BiyoKulule Online Bosaso, Somalia
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
forwarded by Roobdoon Forum
Roobdoon Forum shares with you this interesting story that New African magazine has recently published; it is about an ex-intelligence officer, John Perkins, who for more than a decade acted as an Economic Hit Man (but disguised himself as an international development economist). Perkins was on the pay roll of an international consulting team and his real job was to implement policies that promoted the interest of his mother country (USA); in the process, as he professes now, his economic scheme had trapped many (greedy/or semi-illiterate) leaders and elites of the developing nations.
We hope that this interview illuminates the current situation in Puntland, whereby its current leaders travel half-way around the globe just to sign what appears to them as golden opportunity deals, unaware of EHMs’ vast networks and business practices that could impoverish millions. To those conscious Somalis, an alarm bell should be ringing in their heads when they hear the so-frequent bogus grandeur development projects – such as Xaafuun project, oil drilling projects etc. Such projects should remind them Siyaad Barre’s “Faanoole fari kama qodna” project of the 1970s and 1980s.
This is a true story as told by John Perkins, in his new book Confessions of An Economic Hit Man. What is an Economic Hit Man (EHM)? Perkins, who was an EHM himself, says an EHM is a person recruited and trained by the American intelligence community (NSA and CIA particularly) and "employed" by private corporations to go around the world and "encourage world leaders to become part of a vast network that promotes US commercial interests. In the end, those leaders become ensnared in a web of debt that ensures their loyalty [to the US]. We can draw on them whenever we desire - to satisfy our political, economic and military needs." For Africa, there is a huge lesson here to learn. This is an extraordinary story - and a book - that every African must read. John Perkins writes:
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 US Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign aid organisations into the coffers of 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 empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalisation. I should know; I was an EHM.
I wrote that in 1982, as the beginning of a book with the working title, Conscience of an Economic Hit Man. The book was dedicated to the presidents of two countries, men who had been my clients, whom I respected and thought of as kindred spirits - Jaime Roldós, 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 EHMs failed to bring Roldós and Torrijos around, and the other type of hit men, the CIA-sanctioned jackals who were always right behind us, stepped in.
I was persuaded to stop writing that book. I started it four more times during the next 20 years. On each occasion, my decision to begin again was influenced by current world events: the US invasion of Panama in 1989, the first Gulf War, Somalia, the rise of Osama bin Laden. However, threats or bribes always convinced me to stop.
In 2003, the president of a major publishing house that is owned by a powerful international corporation read a draft of what had now become Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. He described it as "a riveting story that needs to be told." Then he smiled sadly, shook his head, and told me that since the executives at world headquarters might object, he could not afford to risk publishing it. He advised me to fictionalise it. "We could market you in the mould of a novelist like John Le Carré or Graham Greene."
But this is not fiction. It is the true story of my life. A more courageous publisher, one not owned by an international corporation, has agreed to help me tell it.
This story must be told. We live in a time of terrible crisis - and tremendous opportunity. The story of this particular economic hit man is the story of how we got to where we are and why we currently face crises that seem insurmountable.
This story must be told because only by understanding our past mistakes will we be able to take advantage of future opportunities; because 9/11 happened and so did the second war in Iraq; because in addition to the 3,000 people who died on 11 September 2001, at the hands of terrorists, another 24,000 people die every single day because they are unable to obtain life-sustaining food.
Most importantly, this story must be told because today, for the first time in history, one nation has the ability, the money, and the power to change all this. It is the nation where I was born and the one I served as an EHM: The United States of America.
What finally convinced me to ignore the threats and bribes? The short answer is that my only child, Jessica, graduated from college and went out into the world on her own. When I recently told her that I was considering publishing this book and shared my fears with her, she said, "Don't worry, dad. If they get you, I'll take over where you left off. We need to do this for the grandchildren I hope to give you someday!" That is the short answer. The longer version relates to my dedication to the country where I was raised, to my love of the ideals expressed by our Founding Fathers, to my deep commitment to the American republic that today promises "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" for all people, everywhere, and to my determination after 9/11 not to sit idly by any longer while EHMs turn that republic into a global empire. That is the skeleton version of the long answer; the flesh and blood are added in the chapters [in the book].
This is a true story. I lived every minute of it. The sights, the people, the conversations, and the feelings I describe were all a part of my life. It is my personal story, and yet it happened within the larger context of world events that have shaped our history, have brought us to where we are today, and form the foundation of our children's futures.
I have made every effort to present these experiences, people, or re-create conversations with other people, I do so with the help of several tools: published documents; personal records and notes; recollections - my own and those of others who participated; the five manuscripts I began previously; and historical accounts by other authors, most notably recently published ones that disclose information that formerly was classified or otherwise unavailable.
My publisher asked whether we actually referred to ourselves as economic hit men. I assured him that we did, although usually only by the initials EHM. In fact, on the day in 1971 when I began working with my teacher, Claudine, she informed me: "My assignment is to mould you into an economic hit man. No one can know about your involvement - not even your wife." Then she turned serious. "Once you're in, you're in for life." After that she seldom used the full name; we were simply EHMs.
Claudine's role is a fascinating example of the manipulation that underlies the business I had entered. Beautiful and intelligent, she was highly effective; she understood my weaknesses and used them to her greatest advantage. Her job and the way she executed it exemplify the subtlety of the people behind this system.
