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The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals & the Truth about Global Corruption
Release Date: December, 2005
John Perkins started and stopped writing Confessions of an Economic Hit Man four times over 20 years. He says he was threatened and bribed in an effort to kill the project, but after 9/11 he finally decided to go through with this expose of his former professional life. Perkins, a former chief economist at Boston strategic-consulting firm Chas. T. Main, says he was an "economic hit man" for 10 years, helping U.S. intelligence agencies and multinationals cajole and blackmail foreign leaders into serving U.S. foreign policy and awarding lucrative contracts to American business. "Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars," Perkins writes. Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is an extraordinary and gripping tale of intrigue and dark machinations. Think John Le Carré, except it's a true story. Perkins writes that his economic projections cooked the books Enron-style to convince foreign governments to accept billions of dollars of loans from the World Bank and other institutions to build dams, airports, electric grids, and other infrastructure he knew they couldn't afford. The loans were given on condition that construction and engineering contracts went to U.S. companies. Often, the money would simply be transferred from one bank account in Washington, D.C., to another one in New York or San Francisco. The deals were smoothed over with bribes for foreign officials, but it was the taxpayers in the foreign countries who had to pay back the loans. When their governments couldn't do so, as was often the case, the U.S. or its henchmen at the World Bank or International Monetary Fund would step in and essentially place the country in trusteeship, dictating everything from its spending budget to security agreements and even its United Nations votes. It was, Perkins writes, a clever way for the U.S. to expand its "empire" at the expense of Third World citizens. While at times he seems a little overly focused on conspiracies, perhaps that's not surprising considering the life he's led. --Alex Roslin
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Posted by Vaughn Taylor on 4/26/2005
Many of the reviews here refute the truthfulness of this book because Perkins does not provide evidence for every one of his claims. But, this is precisely what makes the book an exciting and fast read. How can Perkins be expected to provide evidence for influencing events in other countries? Where should we expect to find documentation of these nefarious deeds? The inner workings of organizations like MAIN, Halliburtion, and Brown & Root are only ever known when a dissenter arises.
From my perspective, it all seems to add up. I lived in Ecuador in the 80s. I was young (18), and I didn't know much about politics at the time. I personally saw many of the projects that Perkins speaks of in this book. I heard the complaints from my Ecuadorian friends about how the U.S. was bankrupting their economy by "loaning" money for extensive construction projects. I saw the jungle along Rio Napo being deforested by unknown (to me) companies. I spent time in oil towns in the jungle -- like Shell. I saw the dam that Perkins speaks of in his book.
The only way to gather proof about the truthfulness of his claims is to see it first hand. Though I seriously doubt that most of us have the guts to travel to the places where these things happen. Denial, regarding these issues, seems terribly naive.
Well Done expose on USA international subterfuge
Posted by Dan Darrel on 4/24/2005
I was intrigued by this book inasmuch as I worked in the international export field for several major American corporations. I had the benefit of traveling to most of the countries that were discussed in Perkin's book. Also, I was stationed in the Panama Canal Zone with the US Army in the early 1960's. In addition, I was born in Central America, and my father worked for the infamous United Fruit Company. To say the least, I agree with Mr. Perkins in most of his expose. Export products that I shipped overseas were often financed by USAID, WorldBank, or some other international lending agency. And of course, the USA was the prime funder of these organizations. Eventually, I was sent into some of these third world countries, and I was exposed to the working class as well as to the upper crust of these societies. If you had to get to the nitty-gritty of this tale, you would have to think about Darwin's theory of "Survival of the Fittest." Ultimately, the USA will throw its weight around as long as it has the military muscle to do so. Unfortunately, history tells us that all world empires collapse, and the USA will follow that trend lend. There are no exceptions to this as history has recorded thus far. Surely, there must be a better way for capitalism to thrive, and the USA even with good intentions is like an elephant in a china shop. In all my years of growing up in America, I found that most Americans know so very little about their external world outside of their own country. While most Americans think of themselves as the "good guys in the white hat," Perkins book will dispel that notion. And, rightfully so!
Fascinating Look Inside the Belly of the Beast
Posted by Anne Weverka on 11/11/2004
The modus operandi of the American empire has always been a lot more subtle than that of our imperial predecesors, like Britain and Rome. We don't send in the army and install puppets, except as an absolute last resort (Vietnam, Iraq). That looks bad, it's expensive, and it's too much trouble. All we really want is to control other countries' economies and get what we want from them, particularly oil. As much as possible we try to use private companies (with close ties to our government) to do this--that way we can even deny we are an empire! John Perkins shows exactly how this works, the diabolically brilliant way we snooker gullible foreign leaders into taking out huge loans that they'll never be able to repay--this is what Perkins did. He was part of the con job. Then we have them right where we want them--through our proxies we dictate repayment terms that pretty much allow us to run their economies to our liking. I notice some reviewers have questioned how believable the book is, but it doesn't seem particularly outlandish to me. This isn't 007 stuff. There are no secret weapons or mind control drugs or super villains here. Perkins just shows, step by step, how America gets it's way through far less flamboyant means. But it's not just cold analysis--it's Perkins own story, written in the first person, of how he came to see how evil this all was and finally got out of the game. It's a fascinating, sometimes appalling, but ultimately hopeful story.