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The Secret History of the American Empire: The Truth About Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and How to Change the World Paperback – April 29, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Having made a splash with Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, Perkins offers similarly entertaining but disturbing accounts of the American government wreaking havoc around the world in support of American business. In Perkins's view, American presidents willingly comply with their CEO masters, distributing foreign aid to corrupt Third World leaders who keep a share and return the rest to U.S. business for major projects, leaving their nations poor and massively in debt, and requiring more loans and slavish obedience to U.S. policy. If any leader objects, the CIA destabilizes his government, by assassination if necessary. Gathering evidence is not Perkins's strong suit. Typically, a shadowy figure pulls him aside, insists on anonymity, then reveals all. Critics will rightfully accuse Perkins of dreadful journalism and a taste for conspiracy theories. Yet economists admit that loans and "expert advice" to poor nations are often harmful. Few deny that America has ruthlessly undermined uncooperative governments and supported dictators including Saddam Hussein. Perkins's assertions that the U.S. assassinated Ecuador's reformist president and connived at genocide in Timor and Sudan are not absurd, merely unproven. This book's greatest value may be to encourage a competent journalist to cover the same ground. (June 5)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


A sweeping, bold assault on the tyranny of corporate globalization, full of drama and adventure, with devastating stories of greed run wild. But Perkins is undaunted, and offers imaginative ideas for a different world. -- Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States

John Perkins' new book is both an eye-opening expose of global corruption and a fascinating story of adventure and intrigue. This devastating indictment of current economic policies also offers hope by showing the power of the growing movement toward a caring economics worldwide. -- Riane Eisler, author of The Chalice and The Blade and The Real Wealth of Nations --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452289572
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452289574
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (143 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,853 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Perkins advises corporations, executives, and entrepreneurs on ways to make the transition from a Death Economy (exploiting resources that are declining at accelerating rates) to a Life Economy (cleaning up pollution, recycling, and other technologies that create life-styles millennials want to inherit).

A former Chief Economist at an international consulting firm and CEO of a successful alternative energy company, he is best known for his "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" (NY TIMES bestseller for 70 weeks, published in over 30 languages). His "The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" (Feb 2016) delves deep into global systemic problems and describes what we can do - individually and collectively - to correct them. He has also written many books on Indigenous cultures, including "Shapeshifting" and "The World Is As You Dream It."

John is a founder of Dream Change and The Pachamama Alliance, nonprofit organizations that partner with indigenous people to protect environments and that offer global programs to turn the Death Economy into a Life Economy.

John has lived four lives: as an economic hit man (EHM); as the CEO of a successful alternative energy company, who was rewarded for not disclosing his EHM past; as an expert on indigenous cultures and shamanism, a teacher and writer who used this expertise to promote ecology and sustainability while continuing to honor his vow of silence about his life as an EHM; and as a writer who, in telling the real-life story about his extraordinary dealings as an EHM, has exposed the world of international intrigue and corruption that is turning the American republic into a global empire despised by increasing numbers of people around the planet.

You can find John Perkins online at, and you can connect with him on Facebook at johnperkinsauthor or follow him on Twitter @economic_hitman.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

177 of 184 people found the following review helpful By George Bush HALL OF FAME on June 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"The Secret History's" Prologue provides an outstanding summary of the dark side of American generosity as exemplified by the World Bank's actions. The U.S. holds veto power over major World Bank decisions, and its president is appointed by the U.S. president. Perkins asserts that the World Bank's mission quickly became synonymous with proving the capitalist system superior to communism, and to further this role, its employees cultivated cozy relationships with multi-national corporations. This opened the door for economic hit men (EHM) to channel funds from the Bank into schemes appearing to serve the poor while primarily benefiting a few wealthy people.