Claudine pulled no punches when describing what I would be called upon to do. My job, she said, was "to encourage world leaders to become part of a vast network that promotes US commercial interests. In the end, those leaders become ensnared in a web of debt that ensures their loyalty. We can draw on them whenever we desire - to satisfy our political positions by bringing industrial parks, power plants, and airports to their people. The owners of US engineering/construction companies become fabulously wealthy.
Today we see the results of this system run amok. Executives at our most respected companies hire people at near-slave wages to toil under inhuman conditions in Asian sweatshops. Oil companies wantonly pump toxins into rainforest rivers, consciously killing people, animals, and plants, and committing genocide among ancient cultures.
The pharmaceutical industry denies life-saving medicines to millions of HIV-infected Africans. Twelve million families in our own United States worry about their next meal. The energy industry crates an Enron. The accounting industry creates an Andersen.
The income ratio of the one-fifth of the world s population in the wealthiest countries to the one-fifth in the poorest went from 30 to 1 in 1960 to 74 to 1 in 1995. The United States spends over $87 billion conducting a war in Iraq while the United Nations estimates that for less than half that amount we could provide clean water, adequate diets, sanitation services, and basic education to every person on the planet. And we wonder why terrorists attack us?
Some would blame our current problems on an organised conspiracy. I wish it were so simple. Members of a conspiracy can be rooted out and brought to justice. This system, however, is fuelled by something far more dangerous than conspiracy.
It is driven not by a small band of men but by a concept that has become accepted as gospel: the idea 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 concept is, of course, erroneous. We know that in many countries economic growth benefits only a small portion of the population and may in fact result in increasingly desperate circumstances for the majority. This effect is reinforced by the corollary belief that the captains of industry who drive this system should enjoy a special status - a belief which is at the root of many of our current problems and is perhaps also the reason why conspiracy theories abound.
When men and women are rewarded for greed, greed becomes a corrupting motivator. When we equate the gluttonous consumption of the earth's resources with a status approaching sainthood, when we teach our children to emulate people who live unbalanced lives, and when we define huge sections of the population as subservient to an elite minority, we ask for trouble. And we get it.
In their drive to advance the global empire, corporations, banks, and governments (collectively the corporatocracy) use their financial and political muscle to ensure that our schools, businesses, and media support both the fallacious concept and its corollary.
They have brought us to a point where our global culture is a monstrous machine that requires exponentially increasing amounts of fuel and maintenance, so much so that in the end it will have consumed everything in sight and will be left with no choice but to devour itself.
The corporatocracy is not a conspiracy, but its members do endorse common values and goals. One of corporatocracy's most important functions is to perpetuate and continually expand and strengthen the system. The lives of those who "make it" and their accoutrements - their mansions, yachts, and private jets - are presented as models to inspire us all to consume, consume, consume.
Every opportunity is taken to convince us that purchasing things is our civic duty, that pillaging the earth is good for the economy and therefore serves our higher interests. People like me are paid outrageously high salaries to do the system's bidding. If we falter, a more malicious form of hit man, the jackal, steps to the plate. And if the jackal fails, then the job falls to the military.
This book is the confession of a man who, back when I was an EHM, was part of a relatively small group. People who play similar roles are more abundant now. They have more euphemistic titles, and they walk the corridors of nearly every other major corporation in the world. In a very real sense, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is their story as well as mine.
It is your story too, the story of your world and mine, of the first truly global empire. History tells us that unless we modify this story, it is guaranteed to end tragically.
Empires never last. Every one of them has failed terribly. They destroy many cultures as they race toward greater domination, and then they themselves fall. No country or combination of countries can thrive in the long term by exploiting others.
This book was written so that we may take heed and remould our story. I am certain that when enough of us become aware of how we are being exploited by the economic engine that created an insatiable appetite for the world's resources, and results in systems that foster slavery, we will no longer tolerate it.
We will reassess our role in a world where a few swim in riches and the majority drown in poverty, pollution, and violence. We will commit ourselves to navigating a course toward compassion, democracy, and social justice for all.
Admitting to a problem is the first step toward finding a solution. Confessing a sin is the beginning of redemption. Let this book, then, be the start of our salvation. Let it inspire us to new levels of dedication and drive us to realise our dream of balanced and honourable societies.
John Perkins was interviewed by the New York-based TV/radio station, Democracy Now. Conducted by Amy Goodman, it was a veritable eye-opener. We publish below the first part of the full text.
Amy Goodman: From 1971 to 1981, you worked for the international consulting firm Chas T. Main where you were a self-described "economic hit man". You are the author of the new book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. Welcome to Democracy Now!
John Perkins: Thank you, Amy. It is wonderful to be here.
Amy: Well, it is a remarkable story that you tell. And welcome to non-sound bite radio and TV We don't just give people the sound bite. We give them the whole meal. And so we are going to spend the hour talking about your life, which...
Perkins: What a great opportunity.
Amy: ... which affects millions of people around the world. The system that you were part of, and Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is quite remarkable in giving us the details of what you did. So, why don't you start at the beginning? Maybe not where you were born, but how you came to be recruited first by the National Security Agency (NSA) which is far larger than the CIA, and then this so-called international consulting firm, Chas T. Main [which is now defunct].
Perkins: Right. It was in the late 1960s, 1968. I was a student at business school and was recruited by the National Security Agency. They ran me through a series of tests - personality tests, lie detector tests very sensitive barrage of testing. And during that process, they discovered that I would be a great candidate for an Economic Hit Man. I was in business school at the time. And also they discovered a number of weaknesses in my character. I think I have weaknesses that are pretty typical of our culture, the three big drugs of our culture: money, power and sex. And they discovered these weaknesses in me.
