733 of 792 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2005
Many of the reviews here refute the truthfulness of this book because Perkins does not provide evidence for every one of his claims. But, this is precisely what makes the book an exciting and fast read. How can Perkins be expected to provide evidence for influencing events in other countries? Where should we expect to find documentation of these nefarious deeds? The inner workings of organizations like MAIN, Halliburtion, and Brown & Root are only ever known when a dissenter arises.
From my perspective, it all seems to add up. I lived in Ecuador in the 80s. I was young (18), and I didn't know much about politics at the time. I personally saw many of the projects that Perkins speaks of in this book. I heard the complaints from my Ecuadorian friends about how the U.S. was bankrupting their economy by "loaning" money for extensive construction projects. I saw the jungle along Rio Napo being deforested by unknown (to me) companies. I spent time in oil towns in the jungle -- like Shell. I saw the dam that Perkins speaks of in his book.
The only way to gather proof about the truthfulness of his claims is to see it first hand. Though I seriously doubt that most of us have the guts to travel to the places where these things happen. Denial, regarding these issues, seems terribly naive.
206 of 225 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2004
It is often the personal stories that tell the bigger truths. As with Barbara Ehrenreich's intensely personal Nickel and Dimed, Perkins' story illuminates a larger picture in a way that more scholarly treatises cannot match. I value the perspective I get from Noam Chomsky and Chalmers Johnson and many others who have written about our modern empire. None of these works, though, explains it from the ground up. Perkins does that.
In this book, written in spurts since the early 1980s, Perkins really does tell it like it is. This is the book I have been waiting for, the book that fills in the blanks left behind by the writers of global theories, the book that tells us how it really happens. It is one thing to read that the United States engineered ousters of democratically-elected leaders who did not do the bidding of our corporations. It is another to read of the actual steps that led to these actions. As one who likes to be able to visualize all the steps, I found great comfort in reading a well-written personal story that allows me to do this.
In this rightly-named confession, Perkins puts on his hair shirt and chastises himself as he explains how he gave in to temptation again and again over several decades, while he worked to build an American corporation's profits at the expense of third-world countries. He does not describe in detail the benefits he accrued from being Satan's handyman. We do not hear stories of his exploits with women, of his flaunting his power, the meat of a LifeTime movie. These fruits of his labor are glossed over in favor of greater descriptions of the occasional pangs of conscience.
Take it as a given, then, that Perkins was right for the job of economic hit man because he was so easily tempted by material wealth, power, and adulation. There was, in his character, though, a little hint of conscience. He was interested in the world's people, happy to learn other languages and ways of living, open to old as well as new ideas. Thus he was able to make a more honest comparison of the world according to global corporations and the world as seen and lived by indigenous people. And he was able to see that his work only benefitted the few. There was in him, as well, the radical view that a benefit to the few was not much of a benefit.
I can see this story translated successfully to the big screen; either as a documentary or as the story of one man. Two very different films; either would be dramatic and informative. There are scenes in this book that could have come from a Graham Greene novel (and let's not forget that Greene tells the truth through fiction): clandestine meetings, sudden flights to escape uprisings, epiphanies on the beach. By its nature, a memoir of this type cannot fully be documented. To the extent that it could be, it is, with many pages of notes and references. These private memories, though, may never be proven to be either true or false.
It is my greatest wish that Perkins is telling the whole truth all the way through. Even the smallest of fibs could tarnish a work of great importance, given our media's inability to see bigger pictures.
The real message, though, is clearly written and inescapable: this is not the story of "they", a "they" that can simply be removed from power. It is the story of us.
357 of 410 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2004
John Perkins was interviewed by Leonard Lopate on WNYC Radio in New York. You can listen to the interview and make your own decision about John's book.
Note: Although many other books have been written about how U.S. aid policy has been used as a means of manipulating foreign countries, the fact remains that John Perkin's book is from an insiders perspective. It exposes the truth behind how corporate greed has hijacked U.S. Foreign Policy. You can find many more books on the facts and history but for a sound, engaging critique read it.
