[OPE-L] Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Sat Jan 01 2005 - 12:30:58 EST

A new book, CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HIT MAN by John Perkins is
an unusual offering that is worth taking note of.  The Preface to
this book begins:

> 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, U.S. Agency for International
> Development, and other foreign "aid" organizations 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 dimensionsduring this time of
> globalization.
>        I should know; I was an EHM.
[from http://www.johnperkins.org]

The author has changed his ways, though, and is now more interested
in "rising to higher levels of consciousness" and perfecting
Shaminic techniques!

The title of the book is reminiscent of Marx's comment in the
"Preface to the Second Edition" of Volume One of _Capital_: "In
place of disinterested inquirers there stepped HIRED PRIZEFIGHTERS;
in place of genuine scientific research, the bad conscience and evil
intent of apologetics" (emphasis added, JL).

The Prologue to this book follows.

In solidarity, Jerry


Quito, Ecuador's capital, stretches across a volcanic valley high in the
Andes, at an altitude of nine thousand feet. Residents of this city, which
was founded long before Columbus arrived in the Americas, are accustomed
to seeing snow on the surrounding peaks, despite the fact that they live
just a few miles south of the Equator.

The city of Shell, a frontier outpost and military base hacked out of
Ecuador's Amazon jungle to service the oil company whose name it bears, is
nearly eight thousand feet lower than Quito. A steaming city, it is
inhabited mostly by soldiers, oil workers, and the indigenous people from
the Shuar and Kichwa tribes who work for them as prostitutes and laborers.

To journey from one city to the other, you must travel a road that is both
tortuous and breathtaking. Local people will tell you that during the trip
you experience all four seasons in a single day.

Although I have driven this road many times, I never tire of the
spectacular scenery. Sheer cliffs punctuated by cascading waterfalls and
brilliant bromeliads, rise up one side. On the other side, the earth drops
abruptly into a deep abyss where the Pastaza River, a headwater of the
Amazon, snakes its way down the Andes. The Pastaza carries water from the
glaciers of Cotopaxi, one of the world's highest active volcanoes, and a
deity in the time of the Incas, to the Atlantic Ocean more than three
thousand miles away.

In 2003, I left Quito in a Subaru Outback and headed for Shell on a
mission that was like no other I had ever accepted. I was hoping to end a
war I had helped create. As is the case with so many things we EHMs must
take responsibility for, it is a war that is virtually unknown anywhere
outside the country where it is fought. I was on my way to meet with the
Shuar, the Kichwa, and their neighbors, the Achuar, Zaparos, the
Shiwiars-tribes determined to prevent our oil companies from destroying
their homes, families, and lands, even if it means they must die in the
process. This is a war that for them is about the survival of their
children and cultures, while for us it is about power, money, and natural
resources. It is one part of the struggle for world domination and the
dream of a few greedy men-global empire.

That is what we EHMs do best: we build a global empire. We are an elite
group of men and women who utilize international financial organizations
to foment conditions that make other nations subservient to the
corporatocracy that runs our biggest corporations, our government, and our
banks. Like our counterparts in the Mafia, we provide favors. These take
the form of loans to develop infrastructure-electric generating plants,
highways, ports, airports, or industrial parks. One condition of such
loans is that engineering and construction companies from our own country
must build all these projects. In essence, most of the money never leaves
the United States; it is simply transferred from banking offices in
Washington to engineering offices in New York, Houston, or San Francisco.

Despite the fact that the money is returned almost immediately to
corporations that are members of the corporatocracy (the creditors), the
recipient country is required to pay it all back, principal plus interest.
If an EHM is completely successful, the loans are so large that the debtor
is forced to default on its payments after a few years. When this happens,
like the Mafia, we demand our pound of flesh, which often includes one or
more of the following: control over United Nations votes, the
installations of military bases, or access to precious resources, like oil
or the Panama Canal. Of course, the debtor still owes us the money-and
another country is added to our global empire.

Driving from Quito toward Shell on this sunny day in 2003, I thought back
thirty-five years to the first time I arrived in this part of the world. I
had read that although Ecuador is only about the size of Nevada, it has
more than thirty active volcanoes, over 15 percent of the world's bird
species, and thousands of as-yet unclassified plants, and that it is a
land of diverse cultures where nearly as many people speak ancient
indigenous languages as speak Spanish. I found it to be fascinating and
certainly exotic; yet, the words that kept coming to mind back then were
pure, untouched, and innocent.

Much has changed in thirty-five years.

At the time of my first visit in 1968, Texaco had only just discovered
petroleum in Ecuador's Amazon region. Today, oil accounts for nearly half
the country's exports. A trans-Andean pipeline, built shortly after my
first visit has since leaked over a half million barrels of oil into the
fragile rain forest-more than twice the amount spilled by the Exxon
Valdez. Today, a new $1.3 billion, 300-mile pipeline constructed by an
EHM-organized consortium promises to make Ecuador one of the world's top
ten suppliers of oil to the United States. Vast areas of rain forest have
fallen, macaws and jaguars have all but vanished, three Ecuadorian
indigenous cultures have been driven to the verge of collapse, and
pristine rivers have been transformed into flaming cesspools.

During this same period, the indigenous cultures began fighting back. As
one result, on May 7, 2003, a group of American lawyers representing more
than thirty thousand indigenous Ecuadorian people filed a $1 billion
lawsuit against Chevron Texaco Corp. The suit asserts that between 1971
and 1992 the oil giant dumped into open holes and rivers over four million
gallons per day of toxic wastewater, contaminated with oil, heavy metals,
and carcinogens, and that the company left behind nearly 350 uncovered
waste pits that continue to kill both people and animals.

