Confessions of an economic hitman
Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man by John Perkins
The first novel by John Perkins is an expose into the underworld of a little known section of government activities which detrimentally affect native populations and the efficacy of democracies worldwide. Perkins tells about his own experience working for a private international consulting firm which advised the World Bank in efforts to fund huge loans for poor developing countries all around the globe. He explains how he was indoctrinated into the system of cheating poor countries out of trillions of dollars, plunging the countries into insurmountable debt which must then be repaid through the extraction of natural resources, military assistance and political support. He reveals commonly used tactics to pressure small underdeveloped countries into accepting terms which adversely affect the ability of their people to survive and thrive. Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is an intriguing and deeply personal story of one’s man understanding of the meaning of globalization and empire in America today. Perkins reveals shocking details of how the United States Government and corporate America work hand in hand in maintaining a dominating role in international affairs by using greed and corruption to inhibit foreign governments from economic development.
Chapter 1- An Economic Hit Man Is Born
Perkins begins his novel with a few pages describing his family and childhood in rural New Hampshire. He makes a point to mention that his family was middle class but they had very little spending money for extravagant purchases. His parents taught at a prestigious all boy high school, which he attended at no cost. He vividly recalls feeling like he didn’t fit in with his wealthy classmates, which helped to construct a psychological framework that, later in life, led to his seduction into the underworld of dirty global politics. While growing up, he remembers constantly being reminded by his parents of social class placement and structure. They stressed attending a “good” university and staying away from questionable lower class, and largely poor, people. Once at university, Middlebury in rural Vermont, Perkins went through something of a rebellious phase. He rejected his parents incessant harping on class and achieving success in life. He defiantly dropped out of school, giving up a full academic scholarship, in order to attend Boston University. While living in Boston he became friends with his later wife, Ann. As a couple barely out of school in the late sixties, John was fearful that he would be drafted and sent to Vietnam. Ann set up an interview with an official from the National Security Agency for him because those working for the NSA were exempt from the draft. Through a series of events and interviews John was in line to receive a position as an economist within the Agency, however, life was about to take a radical turn for the newly married couple. On a whim John attended a seminar at Boston University focused on the topic of volunteering for the Peace Corps. John had always dreamed of living with native peoples and coming to understand their cultural practices so, after receiving some positive advice, he and Ann packed up and moved to Ecuador to live with a native tribe. While living in Ecuador, serving as a Peace Corps volunteer, a man from a private consulting firm came to visit John and Ann, which marked the beginning of John’s association with the world of political domination through economic control. The consulting firm worked for the World Bank primarily. They submitted their analyses and opinions of whether foreign governments should be granted huge loans by the World Bank to fund development projects. The firm kept a very low profile. In fact, they were registered officially as an engineering firm but at that time they were beginning to take on economists to provide the World Bank with statistical information gathered on each project the bank was considering funding. The agent from MAIN International Consulting Firm praised John and Ann’s efforts in the Central American jungle nation of Ecuador. He also requested that John analyze the local political, social, and economic environment and report back to the NSA with his observations. Perkins did so loyally. Upon the completion of their time with the Peace Corps John was offered a job as an economist at MAIN International. Soon after being hired Perkins came to realize that, although he was hired as an economist, his real job was much closer to that of a secret, or double, agent.
Chapter 2- In For Life
After accepting the position and beginning his daily work at MAIN International Perkins began to wonder what it was the MAIN International was in the business of doing. He observed the way the company worked and was structured but he was unsure as to what the goal of the corporation was as a whole. He remarks that there is an obvious gender bias with many women working at the level of secretary but almost none in the executive ranks. The public library was where Perkins spends most of his days researching his first assignment, the Indonesian island of Java, as well as a possible future assignment, Kuwait. He studied the history of the countries from economic and political perspectives. One day while studying up on the format of common economic forecasts an attractive woman, Claudine, approaches Perkins. She explains to him that she holds a very prestigious position within the corporation and she was to be his tutor, of sorts, in actual position. She goes on to inform Perkins that he was handpicked to be an Economic Hit Man. What that meant, essentially, was that Perkins was to make economic predictions for the prospect of a country that may be granted a huge loan from the World Bank. The linchpin being that Perkins was to always produce statistics that favored the loan being granted and showed increased economic prosperity for the country as a direct result of whatever the loan was to fund. Basically, on the long term if Perkins could be depended on to produce the desired reports and statistics the loan would be funded by the World Bank. The money from the loans went directly to international firms, like MAIN International, Bechtel, and Halliburton, amongst others. The contractors were paid off and the country to which the loan was granted would be left with a huge debt burden for many decades to come. The debt that was owed would be used by the United States government to spread the American global agenda. Because of the huge debt the leaders of such countries would submit to supporting US military ventures, and providing political support. Claudine goes onto explain the history of using economic power as a means of control and submission by the American government. There is a brief foray into the 1951 ouster of the democratically elected leader of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh. This event marks the first occasion the American government abandoned the typical pressure tactic of applying military might to affect the outcome of a foreign dilemma, and instead opted for the more subtle techniques of bribery and threats. Then she informs Perkins that he has a limited amount of time to decide whether or not he will accept the position for which he was hired. She promises a very rewarding future for him in his family but makes explicitly clear that once he accepts the job he is “in for life”. Perkins is, at first, hesitant that his actions will not produce a positive result for all affected by his work. He concludes that he can do more good by working from the inside and that he was certainly the exception to the rule in his profession. He was not going to be seduced by money, power, and sex, although he had already been seduced quite completely by Claudine in the Boston Public Library.
Chapter 3- Indonesia Lessons For An EHM
This chapter is basically an extremely brief overview of the history of political dominance in the island nation of Indonesia. Perkins describes the long history of imperial domination by the Dutch who leaders saw Indonesia as the crown jewel in their empire because of its spices and rich fabrics. Early in the 20th century the Dutch finally gave up control over the islands of Indonesia, which began a brief period of independence. A coup in 1965 resulted in Communist forces aligned with the Chinese taking control. American fear of growing Communist powers throughout the world prompted the US government to take action in Indonesia. They came up with a program for providing electric power to Indonesia which would ultimately lead to an ongoing American presence in the region. John’s first assignment was to take assessment of the proposed electrification plan. Before setting off, Perkins met Claudine for a private dinner in her apartment. Once there she warned him to never speak of their meetings or that fact that they had ever even met because she would deny it all. He also noted that, in fact, his relationship with Claudine was completely separate from MAIN International and untraceable as all their meetings had occurred in her apartment. Looking back in reflection Perkins sees that his relationship with Claudine was was one the major factors of his break up with his wife Ann.