212 of 249 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2004
I got Confessions of an Economic Hit Man yesterday and finished reading it today. It's a vital personal story that illuminates an entire global system. A system based on greed, power, and control. Others before Perkins have warned of this system, but usually not from an insider's perspective. If you're interested in more details David Korten has done the best job documenting how rich powerful corporations with the help of governments get richer at the expense of the poor who get poorer. This isn't a new idea. But in today's world, the major media refuse to report this story. Perkins understands the essence of the problem: empire, oppression, inequality, and greed can seem to bring benefits to some people in the short term ... but in the long term we all loose, even the rich. We are all spiritually harmed by the lies and rationalizations. We are all put at risk when the world becomes more polarized into haves and have-nots. Our humanity is undermined when we benefit from that which hurts others. Undoubtedly most perpetrators have convinced themselves that what they do is OK and even that they'll be able to avoid consequences. Their money and power will insulate them in their exclusive gated communities. John Perkins' real feat in this book is not exposing a corrupt system, but in providing an example of one person who was able to look into his life with a deep honesty and realize it was hurting him as well as prospects for the future of all people. All of us can learn from his awakening. Does driving a big SUV make us more secure? Happier? A better person? A better citizen?
61 of 69 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2005
I was intrigued by this book inasmuch as I worked in the international export field for several major American corporations. I had the benefit of traveling to most of the countries that were discussed in Perkin's book. Also, I was stationed in the Panama Canal Zone with the US Army in the early 1960's. In addition, I was born in Central America, and my father worked for the infamous United Fruit Company. To say the least, I agree with Mr. Perkins in most of his expose. Export products that I shipped overseas were often financed by USAID, WorldBank, or some other international lending agency. And of course, the USA was the prime funder of these organizations. Eventually, I was sent into some of these third world countries, and I was exposed to the working class as well as to the upper crust of these societies. If you had to get to the nitty-gritty of this tale, you would have to think about Darwin's theory of "Survival of the Fittest." Ultimately, the USA will throw its weight around as long as it has the military muscle to do so. Unfortunately, history tells us that all world empires collapse, and the USA will follow that trend lend. There are no exceptions to this as history has recorded thus far. Surely, there must be a better way for capitalism to thrive, and the USA even with good intentions is like an elephant in a china shop. In all my years of growing up in America, I found that most Americans know so very little about their external world outside of their own country. While most Americans think of themselves as the "good guys in the white hat," Perkins book will dispel that notion. And, rightfully so!
45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2004
To begin, I should say that, basically, the title is actually fairly accurate - the book is the personal confession of one John Perkins, one time "EHM" and successful businessman, and now author of a plethora of new age spiritual guides, of the shadowy role he and other EHMs played in the economic/political construction of what is now the defacto American Empire. The tale is starkly allegorical, charting his torturous moral and spiritual decline from angry young man of New England Puritan stock with the requisite Jeffersonian ideals to slavish technocrat, all the while detailing the mechanism by which America's post W.W. II elites manipulated international economic/political development. From Indonesia in the early-mid sixties, through Latin America, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran in the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties, EHMs and their CIA muscle (referred to none-too euphemistically as the "Jackals" by the EHMs) traveled the world working ostensibly for engineering firms such as Halliburton and Bechtel etc. doing legitimate analyses of the developing world's infrastructure needs. The resulting economic forecasts however were consciously inflated, and ensured huge IMF and World Bank loans. These institutions structured the loans of course only to enrich American sub-contractors, and their partners the third world elites. In other words, the rich got richer and the poor got - well, you know the rest. But the real objective was to bankrupt the developing countries