Then they encouraged me to go into the Peace Corps. I lived in Ecuador for three years as a Peace Corps volunteer with indigenous people there, who today are at war with the oil companies. We were starting that process then, so I got some very good on-the-job training, so to speak. While I was still in Ecuador in the Peace Corps, a vice-president from this private consulting firm in Boston that worked closely with the National Security Agency and the other intelligence communities came to Ecuador and continued my recruitment. When I got out of the Peace Corps, he recruited me.
I went to work for his company in Boston, Charles T. Main, and went through an extensive training programme there with a remarkable woman, who is described in detail in my book, Claudine was her name. And she was extremely intelligent, extremely sharp, extremely seductive, and she hooked me. She knew exactly how to hook me. She benefited from all the tests that I had gone through, knew my weaknesses. And she made it - she, first of all, hooked me into becoming an Economic Hit Man and at the same time, warned me that this is a very dirty business and you must be completely committed to it or you shouldn't take your first assignment in Indonesia.
Amy: Now, already people are going to be wondering, what is he talking about, Economic Hit Man? Explain.
Perkins: Well, really, over the past 30 to 40 years, we Economic Hit Men have created the largest global empire in the history of the world. And we do this, typically - well, there are many ways to do it, but a typical one is that we identify a [developing] country that has resources, which we covet. And often these days that's oil, or might be the canal in the case of Panama.
In any case, we go to that [developing] country and we arrange a huge loan from the international lending community; usually the World Bank leads that process. So, let's say we give this [developing] country a loan of $1 billion. One of the conditions of that loan is that the majority of it, roughly 90%, comes back to the United States to one of our big corporations, the ones we've all heard of recently... And those corporations build in this [developing] country large power plants, highways, ports, or industrial parks - big infrastructure projects that basically serve the very rich in those countries.
The poor people in those countries and the middle class suffer; they don't benefit from these loans, they don't benefit from the projects. In fact, often their social services have to be severely curtailed in the process of paying off the debt. Now what also happens is that this [developing] country then is saddled with a huge debt that it can't possibly repay. For example, today, Ecuador.
Ecuador's foreign debt, as a result of the economic hit man, is equal to roughly 50% of its national budget. It cannot possibly repay this debt, as is the case with so many [developing] countries. So, now we go back to those countries and say, "look, you borrowed all this money from us, and you owe us this money, you can't repay your debts, so give our oil companies your oil at very cheap costs".
And in the case of many of these countries, Ecuador is a good example here, that means destroying their rainforests and indigenous cultures. That's what we're doing today around the world, and we've been doing it - it began shortly after the end of World War II. It has been building up over time until today where it has really reached mammoth proportions, where we control most of the resources of the world.
Amy: John, talk about your experience in Panama. You had the opportunity to meet the president of Panama before he was killed, Omar Torrijos. How did you end up there?
Perkins: Well, Panama was one of these pivotal countries at the time, and Omar Torrijos, who was the president, followed a long line of oligarchy dictators who basically were puppets of the US government that we had installed 50 years before we took over the country. Torrijos was the first one to break that cycle, and he was a very, very popular president. He was popular throughout much of the world. Many people believed he should have won the Nobel Peace Prize and might have, had he not died or been killed.
He protected the downtrodden everywhere. At the time, President Jimmy Carter was negotiating a new Canal Treaty with Torrijos and ultimately that treaty went through. But it caused a tremendous amount of turmoil in our own country, USA. In fact, it was passed in Congress by only one vote, that won the ratification of the treaty. So, we, economic hit men, were really looking beyond that process or how we could win Panama over regardless of what happened to the Canal Treaty.
I was there [in Panama] before the treaty was signed in 1972, and I was trying to bring Torrijos around. I was trying to catch him. I was trying to get him. I was trying to hook him the way we hooked everybody else. He arranged for me to meet him in this private bungalow one day, and this is described in detail in my book.
But basically what he said to me was: "Look, I know the game you guys are playing. I know what you're trying to do here. You're trying to saddle us with huge debts. You're trying to make us totally dependent upon you, and you're trying to corrupt me. I know what this game is and I'm not playing it. I don't need the money.
I'm not looking to get personally wealthy out of this. I want to help my poor people. I want you to build the projects that you're supposed to build, that you build in other countries, but I want you to build them for our poor people, not for our rich people. If you do that, I'll see to it that you and your company get a lot more work in this country. Good work that will help our people."
Well, I was really conflicted at this because, as an economic hit man, I was supposed to get him under our control. I was supposed to hook him.
But as a partner in this company and as the chief economist for this firm, I also wanted to get the work for the firm, and in this case it was very obvious that the economic hit men weren't going to get through to Torrijos, so I went along with him. But at the time, I was deeply concerned because I knew that this system is built on the assumption that leaders like Torrijos are corruptible and they are all over the world for the most part.
When one stands up to the system as Torrijos was doing, it's not only a threat in his country, like Panama, that we're not going to get our way there, but it also may be seen as being a very bad example for the rest of the world that once one leader stands up - and at that time there was another leader standing up, too, who was the President of Ecuador, Jaime Roldos. They were both standing up to the US government. They were both standing up to the oil companies and the economic hit men, and it was a very big concern to me. I knew in my heart that if this continued, something was going to give. Of course, it did. Both of these men were assassinated by what we call the jackals, CIA-sanctioned assassins.
