177 of 184 people found the following review helpful
"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. A great deal of money for rebuilding is earmarked for U.S. engineering firms and large corporations owning hotel, communications and transportation networks, banks, insurance companies, etc. Sometimes they also provide an opportunity for local governments to extend their oppression - eg. just prior to the 12/26/04 tsunami the Indonesian government was ready to reach an agreement with Aceh rebels largely favorable to them - however, after the disaster disorganized and weakened the Aceh, it instead sent in additional forces to break their resistance in the resource-rich (multinational target)Aceh sector.
Overseas bribery is usually accomplished without violating U.S. law by leasing eg. equipment from companies owned by the target (and friends) at excessive rates; they can then subcontract portions to others at inflated prices. This model can be used to contract for food, housing, cars, fuel, etc. Another means is to offer to arrange for the target's children to attend prestigious U.S. colleges while covering all their expenses and paying consultant/intern salaries while they are in the U.S. U.S. companies also pay local militias for protection, thus weakening local control over them.
Little specific proof of the preceding is offered - however, it follows Perkins' earlier "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" and numerous other sources. "The Secret History" then goes on to reference vague specifics in Asia, Africa, and South America in a conspiracy-mongering manner.
Some useful specifics come through, however. Examples include privatizing water in South America and then significantly raising rates to the point of provoking a mini-revolt, engendering political change in another country through energy-extraction agreements that provide little for the resident nation, etc.
Our "bottom-line" seems to be "go along with us or we'll foment revolution and/or assassinate you." Mid-East examples include Iran (early 1950s), and Iraq (early 1960s). (No wonder leaders are leery of American-style democracy.) Those wondering why the U.S. is so concerned about Israel's welfare have the answer provided by Perkins - Israel is America's foot soldier in the area, there to help keep the Mid-East in line.
Where have we ended up? Over half the world lives on less than $2/day, over 2 billion lack basic amenities such electricity, clean water, sanitation, land titles, phones, police and fire protection, the cost of servicing Third World debt exceeds their spending on health and education and is about twice what they receive in foreign aid, developing countries' 1970 trade surplus is now an $11 billion deficit, and U.S. corporations now pay less than 10% of federal taxes - down from 21% in as recently as '01 and over 50% during WWII.
Finally, Perkins is at his weakest in prescribing where we go from here. He senses environmentalism may offer the crisis for reform, and suggests that we all become less greedy.
Bottom Line: Despite the general weakness and generally conspiratorial tone of the book, I still found "The Secret History" to offer compelling perspectives in enough areas to be highly worthwhi
89 of 90 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2007
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.
The perception and understanding by these powers that economic success depended on an unlimited and uninterrupted oil supply has underscored virtually every foreign policy initiative by the West since WWII.
The anger and hatred felt by a growing number of Muslims, Asians and other third world citizens did not arise in a vacuum. It has been building for the last six decades--much longer in our own Southern Hemisphere. The West, with the US spearheading the assault, has focused with laser precision on exploiting and safeguarding any lands around the world that have oil under those lands. Most thinking people by now know that Saddam had nothing whatsoever to do with 9-11. So what the hell do you think we're over there for? For God's sake, it was our own economic hitmen and jackals (CIA) who put him in power there in the first place!
Not content with only taking their oil, the corporations that do the actual work have exemplified the worst elements of unbridled capitalism by despoiling the land and water of those countries while giving almost nothing back to the people who are the rightful recipients.
Over the years, I've seen the concept of "unquestioning patriotism" become preeminent in our nation. Those who we depend on to ask those questions--the national media--have become part of the corporatocracy that conspires to create this world empire we call The United States.
John Perkins spent the first part of his life as an important element in the drive to create this empire. He now intends to spend the rest of his life trying to undo what he helped to create.
In a more-enlightened nation, these two books together would be required reading in every high-school history class. Only by seeing past the sophomoric belief that everything we as a nation do is good and that any criticism is unpatriotic will we also be able to hear beyond the angry slogans shouted at us throughout the world by those who have been victims of this; the American Empire.
108 of 111 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2008
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.
43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
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.
34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
I have mixed feelings about this book. The author repeats his claim to have worked for the National Security Agency (NSA) and I for one do not believe it. Like his first book, I find roughly 15% of what he writes to be delusional.
In no way does that lessen the value of the rest of it. This is a solid four star book with 65 vignettes spanning the world. It is suggestive rather than definitive.
The author appears to be elevating his consciousness and the book is, as he himself describes it, optimistic about our being able to solve problems we created. He has done some homework, incomplete, on entry points to a living democracy.
