Monday, June 18, 2007

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

John Perkins' career as an economic hit man (EHM) has taken him all over the globe. He details his activities as an EHM in his best-seller Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and in his new book just released, The Secret History of the American Empire.

His job as an EHM was to persuade third world governments to accept huge loans for modernization programs that would supposedly bring prosperity and economic growth. He was employed by a large contracting firm, MAIN, (no longer in business) similar to Haliburton or Bechtel. In essence, his instructions were to present falsified and very rosy statistics to seal the deal. The unstated goal was to set up a sweetheart deal for U.S. contractors and corporations to build the mammoth infrastructure projects and exploit the labor and natural resources of the countries involved.

The EHM worked in concert with the underbelly of the U.S. government to influence governments in these vulnerable third world nations by whatever means necessary.

Perkins joined the Peace Corps fresh out of college and was assigned to work with the indigenous inhabitants of the rain forest in Ecuador. It was a profound experience and one that gave him unique insight into the lives and struggle of exploited peoples in the countries he would later encounter as an EHM.

His seduction by the money, power, beautiful women and prestige he enjoyed as an EHM was never total and complete. His culpability for the exploitation of the people and devastation of the environment that were the end results of his EHM deals weighed on his conscience.

The end result of his EHM successes resulted in the funnelling of vast amounts of wealth to his corporate masters, and to the corrupt and elite people in positions of power in the countries he had signed deals with. Those governments he failed to persuade were targeted for assasinations and coups fomented by the covert operatives he refers to as "jackals".

Eventually, he resigned his EHM job and moved on in life. After expressing his intention to write about the activities of his former profession, he was alternately threatened and bribed to stay silent. After the events of 9/11, John Perkins felt that his story must be told, whatever the personal consequences. He wrote Confessions of an Economic Hit Man in secret, and after being rejected by every mainstream publisher, finally found a smaller publisher who was willing to risk it.

If you have not read his books, I highly recommend that you do so. The Secret History of the American Empire is just hitting bookstores. It picks up where Confessions left off, and ends on an optimistic note with suggestions about what each of us can do to begin to set things right.

Everyone I know who reads Confessions is profoundly affected to learn of the extent of the global political/corporate corruption described. Most of us sort-of know that the goods we buy at Wal-Mart, other big-box retailers, and malls are produced by people who are little more than virtual slaves working and living in squalid and inhumane conditions, but seldom is anyone in-your-face with proof of it. If this is not a wake-up call, I don't know what will move people to take action, and make changes in their buying habits. The expose of Nike factories is particularly heartbreaking, and they are just an example of the horrendous conditions in most third-world factories producing goods for the U.S. market.

Local blogger Bob Ranney (An Even Keel) has a few observations:

I have recently begun reading a book that will most likely end up next
to "Flyboys" on my list of required reading for all citizens. It is John Perkins', "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man".

In it he describes his recruitment, training and actions as an EHM as he and his colleagues call themselves.

It's worth a read just to learn about the existence and day-to-day doings of these folks, but he also includes a good bit of information about the effects of what they do, and the only conclusion a sane person can draw from it all is that our country has long been embarked on a soulless journey that drags everyone it touches through unnecessary hell. Our politicians spout high and mighty morality stories, but the results of their actions are pure evil.

Here is an excerpt from the introduction:

"Today we see the results of this system run amok.

Executives at our most respected companies hire people at near-slave wages to toil under inhuman conditions in Asisan sweatshops.

Oil companies wantonly pump toxins into rain forest rivers, consciously killing people, animals, and plants, and committing genocide among ancient cultures.

The pharmaceutical industry denies lifesaving medicines to millions of
HIV-infected Africans. Twelve million families in our own United States worry about their next meal.

The energy industry creates an Enron.

The accounting industry creates an Andersen.

The income ratio of the one-fifth of the world's population in the wealthiest countries to the one-fifth in the poorest went from 30 to 1 in 1960 to 74 to 1 in 1995.

The United States spends over $87 billion conducting a war in Iraq while the United Nations estimates that for less than half that amount we could
provide clean water, adequate diet, sanitation services, and basic education to every person on the planet.

And we wonder why terrorists attack us?

Bob Ranney ends his remarks with a call to conscience for each of us:

"Putting your life on the line so we can rape another country is not patriotism, it is madness. Isn't it time we stopped? If we want to show our patriotism, why not show it to the world and not just to one country? Why not stand up and shout, "Enough?"

I hear you, Bob.

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