Chapter 4- Saving A Country From Communism
The ideas and tales surrounding the ancient island nation of Indonesia enchanted John Perkins. He could not wait to experience first hand the exotic spices and women in elaborate colorful costumes. When he did arrive, however, he was confronted with a very different reality. The stuff of the stories was present but it was coupled with astounding poverty and filth. He mentions black rivers and cardboard housing for a large segment of the Indonesian population of Jakarta. The group of engineers and economists from MAIN International were all escorted to a posh dinner in the penthouse of the nicest hotel in Jakarta, where they were to live for three months while carrying out their mission. Charlie Illingworth, the project manager, is described as a war connoisseur. He collected memorabilia and read book after book documenting accounts from all kinds of wars throughout history. He explains that the mission is to provide electricity to Java, the most populous place in the world. Of course there was also a mission behind the mission which was to keep Communism out of the island nation and provide all the electricity related infrastructure required for oil extraction, production, and exportation. American corporations would be funded to provide the design and labor for the entire project, which would bring many westerners to the nation and it would also help to build a relationship between the Indonesian government and the American businessmen. America would then doubly benefit by obtaining oil from newly efficient Indonesian producers. Perkins, although on board with the mission, had trouble sleeping because he understood that his colleagues and his goals were selfish and greedy. He could see that electricity and the promotion of capitalism would not benefit the majority of Indonesian. It would make a few men at the top of the population pyramid rich and force everyone else deeper into debt, despair, and poverty.
Chapter 5- Selling My Soul
The group of eleven men spent about one week in the capital city of Jakarta before Charlie made the decision to move the group to a smaller city in order to escape the constant distractions of the metropolis of Jakarta. The men visited the embassy and got all the necessary paperwork for their stay in Indonesia in order. Then they were moved to Bandung, into a Dutch colonial style villa. They were given a full staff of various servants in the villa and they each had an off road vehicle with a private driver and translator at their disposal. Charlie explained that the first few weeks were for gathering data, then the economic projection for growth would be made, which would allow the engineers to design and build the necessary components of an electrical system that would supply the power to the region. Charlie stressed over and over again the importance of favorable economic forecasts, which made John understand his critical nature to the project as a whole. One of the men on the team was an older gentleman that was the chief load forecaster for the New England Electric System. Howard Parker is described as a bitter old man who never was able to reach his own career goals. He and John had a conversation about the plausibility of such a rosy economic forecast. The conversation upsets Perkins because Howard accuses him of being in it for the money and cooking the numbers for the benefit of a few. After much internal deliberation, Perkins comes to the conclusion that even if he held the company line and made predictions that were designed to please his employers rather than accurately predict the economic growth of the region, it would be no problem because Howard would make accurate predictions and the company would prefer his because of his seniority and rank. John Perkins slept well thinking he had solved his own dilemma. The next morning however, Howard Parker is struck ill with a severe amoebic attack and is forced to return to the United States.
Chapter 6- My Role as Inquisitor
Perkins meets the son of the caretaker of the estate that the group from MAIN are staying in in Bandung. His name is Rasmon and he is a student of economics at the local university. John assumes Rasy, as his friends call him, is going to ask him for a job eventually. Rasy teaches John Bahasa Indonesia, which is a local Indonesian dialect that is simple and easy for foreigners to pick up quickly. The men spend a lot of time together going on different trips to gather data. Rasy decides one day to show Perkins the true Indonesia, the real city around them. John remembers the night that he spent carousing with Rasy and his friends to be one of the most enjoyable evenings during his stay in Indonesia. After a few weeks in Indonesia, Perkins takes note that all of his meetings are planned ahead of time and the statistics and information he seeks is presented to him in an oddly impersonal manner. He comments that all the officials he set up meetings with would simply hand him a folder with data in it and that they would always refer to him as an American interrogator in the local dialect. A feeling that the data he collected was contrived by some higher government official, or perhaps someone holding a high position within an international corporation, was one he could not shake.
Chapter 7- Civilization on Trial
Rasy invites Perkins to be his guest at a traditional Indonesian puppet show, called a dalang. Perkins notes the beauty of the night at the outdoor setting of the show. He speaks of the food which is passed around for everyone to enjoy. When the show starts, it is described as a feat of true talent. Only one person operates all the puppets and does all of their voices. There is a classic section of the performance which features Indonesian folk tales and historic traditions and legends. Then the show took an unexpected turn. The characters of Richard Nixon, Uncle Sam, and other world leaders took the stage. A map of the Middle East and Far East dropped down as a back drop. The American president proceeded to take various countries off the map and toss them into the garbage while shouting anti-Muslim epithets. Perkins grew uncomfortable, but Rasy assured him that his presence at the show was acceptable and he was perfectly safe. That type of political show for the public was commonplace and the ideas presented in the performance were well known and accepted. After the show Perkins enjoyed talking and carousing once again with Rasy and his friends. He was surprised at the general level of knowledge of world affairs and international issues by common people in Indonesia. Perkins is urged to read certain philosophic offerings by well known American writers in order to increase his knowledge of the mindset of those in charge of American politics and foreign affairs. Rasy and his friends put forward the notion that the next big conflict in the world will be between Muslims and Christians because the West and the Christians have imperial goals and the only group big and strong enough to take them on is the Muslims. A few days after the memorable and thought provoking evening the local Indonesian politician featured in the dalang, who stood up for the Indonesian culture and all oppressed peoples throughout the world in the puppet show, was struck and killed by a hit and run driver.
Chapter 8- Jesus, Seen Differently
The night spent at the dalang affected Perkins in the days to come. He thought about the performance and the response of the crowd. He considered the role of the United States government in foreign countries and the role of American corporations in all levels of government, foreign and domestic. He wondered whether any aide given to foreign countries was done with the goal of altruism and generosity. All around him he saw corruption, greed, and despair. Eventually, he came to the conclusion that the men he worked for truly believed they were exporting freedom and economic growth to struggling people around the world. Interestingly enough he comments that those countries that enjoy international power and those whose citizens live in general ease are the same countries with the highest rates of suicide, violet crime, drug abuse, divorce, and crime. The wealthiest societies are also the least happy societies throughout history and all over the world. Perkins ponders whether the framers of the Constitution would have supported what has become of their governmental experiment. On his last night in Indonesia Perkins had a vivid dream of Jesus. Christ stood in front of him in his dream as a man with curly black hair and a dark complexion. This Jesus heaved a car axle up onto his shoulder and has a tire rim as a metallic halo. He said to Perkins, ” If I were to come now, you would see me differently….because the world has changed.”
