unpayable loans to foreign governments may seem the work of fools, but the money flowed directly into the bottom lines of well-connected U.S. construction and energy companies like Bechtel and Halliburton, and the perpetual debts gave the U.S. government a stranglehold over the economic and political resources of the indebted nations.

 

The ruling classes of the debtor nations who benefited rarely objected; the people the projects displaced had no voice.

Selling bogus projections was specialized work that required the social skills of a con man and the ethics of a hired killer. By Perkins' account, recruiters from the National Security Agency (NSA), one of the U.S. intelligence services, decided he fit the bill.

Of particular interest is Perkins' story of his role in the deal that tied Saudi Arabia to U.S. interests, created a financial and political alliance between the House of Saud and the House of Bush, and led to a partnership that channeled billions of dollars to Osama bin Laden.

 

Under this agreement, the Saudis hold their oil earnings in U.S. Treasury bonds. The Treasury Department pays the interest on these bonds directly to favored U.S. corporations, with which it contracts to modernize Saudi Arabia's physical infrastructure. In return the U.S. government uses its political and military clout to keep the Saudi royal family in power.

According to Perkins, the Saudi agreement was to be a model for Iraq, but Saddam Hussein refused to play - which explains why George W. Bush was so intent on invading Iraq to remove him from office. The war was simply a different means to the same outcome. Effective control of Iraqi oil reserves was transferred to U.S. hands. Bechtel, Halliburton and other corporate Bush cronies received billions in new contracts.

Perhaps, as implied by Perkins' experience, the assault on the world's poor was orchestrated out of some super-secret NSA project office charged with recruiting and training economic hit men. Or perhaps it was the unintentional consequence of playing out elite interests.

 

In the end it makes little difference. The power brokers and their minions win, and hundreds of millions of losers are left to choose between death and slavery.

 

Either way, it's important to address the deeper cultural and institutional causes of what is a spreading global disaster.

 

It's here that Perkins misses a key point.

"The fault lies not in the institutions themselves, but in our perceptions of the manner in which they function and interact with one another, and of the role their managers play in that process…," he writes.

 

"Imagine if the Nike swoosh, McDonald's arches and Coca-Cola logo became symbols of companies whose primary goals were to clothe and feed the world's poor in environmentally beneficial ways."

Yes, the perceptions are important, but so are the institutions.

 

Perkins should by now be aware of two historic truths:

  1. Between the demands of financial markets and legal interpretations of the fiduciary responsibility of corporate officers, global for-profit corporations face strong pressures to maximize returns to their shareholders without regard to social or environmental consequences

     

  2. Any unaccountable concentration of institutional power is an invitation to the very corruption he so skillfully documents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Multimedia

 

 

The Corporatocracy and Central and South America

 

 

Part 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

How the U.S. Uses Globalization to Cheat...

Poor Countries Out of Trillions

-   Confessions of an Economic Hit Man   -

from DemocracyNow Website

 


We speak with John Perkins, a former respected member of the international banking community.

 

In his book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man he describes how as a highly paid professional, he helped the U.S. cheat poor countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars by lending them more money than they could possibly repay and then take over their economies.

 

 

 

 

 

-   Democracy Now   -
A Conversation With John Perkins

 

 

 

 


Rush Transcript

 

AMY GOODMAN: John Perkins joins us now in our firehouse studio. Welcome to Democracy Now!

JOHN PERKINS: Thank you, Amy. It's great to be here.
 


AMY GOODMAN: It's good to have you with us. Okay, explain this term, "economic hit man," e.h.m., as you call it.

JOHN PERKINS: Basically what we were trained to do and what our job is to do is to build up the American empire. To bring - to create situations where as many resources as possible flow into this country, to our corporations, and our government, and in fact we've been very successful. We've built the largest empire in the history of the world. It's been done over the last 50 years since World War II with very little military might, actually.

 

It's only in rare instances like Iraq where the military comes in as a last resort. This empire, unlike any other in the history of the world, has been built primarily through economic manipulation, through cheating, through fraud, through seducing people into our way of life, through the economic hit men.

 

I was very much a part of that.
 


AMY GOODMAN: How did you become one? Who did you work for?

JOHN PERKINS: Well, I was initially recruited while I was in business school back in the late sixties by the National Security Agency, the nation's largest and least understood spy organization; but ultimately I worked for private corporations.

