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Confessions of an Economic Hit Man | Book Summary

“Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” is an autobiography by John Perkins.

It tells the story of how the protagonist, Perkins, experienced a series of events that are astonishingly influential to the world that we live in today. It tells the story of how greed for money and power creates a web of deceit, traitors and shockingly murderers. It portrays how one country can exploit others, rob their natural resources, cause environmental disasters, poison their rivers and guide their politics. Perkins exposes the truth behind his own country’s administrations and its leading role models in the corporate world – The United States of America.

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Perkins begins this book by introducing two concepts; “Economic Hit Man” (EHM) and “corporatocracy”. EHMs are a group of people who “encourage world leaders to become part of a vast network that promotes U.S commercial interests” (p ix). This results in the world leaders becoming trapped in a “web of debt” and providing the U.S with support politically, militarily and economically. In turn, the world leaders bring “airports”, “power plants” and “industrial parks” to their people and therefore guarantee their thrown. John Perkins provides a precise definition of EHMs that they are “highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars” using techniques such as “fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex and murder” (p ix).

The protagonist was an EHM for the international consultancy firm MAIN and its strategy is to target and persuade poorer country leaders to accept enormous development loans for projects which were to be contracted with U.S companies. They cheat leaders with false economic projections, “Your forecasts determine the magnitude of the systems they design – and the size of the loans “, an EHM is the “key” (p 17). This form of diabolic manipulation, in their view a strategic investment, proved to be successful in countries such Ecuador, Panama and Saudi Arabia but if the leaders do not comply with the offer for loans and economic growth then the country and their leaders suffered, even murdered. EHM failure was not acceptable.

The term corpratocracy as Perkins explains is a collective term describing corporations, banks and governments that work for the progression of the global empire using “financial and political muscle to ensure that our schools, businesses and media support” the concept of the system that is motivated by the illusion that all economic growth serves for the prosperity of mankind and the larger the growth, the further extended the benefits and that the impoverished are convenient for “exploitation”. Perkins also gives us an insight of the impact of corporatocracy on us as “we are being exploited by the economic engine that creates an insatiable appetite for the world’s resources and results in a system that fosters slavery”. This quote emphasises what we encounter everyday in our lives; in banks, governments, “Nike and Wal-Mart and nearly every other corporation in the world” and that we are convinced by this economic engine and induced to “consume, consume, consume” (p xii -xiii).

A key question is why did John Perkins become an EHM? He implies that his choice of this career path was due to two events in his life; his loyal friendship with Farhad, a son of an Iranian general and his encounter with Anne, his ex-wife (p 5). His parents also played a role in his point of view since he grew up as a “poor puritan among so many wealthy”. According to the protagonist, living a life of “frustration” craving sex and money generated a pivotal role in establishing his aspiration to “live the good life”, which was the lure that MAIN adopted to mould him into an EHM (p 7). But the more vital question here is how was such a disbeliever in the corporatocracy become ensnared in its web of deceit?

The answer is the manipulative strategy of exploitation. Perkin’s wife introduced him to an executive at the NSA (National Security Agency). Perkins then undergone a series of NSA assessments were focused on his frustrations, his upbringing and his relationship with his friend Farhad. This portrayed how “seducible” the protagonist was and he was later further lured indirectly to be trained as an EHM (p 9). When he began to realize the true nature of EHMs, he became juxtaposed between becoming one and living the “good life” or walking away. He often questioned if what he was about to engage in was “right” and “suspected he was not” but eventually greed and the appealing opportunities MAIN offered won and he justified his decision by presupposing that he will expose the corporatocracy after he advanced deeper (p 17).

EHMs have been involved Panama, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Ecuador. In each case the author describes various strategic tactics they employ and their various outcomes to the countries’ leaders, politics and people. Panama was ruled by its “hero” Omar Torrijos at the time Perkins was sent to make his economic forecasts (or in reality an economic hit). Torrijos believed in his countries right to rule its own Panama Canal with no U.S intervention (p38). In 1972, Perkins established a relationship with Torrijos where it appeared that the he knew MAIN’s true agenda towards Panama as he implies, “I understand that your company wants more work and usually gets it by inflating the size of projects….. This time is different … Give me what’s best for my people ….I’ll give you all the work you want”. It was obvious that this man was solely concerned for the benefit of his country and to benefit the poor as rather than himself and which in my point of view proves that not all leaders are corrupt. Perkins also portrays that Torrijos’s selfless attitude “would be seen as a threat” but Torrijos expressed his knowledge openly that at anytime the U.S could assassinate him and that he will not be destroyed easily, “We have the Canal” “The CIA will have to kill me!” (p 72-75).

His expectations came to life on July 31st 1981. His death, which my mother described as a mysterious plane crash, was a result of his true devotion to Panama rather than the U.S dollar. He renegotiated the Canal Treaty with the U.S President Jimmy Carter to surrender the Canal to the Panamanians and later refused to renegotiate it with President Reagan. The U.S wanted sole control over the Canal. When anything came in their way, the words “CIA assassination” are heard (p158-159). This is their strategy, either comply with their strategic exploitation game and sell your beliefs for dollars and power or they send in their jackals or the CIA to intervene. After the tragic assassination of Panama’s hero, his replacement, Manuel Noriega, followed in his footsteps particularly with the project of building a new canal financed by the Japanese. This posed a threat to U.S firms; they could lose billions of dollars. During the George H. W. Bush administration a new strategy emerged to deal with Noriega’s intentions. It was through loss of reputation and mass murder. In 1986, they developed a corrupt image of drug dealing for Noriega. In 1989, the U.S invades Panama with airstrike assaults on the unharmful Panamanian civilians violating international law (p 173-175).