Chapter 9- The Opportunity of a Lifetime
Upon returning to Boston, John Perkins was summoned to the President of MAIN International. Perkins was intimidated by this figure, Bruno Zambotti. He was worried about the end result of their meeting. Bruno immediately told Perkins that Howard Parker had been fired due to his lack of ability to accurately assess economic growth in any region, specifically Indonesia. Parker had predicted a growth of only about seven or eight percent a year, which displeased many people at MAIN headquarters. His low forecast made it less likely that analysts from the World Bank would give their stamp of approval, which would detrimentally affect the possibility of a loan being granted to the Indonesian government. Thus, Parker was fired and Perkins was promoted to Chief Economist. After leaving the MAIN office building Perkins was eager to share the news of his promotion with Claudine. He called, only to receive no response. He went to her apartment and a young couple answered the door. They told him that they did not know any person by the name of Claudine, and no forwarding address by the previous tenant was left. Perkins was stunned. It was at that moment he realized how deeply he had embedded himself in a dangerous game. All of the fantastic spy stories Claudine told him about before he left for Indonesia were absolutely true. He left the apartment building in disbelief and a bit fearful for his own future. Perkins still had to present his findings to the analysts from the World Bank. He had to win their approval or his promotion and his job would be in jeopardy. After many hours of being questioned and grilled relentlessly the analysts approved Perkins findings stating a seventeen to twenty percent growth rate of the Indonesian economy as a direct result of the electrical infrastructure loan. After receiving approval John Perkins was sent on a whirlwind tour of major international cities to speak on behalf of the project and his companies role in it. Many powerful people from foreign government praised John and his work. He felt powerful but his doubts about the goodness and benevolent nature of his work stayed with him constantly. He thought extensively on questions of a highly philosophic nature about power, the nature of war, and who benefits from war. One afternoon Bruno summoned Perkins to his office for another meeting. Once again nervous Perkins entered the room not knowing what to expect. Bruno looked John squarely in the eye and offered him “the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Chapter 10- Panama’s President and Hero
While driving through a deluge of rain in Panama’s capital Perkins sees a billboard featuring Panama’s president Omar Torrijos. He tells a brief, but fascinating history of Panama as a nation, and the rise to power of Torrijos. The famed canal was actually began by the French in the late nineteenth century. The project was riddled with obstacles and suffered tragedy after tragedy. Eventually it was abandoned until Theodore Roosevelt took interest in completing it with American support and financial backing. At the time Panama was a part of Colombia. When the government in Bogota refused to sign over the canal zone to the U.S. Roosevelt sent a warship down to threaten the local population. Under much duress the Columbian government released the land and Roosevelt declared Panama “liberated” from Colombian rule. A puppet government was established and the canal zone was granted to the U.S. to do whatever it wished with. Panama was ruled by an elite group of families for eight generations before the populist leader Torrijos rose through the military ranks of the Panamanian national guard and got elected as President. He appealed to the poor and lower middle classes who had not been represented in government at all. Perkins makes it a point to recognize that Torrijos was neither aligned with Communist forces or the Western Anti- Communist forces. He was his own leader, bringing independence and freedom to his people. Perkins writes about the Monroe Doctrine and its ridiculous premise that the United States has special rights granted by God over all the hemisphere. Under the doctrine, the U.S. could invade any nation that refused to back U.S. policies. He also mentions the School of the Americas, which is located in the canal zone of Panama. This establishment was designed and run by the U.S. government as a tropical warfare training school which specialized in interrogation and covert operational skills.
Chapter 11- Pirates in the Canal Zone
John Perkins is introduced to his personal guide for the trip, Fidel. Together, the two men drive through various parts of the canal zone and surrounding environs. Like Indonesia Perkins is exposed to the poorest areas of the city. He sees standing fetid water and children with distended stomachs begging for change in the streets. Then the two pass into the canal zone, which is full of lush green landscaped lawns, country club resorts, and opulent mansions. Fidel confides in John to express his sadness that many American who visit Panama, or those that live in the canal zone, refuse to learn about the local culture. The two men run into an American family picnicking on an old fort used to fight off English pirates many centuries ago. The father underscores Fidel’s point by extolling his gratitude for being American and living in the canal zone. He was happy he didn’t have to expose his family to what reality was for the people “over there”.
Chapter 12- Soldiers and Prostitutes
Fidel escorts Perkins to an area of Panama that borders the affluent Canal Zone. The area is run down, dilapidated, and Fidel warns John to never return at night without an escort. As the two men walk the street toward their destination,two boys playing in the street run right into them. After apologizing, they explain they were playing a shoot out game where the older brother was acting as the US General in charge of the canal zone, while the younger brother was a native Panamanian looking for revenge and shouting for the general to go home. Fidel and John arrive at a bar that features various women from neighboring Central American countries stripping for off duty soldiers from the Canal Zone. Fidel explains that the waitresses are Panamanian and are not to be touched by the men in the bar, however, the stripping women are foreigners with virtually no protection from the whims of the soldiers. The room is lined with Panamanian men with sharp eyes for everything going on in the bar. John and Fidel converse about the plight of the stripping women and how they have found themselves seemingly happy in such a depraved environment. Fidel illuminates the discussion with the background information that many of the women had chosen to flee their country of origin because of ruthless and brutal dictators. He said many of them had suffered through years of violence and had lost much, if not all, of their families. Fidel notes that to them stripping for soldiers is not so bad and it gives them the opportunity to make some cash to start out new somewhere.