Outside the window of my Outback, great clouds of mist rolled in from the
forests and up the Pastaza's canyons. Sweat soaked my shirt and my stomach
began to churn, but not just from the intense tropical heat and the
serpentine twists in the road. Knowing the part I had played in destroying
this beautiful country was once again taking its toll. Because of me and
my fellow EHMs, Ecuador is in far worse shape today than before we
introduced her to the miracles of modern economics, banking, and
engineering. Since 1970-during this period known euphemistically as the
oil Boom-the official poverty level grew from 50 to 70 percent, under- or
unemployment increased from 15 to 70 percent, and public debt increased
from $240 million to $16 billion. Meanwhile, the share of national
resources allocated to the poorest segments of the population declined
from 20 to 6 percent.

Unfortunately, Ecuador is not the exception. Nearly every country we EHMs
have brought under the global empire's umbrella has suffered a similar

The Subaru slowed as it meandered through the streets of the beautiful
resort town of Baņos, famous for the hot baths created by underground
volcanic rivers that flow from the highly active Mount Tungurahgua.
Children ran along beside us, waving and trying to sell us gum and
cookies. Then we left Baņos behind. The spectacular scenery ended
abruptly. The Subaru sped out of paradise and into a modern vision of
Dante's Inferno.

A gigantic monster reared up from the river, a mammoth gray wall. Its
dripping concrete was totally out of place, completely unnatural and
incompatible with the landscape. Of course, seeing it there should not
have surprised me. I knew all along that it would be waiting in ambush. I
had encountered it many times before and in the past had praised it as a
symbol of EHM accomplishments. Even so, it made my skin crawl.

That hideous, incongruous wall is a dam that blocks the rushing Pastaza
River, diverts its waters through huge tunnels bored into the mountain,
and converts their energy to electricity. This is the 156-megawatt Agoyan
Hydroelectric Project. It fuels the industries that make a handful of
Ecuadorian families wealthy, and it has been the source of untold
suffering for the farmers and indigenous people who live along the river.
This hydroelectric plant is just one of many projects developed through my
efforts and those of other EHMs. Such projects are the reason Ecuador is
now a member of the global empire, and also the reason why the Shuar, the
Kichwa, and their neighbors have declared war on our oil companies.

Because of EHM projects, Ecuador is awash in foreign debt and must devote
an inordinate share of its national budget to paying this off, instead of
using its capital to help the millions of its citizens officially
classified as dangerously impoverished. The only way Ecuador can buy down
its foreign obligations is by selling its rain forests to the oil
companies. Indeed, one of the reasons the EHMs set their sights on Ecuador
in the first place was because the sea of oil beneath its Amazon region is
believed to rival the oil fields of the Middle East. The global empire
demands its pound of flesh in the form of oil concessions.

These demands became especially urgent after September 11, 2001, when
Washington feared that Middle Eastern supplies might cease. On top of
that, Venezuela, our third-largest oil supplier, had elected a populist
president, Hugo Chavez, who took a strong stand against what he referred
to as U.S. imperialism; he threatened to cut off oil sales to the United
States. The EHMs had failed in Iraq and Venezuela. But we had succeeded in
Ecuador; now we would milk it for all it is worth.

Ecuador is typical of countries around the world that EHMs have brought
into the economic-political fold. 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 health, education, and programs aimed at helping the poor.
Thus, out of every $100 worth of oil torn from the Amazon, less than $3
goes to the people who need the money most, whose lives have been so
adversely impacted by the dams, the drilling, and the pipelines, and who
are dying from lack of edible food and drinkable water.

Every one of those people-millions in Ecuador, billions around the
planet-is a potential terrorist. Not because they believe in communism or
the tenets of anarchism, nor because they are intrinsically evil, but
simply because they are desperate. Looking at this dam, I wondered-as I
have so often in so many places around the world-when these people would
take action, like the Americans against England in the 1770s or Latin
Americans against Spain in the early 1800s.

The subtlety of this modern empire-building puts the Roman centurions, the
Spanish conquistadors, and the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European
colonial powers to shame. We EHMs are crafty; we learned from history.
Today we do not carry swords. We do not wear armor or clothes that set us
apart. In countries like Ecuador, Nigeria, and Indonesia, we dress like
local schoolteachers and shop owners. In Washington and Paris, we look
like government bureaucrats and bankers. We appear humble, normal. We
visit project sites and stroll through impoverished villages. We profess
altruism, talk with local papers about the wonderful humanitarian things
we are doing. We cover the conference tables of government committees with
our spreadsheets and financial projections, and we lecture at the Harvard
Business School about the miracles of macroeconomics. We are on the
record, in the open. Or so we portray ourselves, and so are we accepted.
It is how the system works. We seldom resort to anything illegal because
the system itself is built on subterfuge, and the system is by definition

However-and this is a very large caveat-if we fail, an even more sinister
breed steps in, ones we EHMs refer to as the jackals, men who trace their
heritage directly to those earlier empires. The jackals are always there,
lurking in the shadows. When they emerge, heads of state are overthrown or
die in violent "accidents." And if by chance the jackals fail, as they
failed in Afghanistan and Iraq, then the old models resurface. When the
jackals fail, young Americans are sent in to kill and die.

As I passed the monster, that hulking mammoth wall of gray concrete rising
from the river, I was very conscious of the sweat that soaked my clothes
and the tightening of my intestines. I headed on down into the jungle to
meet with the indigenous people who are determined to fight to the last
man in order to stop this empire I helped create, and I was overwhelmed
with feelings guilt.

How, I asked myself, did a nice kid from rural New Hampshire ever get into
such a dirty business?

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