Perkins wrote about Ecuador and how the U.S oil company ChevronTexaco Corp contaminated “rivers” and “open holes” with four million gallons of toxic waste water which contained oil, carcinogens and heavy metals which poisons the Ecuadorian people and their animals (p xviii). Their democratically elected President Jaime Roldos wanted oil companies out of his country, “unless they implemented plans that would help Ecuador’s people, they would be forced to leave his country”. His people were frustrated and so was he. This posed a threat to their strategy of corporatocracy, therefore a “CIA assassination” strategy was implemented and he died in a plane crash two months before Torrijos in 1981 (p 154-156).

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In 1973, an important event occurred that changed the strategy of corporatocracy, the Oil Embargo. This was due to the U.S’s support to the state of Israel both politically and with foreign aid. This caused five Arab countries including Saudi Arabia to stop oil shipments to the U.S (p 82-83). King Faisal of Saudi Arabia played a great role in this embargo since he believed in the freedom of Palestine and swore to pray in Jerusalem’s Aqsa Mosque. But like any leader that opposed U.S interests he was murdered in 1975 by his own nephew who coincidentally was just being educated in the U.S. As for their strategy for oil rich and strategically located countries such as Saudi Arabia, they sent EHMs, including Perkin’s team, to the House of Saud, with their strategic weapon, economic projections.

In order to preserve their oil supply, Washington commenced a new strategy to lure the wealthy House of Saud using negotiations offering “technical support, military hardware and training, and an opportunity to bring their nation into the twentieth century”. This arrangement would guarantee the House of Saud’s power and the U.S would receive large portions of petrodollars and forever making Saudis dependent on the U.S companies, such as MAIN. Perkin’s role was to forecast rough projections of the future of the kingdom if large sums of money were invested in its infrastructure by the aid of U.S construction and engineering companies. He described it as “win-win situation” (p 83-85).

The author was assigned to persuade a member of the Saudi government, Prince W., of a possible new Westernised future of the kingdom in 1975. The protagonist soon realized his weakness for “beautiful blondes”. And he exploited that weakness and supplied him with his need of women which portrays the measures EHMs result in order to fulfil their assignment. Indeed his technique proved to be a success and Prince W. “eventually …relented” (p 92-95).

The diabolic outcome of this strategy is not the result of having a guaranteed unlimited oil support, but is the message the U.S sent; “If other countries such as Iran, Iraq…… threatened embargoes, Saudi Arabia …would step in …… discourage other countries from even considering an embargo” (p 90). The U.S can not only further corporatocracy but it can even escape with supporting terrorists for their own gain and later pursuing them as outlaws. The U.S desired the House of Saud to “bankroll Osama bin Laden’s Afghan war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s” and they both generously devoted $3.5 billion to the “mujahideen” resistance movement (p 99). Washington was supporting who it now name murderers and terrorists to further its political agenda, in fact it was an excellent strategy to exploit such movements and later destroy them.

Since the success of the Saudi Arabia strategy in the 70s, the greed of the corporatocracy grew and EHMs were sent to Saddam Hussein of Iraq to exploit his oil reserves in exchange for infrastructural prosperity. Unlike the House of Saud, he did not comply. To Washington, Iraq represented oil, “water” and its borders with Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, and Iran. It is at strike distance with “Israel and the former Soviet Union”. That would have control over its neighbours; some which are oil rich (p 182-184). Refusing to comply, Iraq was attacked twice breaking international law. Once by George H. W. Bush in the 1990s with air strikes and aerial assaults on civilians. And second, by George W. Bush in 2003 where he deceived the world by claiming Hussein owned weapons of mass destruction. But people implied at that time that he planned to sell his oil for Euros which triggered the war.

John Perkin’s book furthered a vast amount of knowledge to my perception of world leaders. I was always sceptical about many leaders but never did I know about EHMs. I was aware about corruption in governments, the U.S compliance with terrorism and its double standards that caused the murder of generations, the emotional scaring of orphans and the theft of dignity, resources and morals of many countries. Personal examples of this is the differenced between the Egyptian government at the time of Anwar Sadat who fought to help free Palestine and stop the Israeli genocide and now where Israelis are using chemical weapons to bomb schools and orphan children and the Egyptians are denying charities to supply those children with food. In my point of view this is also due to the U.S’s strategic exploitation as Egypt relies on billions of U.S foreign aid. I believe that EHMs were in Egypt. Another example is Saudi Arabia and how its leaders stood watching the U.S butcher Iraqi civilians in the war in 2003 and allowed U.S helicopters fly to Iraq via Saudi Arabia.

After reading this book, I also thought of mysterious assassinations of important politicians such as Rafic Al Hariri who was a supporter of Hezbollah who protected Lebanon from Israeli occupation and Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan. Those were people of similar standards as Torrijos and Roldos and perhaps I am right to now believe that those were CIA assassinations. The extent of the use of exploitation strategies by the corporatocracy was appalling and in my point of view the author was convincing and he was right to quit and expose this form of manipulation and terrorism employed by the U.S. As for a solution for corporatocracy, I believe it is in the reason of its existence, the reason why Perkins joined it, the same reason it was created; greed and power hunger. If we can perhaps teach American schools the importance of the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of every country, not just theirs and about international laws, then they might realise the real terrorists. I agree with John Perkins on his strategy of spreading awareness, using his book and the media, and his idea giving this book and talking about it to friends and family. I would also suggest translating this book in different languages, especially Arabic and giving it to Iraqis and Saudis so they can see for themselves the working of the corporatocracy in their everyday life.

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