Chapter 13- Conversations with the General
Unexpectedly, Perkins is summoned to General Omar Torrijos for a conversation. Perkins describes Torrijos as a typically dressed Panamanian but extremely well informed about world events and the role of the United States and the CIA in international affairs. The two men speak of the over throw of Mohamman Mossadegh in Iran in the early fifties that was orchestrated by the CIA. Torrijos makes it known to Perkins that he is aware of the game companies like MAIN and Bechtel are playing with poor countries around the world. He tells a fascinating, albeit brief, history of Guatemala and United Fruit. Torrijos and his chosen subject of talk makes John feel nervous as to what the nature of his visit is, so he asks directly, “Why did you invite me here?” Torrijos explains that in order to follow through with his mission to modernize Panama for the good of its people, including the poor, he must find a way to fund massive infrastructure projects. He is averse to giving the contract to Bechtel for reasons discussed throughout the chapter. He tells John that MAIN will receive the contract without dispute if John helps Torrijos to send the message to the world over that Panama stands alone without the aide or backing from China, Cuba, or the US. Perkins notes at the end of the chapter that an unspoken understanding arose from that meeting that he would receive praise and large contracts if he did the bidding of Torrijos on the world stage.
Chapter 14- Entering a New Sinister Period in Economic History
Perkins gives his account, from his perspective as chief economist at MAIN, of the formation, and impact, of OPEC in the 1960’s and the subsequent oil embargo of the early seventies. At the beginning of this shift in economic practices, OPEC had the upper hand. The embargo crippled the American economy and the industrial petroleum corporations. During that time, Perkins would frequently meet with friends and debate the causes and effects that OPEC and the embargo would have on the global economy. No one, he said, could have fully understood what was really going to happen as a result of such actions. Perkins writes how the 1960’s was a pivotal point in global economic philosophy and practice. Robert McNamara was, in Perkin’s view, the single greatest influence in that shift. McNamara rose through the ranks of the Ford Motor Company, eventually becoming the first president of the company that was not a member of the Ford family in 1960. John F. Kennedy appointed him the Secretary of Defense during his presidency. McNamara was an economist himself and he utilized his statistically based economic theory to manage troop levels and funding for Vietnam. He promoted “aggressive leadership”, which became the new popular teaching method at top business schools around the country. After his term as Secretary of defense McNamara moved on to become the head of the World Bank. To many Robert McNamara was the embodiment of the military-industrial complex. His various positions shocked many as they were an obvious breach in the separation of powers. He headed a major corporation, a government cabinet, and an international bank. Perkins notes that it did not surprise him in the least bit and he ends the chapter with a long list of notable figures that played the same game with their respective careers.
Chapter 15- The Saudi Arabian Money Laundering Affair
In the mid 1970’s Saudi Arabia entered the international loan game, however, the House of Saud played under different rules than countries like Indonesia and Ecuador because their country had virtually infinite wealth. They could finance their own development projects. The job of the EHM, in this circumstance, was to get leading parties in Saudi Arabia to, first, want to develop the countries infrastructure, and then, get them to grant the contracts to American firms. Perkins explains how this all came to be and how this unlikely alliance between the United States and Saudi Arabia has endured and worked to both ignite tensions and subdue foreign power over both countries respective economies. The US essentially accepted Saudi Monies in Return for huge expensive contracts and favorable votes in all international governing bodies. Saudi Arabia also agreed to increase oil production in the event of another embargo brought on by other OPEC nations. This action basically undermines the power of OPEC because the American consumer will never again have to feel the pinch of an oil shortage. This shelter has become an issue revisited over and over again in the subsequent years since the agreement was made. The two nations have also endured criticism for their “sweetheart” deal from countries all around the globe. Perkins gives a very interesting personal account of how these agreements came to be signed, and how the governments, international agencies, and private corporations all worked together to achieve huge payouts and political capital.
Chapter 16- Pimping, and Financing Osama Bin Laden
The House of Saud stood as a unified decision making body, which meant that all high level members of government had to be convinced to accept and sign the huge development contracts MAIN put forward. Each MAIN agent was assigned a key government figure to wine, dine, coerce, and convince. Perkins was responsible for Prince W., whose happiness and pleasure was the utmost concern. Perkins was asked, and was able, to locate a beautiful American women to entertain the prince during his frequent stays in Boston. Perkins was also asked to pay for the expense which he did by coming up with creative expense accounts and huge restaurant tabs. He knew he had to have the numbers to convince the prince but supplying whatever small things he may need may have tipped the tables in his favor. Perkins also fully understood if he failed to get the prince’s approval and the contracts died then he would be blamed at MAIN, and the price for failure was very high. In the end, perhaps due to a United Airlines flight attendant, the entire package was approved by the royal family. Everybody involved breathed a sigh of relief before celebrating their impending success. The deal essentially reinvented Saudi Arabia overnight. What was desolate desert kingdom became a sprawling decadent glistening modern metropolis. Also, as a result of the alliance between the US and the Saudis both countries repeatedly found themselves unable to answer for their actions when they voted again and again to protect each others interests in international bodies. The most glaring example of this type of behavior that we are still living through today is the finding that many of the terrorists aboard the planes which crashed into the World Trade Center were Saudi nationals. Also, it was further found that Saudi Arabia although shaking the hand of the US with one arm, is and has been funding terrorist cells with the other.
Chapter 17- Panama Canal Negotiations and Graham Greene
The contract with Saudi Arabia advanced Perkins career to even greater heights. He had a staff which grew larger and larger and he was able to hire a Russian economist from MIT that had developed a statistical approach to economic forecasts which “proved” the righteousness of lending huge amounts of cash to countries that would never be able to pay it off. Torrijos, in Panama, and Perkins honored their secret agreement and their relationship grew closer and more complex throughout the seventies. Perkins published an article in The Boston Globe promoting the return of the canal zone rights and property to Panama. Many of his peers were disappointed with his position but his boss, Bruno, however, knew it would please Torrijos and thus praised John for the decision to publish it. If Torrijos was happy, MAIN would continue receiving huge contracts. Graham Greene, the fiction writer, had also written many articles in support of Torrijos and his mission. The two had fostered an exceptionally close relationship based on the common goal of wealth redistribution to aide the poor. In fact, Greene published a nonfiction novel, titled Conversations with the General, about General Omar Torrijos. Perkins met Greene one day in a Panamanian hotel lobby. This conversation was especially meaningful and important to Perkins, as he was just barely becoming aware of how insidious his work was.