In the most common scheme, staffers would identify a developing country possessing resources our corporations desired (eg. oil), arrange a huge loan for it, and then direct most of the money to our own corporations and a few collaborators. Infrastructure projects (eg. power plants, airports, industrial parks) would then spring up - however, they seldom helped the poor, and the nation was unable to be able to repay the loan about 50-60% of the time. The EHM could then demand eg. cheap oil, U.N. votes on key issues, and/or troops for eg. Iraq.

Perkins substantiates his "American Empire" label by asserting that the U.S. is run by a big group who collectively act much like a king. They run our largest corporations, and through them, our government. They cycle through the "revolving door" back and forth between businesses and government, fund political campaigns and the media - resulting in a great deal of control over elected officials and the information we receive, regardless of who is elected.

National disasters, like wars and aid projects, are highly profitable for big businesses.
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90 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Michael on July 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
As a fifty-five year old man, my own history runs from a youthful idealism born in the frenetic 60's to a current disillusionment derived in part from a Supreme Court coup, a piecemeal destruction of the Constitution and a criminal Executive Branch that creates its own laws and ignores legislated ones.

When I read "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" a year ago, the questions we all have about how the world got to this point in history suddenly became much clearer.

From a first-person perspective, Perkins exposed the seedy underbelly of the economic giant called the United States.

As Americans we've gotten used to angry epithets being thrown at us from around the world; by "dirty commies", by "tinhorn" South American dictators, by various types of anarchists and by "ignorant" peasants.

And the chant they repeated most often over the years was that the US was an IMPERIALIST nation.

The asbsurdity of this accusation was enough to make make most Americans ignore whatever else these people might have been trying to communicate to us.

But after reading this new Perkins book about the seriously evil deeds our national government and closely allied corporations have been up to for the last sixty years, we are forced to conclude that Empire is perhaps the kindest way to describe "unofficial" American foreign policy since World War II.

Perhaps the most intriguing section of his book--and most pertinent to today's most unsettling issues--is his discussion of the the Mideast's modern history as planned and executed by the major Western powers.
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109 of 112 people found the following review helpful By Jose B. Gonzalez on April 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Funny how all the deniers and thos who rate this author's books as "impossible" or "a fabrication" do so, I am willing to bet, from the comfort of having never left their own zip code. How can it be, if their scred "free market" and the government are forces of "freedom and justice"???

As a fomer officer of the Guatemalan Army, charged at one time with guarding those "advisers" and "experts" recommended by the US Embassy, witnessing the granting of unfathomable amounts of money and visas to the US for ministers and their families, as rewards for granting this or that contract to a selected few companies, I can assure you everything Perkins says is true. For those who ask for ironclad proof, it should be an invitation to get off their behinds and do some research of their own, the facts are out there but that would be too much to ask. There is a saying in Guatemala: No hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver. "The worst kind of blindness is the one that refuses to see"
I really despair when I see the situation the country and the world are in nowadays and still there are those who claim it's all good. But as far as these books, they are an eye opener to how business is REALLY done outside the golf and country clubs of the US.
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Phyllis Staff TOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
My mind reels as it did after reading "Confessions of an Economic Hitman." The obvious greed and lust for power of the American "corporatocracy" grows and continues. Can this be accurate? Can the United States have fallen so far as to rape and pillage the rest of the world?

Looking at conditions around the world, feeling the hatred that so many hold for "the Americans," I am forced to believe the witness of my own eyes.

Africa, South American, Middle East - American economic traps span the world. American embassies tote home the loot. America's reputation grows darker. Should we continue to wonder why they distrust and hate us?

Without doubt, the events related in this volume are filtered through the mind of a single participant. Therefore, they do not and cannot reflect the whole truth. But should they be as much as 50% accurate, the implications are chilling and shameful. The United States corporatocracy is guilty of immoral and illegal acts.

Like "Confessions," this volume will undoubtedly come under attack by NeoCon shills. Do yourself a favor. Ignore them. Ignore me, too. Read this book for yourself, painful though it will be, and then draw your own conclusions. Should you choose to accept the mission, Perkins suggests concrete ways you can change the world. America's can-do spirit is still alive.
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