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Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

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I have not for a long time come across a book that was as gripping as John Perkins’ “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”.

In fact it was difficult to put it down for it rivalled the best sellers of John Grisham, Nelson de Mille or any of the others. This book however is not a fiction thriller. It is a real life story, a confession of one who was deeply involved in a system that he now denounces and warns us about. Well, who is an Economic Hit Man? {{more}}Author John Perkins explains;

“Economic hit men (EHMs) are 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 the 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 the empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization”

Perkins said that he should know because he was one of them. The book has had its fair share of criticisms from sympathisers and defenders of the status quo who argue about the lack of details and who suggest that much of it is not verifiable. Perkins’ book was not meant to be an academic text but a confession by one who was sucked into a system.

The author is an American who was first recruited by the National Security Agency (NASA), spent a brief period with the Peace Corps in Latin America and was then offered and accepted a job by Chas T. Main, an international consultancy firm. It was there that he witnessed and participated in the workings of what he described as a global empire. His job as part of the system was to help to promote the interests of a coalition of U.S corporations, governments and international financial institutions and banks. One commentator sums up the design of the system; “In a nutshell, the game is played this way. People like Perkins work for consulting firms, and their job is to entice a foreign head of state to go deeply into debt. They do this by greatly exaggerating the economic returns on big projects- such as dams and electrification systems.”

Really, the work is a scathing indictment of what Perkins describes as a global empire and of the involvement of corporations. In fact he describes the system as a ‘corporatoracy’. As one who always felt that what we call the market system and globalisation of which it is a part, were designed for the benefit of the developed countries especially the United States of America, the richest and most powerful of them, I was shocked by the nature of the controls and the constant massaging of the system. Perkins however puts emphasis on the system itself. He downplays any idea of a conspiracy by a few. What in his view is at stake is a concept that is widely accepted, that “all economic growth benefits humankind and that the greater the growth, the more widespread the benefits. This belief also has a corollary: that those people who excel at stoking the fires of economic growth should be exalted and rewarded, while those born at the fringes are available for exploitation.”

The media over the past two years, in particular, has highlighted the award of contracts in Iraq and more recently in New Orleans to companies such as Bechtel and Halliburton. And of course, the relationship between these companies and the U.S government is clear for anyone to see. Dick Cheney, Vice President and a former CEO of Halliburton and George Schultz, former Treasury Secretary’s link with Betchel, among others. Then there is the involvement of the President with a number of oil companies.

Perkins writes, “In the private sector, the Saudis supported Harken Energy, a struggling oil company in which George W. Bush and his long time ally, former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, have appeared before Saudis at fundraisers for the Carlyle Group, arguably the biggest private equity firm in the world. Today, former president Bush continues to serve as a senior adviser to the firm, whose investors allegedly include a Saudi accused of ties to terrorist support groups”

None of this is new but these revelations are not coming from some radical academic pulling the threads together to build his case but from one who was a participant, an insider in the system and became revolted against it through a series of chances and coincidences. His encounters with a number of persons who showed him a different side of the coin were important in getting him to understand the nature of what he was involved in. Omar Torrijos of Panama became one of his heroes. In fact the caption under a billboard with a picture of General Torrijos that he saw in Panama remains with him. “Omar’s ideal is freedom; the missile is not invented that can kill an ideal;” so were his encounters with a Panamanian Fidel, Yamin from Tehran and Paula, a Columbian Fashion Designer who convinced him “that I would never be happy as long as I continued in that role.” Another of his heroes was Jaime Roldós of Ecquador who died in an aeroplane crash in 1981.

The Economic Hit Man was the first line of attack. If that failed then other means were used. Omar Torrijos and Jaime Roldós defied the U.S. Torrijos refused to renegotiate the Panama Canal Treaty as demanded by Reagan and Roldós fought against the oil companies. Torrijos and Roldós were to die in plane/helicopter crashes; Roldós on May 24, 1981 and Torrijos on July 31, 1981. Were these mere coincidences? Perkins does not think so. Those leaders had defied the Economic Hit Men and so another tactic had to be used. This has an historical precedent. The European imperialists first tried to control the colonials by the destruction of their culture. When that failed their armies were used to complete the job.

Perkins helps to put the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan into perspective. Saddam was, in his view, not going along with what he calls the Economic hit man scenario that was to shape Iraq into another Saudi Arabia. His invasion of Kuwait gave the USA the pretext to launch its attack despite the fact that senior Bush had attacked Panama illegally just under a year before. It must also be remembered, too, that the Saudis with American cooperation bankrolled the Afghan war against the Soviet Union, a war in which Osama bin Laden was a major player. Really “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” not only makes good reading but it makes a lot of sense and helps us to understand the shenanigans of those in control of the global empire. ‘Confessions…’ is compulsory reading for anyone who wants to understand the workings of the ‘system’.

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