so that America - as the biggest creditor - could essentially run them as it saw fit. The only problem I had with the book is that the collusion between the NSA, the CIA, the IMF and World Bank, and other equally monolithic institutions, is hinted at but never quite substantiated beyond a reasonable doubt. But I suspect that will come, once other EHMs (or perhaps other conspiratorial acronyms we have yet to hear of) with the courage of Mr. Perkins, prompted no doubt by the same guilt and remorse, not to mention the very real after-effects of 9/11, crawl out from under their respective floorboards and into the light to confess their sins. However, I believe we as individuals should not scapegoat them, for a key subtext of the book suggests that the system functioned (and of course continues to function) because it was merely the logical extension/manifestation of our Western materialist values, values which Mr. Perkins comes to realize are in many ways at odds with (my example) President Bush's recent campaign platitudes of "freedom", "justice", and "democracy". The destruction of the American Republic therefore can be seen as a personal tragedy as well as a societal one, as it was not the result of a conspiracy or "plan", which had to be written down and disseminated through the ranks, something which could not be kept a secret for long in a democracy, but instead the inevitable result of our own individual failings and addictions. Mr. Perkins finishes his book reflecting on the world he will leave his daughter, a world in which many have legitimate reasons to hate America's guts. For me, this is the most important contribution Mr. Perkins makes to what I pray becomes a more public debate, that we as individuals - and not simply our corporate masters - are to blame for 9/11. Many reading this review will disagree with Mr. Perkins, if I may speak for him on this particular point. Nevertheless, one thing we cannot deny: leaving aside Bin Laden's Wahhabi insanities for the moment, the world is at a crossroads right now. Given the demographics, we can either help those more moderate voices in Islam (and elsewhere) by promoting economic justice for all; or we risk a global conflict with an enemy that will only continue to gain adherents while we grow fat (or should I say fatter?) and senile playing golf in Arizona. There will be no victory in that sort of conflict. There will be only victims, our sons and daughters. So buy this book. Read it. And take a moment to reflect upon what it means to be an American. I hope that you too will see that although God (or whatever you believe in) may indeed have blessed America, it is far from sure whether he/she/it will continue to do so.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2005
Ever wonder why Paul Wolfowitz was promoted to the World Bank, the answer is in John Perkins',intriquing Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. It lays bare the system of corporate imperilism. It is also a good read and will broaden the readers mind.
68 of 82 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2004
The modus operandi of the American empire has always been a lot more subtle than that of our imperial predecesors, like Britain and Rome. We don't send in the army and install puppets, except as an absolute last resort (Vietnam, Iraq). That looks bad, it's expensive, and it's too much trouble. All we really want is to control other countries' economies and get what we want from them, particularly oil. As much as possible we try to use private companies (with close ties to our government) to do this--that way we can even deny we are an empire! John Perkins shows exactly how this works, the diabolically brilliant way we snooker gullible foreign leaders into taking out huge loans that they'll never be able to repay--this is what Perkins did. He was part of the con job. Then we have them right where we want them--through our proxies we dictate repayment terms that pretty much allow us to run their economies to our liking. I notice some reviewers have questioned how believable the book is, but it doesn't seem particularly outlandish to me. This isn't 007 stuff. There are no secret weapons or mind control drugs or super villains here. Perkins just shows, step by step, how America gets it's way through far less flamboyant means. But it's not just cold analysis--it's Perkins own story, written in the first person, of how he came to see how evil this all was and finally got out of the game. It's a fascinating, sometimes appalling, but ultimately hopeful story.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2005
Really interesting book.. you really owe it to yourself to read it. The author definitly get's a bit on the soap-box side, but overall the facts, and conclusions drawn from them are interesting and valuable lessons. Quite honestly after reading this, it will probably change the way I interprete the local news from now on.
