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on 7 February 2012
John Perkins is a complex man. One one hand he manipulated entire countries with the power of numbers, and on the other he marvelled at their culture, peoples and historical values which turned him 180 degrees. He really seemed at odds with himself from the start of the first page.

This is a story of how the Americans built their global empire through seemingly simple strategic planning which involved getting mineral rich or politically beneficial countries to borrow money and be unable to pay it back. This gave the Americans the leverage to 'control' them. Or if all that failed, invade and murder! Both similar outcomes.

Now this isn't a true history lesson from Perkin's, it's a personal one of course. He took the role of facilitator as an economic adviser to make the numbers show that country X would blossom and grow with huge loans from America and American companies. This is the fascinating side of this book. Perkin's outlines the tactics and tricks used to make this happen and the way that the American government is implicit in the game of empire building. It's these tales that really make you turn the page...but...as you go through the stories you realise that there is something rather important missing from the details - figures. Considering the fact that Perkin's life revolved around them, his book does not. In fact, he describes numbers as anything other than in numeric terms [thousands, millions, billions etc...]. For example; he will tell you he was on huge retainers but never mention in any context what that meant at the time - what was it and what was the average wage? And it's this that makes the tale too vague or lessens the impact of the corruption, pay-offs, economic impact that he's so eloquently describing.

The second half of the book, which isn't as interesting to me as the above, is the juxtaposition he attempts to paint about how he really felt in the role of an EHM. Perkin's mentions all through the book that he was always at odds with his role, especially when he fully realised the impact he was having on peoples lives. He quit MAIN but only really half-heartedly (for a variety of reasons) but he seemed to be living the lifestyle of a wealthy man without many problems away from his work.

The back end of the book is mainly about the work he's done since leaving MAIN and the EHM role. A lot of it seems slightly sanctimonious as I was left with the feeling he just didn't want to leave the money that those roles brought him. This just didn't fit in with the message he was trying to put across of 'be kind to your fellow man / respect others / protect the planet / what are we leaving for our children' [I'm paraphrasing slightly but you get the idea]. Particularly when taking consultancy roles to keep quiet about his EHM days or the fact that he was still within the system but not being effective to change anything other than his bank account.

All-in-all an entertaining book which does give you an insight into some major world events and open your eyes as to who is actually running America [if you didn't already guess]. A worthwhile read, if a little light on specifics at times.
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John Perkins the 2004 New York Times bestselling author of "Confessions of an Economic Him Man" helped me understand the questions: "Why is Anti-Americanism growing around the world? How did America become a Superpower with minimal military action like former Empires?"
Perkins'job as the Chief Economist for Chas. T. Main, an international consulting firm, was to convince strategic countries to accept enormous loans for infrastructure development and to ensure that U.S. corporations got the projects. Upon default of the loans The United States Government, World Bank, International Monetary Fund IMF, and other U.S. dominated aid agencies then have access to the countries' resources (especially oil), strategic land and the installation of military bases. Perkins says that international economists are in essence highly paid "Economic Hit Man" (EHM) hired by international corporations to hide the U.S. governments' involvement.
In the 1980s U.S. corporations became legal international companies to minimize rules and regulations. Perkins calls the big banks, corporations and government a "corporatocracy."
He says the majority of people in the debtor countries benefit little. For example when the wealthy ruling families in Ecuador accepted a billion-dollar loan (backed by the promise of oil revenues), to build roads, hydroelectric dams, industrial parks and other power projects they brought the country to virtual bankruptcy. In three decades the poverty level grew from 50 to 70 percent, unemployment increased by 15 to 17 percent, public debt increased from $240 to $16 billion and the natural resources allocated to the poor declined from 20 to 6 percent.
Although oil accounts for almost half of Ecuador's exports since Texaco and Shell discovered petroleum in the Amazon in the 60s the oil companies receive $75 for every $100 of crude oil taken. Three quarters of the remaining $25 goes to pay off the debt by selling Ecuador's rain forest to the oil companies.
The people of Ecuador are afraid of the oil companies as they are destroying the forests and poisoning the rivers. The Trans-Andian pipeline leaked over a half million barrels of oil into the rain forest-more than twice the amount spilled by Exxon Valdez in Alaska. Many people, animals and vast areas of the rain forest have died. Thirty thousand indigenous people hired American lawyers to file a $1 billion lawsuit against ChevronTexeco Corp. for dumping 4 million gallons of oil-contaminated wastewater, heavy metals and carcinogens into the rivers. The 350 uncovered waste pits continue to kill both people and animals.
In August 1979 Jaime Roldós became the first elected president after a long line of dictators. In May 1981 he warned the US foreign interests he would force them to leave if they did not help the Ecuador people and use the natural resources responsibly. He died in the fiery airplane crash a few weeks later. Newpapers blazed "CIA assassination" and Perkins said the circumstances supported the allegations. He says U.S. assassins are called "jackals" by the international consulting firms.
Osvaldo Hurtado took over as Equador's president and launched an ambitious program to increase oil drilling by Texico and other foreign companies in the Gulf of Guayaquil and the Amazon basin.
Perkins says most countries including Indonesia, Guatemala, Chile, Venezuela, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Panama are beholden to the U.S. global empire and have suffered a similar fate. Third world debt has grown to more than $2.5 trillion. The top one percent of third world households account for 70-90% of the wealth and real estate while over half the people of the world survive on less than $2.00 a day about the same they received in the 1970s.
When Perkins finally admitted that only a few people profit when a country has a debt burden and felt guilt that U.S. foreign policies were alienating many nations and ultimately led to the U.S. attacks on September 11 he left Chas. T. Main.
He decided he could no longer be a part of a system that uses fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, assassinations and war to foster impoverishment of millions of people across the planet, where citizens are used for cheap labor and deprived of health benefits, education and social services.
He recommends that U.S. apply the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to all people of the world not just Americans as history shows that communism and terrorism are predictable reactions to oppression and exploitation. In the long run no one benefits from world starvation, diseases, deforestation and water and air pollution. He also believes big corporations, banks and government can decrease terrorism if they used their resources to end poverty, disease, starvation and wars.
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on 20 December 2005
An excellent book, it's entertaining because its' like reading a Spy novel. However, it asks questions about the world we live in and gives some answers from the author's perspective which are quite intruiging. Some bits seem hypocrytical and some sensationalised, but it is a book that has made me look at my life and my world in a new light. I highly recommend it even if you want to look at it simply as an enjoyable spy novel, but do read it.
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on 25 April 2006
This book is so eager to unmask the imperial project of the last 35 years that it has prompted USINFO.STATE.GOV to put up a page about it in its 'Identifying Misinformation archive'. So far, so good.