Chapter 18- Iran’s King of Kings
This chapter focuses on the situation in Iran in the late seventies and how that country was enticed into the fold of the corporatocracy. Iran, like Saudi Arabia, was oil rich and could finance its own development. The shah, or king, was in power because when his father was deposed of by a democratically elected president, Mohammed Mossadegh, the United States sent CIA agents to remove him from power and reinstate the shah. This action made the Persian population angry but the truth of us involvement was not proved for many years later. The shah was friendly to US interests and Washington did its best to paint him and Iran in a favorable light and as a strong ally in the increasingly caustic Middle Eastern region. Perkins toured all over Iran in his many visits. During one common visit he was invited to have dinner with a man he had never met before, named Yamin. When he arrived to the destination he was escorted into a walled palace like restaurant filled with private booths. Yamin was very polite and well dressed in a western business suit. As the two men talked Perkins realized that Yamin knew much about his past and his entire career. Yamin spoke about the shah’s plan to cover the desert with green plants in order to change the landscape on a massive scale. Yamin disapproved of this plan because, he said, the soul of the Persian people was so closely related to the desert. He believed changing the landscape would destroy the culture. Towards the end of the night Yamin requested that John go with him to meet a good friend who could give him a lot of information about the shah and Iran as a whole. Yamin referred to Perkins as a man in the middle of two worlds.
Chapter 19 – Confessions of a Tortured Man
A few days after their initial meeting, Yamin drove Perkins far outside the city to meet his friend that went only by, Doc. The two men pulled up to a centuries old desert oasis and Perkins was escorted inside a small hut. He was instructed to sit on the floor of the dimly lit room and wait. An old man in a wheelchair was brought into the room and introduced himself. He said he was once like Perkins. He had a high level job and powerful friends. He had money and knew many heads of state from around the world. He spoke slowly, stopping to cough and wheeze frequently. When he turned slightly, Perkins was astonished to see that he had no nose, only a grotesque scar! When the conversation resumed the old man informed Perkins that the shah was approaching Hitler in his evil ways. He became enraged while telling Perkins of the US knowledge and complicity of the shah’s tyrannical secret police, the SAVAK. He went on to say that the shah was the only US ally in the region and that Muslim resentment was growing rapidly. He warned that the shah would be overthrown soon and hatred of the US would grow. He then told Perkins that MAIN would lose millions of dollars because the new ruling party would simply refuse to pay.
Chapter 20- The Fall of a King
Despite the warnings of Doc coupled with the fact that Perkins had heard absolutely nothing about a possible impending coup, Perkins remained in Tehran for an extended stay. One evening in late 1978 while sitting at a cafe John ran into his old college buddy, Farhad. He had not seen him in over a decade. As the two men caught up with each other it became obvious that although Perkins had no inkling into the goings on or Farhad’s life, Farhad knew quite a bit about John’s career and life in general. Farhad warned Perkins that Iran was indeed quickly falling to pieces behind the curtain of the world stage. He urged John to accompany him to Rome to escape the violence that was sure to come to Tehran soon. Perkins trusted Farhad and thusly did not question him. They both flew out of Tehran the next day. Once in Rome Perkins met and conversed with Farhad’s father, who was an army man in Iran, and thusly had great national pride. His father spoke about the arrogance and greed of the shah and the US policies enacted for Iran. He told Perkins that the overthrow of Mossadegh is coming back to haunt the Americans and the corrupt shah. He went on to say that the fall of the shah was only the beginning of the direction the entire Muslim world was headed in. Two days after that dinner, violent riots and bombings erupted in Tehran. The groundswell had begun and the shah’s power quickly diminished. Ayatollah Khomeini was the religious leader poised to take control of the country. In early 1979 the shah fled the country under the guise of receiving urgent medical care for cancer treatment in New York. A mob seized the US embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days, an event which essentially ended Carter’s presidency. The shah was eventually given refuge in Panama, under Torrijos, amidst worldwide calls for his extradition back to Iran for a trial and sentencing. Doc’s predictions had all come true. MAIN lost millions in Iran. The ayatollah simply refused to pay for the projects the shah had begun, which angered many international firms. The loss of revenue changed the manner in which US policymakers dealt with Iran. Increasingly negative rhetoric regarding the country and its leaders began to become more and more common. The days of painting Iran as a US ally in the Middle East were over. These events forced Perkins to see the true role of the US in the world. He remarked that the CIA refused to divulge information that showed US intentions to be less than charitable, even to those members of the corporatocracy. He believed the CIA must have known what was about to happen in Iran but because money was still rolling in the CIA encouraged everyone to close their eyes to it.
Chapter 21 – Colombia: Keystone of Latin America
A return to the old game of getting poor countries to sign contracts that they could never repay was what was presented to Perkins in Colombia. Colombia is described as being the geographical and political gateway to South America. In this chapter Perkins provides a brief history of this country and its culture. He notes that Colombia is rich in natural resources and has a long textured history, but its people have also seen their share of violence and corruption. Perkins saw Colombia as a sort of refuge for him despite the harm he and his company were perpetrating against the nation. It was where he met an important figure in his life, Paula. She was an Italian fashion designer with factories in Colombia. Paula helped John, in a gentle and kind manner, to see the fallacies underpinning his rationale for working as an Economic Hit Man for MAIN. Through conversation and prodding she brought him to honestly reviewing his decisions. Perkins believes life is composed of a series of coincidences over which we have no control, however, once we are presented with those coincidences, we must make choices. What makes the difference in life is how we respond; what choices we make at those critical crossroads in life. All decisions, he explained, bring you to your current station in life. Paula was a coincidence that forced Perkins to a decision about the direction his life was headed in. She was the catalyst that caused him to question his role.
Chapter 22 – American Republic Versus Global Empire
Paula and Perkins engage in a conversation about a recent guerrilla attack on a MAIN project site. The working class indigenous people in Colombia detested the dam that was being built because they didn’t want the land in the valley it was being constructed in to be flooded. They vowed to see them destroyed before they were ever completed, no matter the cost. A Colombian foreman, Manual Torres, had been threatened by a militant group wielding AK-47’s. When Torres informed Perkins of the clash, Perkins intimidated him by claiming the militants were not simply working Colombian peers of the foreman, rather they were a group of pro-communism bandits working on behalf of China and Russia. He said that it was evident by the fact that they carried AK-47’s, a gun designed and built in Russia. Perkins knew this wasn’t true and that Torres was scared, however he pressured him to keep working on the project. Paula questioned Perkins and forced him to look inside himself regarding that matter. She informed him that her brother had been imprisoned and tortured before joining a rebel faction himself. Because of that she was privy to a lot of information regarding the philosophy driving such groups to action. Perkins was shocked to hear of her close ties to the movement which was directly against his work. After further consideration, John began to think about the differences between the ideals of America when it was a new nation as compared to what he saw happening around him then, in the late 1970’s. He drew the distinction between the American Republic and a global empire. He wrote : “The republic offered hope to the world. Its foundation was moral and philosophical rather than materialistic. It was based on the concepts of equality and justice for all”…..”The global empire, on the other hand, is the republic’s nemesis. It is a self-centered, self-serving, greedy, and materialistic, a system based on mercantilism. Like empires before, its arms open only to accumulate resources, to grab everything in sight and stuff its insatiable maw. It will use whatever means it deems necessary to help its rulers gain more power and riches.”