Amy: During the conversation with Torrijos, he went through history, he talked about what happened in Guatemala, the overthrow of the democratically elected leader Arbenz by United Fruit and the CIA-backed coup there in 1954. He also talked about giving your company the business, he believed the Japanese would finance the canal that would be built. But the big American company [name withheld by New African for legal reasons] competing for the building of the biggest construction job in recent history was loaded with Nixon, Ford, and Bush cronies. You talk about the corporatocracy, the bringing together of government and corporate power.
Perkins: Yes. Well, it got worse, of course. At that time, [Mr S, real name withheld by New African] was president of [the big American company]. Mr. W [real name withheld] was their chief counsel, a senior officer in the corporation. They were opposed to Torrijos, not only on the US turning the canal over to Panama, but even more importantly perhaps because Torrijos was actively negotiating with the Japanese to build a new sea level canal.
As you know, the current canal is based on locks and the larger ships in the world can't go through it. So, the idea was to build a sea level canal where every ship could go through, and the Japanese were offering to finance this. But if they financed it, it would be their construction and engineering companies that would build it. [The big American company] was incensed over this. They absolutely could not tolerate the idea of this happening. We knew this very strongly, we had to win Torrijos over. Now, then ...
Amy: ...And then, as you said, [Mr. S] becomes secretary of state, and [Mr. W] becomes secretary of defence. They're the heads of the big American corporation.
Perkins: Yes. President Carter negotiated the treaty and then lost the election, partly because of this treaty, partly because of what happened in Iran, which is another story that I was involved in. And then when Reagan became president, Mr S went from president of [the big American company] to secretary of state and Mr W went from chief counsel of [the company] to secretary of defence.
They went back to Panama and said: "Okay, Omar, now let's talk. We want the canal back, we want the military bases back in the Canal Zone and more than anything, we want you to stop talking to the Japanese."
And Totrijos said: "No, I'm a sovereign country. I am not opposing the United States. I'm not a socialist, I'm not a communist, I'm not siding with Cuba or Russia or China, I'm simply standing up for the rights of my people. We have the right to negotiate with whoever can build us the best canal. I have the right to negotiate with the Japanese."
He took a very strong stand and within a few months, his plane blew up and crashed into a mountain, and there was very strong evidence that it had been blown up by a tape recorder which was handed to him, that was full of explosives. There is no question in my mind and in the mind of much of the world that this was the work of the jackals, the CIA-sanctioned assassins.
I've seen them work in many places. Just a couple of months before that, they had done the same thing to Jaime Roldos, president of Ecuador, the first democratically elected president of Ecuador in decades. He had replaced a military junta, democratically elected, and he stood up to the US oil companies. We, economic hit men, couldn't get through to him and his helicopter blew up then and there.
Amy: Why was he standing up to the US oil companies?
Perkins: Because once again, he ran in the first democratic elections in Ecuador in many decades. He ran on a platform of sovereignty for his country. And if there is oil in Ecuador then, he said, the Ecuadorians should benefit from it. And once he became president, he began to introduce this. He set up a Hydrocarbons Act, which was basically a petroleum act that would ensure that if oil came out of Ecuador, the majority of the funds from that oil would go to his people. The oil companies would get a reasonable payment. But the majority would go to his people. He was being a precedent that the oil companies couldn't stand, because throughout the world, they were exploiting all these countries, as they still are. And Roldos said: "I'm not going to let that happen to my country." The oil companies couldn't bear to see that, not just because of Ecuador but, again, because of the precedent this would establish. And Roldos and Torrijos were really partners in a way. At the same time, they were supporting each other, and they both had to go. And they both went.
Amy: And what were your thoughts at the time? I mean, you continued doing this work.
Perkins: It was a very pivotal point for me that, throughout my work, as I describe in the book, my conscience was torn. And to me this is one of the most interesting parts of my own personal story. I think of myself as a pretty good person. I grew up 30 years a Yankee Calvinist in Vermont and New Hampshire. I come from a very patriotic background. I grew up in a very strictly Republican family, very conservative. I have very strong values. I'm very loyal to my country. And...
Amy: ...a descendant of Tom Paine and Ethan Allen?
Perkins: That's right. They are distant relatives. And my parents steeped me in American history and in the values of the founding fathers of our country. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people, all over the world. I believed very strongly in this. And yet at the same time, I was very seducible to money, power, and sex. All these things came my way, and I was doing things that I was patted on the back for by the president of the World Bank, Robert MacNamara. And I was chief economist of a big consulting firm in Boston. I had 50 people working for me, PhDs, MBAs. I was doing work that macroeconomics in college had taught me was good work to do, It's all a scam.
Amy: Why have very few people heard of this company, Chas T. Main?
Perkins: We were a very quiet company. We had about 2,000 professional employees, which is not small. We were a closely held company, that means we were owned like a partnership, about 5% of us owned the company; so we didn't have to disclose our books to the sec or anybody. We were a very private, very quiet company, and we were serving the interests of empire.
The company no longer exists. In the early 1980s, the partners sold out to a larger engineering construction firm, and so the company essentially went out of existence at that point. I think it was getting a bit too hot for us at this point. But it was intentional. We were very strictly forbidden from talking to the press. I broke that rule at one point. I wrote an opinion piece on the Panama Canal for The Boston Globe and was severely chastised within the company. So, it was intentional that we were very quiet.
Amy: I want to ask you about Robert MacNamara. As you talk about the corporatocracy, certainly he embodied that, from becoming CEO of Ford to secretary of defence, and ultimately the president of the World Bank, and what those different roles did and how similar they may well have been. Talk about his roles from Ford to secretary of defence to World Bank.
