John Perkins started and stopped writing Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
four times over 20 years. He says he was threatened and bribed in an effort to kill the project, but after 9/11 he finally decided to go through with this expose of his former professional life. Perkins, a former chief economist at Boston strategic-consulting firm Chas. T. Main, says he was an "economic hit man" for 10 years, helping U.S. intelligence agencies and multinationals cajole and blackmail foreign leaders into serving U.S. foreign policy and awarding lucrative contracts to American business. "Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars," Perkins writes. Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
is an extraordinary and gripping tale of intrigue and dark machinations. Think John Le Carré, except it's a true story.
Perkins writes that his economic projections cooked the books Enron-style to convince foreign governments to accept billions of dollars of loans from the World Bank and other institutions to build dams, airports, electric grids, and other infrastructure he knew they couldn't afford. The loans were given on condition that construction and engineering contracts went to U.S. companies. Often, the money would simply be transferred from one bank account in Washington, D.C., to another one in New York or San Francisco. The deals were smoothed over with bribes for foreign officials, but it was the taxpayers in the foreign countries who had to pay back the loans. When their governments couldn't do so, as was often the case, the U.S. or its henchmen at the World Bank or International Monetary Fund would step in and essentially place the country in trusteeship, dictating everything from its spending budget to security agreements and even its United Nations votes. It was, Perkins writes, a clever way for the U.S. to expand its "empire" at the expense of Third World citizens. While at times he seems a little overly focused on conspiracies, perhaps that's not surprising considering the life he's led. --Alex Roslin
From Publishers Weekly
Perkins spent the 1970s working as an economic planner for an international consulting firm, a job that took him to exotic locales like Indonesia and Panama, helping wealthy corporations exploit developing nations as, he claims, a not entirely unwitting front for the National Security Agency. He says he was trained early in his career by a glamorous older woman as one of many "economic hit men" advancing the cause of corporate hegemony. He also says he has wanted to tell his story for the last two decades, but his shadowy masters have either bought him off or threatened him until now. The story as presented is implausible to say the least, offering so few details that Perkins often seems paranoid, and the simplistic political analysis doesnt enhance his credibility. Despite the claim that his work left him wracked with guilt, the artless prose is emotionally flat and generally comes across as a personal crisis of conscience blown up to monstrous proportions, casting Perkins as a victim not only of his own neuroses over class and money but of dark forces beyond his control. His claim to have assisted the House of Saud in strengthening its ties to American power brokers may be timely enough to attract some attention, but the yarn he spins is ultimately unconvincing, except perhaps to conspiracy buffs.
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