Chapter 23 – The Deceptive Resume
Perkins reflects on his own awakening to the true nature of his work and how it is misrepresented on his seeming top notch resume. He explains how MAIN would update his resume for him with each new project he took on and completed, so when he did decide to find his resume to take a look at it the material was all new to him. The resume listed a number of “clients served”, the most interesting of which was the last line that read, “U.S. Treasury Department, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”. Perkins notes the strangeness of these two entities being listed on one line, together. He explains that the wording and placement of those “clients” is actually a tip off to those in the inner circle of international business that he had been one of the architects of the biggest infrastructure deal the world had ever seen. As he thinks about the resume and the work he had done to earn such credentials, he laments at the falsity of the document. He knows that, although the resume portrays him as an intelligent shining gem, he had to stoop to low levels and do a lot of dirty work throughout the years. The resume was a subtle, but monumental, deception. Perkins knew the only reason he had met with so much success was because he, time and again, produced result that the company had hoped for. He found a way to make the stockholders massive amounts of money. He had never been good at mathematics and didn’t even have a degree in economics, yet he found himself in the position of Chief Economist at a major international engineering and consulting firm. He had made it a practice to hire people more capable than him at doing his job and put undo pressure on them to produce the results he knew those in higher up positions wanted. The production of positive forecasts, no matter the method was what he was good at.
Chapter 24 – Ecuador’s President Battles Big Oil
Ecuador’s Jaime Roldos was the ideological match to Panama’s Omar Torrijos. Torrijos wanted canal rights in order to serve the greatest good for his people. He wanted to redistribute wealth and land to the poor people of his country. Roldos ran on the same populist, nationalist platform completely unaffiliated with super-powers, like Russia, China, or the U.S. In contrast, however, Roldos had to fight multi-national oil corporations in his bid to control Ecuador’s vast oil reserves. His biggest competitor was Texaco. It was rumored that in Ecuador the big oil companies had colluded with, and bought out, one group of Christian missionaries. The SIL, or Summer Institute of Language, had a stated goal of teaching English to native tribes people throughout the Central American region. IN doing so the missionaries would also introduce those they were teaching to Christianity and urge them to set up and attend church services. The SIL was accused of persuading indigenous tribes to move off their native lands to central camps in order to receive free food, health care, and education. In return the tribes people had to agree to sign their land over to oil companies for exploration. The missionaries were sent to areas that had been speculated by large oil companies and deemed to have vast subsoil oil reserves. Perkins admires Roldos and other leaders like him for having the courage to stand up to powerful organizations for the good of people who could never pay him back. Being in his position, he now understands the lengths to which greed and power will drive someone. Perkins is more and more conflicted with his role and his actions over his career. He is haunted by his past ideals and feels like he has sold out on his own convictions. At the end of the chapter he notes, Bruno Zambotti, his boos and mentor had been fired by an aging CEO, Mac Hall, who felt threatened by the shining star in the company.
Chapter 25 – I Quit
The firing of Bruno rippled though the various offices and divisions of MAIN International. The chairman had fired Bruno because he was threatened by his powerful nature and incredible profit earnings the company had produced under his command. Mac Hall was afraid that the board would deem him ineffectual and give Zambotti his job. Hall fired Bruno while he still could. To take his place, Hall promoted Paul Priddy, an economic forecaster that focused on MAIN’s domestic projects primarily. Perkins describes Priddy as a company man that would bend to the wishes of Mac Hall in a second, no matter what they were. He stood no threat to the chairman, so in Hall’s eyes he was the perfect hire. However, the company suffered as a result of poor leadership decisions from that point on. The overwhelming majority of MAIN employees believes Hall had lost touch with the burgeoning trends in economic forecasting and wondered in what direction the company would head from there. No one dared challenge the Chairman, in fear of losing their own job. Perkins goes on a sailing trip to the Virgin Islands with a young woman who works for him. Hos own inner battle rages on and has been steadily intensifying. Despite perfectly pleasant surroundings , Perkins cannot get his mind to rest, so he decides to take a small row boat and go ashore alone. He sits atop a wall of an old sugar cane plantation and contemplates the lives and experiences of the slaves that died building that wall and the men who dragged those slaves from their homes and families in Africa to come and work themselves to death in the Caribbean. He became so enraged that he picked up a stick and began beating the wall over and over until he reached exhaustion. He realized his rage should be directed inward, for the deeds he had chosen to commit himself. He hated the life he had created for himself despite all the superficial ornamentation and affluence of it. He could live with no longer. When he returned to Boston, on April 1, 1980, he quit.
Chapter 26 – Ecuador’s Presidential Death
As Claudine had predicted, it was not easy to leave the life and employment of an Economic Hit Man. Perkins had a new boss, Paul Priddy who believed his resignation to be an April Fool’s Day joke at first. His colleagues, staff, and friends tried to talk him out of quitting by listing all the positive attributes of the job and its benefits. Many of them were suspicious of his motives, thinking he was possibly headed toward a career in politics that might expose their crimes and way of life. He tried to offset such ideas by telling people he wanted to travel and work for National Geographic. In the end, he was not able to fully extract himself from the lifestyle or his position. He accepted the job of being an expert witness for public utility companies seeking building permits from the state for new power plants. Right about the same time that Perkins chose to quit, Carter lost the presidency to Reagan, which signified a major shift in foreign policy. Carter has solar panels installed on the roof of the White House to spark a nationwide discussion regarding dependence on foreign oil and dependence on oil as our sole energy source. Reagan had the panels immediately removed upon taking office, as many in his cabinet had made their fortunes in oil or in the building of its required infrastructure. Perkins describes the differences between Reagan and Carter, the most striking of which is how Carter’s vision of America was aligned with the Declaration of Independence and how Reagan’s view was “most definitely that of a global empire builder.” Perkins was enamored with men like Torrijos AND Jaime Roldos in Ecuador. He is obviously saddened when he writes of the sudden death of Roldos in a plane crash in spring 1981. The world reacted with the outcry of “CIA Assassination!!”, however, the US media barely covered the event at all.