Perkins: Well, Amy, I think diat what we have here is a world empire that's controlled by a very few men I call the corporatocracy, and these are the heads of the big corporations, big banks and government, and they tend to be the same people. You know, they jump across these lines and [this man] is a great example of that. He was president of Ford and then he became secretary of defence and then president of the World Bank.
And in all three roles, his main job was to promote American business, to bring the goodies home, to exploit the world. And he was in democratic regimes. Today we've got [another man] who's basically in the same picture. We had [yet another man] under the former President Bush. So, the two Bushes have these types of people, too. Our governments are filled with these people. But it is not just a republican issue. It's a bipartisan issue. It goes across all the lines, and Robert MacNamara is a very good example of that. He was one of the most important people in terms of framing the new economics, what he called aggressive management, and it was aggressive about going out and basically taking the world and bringing it to us, so that today we have, out of the 100 largest economies in the world, 52 are corporations, and 47 of these are US corporations, and they're not countries, they're corporations.
Here we are 5% of the world's population reaching out like a great octopus and sucking in 25% or more of the world's resources. But it's not really 5% of the world's population, the American people - 1% of the American population owns more of the material wealth than 90% of our population. So, it's that 1% that is the corporatocracy that are sucking all this in and the rest of us are supporting it through our taxes, through our purchases, through our silence, through going along with this system. Like me, as an economic hit man, I went along with the system. I did more than go along with the system, I promoted the system. But I did so legally for the most part, and I did so while being patted on the back by all the people that I was taught to look up to.
Amy: So you worked for this international consulting firm, Chas T. Main, in Boston. You became chief economist there. 2,000 people employed there, working closely with the international financial institutions like the World Bank. You begin your book in Indonesia. Talk about your training there and what you were trying to accomplish.
Perkins: Well, Indonesia, this is 1970-71. We know that at this point Vietnam is going to go. We're going to lose Vietnam.
Amy: In the midst of the war?
Perkins: Yes, in the midst of the war. But at this point, the people at the top knew we were going to lose the war, although they weren't admitting it. But they knew. So with the domino theory, it was feared that if Indonesia went, the rest of Southeast Asia would go like dominos, one country at a time. And Indonesia was seen as the key to stopping that process. We didn't want communism to go there. Also, Indonesia happened to have a lot of oil, which we needed or wanted, and it had the largest Muslim population in the world. So, if we could win Indonesia over and basically get it as a slave in our clutches, we would have accomplished a lot.
So I was sent there to make that happen, to arrange a huge loan to Indonesia for it to build a big electrical system or several large electrical systems that would serve the very wealthy people of Indonesia - didn't help the poor much at all - and to make very inflated forecasts so that we would build a huge system, much bigger than anybody could possibly have imagined - it did serve the industry in that country but it didn't serve the people, while at the same time, putting Indonesia in tremendous debt to us, a debt that it would have a hard time getting out of, and therefore, become part of our empire.
Amy: Shoring up Suharto, the dictator there for so many years.
Perkins: Right. And an interesting aspect of the whole thing was that, at the time, I was part of a team of 11, and the other 10 men on that team had no idea that we were doing the economic hit man thing. They were engineers. They were designing transmission lines, fuel systems to bring the fuel into the power plants. They were designing die power plants, big power plants, distribution lines.
I was the one that made the forecast. I was the one that said that the electrical demand was going to grow at 17% a year for 20 years, which is unheard of, but that was my job - to inflate these numbers as much as I possibly could. I mean, that's a huge number when you compound it annually. And they were just going along. You know, for the people on my team, it was great. They get to design this huge, amazing system, an engineer's dream.
Amy: You replaced a man who had arrived in Indonesia before you, who had warned you, and said "don't make these economic forecasts that you can't support. It's a con game". But he was taken out.
Perkins: Right. Howard Parker retired from the New England Electric System's load forecast, forecasting electric demand. He saw what was going on, but nobody really got along very well with Howard.
And it was my job to forecast the economy of the country. His job was then to forecast the electrical needs of the country. But the two are very highly correlated, so if I would come up with 17 or 18% economic growth, then his load forecast for the electricity would have to be roughly the same. And he told me: "I'm not going to go along with this. This is a scam. You are buying into the system. This is all based on greed and I'm not going along with it." And in a way that let me oft the hook. I felt very relieved. At one point, I realised, my gosh, I can do what my handlers have trained me to do, what Claudine has told me I must do, and that is come up with these high electrical load forecasts, but my conscience is going to be clear, because Howard is not going to pay any attention to them anyway. He's going to come up with much lower electric load forecasts so we're really not going to scam the country
And then, of course, when I got back to Boston, I found that my boss had fired Howard. He called me into the office, and said: "Howard didn't do his job. He has got these ridiculous low forecasts. We fired him. We're going to give you his job as well as your own. We're going to make you a department head. You're going to get rich. You know, da da da da da da. But you have got to come up with the kind of forecast that we were looking for from Howard, and we know you can do that because you do that for the economy."
Amy: What about Iran?
Perkins: Well, Iran was under the Shah at the time. Iran is where economic hit men really get started because in the early 1950s, Iran democratically elected a man named Mossadeq as premier. And he was held out - he was Time magazine's man of the year in 1951, I believe it was. And he was held out for the hope of the Middle East and, in fact, the whole world.
But as soon as he got into power, he went up against the oil companies. And foreshadowing what Roldos and Torrijos would do later on, he really stood up for his people. And he said, [particularly to the oil company that later became British Petroleum], "if you are going to be here, you are going to give your fair share to our people".