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2005
Guys, if you have time to just read one book, this is the one. If you read this book, I guarantee, you will be able to answer these questions:
- Why we are at war with Iraq
- Why people in other countries don't like us
- Why we have and still do support dictators
- Our foreign policy
- Why the problems inside our country are going to take much more effort to solve than simply voting for a candidate to be President
This book is about a man who wanted to make money, feel prestige and travel all over the world. Him and his company purposely would make exaggerated economic forecasts to make poor countries indebted to us. Basically, once these countries signed onto our projects, they would have to keep paying us back and they wouldn't be able to spend that money on their own people so those people would get poorer and poorer. If we later needed favors from these countries or needed their military space, they would have to give it to us. The author says that there are many people like this in many American companies who hold prestigious titles but what they do is wrong. Of course, in our country if you make a lot of money, you are thought of as "successful", if you don't question the morals and ethics of companies and our countries dealings - you are rewarded.
If you are not sure if you want to buy the book, you can read an excerpt at this website: [...] or go to [...] to find out about the author. Or you can read it from the library or the bookstore.
Here are some important parts of the book:
1. Did you ever wonder why we went to war with Vietnam? Why was communism so bad? - Because we can't do business in a country that has communism (unbelievable!!) (And if communism was so bad, why does China hold up our U.S. economy now? That is pretty hypocritical isn't it?)
2. The highly popular, democratically elected Iranian President, Mohammad Mossadegh was overthrown by our CIA. The reason for this was that BP (British Petroleum) wanted to exploit Iran's oil and sought the help of the U.S. President Mossadegh would not allow the British and Americans to exploit Iran's oil and nationalized all of the oil. So an American CIA operative went into Iran and won over people through payoffs and threats - which in turn led to street riots and violent demonstrations that gave the impression that President Mossadegh was not popular. In the end Mossadegh went down. (Again, for all our talk of democracy, we certainly don't let it happen in other countries)
3. In retaliation for U.S. aid to Israel, Saudi Arabia imposed an oil embargo on the U.S. The embargo did not last long but Wall Street, our government and corporations decided that never again would they tolerate an oil embargo. Immediately our government made Saudi Arabia an ally and offered all sorts of technical support, military training, etc. (Even though the women there can vote or drive and one person is (still) beheaded every week for a "crime" like drinking alcohol) Guys, Idi Amin, this brutal dictator from Uganda who ordered the killing of 200,000 civilians was exiled from Uganda in 1979 and he lived happily in Saudi Arabia until he died in 2003. The White House protested slightly but not too much because, hey, we don't want to make the Saudi monarch angry.
How does this relate to Iraq? Well Saddam played our game throughout the 80s. So when he gassed the Kurds, Shiites and Iranians (with weapons we gave him) we didn't mind as long as he was generous with Iraq's oil. Then he crossed the line when he invaded Kuwait so we put sanctions on the people of his country. We tried to persuade him, hey just give us your oil and we'll leave you alone. But he didn't want to play our game anymore - so out he goes. Pretty scary, huh? If he shared his oil, he would still be in power.
Finally, here's a good quote from the book:
"Stop being so greedy and so selfish. Realize that there is more to the world than your big houses and fancy stores. People are starving and you worry about oil for your cars. Babies are dying of thirst and you search the fashion magazines for the latest styles. Nations like ours are drowning in poverty, but your people don't even hear our cries for help. You shut your ears to the voices of those who try to tell you these things. You label them radicals or Communists. You must open your hearts to the poor and downtrodden, instead of driving them further into poverty and servitude. There's not much time left. If you don't change, you're doomed."
After 9/11, if we really wanted to prevent another terrorist atrocity, here's what we should have done:
1.Caught Bin Laden
2.Created forms of mass transportation and reduced our dependency on oil as if our life depends on it - because it does.
3. Given our foreign policy a massive overhaul
And please, before you call people from developing countries "backwards", read this (this happened to me): I was in a developing country and this boy who was severely disabled and could barely walk was selling pencils for one rupee (a couple of pennies) each. I gave him some money but told him he doesn't have to give me the pencil. Then I went on my way. About a mile later when I stopped, the boy was running after me (or more like wobbling as fast as he could). He told me that he wasn't going to just take the money like that, and he gave me a pencil. This boy could barely walk and he was about 14 years old.