Chapter 27 – Panama: Another Presidential Death
Perkins writes again of his sadness over the death of Roldos but, to him, it was an expected end. He feared for Torrijos because he refused to bend at all to the desires of the US regarding the renegotiation of the Canal Treaty. Torrijos stood up to Reagan and rejected the SIL missionaries from Panama. Just a couple months after the strange and freak death of Roldos, Torrijos experienced his own plane crash. Security guards claimed the plane had a bomb on board and once again the world cried out,”CIA Assassination!!”. Graham Greene opened his book,Getting to Know the General, with the news and the accusations. Perkins explains the atmosphere in Washington that led to the murder of Roldos and Torrijos. He makes clear that the primary goal of the new administration was to expand the global empire and their financial holdings rooted therein. They would stop at nothing to achieve this goal. Reagan, Bush, Cheney, Casper Weinberger, George Shultz, and Robert McNamara were named among others as facilitating a foreign policy that resulted in great reward for themselves and few other and great misery for the masses of poor around the world. Perkins explains how Bechtel Inc. enjoyed a close relationship with those holding high office in the U.S. Government, which resulted in many new contracts and lots of comfortable perks and paychecks. Those in power at Bechtel were chief critics of Panama’s leaning toward granting a huge engineering contract for the update of the canal to a Japanese firm. Bechtel stood to lose out on millions of dollars and the biggest construction contract in modern times. Headed by George Shultz and Casper Weinberger, Bechtel was a significant factor in policy toward Panama. Torrijos was replaced by Manuel Noriega, a man who, in Perkins’ view, had no chance in standing up Reagan, Bush, and Cheney.
Chapter 28 – My Energy Company, Enron, and George W. Bush
Perkins struggled with his role as an expert witness because he was testifying under oath that he believed in the accuracy of his economic predictions although he absolutely knew them to be wholly false. He stuck with it, however, because it gave him a lot of free time while still bringing in an admirable salary. During the early 1980’s Perkins remarried a woman, named Winifred, and their daughter, Jessica, was born. Winifred’s father happened to have spent his career working as an executive at Bechtel. Despite the fact that Winifred was a committed environmentalist, her first job out of college at UC Berkeley was at Enron. Perkins once again quit his job, but this time he started his own company. He launched Independent Power Systems, a company “whose mission included developing environmentally beneficial power plants…”. Perkins receiving financial backing and support from Bruno Zambotti, and a host of major players and companies, including the U.S. Congress. IPS along with Bechtel revolutionized the power industry by building coal power plants that did not cause acid rain to fall in surrounding areas. MAIN completely folded and went out of business during that time as well. Mac Hall had lost touch with the direction of the energy market and no one informed him, just as Bruno predicted. A rising star, Enron, was a little known company that , virtually out of no where, began putting together huge deals. No body in the field could figure out how they could finance such endeavors. Perkins provides a brief history of the flailing career of George W. Bush, beginning at Arbusto Energy, which flopped, and became a part of Harken Energy. Bush Jr. remained on the board and suddenly the fledgling Harken began to land huge contracts, the most conspicuous of which was the right to drill oil off the coast of Bahrain. Harken beat out Amoco in that deal. Bush Sr. had just been elected president and had arranged the talks between Bahraini officials and his son’s company.
Chapter 29 – I take a Bribe
While McNamara served as secretary of defense and president of the World Bank the ideas of aggressive leadership and empire furtherance no matter the short term cost spread like wildfire throughout the whole corporate world. Although alternative energy sources existed, the fact that almost the entire Bush administration had made money in oil prevented expansion and distribution of these technologies to the public. Instead, more insidious methods of corporate domination and globalization surged forward. Poerkins sold IPS and became a very well paid adviser on the board of a growing energy company, Stone and Webster Engineering and Construction. In return he had to agree not to write about the work he did at MAIN or his work with Stone and Webster. Perkins was, in fact, in the process of writing just such a book, but he put his writing on the shelf to earn more money once again. He explains that he felt like he had once again betrayed himself, his family, and his country.
Chapter 30 – The United States Invades Panama
This chapter is focused on Manuel Noriega and the U.S. invasion of Panama. Perkins exposes the US position superficial and dishonest in many ways. He claims the invasion sprung out of the deep seated fear of George Bush Sr. that the American people believed him to be a wimp. He wanted to prove his power and strength to everyone. He ordered an air attack on Panama city that was the largest such attack by the US since World War II. Many civilians died and the administration claimed they were punished Noriega for his illegal drug running and corrupt activities. The media endeavored to paint Noriega as a dangerous mad man, and an evil communist sympathizer. Panama posed no threat to US national security and could not have possibly launched any counter attack back. Perkins was thrown into depression upon questioning his own role in furthering such injustice throughout the world. He attempts to give a reasonable explanation as to how good people can participate in such heinous acts that result in mass suffering and death of millions of desperate people throughout the world. Perkins believes that the invasion of Panama in 1989 symbolized the whole system of corruption, greed, and global domination. It showed the lengths that powerful men and women would go to to protect and expand their assets. After the mission, Cheney publicly claimed 300 to 500 Panamanian civilians died, while independent human rights groups estimated the number of dead between three and five thousand.
Chapter 31 – An EHM Failure in Iraq
In this chapter, Perkins focuses in the state of Iraq in the late eighties and nineties. He explains how he was privy to information about the country and its political and economic state of affairs that few others knew about at all. Companies like Bechtel and Halliburton were hoping to strike lucrative deals in Iraq with Saddam Hussein. They had grand visions of Iraq becoming the sister state to Saudi Arabia, however, due to Iraq’s much more bountiful water supply and the fact that it shares borders with many strategic Middle Eastern nations, Iraq was even more of a gem to economists. By the late eighties it became apparent that Hussein was not about to buy into what the engineering firms were proposing. This shamed the Bush Administrations and added to the fear that the public saw President Bush as a wimp, or spineless leader. When Iraz invaded Kuwait, the Bush Administration had the opportunity to redeem itself without public protest. The President denounced the unilateral invasion of a defenseless country as a serious breach of international law less than a year after the American invasion of Panama. Perkins recalls the excitement of his colleagues over the invasion because a U.S. victory was sure to bring in huge profits for their companies, and in turn themselves. He continues working on his book and began guiding small groups of tourists deep into the Amazon to spend time and learn from native tribes. As Perkins became more and more involved in the non-profit world, he was eventually able to quit his consulting job completely.