The oil companies were very upset, so the United States made the decision to go in and do something about this. Now, at the time, we were terrified of thermal nuclear war. Russia was the enemy after World War II, and Iran is on the Russian border. So we didn't dare send in troops to get rid of Mossadeq, again, a democratically elected president, held up as an example, but we decided to get rid of him because he was opposing the oil companies. Instead of sending in the troops, we sent in Kermit Roosevelt, a CIA agent who happened to be Teddy Roosevelt's grandson. We sent him in with a few million dollars, and he managed to create riots, protest, havoc. To cut a long story short, he overthrew Mossadeq, the premier, and brought the Shah back into power. We all know about the Shah. So, in a way, I was back in Iran where economic hit men started.
One of the lessons we learned, however, from Kermit Roosevelt was that he was a CIA agent, government employee. Had he been found out, the government would have been in trouble. So, shortly after that, the decision was made that economic hit men needed to be hired by private firms. The NSA and the CIA could identify us, could run all the tests on us, could hook us, but in the end, we had to work for private companies so that if we were caught, it would be cloaked up as corporate greed, rather than government policy.
Amy: Deniability. So Kermit Roosevelt goes to Iran, the fall of Mossadeq in 1953, which continues to inform the attitude of the people of Iran towards the United States 50 years later, yet few Americans know about this. Going from Iran, Kermit Roosevelt is then offered another job to go to Guatemala a year later to help overthrow Arbenz by the Dulles brothers, and he refuses. But the coup happens the following year anyway. Arbenz was overthrown by an [American company in cahoots with] the CIA, so the model got started.
Perkins: The model got started and continued to grow tremendously. By the time I got to Iran, after Indonesia, one of my next assignments was in Panama, and then Iran. I was working under the Shah and...
Amy: When you say everyone knows what happened in Iran, I don't take that for granted. What happened under the Shah, and can you talk about the SAVAK?
Perkins: Well, yes. In my book I describe this meeting I had with one of the Shah's top advisers who had been tortured by the SAVAK and turned against the Shah. Iran was this pivotal country for us. Its location was very important on the Russian border. And it had all this oil. And we needed to control oil. We wanted desperately to control all the Middle Eastern oil. We saw the Shah as being the person who could make this happen for us. The Shah - you know, the plan was that the Shah would help take over the rest of the Middle East, including Syria and Iraq. A war ensued between Iraq and Iran much later. But from the very beginning, the idea was to become allies with the Shah. We did everything we could to shore him up. And at the same time, we realised that he had a lot of oil money and so our companies were benefiting tremendously.
Once again, all those engineering firms that we've talked about, and everybody else who was in there building cities, power plants, highways, getting very rich and making a lot of Muslims around the world angry - the Iranians are not Arabs, but they're Muslim and they're Middle Eastern. And we were making tremendous numbers of people angry. Even to this day, Osama bin Laden cites what happened with the Shah, how we overthrew Mossadeq and brought the Shah in, as one of the reasons for his anger.
Amy: So Mossadeq pursued the oil company, Anglo Iranian oil (which later became British Petroleum), and told them that "this is our oil and we should control it". But Anglo Iranian and the British government would not allow any Iranian ownership.
Perkins: Correct. At that time, I believe the numbers were that 85 cents of every dollar of oil drilled in Iran went out of the country to Anglo Iranian or BP. And, of course, Mossadeq was incensed by this, as he should have been. There's no reason why the people who sit on the resources, whose land is being drilled to provide it, shouldn't get the lion's share of what comes out of it, and that's what he was fighting for, as Torrijos did later, as Arbenz did in Guatemala, Allende in Chile.
Amy: If I remember correctly, President Truman refused to be part of this, but then Eisenhower came to power and decided to support Britain in this.
Perkins: That's correct. Truman took a very honourable stand. He said we're not going to mingle in these affairs. This is a democratically elected premier, Mossadeq, and we're not going to step in on the side of private industry. But shortly after that, he was out of office and Eisenhower came in, and he went along with the CIA's plan to overthrow Mossadeq and replace him with the Shah.
Amy: oil is the source of so much pain.
Perkins: Oh, you know, every country in the world that has major supplies of oil, every developing country has suffered. oil is not a benefit for these countries. It's a benefit for a few of the very wealthy people at the top of the economic totem pole in those countries. But for everyone else, it's a curse. oil is a curse to the world. It may be the greatest curse the world has ever experienced. It is destroying our environment, it has destroyed a lot of world economies, it has destroyed tremendous numbers of indigenous people who are suffocating from the results of the carbon dioxide that oil has produced. It's amazing.
And isn't it also amazing, Amy, that when the first President Bush went into Iraq in 1990, we were importing about eight million barrels of oil a day. When the second President Bush went in 2003, that had gone up by 50% to 12 million barrels a day. In that period of time, our imports have increased.
Amy: So you were involved in Iran. You were also tied up in Saudi Arabia. Explain.
Perkins: Well, Saudi Arabia was probably - not probably, there's no question, it was our greatest success as economic hit men. I mean, that's how we judge ourselves. In the early 1970s, OPEC really flexed its muscle. It didn't like US policies in Israel, supporting Israel, and decided to do something about it. So it shut down oil production significantly. And as a result, the US economy went into a tail spin. There were long lines of cars at gas stations, many of us still remember that. And we were afraid that it was going to be another crash like 1929 as a result of OPEC.