 

The first real economic hit man was back in the early 1950's, Kermit Roosevelt, the grandson of Teddy, who overthrew of government of Iran, a democratically elected government, Mossadegh's government who was Time‘s magazine person of the year; and he was so successful at doing this without any bloodshed - well, there was a little bloodshed, but no military intervention, just spending millions of dollars and replaced Mossadegh with the Shah of Iran.

 

At that point, we understood that this idea of economic hit man was an extremely good one. We didn't have to worry about the threat of war with Russia when we did it this way. The problem with that was that Roosevelt was a CIA agent.

 

He was a government employee. Had he been caught, we would have been in a lot of trouble. It would have been very embarrassing.

 

So, at that point, the decision was made to use organizations like the CIA and the NSA to recruit potential economic hit men like me and then send us to work for private consulting companies, engineering firms, construction companies, so that if we were caught, there would be no connection with the government.
 


AMY GOODMAN: Okay. Explain the company you worked for.

JOHN PERKINS: Well, the company I worked for was a company named Chas.T.Main in Boston, Massachusetts. We were about 2,000 employees, and I became its chief economist. I ended up having fifty people working for me. But my real job was deal-making. It was giving loans to other countries, huge loans, much bigger than they could possibly repay.

 

One of the conditions of the loan - let's say a $1 billion to a country like Indonesia or Ecuador - and this country would then have to give ninety percent of that loan back to a U.S. company, or U.S. companies, to build the infrastructure - a Halliburton or a Bechtel. These were big ones.

 

Those companies would then go in and build an electrical system or ports or highways, and these would basically serve just a few of the very wealthiest families in those countries. The poor people in those countries would be stuck ultimately with this amazing debt that they couldn't possibly repay. A country today like Ecuador owes over fifty percent of its national budget just to pay down its debt. And it really can't do it. So, we literally have them over a barrel.

 

So, when we want more oil, we go to Ecuador and say,

"Look, you're not able to repay your debts, therefore give our oil companies your Amazon rain forest, which are filled with oil."

And today we're going in and destroying Amazonian rain forests, forcing Ecuador to give them to us because they've accumulated all this debt. So we make this big loan, most of it comes back to the United States, the country is left with the debt plus lots of interest, and they basically become our servants, our slaves. It's an empire.

 

There's no two ways about it. It's a huge empire. It's been extremely successful.
 


AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. You say because of bribes and other reason you didn't write this book for a long time. What do you mean? Who tried to bribe you, or who - what are the bribes you accepted?

JOHN PERKINS: Well, I accepted a half a million dollar bribe in the nineties not to write the book.
 


AMY GOODMAN: From?

JOHN PERKINS: From a major construction engineering company.
 


AMY GOODMAN: Which one?

JOHN PERKINS: Legally speaking, it wasn't... Stoner-Webster. Legally speaking it wasn't a bribe, it was... I was being paid as a consultant. This is all very legal. But I essentially did nothing.

 

It was a very understood, as I explained in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, that it was  - I was -  it was understood when I accepted this money as a consultant to them I wouldn't have to do much work, but I mustn't write any books about the subject, which they were aware that I was in the process of writing this book, which at the time I called "Conscience of an Economic Hit Man."

 

And I have to tell you, Amy, that, you know, it's an extraordinary story from the standpoint of  -  It's almost James Bondish, truly, and I mean...
 


AMY GOODMAN: Well that's certainly how the book reads.

JOHN PERKINS: Yeah, and it was, you know? And when the National Security Agency recruited me, they put me through a day of lie detector tests. They found out all my weaknesses and immediately seduced me. They used the strongest drugs in our culture, sex, power and money, to win me over. I come from a very old New England family, Calvinist, steeped in amazingly strong moral values.

 

I think I, you know, I'm a good person overall, and I think my story really shows how this system and these powerful drugs of sex, money and power can seduce people, because I certainly was seduced. And if I hadn't lived this life as an economic hit man, I think I'd have a hard time believing that anybody does these things.

 

And that's why I wrote the book, because our country really needs to understand, if people in this nation understood what our foreign policy is really about, what foreign aid is about, how our corporations work, where our tax money goes, I know we will demand change.
 


AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to John Perkins. In your book, you talk about how you helped to implement a secret scheme that funneled billions of dollars of Saudi Arabian petrol dollars back into the U.S. economy, and that further cemented the intimate relationship between the House of Saud and successive U.S. administrations. Explain.