Much of what the book says about the shared imperial aspirations of state and business flows logically, with a capitalist eye for self-interest, profit and market dominance. Therefore, the author's frequent early references to feeling guilty about his deeds does tend to sensationalize his role in an approach to money-making which is still current - in occupied Iraq, for example.

For me, the book really comes alive when Perkins recounts the sights, sounds and smells of Indonesia - his first destination as an economic hit man. Perkins writes very well here and draws you into his world. I actually finished the 225 page story in a day, but frequent breaks in the narrative do break its intimacy. That said, this book is full of little-reported insights, personalities and acts from history which crystallize a truth. Government, military and intelligence services serve the interests of big business and profit.

Who benefits from this deceit? Well, there in lies the dilemma; arguably most Western citizens... through cheap oil.

'For every $100 of crude taken out of the Ecuadorian rain forests, the oil companies receive $75. Of the remaining $25, three-quarters must go to paying off the foreign debt. Most of the remainder covers military and other government expenses - which leaves about $2.50 for healfth, education and prgrams aimed at helping the poor.'

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
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on 14 April 2006
Brilliant, in an odd kind of way! The paradox of this book is that it often reads like an unbelievable and corny spy thriller, while simultaneously dealing with probably the most real and important issues facing humanity and the planet today. I am sure the author is well aware of this - a more academic, or more "credible" account would have reached far fewer people. Regardless of how much artistic license John Perkins may have used, the essence of this book has a sobering ring of truth about it.

Perkins takes us through his autobiographical account of life as an economic hit-man or EHM. "We are an elite group of men and women who utilize financial organizations to foment conditions that make other nations subservient to the corporatocracy running our biggest corporations, our government, and our banks." From 1971 to 1980, this found him working in developing countries (eg. Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Panama), subtley and not-so-subtley building the global American Empire. The real-life politics is interesting.

Perkins eventually quit his job, finally finding the greed and hypocrisy too difficult to deal with. This was partly a result of getting to know the natives of each country he worked in and his social life makes entertaining reading. Although he left the EHM job in 1980, it took the events of September 11th 2001 to finally inspire him to come completely clean and publish this book.

The epilogue is a nice little wake-up call in itself.
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on 23 September 2009
John Perkins is a man obviously tortured by his part in the erection of a financial empire he identifies as American. Whilst this is a trifle simplistic one can excuse the author this gaffe simply because it is not his intent to explain the workings of our economic and monetary system but rather to explain his own part in it. His humility and willingness to look at his own failings as an impressionable and ego-driven young man are commendable, as is his courage in writing a book which was always guaranteed to be controversial.