And so the Treasury Department came to me and some other economic hit men and said this must never happen again. You have got to devise a plan. What are you going to do about this? How can you make sure this never happens? And we knew the key was Saudi Arabia. For one thing, it had more oil than anybody else. Even at that point in time, the Shah was getting a little bit shaky, and we had seen that he wasn't probably going to take over the rest of the Middle East
So, to cut a long story short, we put together this deal whereby Saudi Arabia agreed to send most of their petrodollars, the money we paid for petroleum, back to the United States and invest it in US securities. The interest from those securities would be doled out by the Treasury Department to US engineering construction firms to build Saudi Arabia in the Western image, to build huge cities out of the desert, which we've done, power plants, highways, McDonald's, the whole thing, to make Saudi Arabia a Westernised country.
And [Saudi Arabia] would guarantee to keep oil prices within acceptable limits, limits acceptable to us, and we would guarantee security in [Saudi Arabia]. And we have done it - all those things have followed since the early 1970s. The policy still holds. Even to the point where we know that [Saudi Arabia] supported Osama bin Laden, at our encouragement, of course, in Afghanistan. We knew that [Saudi Arabia] provided sanctuary to Idi Amin. In fact, that's where he spent the last years of his life, living in a mansion, he just died a little over two years ago there. And we've supported [Saudi Arabia] throughout all of this, despite the fact that they've done a lot of things that ostensibly we disagree with. But they have provided us with these stabilised oil prices and a huge market for our engineering construction companies.
Amy: What was your personal involvement there?
Perkins: Well, I structured - I was one of the people that structured this plan. I like to think I was one of the - I was the primary person that structured it. But there were a number of other people involved. And then we sent an envoy to Saudi Arabia, I was never officially told who it was, but I'm almost positive it was Henry Kissinger - to convince [Saudi Arabia] to accept our plan.
Amy: What makes you think it was him?
Perkins: Well, because that's what he was doing in those days and at that point in time, he disappeared for a while from the TV screens and everything, and he would have been the type of person to do this. And in any case, the message came back to us that [Saudi Arabia] had accepted the plan, but now a number of people had to be convinced because even though Saudi Arabia is not a Western democracy, apparently there was a certain amount of democratic consensus building within the [kingdom].
I was once assigned to one of the [influential men in the country] and told that I needed to bring him around. He was a very, very strict conservative, and he didn't really want to see his country become Westernised. He saw this coming. And so I knew my job was a challenge. He made it a little easier for me in some respects, because he, at the beginning, let me know that every time he came to Boston or I visited him in New York or Washington, he would expect to have a companion, a blue-eyed blonde, beautiful blue-eyed, blonde woman. He described exactly what he was looking for. And if I couldn't provide him with this, I could forget about meeting him. And I was fortunate in that I found a woman who was married to a United Airlines pilot who had been a very promiscuous hippie a few years before then, was not happy with her husband, who was having a lot of extramarital affairs, wanted a little extra cash on the side and said to me, "Well, I'll go along with this, provided I like the guy". Fortunately for me, she did like him.
And it was one of the few illegal things that I did. Most of my job as an economic hit man was, strictly speaking, legal. It shouldn't be legal, what we did to the other countries should not be legal, but it is. Pimping is not legal. So I was pimping in Massachusetts at the time, and the only way I could pay for these services was by basically padding my expense accounts, and that also is illegal. So I stretched the legality thing here, and I hope we're beyond the statutes of limitations on these crimes. I think we are.
Amy: So what happened with this?
Perkins: Well, eventually [this influential man] was very happy with Sally, this blonde, blue-eyed woman, and he did at one point say, now he would like her to come and live in his big mansion [in the Middle East]. And this provided me with a concern because I knew she wouldn't go along with that and I wouldn't be able to afford it anyway. But we eventually worked it out whereby we provided him with another blonde, blue-eyed woman from one of the Scandinavian countries. At that time, there was a large trade in white traffic of women to the Middle East, and we arranged mat for him. He became quite happy with all this and eventually agreed to the plan that we wanted. He supported it.
Amy: You tried to write this book over several decades. What happened?
Perkins: Well, yeah, it always bothered my conscience, what I was doing, and I really wanted to expose it because I didn't like what was going on in the world, what I saw my country doing. And I'm a very loyal American and I believe very deeply in the principles of this country, the founding fathers. And as time went on, I began to see how we were cheating those principles, how we were distorting them, how we're losing our sense of democracy almost completely and becoming such a capitalistic corporatocracy-oriented country, a great empire, an imperialistic country.
And so I felt that if I wrote about how this has happened, because we've created this empire in the most subtle way possible. Other empires have been created militarily and everybody in the country knew the armies were going out there and creating empires. But this one has been done so subtly that most Americans have no idea that it is going on.
Amy: Although it's not so subtle anymore, which interestingly, at least at the beginning, was why some sections of corporate America opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003, because it's not so subtle anymore.
Perkins: That's right. It's coming out more and more. And probably that's one of the reasons why I could write the book, too. When I first started writing it, the word got out because I started talking to people who had been involved with me. I wanted them to help me remember certain things. I wanted to interview diem and talk to them about it. And so I would receive subtle threats, but more importantly, bribes. So in the early 1990s, for example, when I started writing Conscience of an Economic Hit Man, a large engineering company, also of Boston, came to me and basically gave me about half a million dollar bribe with a complete understanding I wouldn't write the book, and I wouldn't have to do much work at all. I would be on their roster.
Amy: Why did the company care?
