The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
John Perkins
Berrett-Koehler Publishers 2016

This is a true story that has all the elements of a real thriller, sex, espionage, deception, murder, blackmail, you name it. In this follow up to the original Confessions published in 2004 John Perkins chronicles recent developments in corporatocracy greed. In his words, Economic Hit Men, (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who are brought in to convince the political and financial leadership of underdeveloped countries to accept enormous development funds as “loans”.

The money comes from the World Bank, the US Agency for International Development, (USAID), and other foreign “aid” organizations and winds up in the hands of huge corporations who actually perform the development, (airports, bridges, dams, etc.), and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the world’s natural resources. When it comes time to repay the loans, alternative arrangements are usually made in terms of political influence, US military installations, or other forms of blackmail. If the country’s leaders refuse to comply, as many have, the jackals are sent in and the ruling powers are overthrown or assassinated. Examples are Jamie Roldos of Ecuador, and Omar Torrijos of Panama, both killed by US government sanctioned murders.

It all started in 1951, when Iran rebelled against a British petroleum company that was exploiting Iran’s natural resources and its people. The democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, nationalized all Iranian petroleum assets. England sought US help but feared military retaliation. Washington sent in CIA agent Kermit Roosevelt who succeeded in causing Mossadegh’s overthrow and the installation of US puppet Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.

The book follows Perkins recruitment by the engineering company MAIN, (actually a front for the CIA), out of college and the Peace Corps not just because of his abilities, but because of his ambition and willingness to endure hardship and what he now calls personality weaknesses. His job as an economist was to forecast and justify the huge loans necessary to approve whatever massive engineering or construction project in whatever country looked ripe. Most MAIN employees thought they were doing countries favors when they build power plants, highways, and ports, but it was all actually very self-serving.

One kind of an aside in the book that really struck me relates a talk Perkins had with Indonesian students in 1971 where they say that Arnold Tonybee, a British historian, predicted in the 1950’s in Civilizations on Trial and The World and the West that the next century’s real war would be between Christians and Muslims. You need religion, faith, substance behind your ideology. History demonstrates that faith, soul, a belief in higher powers is essential. Muslims have that more than anyone.

As Perkins rose to partner at MAIN he was a key player in many projects throughout the world, most under very dubious circumstances. Plenty of names like Bush and Cheney pop up when relating stories of political and military intervention in places like Panama. It was an EHM failure in the 1980s that led to war in Iraq. He had a few good things to say, such as, President Carter may have been an ineffective politician but he had a vision of America that was consistent with the one described in our Declaration of Independence. This is an anomaly when compared to his immediate predecessors and successors. It seems the others all think America should control the world and all its resources.

That was all in the original part of the book. The new part starts off with the warning that things are even worse now and we still haven’t woken up. NAFTA, CAFTA, TPP, TTIP, and other so called “free” trade agreements are all aimed at achieving sovereignty over governments in countries around the world. Rain forests auctioned off to oil companies in Ecuador, prevention of rise in hourly wage rates in Honduras. Exploitation of the natural resources in under developed countries continues at an alarming pace.

Gadhafi, Hussein, and many others who, although were harsh dictators in their own right, were eventually brought down not because of their treatment of their constituents, but because they stood in the way of profit for the West.

EHM activities of today are reflected in the behavior of some of the largest banks such as in the Libor scandal, and later the foreign currency price rigging in 2014. EHM behavior can also be seen in large companies like Walmart siphoning off billions of dollars from US taxpayers by establishing overseas tax havens.

Today’s jackals are the drone operators that according to Michael Flynn do more harm than good. The feeling of many countries is that they would rather accept loans from Beijing than Washington because Beijing doesn’t overthrow or kill the country’s leaders.

We need to change our mindset about pollution, buying the cheapest goods, achieving market share as primary goal, and not caring about sustainability.

Four pillars of the modern empire shackle us to a feudal and corrupt system.
  • fear
  • debt
  • insufficiency, (the temptation to keep consuming more)
  • divide-and-conquer mindset

The last chapters are devoted to what you can do. Here are a few examples:

  • Start with your individual behavior, (but don’t believe that that is enough).
  • You must act. Every day.
  • Develop an awareness of your own biases
  • Speak out. Join an organizations
  • Build communities and networks
  • Support a culture of ethical behavior and accountability



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