I will use my allowed ten links below to suggest that the US government and the US economic system has finally broken down. If We the People do not reconstitute Congress and elect a transpartisan leader in November 2008, all signs are that we will go straight into a major economic depression. There are 177 failed states today, up from 148 in 2006 and 75 in 2005.
The list below, for which I have provided reviews, begins with the worrst and ends on an upbeat note--Wall Street now "gets it" and they are ready to support a return to moral capitalism and legitimate governance.
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
A Power Governments Cannot Suppress
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism
Society's Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People
Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed Are Tearing America Apart
Independents Day: Awakening the American Spirit
One final note: Lawrence Lessig has said he is committed to outing corruption, and that is a good thing. It is corruption that allows corporations to loot the commonwealths of other Nations while also picking the taxpayer's pocket. The sooner we get total transparlency and demand that all legislation be posted online a week prior to the vote, the sooner we can eliminate secret earmarks where our money is used to repay corporate bribes and contributions. For a sense of the ten high-level threats to humanity, the twelve policies that must be harmonized, and the eight challengers for whom we must develop a compelling alternative model for the future, visit the Earth Intelligence Network. The weekly report, GLOBAL CHALLENGES: The Week in Review, is free.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2007
John Perkins continues in his tradition as a former economic consultant to plutocratic institutions who realized the hidden agenda of such organizations and wanted to reveal to the ordinary citizens of this country what "foreign assistance" actually entails. He uses material from his previous best seller CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMICS HIT MAN and expounds on it to provide a thorough in depth examination of the politics and intrigues of economic development projects and its profiteers. Perkins, an economist by training, documents thorougly the close ties between economics and poltical realities often with detrimental consequences for the majority of the world's citizens while benefiting certain elite groups who are determined to build a new global order. In doing so, the scarce resources of this planet are being destroyed, and unneccessary conflicts are being created to add to the coffers of these global elitists. I was so glued to this book's amazing factual information and the thorougness of Perkins' research that I found it quite difficult to put down for even a moment!
I am an economics professor myself and try to conduct my classes using a real world approach rather than asking students to memorize esoteric graphs and charts which practical economists such as this author would probably scoff at. Perkins gives insight as to why many people in the world view Western aid projects subsidized by such organizations as the World Bank with skepticism and contempt. Throughout the book, Perkins exposes the "corporatacrocy," or the collusion between international bankers and multinational corporations based in the U.S. that seek to plunder and to profit from the exploitation of precious resources at the expense of native peoples, who are viewed as expendable pawns in the conquest for global domination by the plutocratic elites. This is usually done in the guise of foreign aid, which Perkins has a substantial understanding of in his former career as an "economics hit man." This is a person who tries to lure leaders in developing nations to essentially sell his/her country to the control of these multinational corporations in return for lucrative devlopment projects that benefit only a small handful of individuals while keeping the majority of the country's people in dire poverty. If the political leaders do not comply, "jackals", or political thugs are sent to disrupt the national scene. This may even lead to kidnappings, bombings, and assassinations. In extreme cases, the military forces of Western nations are sent to overthrow noncompliant leaders and to install "puppets" to serve the interests of their corporate paymasters. Witness what we have been seeing in places such as Latin America and the Middle East over the past several years!
I highly recommend John Perkins' breathtaking work to any concerned citizen. He/she will be amazed at how reality differs from what politicians and business leaders would like us to believe. One of first the questions I ask my students is why economic and business theories may not always work in the world of ours. Perkins' book is an excellent answer to this open-ended question in the tradition and the style of his previous exemplary work . He deserves a Noble Prize in Peace for this revealing work in trying to promote human understanding and sustainability in these trying times.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2007
I'm sure this book and "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" are establishing a new understanding for the average person of human activity on our planet. The educating of the American public, let alone the Western European public and the rest of the world, will take some time and these two books are up to the task.
I think this latest book deserves six stars! Anybody who doesn't think this is of course entitled to his or her opinion - but they are missing the point of "The Secret History of the American Empire".
I think our Founding Fathers would be proud of John Perkins. I think the leaders of the corporations mentioned in his books must be paying attention as well. We have entered a new era of planetary history, and like it or not, we are all in this together. It is time to read these books more than just once, and for each of us to figure out what the necessary next steps are to be.
Please read this book and educate yourselves. This is important stuff.