Perkins: Because they were very much involved in the business, too, and many of the people who had left Charles T. Main, my old company which had been bought out, had gone to work for [this company]. And they were very much involved in doing the same thing. It's all part of the family. And I call it a bribe, but legally speaking it isn't a bribe. I was hired to be a consultant to them, paid a fee to be a consultant with a very strong understanding that I was not to talk about my former life in this business or my current life at that time. I used a lot of that money to form a non-profit organisation called Dream Change that helped indigenous people in many of the countries that I had screwed, basically, as an economic hit man. So I used the money that I was making to assuage my guilt and to do good things that I'm very, very proud of.
Amy: How much money were you making?
Perkins: I ended up taking about half a million dollars from [that company, name withheld by New African] over a period of several years, basically for doing nothing.
Amy: So you wrote the book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and searched around for a publisher, & you write about a top corporate publisher who was interested in the manuscript.
Perkins: Right. He read the manuscript, he was the president of one of the major publishing houses, he invited me to New York, we had dinner together. He said "this is a great book, it's riveting, it's very well-written, it's a story that needs to be told, but I can't tell it because I'm owned by a major international corporation that doesn't want this kind of story getting out there"
And I had a good, very good New York literary agent, still do, and he submitted this book to all the major publishing houses and got back letters. He kept reading them to me over the phone, these letters that said things very much like, "this is a really good book, we really enjoyed it, but it is not for us right now".
Amy: So, this major publisher you had dinner with offered to publish one of your books, but said it had to be fictionalised?
Perkins: Right. He said: "Why don't you fictionalise this book, why don't you be John LeCarre or Graham Green or Dan Brown with The Da Vinci Code, fictionalise it, then we can consider publishing it. I think it would make a good novel." But what that said to me was, what kind of country is this that we're in where the press, where the main publishers won't publish the truth when it's written as the truth. They'll only publish it if it's fictionalised? What does that say about our freedom of the press?
And, of course, subsequently a very brave publisher, a family-owned firm in San Francisco, a great publisher, Berre-Koehler, published the book. But it has been very interesting that I still haven't been on what we call the mainstream press. Kudlow & Cramer and a number of other programmes have invited me on; but at the last moment, they told me I was disinvited. They didn't like the politics. Somebody, an advertiser, somebody objected. I don't know the details behind it, but I'm yanked off at the last minute.
Amy: And you, as a chief economist of Chas T. Main, you are the type that gets on these shows.
Perkins: Yeah. I was. But now I'm dangerous, you know? And the truth is coming out. But what's interesting is, and I was on your show about a month ago and the next day the book went to number one on Amazon. com. Thank you very much. The word got out there. And what that said to me is once people know that this story is out there to be told, they want to read it. It's now gone on to The New York Times bestseller list. In its fifth week of publication, it went into its fifth printing. I mean, the publisher hasn't been able to keep up.
Amy: Yet no major corporate network outside of independent media has interviewed you.
Perkins: Exactly. Nobody who is owned by a big corporation or depends on big corporations for their advertising has interviewed me at this point. Isn't that interesting?
Amy: Iraq, how does that fit into the stories you have told us during this hour?
Perkins: We figured that Saddam Hussein was corruptible. And, of course, we had been involved with him anyway for some time. So the economic hit men went in and tried to bring Saddam around, they tried to get him to agree to a deal. And he didn't.
So, we sent in the jackals to try to overthrow him or to assassinate him. They couldn't. His Republican Guard was too loyal and he had all these doubles. We couldn't do it. So, when the economic hit men and the jackals both failed, then the last line of defence that the United States, the empire, uses these days, is the military.
We sent in our young men and women to die and to kill, and we did that in Iraq in 1990. We thought Saddam Hussein at that point was sufficiently chastised that now he would come around, so the economic hit men went back in the 1990s, failed once again. The jackals went back in, failed once again, and so once again, in 2003, the military went in - the story we all know - because we couldn't bring him around any other way.
Iraq had become very, very important to us for many reasons. Its strategic location, the fact that it controls a great deal of the water of the Middle East, the Tigris and Euphrates both flow through and out of Iraq and, of course, its oil. One way to protect against that is by taking over the Iraqi oilfields, which may be larger than those in Saudi Arabia. We're not sure exactly how large they are.
Amy: On the jacket of your book, it says that your job as an economic hit man was to convince countries that are strategically important to the US, from Indonesia to Panama, to accept enormous loans for infrastructure development and to make sure that the lucrative projects were contracted to US corporations. Saddled with huge debts, these countries came under the control of the US government, World Bank, and other US-dominated aid agencies that act like loan sharks, dictating repayment terms and bullying foreign governments into submission. \bu worked with a lot of people in other countries and right here in the USA, the international financial institutions, for example, like the World Bank What do they say? What understanding do they have? Do a lot of people feel the same way as you do?
Perkins: Well, that's a good question. It's hard to answer for a lot of other people. Within those organisations, most of the people don't realise what's going on. The engineers [at the big American oil and construction companies] and the financial specialists at the World Bank and so on don't really realise what's going on. They should. They ought to look into it and find out.
But there is every excuse not to on their part. They do their job. They never think about what is going on beneath the surface, and unfortunately, too many of us don't.
I'm struck by the fact that as I travel around the world - I just got back recently from Nepal and Tibet, I travel a lot to South America - about how many people in these countries, even people we consider illiterate, question their government. They assume their government is corrupt, they assume ours is corrupt, but we don't. It is amazing to me how many of us Americans don't, at least not openly, question our government. But we need to. We really need to.
So within these organisations, you've got tremendous numbers of people who are just going along with the system, getting paid really well to do it, and getting jobs that they were trained to do. But then you always have a number of people - like me - at the top of the organisations who know what's going on. They are part of it, and they use every means they can to keep the system moving.