Chapter 32 – September 11th and its Aftermath For Me, Personally
Perkins explains what it was like for him the moment the twin towers came down. He was in the Amazon at a radio relay hut listening over the hand held radio to radio broadcasts with minute by minute accounts of the scene in lower Manhattan. He made the decision that upon returning to the U.S. that he must visit ground zero and see the devastation himself, with his own eyes. In November of 2001 he got there. As he walked around the massive hole in the ground, with smoke still billowing out, he tried to take in the enormity of the scene. The sights and sounds and his own thoughts as to what caused this horrific event stained his memory. He explains a few strange coincidences that occurred to him throughout that day while strolling around the area. It seems every place Perkins chooses to sit and rest a moment conjures up a memory or image of classic American ideals or notes a proud American foundation. He speaks with an Afghan immigrant. He turns the events of September 11th, his career, his family, and his personal truth over and over in his mind as he walks around.He sees a newspaper stand with a man shouting the headline; “Venezuela on the brink of Revolution”.
Chapter 33 – Venezuela Saved By Saddam
Venezuela is a country as rich with oil as it is with culture and history. Perkins provides a brief summary of the recent political history of Venezuela and the actions of its present leader, Hugo Chavez. Throughout the twentieth century Venezuela has been a prized nation by economists and engineers, which has made it a target for EHM’s and the corporatocracy. Until Chavez was elected in the late nineties the country lacked a leader with enough strength and charisma to stand up to the corporate behemoth. Venezuelan oil was being pumped out of the ground for the profit of foreign companies and the country was saddled with immense debts at the time Chavez was elected. Upon taking power Chavez enacted bold and sweeping new laws which strengthened his control over government and its functions and he assumed total control over the state run oil company, Petroleos De Venezuela. Perkins explains how the U.S. Administration and the CIA took the same course of action in Venezuela to discredit the countries democratically elected leader as they did in Iran, with Mossadegh in the 1950’s. Agents of the US government infiltrated Venezuela and worked to foment a strike of oil workers in order to destabilize the government and force people to doubt the intentions of their populist leader. The strike occurred and a coup was attempted. In fact, there were reports that Chavez had been ousted form office, but surprisingly Chavez was able to hold onto the reigns of government and quell the fears of the nation. The CIA has failed. He regained control and fired any government official that he suspected of colluding with US agents. Perkins suspicions were confirmed when, quite coincidently, a colleague confided that the strikes and coup were completely orchestrated by people working for the US government.
Chapter 34 – Ecuador Revisited
Once again, Perkins visits Ecuador, thirty five years after he served in the Peace Corps there as a young man, just out of college. He drove the winding Andean roads and took mental note of the areas that had been vast stretches of Amazonian rain forest and were now desolate fields overgrown with weeds. The tiny oil rich country and its inhabitants were saddled with massive debt to international monetary firms that were putting more and more pressure on the government to pay up by conceding drilling rights throughout the country to massive international oil companies. Native tribal leaders held a meeting to discuss the current state of affairs and present a unified course of action to the public in order to counteract the oil conglomerates. Elders shared stories of people from within their own communities that had sold out for big money and big dreams to oil executives. Many people asked Perkins about the impending US invasion in Iraq. They wanted to know what the standpoint of the country was; what the purpose of going to war was. He was struck by the irony that although the average US citizen thought the native people of the Amazon region to be uneducated and brutish they were actually much more aware of the state of international affairs and asked much more poignant questions with regards to US actions. In fact, Perkins asserts that the average US citizen knew less and asked fewer questions of relevance to their leaders than these people who lived deep in the jungles of South America.The native peoples seemed to know more about current events as well as position held in the past by many prominent American statesmen. Many ancient cultures around the globe prophesied that the period of years from the late nineties and into the first couple decades after the year two thousand would mark a great shift in human history. A age of remarkable change in our collective perceptions of the world around us and our direction therein was imminent. Perkins reflects on this idea in regards to choosing to focus attention on what truly matters in the world rather than endlessly trying to attain superficial and short term entertainment. He writes of his hope that those in power will awaken to a deeper purpose and a more profound sense of self and role, which will motivate them to use their position and their power to alleviate undo suffering and strife around the globe.
Chapter 35 – Piercing the Veneer
This final chapter focuses on the reasons behind, and the possible implication of the 2003 invasion into Iraq. Perkins knows that had Saddam have been able to be bought out by the corporatocracy, and accepted their terms, he would still be in power today. He goes on to say that indeed US firms would be building and maintaining his chemical weapons plants, selling him arms, and turning a blind eye to his human rights violations. From his perspective, as a former EHM, Perkins offers several views of the invasion and it s outcome that may surprise the reader. One of which is the idea that the dollar stands on very shaky ground as the standard global currency. He writes that if that right were to be taken away from the US the foundations of the entire empire would rumble and quake. If the standard currency were to change the US would find itself in insurmountable debt extremely quickly. Perkins then proposes that any major international group, like OPEC, could simply decide to do their banking in another currency. However, Perkins also explains that one possible reason for the invasion in Iraq is that if the US controlled Iraq and its vast oil fields then the US could render OPEC obsolete. OPEC could change its supply or production but it would fail to produce any political pressure because the biggest oil consumer, the US, could simply pump its oil free of charge in Iraq. This type of scenario would also undermine any agreements made strictly with Saudi Arabia. Because the US is no longer dependent on the country’s oil, we, as a nation, would probably not honor our end of the bargain at all. To close the book, and end the journey, Perkins returns to the theme of his own inspiration from the principles of the founding fathers and what drove them to take bold stands and risk their own safety for the idea of a free republic. The conclusion he reaches is that those men, as well as men and women around the world today, have and are inspired by the written word. Words propelled by a passionate desire to be free and to shake off the chains of repression and submission are the single most powerful catalyst to revolution. The words of the past served to inspire, inform, awaken, and spark the population and Perkins hopes his words have served the same purpose in the mind and heart of the reader.