I also think the United States is not an "evil" country, and Perkins makes this eloquently clear in his book. It is, however, being run by people in powerful places world-wide who seem shortsighted in their vision of the future. And it has been damaged by the mean, inhumane policies executed by many (corporations, government leaders around the world, and to a certain extent, all of us) for selfish, thoughtless and irresponsible use and waste of the world's resources.
It is obviously time for a change, but what that change will be and how it will play out is anybody's guess at this point in human history. What is clear to me from Perkins' works is: We must face ourselves as a global society and these organizations called "corporations" and demand a different kind of behavior and action related to their business dealings -- a kind of behavior and action more in alignment with integrity and the principles the United States was created to stand for. This is new territory for all of us and I think the immediate future looks a bit frightening, but not totally hopeless.
Thank you John Perkins for really making a difference. Please continue to do so!
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2007
John Perkins is a hero. I admire the courage he has demonstrated in exposing the corporocracy. I am amazed that more people won't come out and tell the truth as the writer has done. Eventhough I always suspected that the killings, resource-grabbing, and bannkrupcy of the third world were somehow related, I had never had seen anyone articulate it in such moving and profound way. Thank you John!
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on August 3, 2007
I have read Perkin's first book- Confessions of an Economic Hitman and now this one. I have to say both were well written but I prefer the first one a little more. I felt this one was a little dry and did not flow as consistently but it is understandable why- you are brought to different periods of his life with stories about other EHM's, jackals, and CIA operatives. Nevertheless, it was an excellent read with lots of useful information. With this book, you will understand how corporations, the government, the world bank, and IMF use third world countries to expand financial enterprises in USA- some of it is legal but dirty; some of it is deceptive, and other dealings are down right illegal. I think both these books are a wake up call for everyone in this country to challenge the establishment regardless of your party affiliation because it appears the majority of the government is in cahoots with the corporations.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2007
Have you ever suspected (but never was able to prove) that the international economic arena was like a no-man's land at wartime? Well, you now have the testimony of an insider to confirm all your suspicions.
The author, John Perkins was, for many years, an Economic Hitman (EHM) -- that is, an agent of what he calls corporatocracy. These comprise engineering and construction companies, secret services, the military, certain governments, as well as some international financial institutions. The ultimate goal of the corporatocracy, the author alleges, is to dominate and take control of a country's resources. This is achieved with the help of three different sets of players.
First, the EHMs who travel from country to country coercing their leaders to invest in huge development projects that, at best, benefit only the ruling class and, especially, make those countries perpetually indebted to their foreign financiers. If all the coercing and offers of bribe by the EHMs fail to convince them to buy into the projects that Corporatocracy is trying to sell, then they are replaced by Jackals whose mission would be to intimidate, assassinate the recalcitrant leaders or overthrow their regime. And if that proofs impossible to achieve then war is declared on the country on one pretext or another.
Their victims are generally, Third World countries that are rich in natural resources.
The Secret History of the American Empire is obviously a follow-up to John Perkins' "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" which was published in 2004. But unlike the Confession, this latter book is a collection of anecdotes about specific cases of how corporatocracy goes about its business. The anecdotes are regrouped by geographical area, namely, Asia, South America, the Middle East and Africa. Some of the stories are quite chilling. And, most especially, they go a long way in explaining why Third World countries might never be able to climb out of poverty, no matter how hard they try. Their natural resources are needed to feed the hungry mills in the already developed world.
Although this book recounts only American experiences in corporatocracy, America is by no means the only country allegedly engaged in this kind of clandestine economic relations. France's equivalent of corporatocracy, for instance, is called Françafric--probably because its victims are mostly African countries. Other developed countries too, certainly have their own versions of corporatocracy.
In the Confession, John Perkins was at pains to deny that all these underground activities amounted to a conspiracy. He wrote "It would be great if we could just blame it on a conspiracy, but we cannot. The empire depends on the efficacy of big banks, corporations and governments--the corporatocracy--but it is not a conspiracy."
This time around, he avoids using the word conspiracy (one way or the other) altogether. When corporations, governments, secret services and the military work together to seize control of another country's economy, they certainly must be putting their heads together in what might rightly be called a conspiracy.
The author may well lament his countrymen's lack of knowledge about Africa; but at least one of them, his boss, knew Africa well enough to admonish him, saying: "And if you ever intend to have children, and want them to live prosperous lives, you damn well better make sure that we control the African continent. We need the Middle East. Yes. But we need Africa too." This was right at the start of the author's career with Corporatocracy.
In writing this book, the author says he hoped to "inspire people to change the world".
We can only hope that he succeed in achieving such a tall order.
Very good read.