As someone who knows how our economy (such as it is!) truly works, being fully conversant with the workings of fractional reserve banking and the whole house of cards built upon it, as well as being aware of the real workings of the World Bank, BIS and similar organisations, I find Perkins' account all too depressingly believable: the thought that otherwise well-meaning but similarly young, impressionable and ego-driven people of today are furthering this empire, believing they are doing good in the process, is disturbing to say the least.
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on 19 October 2008
Perkins has probably made alot of money from this book as it is written in the first person narrative style of an autobiography, and as such draws the reader in and carries him/her along with the "storyline"
Even if some of the accounts in the book are exaggerated (and I have no reason to say that they are), there is so much personal and historical information in this account of Perkins life, that it could easily have been disproved were it not largely truthfull....to my knowledge, he has not been discredited yet, and so we must assume that it is largely true.
I thought this book was rather brilliant actually, and is ideal for anybody who has misgivings, but has not really ever thought about or faced up to the nature of big corporate exploitation of developing countries, the globalization of the world and ...and this is the big one...the consequences for us (the western capitalists), if we continue as we are....we have got it coming to us...big time !! if we carrty on the way we are going
Read it, its a good book that deals with some big issues.... I shall read his follow on book next "the secret history of the American Empire"
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on 29 June 2006
This really should be compulsory reading. It makes sense of a lot of events, wars and interventions that have happened throughout the world and gives you the real story as to why America and The West feel the need to wade in where they are not wanted for 'the greater good'- I was amazed, horrified and educated.
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on 18 March 2005
This claims to be a whistle blowing autobiography. It has become a best seller in the USA. If true, its content is explosive.
The Author claims that in 1971, after Peace Corps work in Ecuador, he was recruited by the NSA to work undercover as an economist in a private firm of international engineering consultants (Chas T. Main Inc.) His recruiter/trainer "told me that there were two primary objectives of my work. First, I was to justify huge international loans that would funnel money back ..to US companies .. through massive engineering and construction projects. Second, I would work to bankrupt the countries that received those loans so that they would be forever beholden to their creditors.."
He goes on to write about his involvement in the application of these deliberate policies to subjugate Indonesia, Panama, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ecuador, etc. In Indonesia's case he details how he produced a plan to finance electrical infrastructure that would enable a 19% growth rate when he knew that realistically the requirement was for a maximum of 5%. The US printed the dollars, the US controlled, international financial agencies lent the money. The vast proportion of the money went to the Bechtels and Halliburtons. Some of the money greased the palms of the developing countries' ruling elites. The huge mass of the populations received no benefit. They remain mired in perpetual poverty (and corporate pollution) as their nations struggle to keep up with the interest payments. Where leaders could not be suborned, as in the case of Torrijos of Panama or Roldos in Ecuador, they were eliminated and replaced with leaders more amenable to American interests.
It could be, and is argued by anti-globalisation campaigners, that this impoverishment of the developing world is a lamentable side-effect of American corporate "vigour." It is however a quantum leap to make the argument that this massive, global, humanitarian disaster, (resulting in premature deaths over the decades on a far greater scale than those resultant from Stalin's policies) is the intentional outcome of a policy of economic empire being deliberately pursued by decision-maker factions within successive American administrations.
The key question is whether or not the author is writing a true report of events he participated in. Though supported by ten pages of references, the book is written in a fairly lightweight, populist style. This choice of style will not give much comfort to academic readers. It could, though support the author's claim that he is writing to gain maximum public traction for his arguments for a change in US policy towards developing countries and the environment. Descriptions of the author's going through the culture barrier and losing confidence in the vision of "his country right or wrong," ring true to a reader who once found himself in a mildly analogous situation. The facts quoted that lend themselves to relatively simple verification (such as the author meeting Graham Greene in Panama City - the dates check out) appear accurate.
Perkins claims that the US invaded Iraq because Saddam refused to succumb to the same inducements successfully offered to the Saudi royal family for US control over their economy in return for protection. An indication of the possible truth or otherwise of Perkin's claims can be found in a reading of the commercial legislation passed by the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and which in effect handed over the Iraqi economy to the American corporates, (Orders #12, #17, #39, #40 being particularly relevant.) These early pieces of legislation would indicate that the USA, on taking control of its new conquest, though not prepared for fighting an insurgency, was fully prepared for a take over of the Iraqi economy.
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on 14 August 2009
A book that everyone should be made to read and understand before they be allowed to vote for a politician from any party. It is only then that we may stop these monsters and start to solve the worlds problems.
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