To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: A Book About the Evil Empire
you happened to glance at the NYTimes Book Review today,
you might have noticed a book on the best-seller list for the first
time, in ninth place. The blurb tells us: u201CConfessions
of an Economic Hit Man, by John Perkins. (Barrett-Koehler,
$14.97.) A former employee of an international consulting firm denounces
the American global empire and its u2018corporatocracy.'u201D
What's this all about? The book was published last fall, but only
now shows up as a best-seller? It only recently was brought to my
attention by a website fan who knows I've long argued that the International
Monetary Fund and its sister organization, the World Bank, constitute
an u201CEvil Empire.u201D The two u201Cinternational financial institutionsu201D
(IFI's) were founded in 1945 during the genesis of the United Nations
as u201Cdo-goodu201D enterprises. The IMF would assist countries trying
to keep their currencies tied to the dollar under the terms of the
1944 Bretton Woods Agreement. The World Bank would lend money at
low interest rates gathered from the rich countries to help poor
countries get off their backs.
Over the years, the process has been corrupted, with both the
IMF and World Bank becoming controlled by the multinational corporations
and their banks. When President Nixon went off the gold standard
in 1971, the IMF's reason for existence evaporated, because Bretton
Woods and the fixed dollar went up in smoke. Now the problem for
the big banks like Chase Manhattan, Citicorp and the Bank of America
1) As surplus dollars accumulated in their reserves and there
were no credit-worthy Americans wanting to borrow, the banks had
to think of ways to lend the money abroad or it would sit in their
vaults earning zip, which means it really is losing money as the
paper dollar — freed from its gold anchor — was inflating and
losing purchasing power. Citigroup's Walter Wriston (who died
last week) came up with the idea that the surplus should be loaned
to poor countries, even though they had no collateral, because
governments had to pay off their hard-currency loans or
lose their international credit ratings.
2) If the countries that borrowed from Chase or Citicorp could
not pay back interest or principle and did not worry about stiffing
the private bankers, they would have to swallow the non-performing
loans. The solution was to have the IMF, looking for something
to justify its existence, step in to collect the debt. All it
had to do was persuade the U.S. Congress to ante up billion or
two of taxpayer dollars to fill their coffers (and u201Creplenishu201D
them from time to time). They could then go to the deadbeat country
and say, u201CWe will give you this money so you can pay Chase and
Citicorp what you owe them, but you will have to raise taxes on
your own people and devalue your currency as the conditions for
What we have in this book from Mr. Perkins is an account of a
foot soldier in these operations of the Evil Empire. I'll get
his book and check it out, but from what I can gather about it
on the Internet he is well within the ballpark of what has been
going on. Are bankers evil by nature? Of course not. But as bankers
they follow the money, not giving a second thought to the conditions
in which they leave their debtors. The first priority of any institution
is self-preservation, and for the big banks, that means getting
paid back on their loans. Is this any way to run the world? No.
It is a dreadful way to operate, and it would end if our government
returned to a dollar/gold system and abided by it. If not, I'm
afraid nothing Mr. Perkins writes or that I write will change
a thing. The folks who control the money control our government
and that's that. It is interesting that Perkins does identify
the Bechtel Corporation and Halliburton as agents in this quiet
conspiracy to make sure the good old USA flourishes, even though
it means the relentless impoverishment of the poorest countries
of the world.
Here is an interview that Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now” had
with Perkins on November 9 last year. Remember his perspective
is not from the highest level, but note he mentions George Shultz
as an agent of the Evil Empire, which Shultz has been for decades.
It was Shultz who, with Walter Wriston and Milton Friedman, persuaded
Nixon to float the dollar and blow up the Bretton Woods monetary
system. Shultz, now an octagenarian, is still a power in the Establishment,
a key player at the Bechtel Corporation and a member of the Pentagon’s
Defense Policy Board, a member of the Perle Cabal. Of course,
the three men – thought it was the right thing to do at the
time, but in retrospect it wasn't.
Tuesday, November 9th, 2004
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man: How the U.S. Uses Globalization
to Cheat Poor Countries Out of Trillions
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 taking over their economies.
John Perkins describes himself as a former economic hit man
– a highly paid professional who cheated countries around
the globe out of trillions of dollars.
20 years ago Perkins began writing a book with the working title,
Conscience of an Economic Hit Men.
Perkins writes, “The book was to be dedicated to the presidents
of two countries, men who had been his clients whom I respected
and thought of as kindred spirits – Jaime Rolds, president
of Ecuador, and Omar Torrijos, president of Panama. Both had just
died in fiery crashes. Their deaths were not accidental. They
were assassinated because they opposed that fraternity of corporate,
government, and banking heads whose goal is global empire. We
Economic Hit Men failed to bring Rolds and Torrijos around, and
the other type of hit men, the CIA-sanctioned jackals who were
always right behind us, stepped in.
John Perkins goes on to write: “I was persuaded to stop writing
that book. I started it four more times during the next twenty
years. On each occasion, my decision to begin again was influenced
by current world events: the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1980,
the first Gulf War, Somalia, and the rise of Osama bin Laden.
However, threats or bribes always convinced me to stop.”
But now Perkins has finally published his story. The book is
titled Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. John Perkins joins
us now in our Firehouse studios.
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: Its 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 C.I.A. 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 C.I.A. and the N.S.A. 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
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 u201CConscience of
an Economic Hit Man.u201D And I have to tell you, Amy, that, you know,
its 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.
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 –
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 C.I.A.-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 C.I.A. sanctioned,
and most – many Latin American investigators have come to
the same conclusion. Of course, we never heard about that in our
AMY GOODMAN: So, where – when did your change your heart
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 I.M.F. 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.