JOHN PERKINS: Yes, it was a fascinating time. I remember well, you're probably too young to remember, but I remember well in the early seventies how OPEC exercised this power it had, and cut back on oil supplies. We had cars lined up at gas stations. The country was afraid that it was facing another 1929-type of crash - depression; and this was unacceptable. So, they - the Treasury Department hired me and a few other economic hit men. We went to Saudi Arabia. We...
 


AMY GOODMAN: You're actually called economic hit men  -  e.h.m.'s?

JOHN PERKINS: Yeah, it was a tongue-in-cheek term that we called ourselves. Officially, I was a chief economist. We called ourselves e.h.m.‘s. It was tongue-in-cheek. It was like, nobody will believe us if we say this, you know? And, so, we went to Saudi Arabia in the early seventies.

 

We knew Saudi Arabia was the key to dropping our dependency, or to controlling the situation. And we worked out this deal whereby the Royal House of Saud agreed to send most of their petro-dollars back to the United States and invest them in U.S. government securities.

 

The Treasury Department would use the interest from these securities to hire U.S. companies to build Saudi Arabia - new cities, new infrastructure - which we've done. And the House of Saud would agree to maintain the price of oil within acceptable limits to us, which they've done all of these years, and we would agree to keep the House of Saud in power as long as they did this, which we've done, which is one of the reasons we went to war with Iraq in the first place.

 

And in Iraq we tried to implement the same policy that was so successful in Saudi Arabia, but Saddam Hussein didn't buy. When the economic hit men fail in this scenario, the next step is what we call the jackals. Jackals are CIA - sanctioned people that come in and try to foment a coup or revolution. If that doesn't work, they perform assassinations. or try to. In the case of Iraq, they weren't able to get through to Saddam Hussein.

 

He had - His bodyguards were too good. He had doubles. They couldn't get through to him. So the third line of defense, if the economic hit men and the jackals fail, the next line of defense is our young men and women, who are sent in to die and kill, which is what we've obviously done in Iraq.
 


AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain how Torrijos died?

JOHN PERKINS: Omar Torrijos, the President of Panama. Omar Torrijos had signed the Canal Treaty with Carter much - and, you know, it passed our congress by only one vote. It was a highly contended issue. And Torrijos then also went ahead and negotiated with the Japanese to build a sea-level canal. The Japanese wanted to finance and construct a sea-level canal in Panama.

 

Torrijos talked to them about this which very much upset Bechtel Corporation, whose president was George Schultz and senior council was Casper Weinberger. When Carter was thrown out (and that's an interesting story - how that actually happened), when he lost the election, and Reagan came in and Schultz came in as Secretary of State from Bechtel, and Weinberger came from Bechtel to be Secretary of Defense, they were extremely angry at Torrijos - tried to get him to renegotiate the Canal Treaty and not to talk to the Japanese.

 

He adamantly refused. He was a very principled man. He had his problem, but he was a very principled man. He was an amazing man, Torrijos.

 

And so, he died in a fiery airplane crash, which was connected to a tape recorder with explosives in it, which... I was there. I had been working with him. I knew that we economic hit men had failed. I knew the jackals were closing in on him, and the next thing, his plane exploded with a tape recorder with a bomb in it. There's no question in my mind that it was CIA sanctioned, and most - many Latin American investigators have come to the same conclusion.

 

Of course, we never heard about that in our country.
 


AMY GOODMAN: So, where... when did your change your heart happen?

JOHN PERKINS: I felt guilty throughout the whole time, but I was seduced. The power of these drugs, sex, power, and money, was extremely strong for me. And, of course, I was doing things I was being patted on the back for. I was chief economist. I was doing things that Robert McNamara liked and so on.
 


AMY GOODMAN: How closely did you work with the World Bank?

JOHN PERKINS: Very, very closely with the World Bank. The World Bank provides most of the money that's used by economic hit men, it and the IMF. But when 9/11 struck, I had a change of heart. I knew the story had to be told because what happened at 9/11 is a direct result of what the economic hit men are doing.

 

And the only way that we're going to feel secure in this country again and that we're going to feel good about ourselves is if we use these systems we've put into place to create positive change around the world. I really believe we can do that. I believe the World Bank and other institutions can be turned around and do what they were originally intended to do, which is help reconstruct devastated parts of the world. Help - genuinely help poor people.

 

There are twenty-four thousand people starving to death every day. We can change that.
 


AMY GOODMAN: John Perkins, I want to thank you very much for being with us. John Perkins' book is called, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.