Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man

Paperback | December 27, 2005

byJohn Perkins

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From the author of the phenomenal New York Times bestseller, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, comes an exposé of international corruption, and an inspired plan to turn the tide for future generations

With a presidential election around the corner, questions of America's military buildup, environmental impact, and foreign policy are on everyone's mind. Former Economic Hit Man John Perkins goes behind the scenes of the current geopolitical crisis and offers bold solutions to our most pressing problems. Drawing on interviews with other EHMs, jackals, CIA operatives, reporters, businessmen, and activists, Perkins reveals the secret history of events that have created the current American Empire, including:

  • How the defeats in Vietnam and Iraq have benefited big business
  • The role of Israel as Fortress America in the Middle East
  • Tragic repercussions of the IMF's Asian Economic Collapse
  • The current Latin American revolution and its lessons for democracy
  • U.S. blunders in Tibet, Congo, Lebanon, and Venezuela

From the U.S. military in Iraq to infrastructure development in Indonesia, from Peace Corps volunteers in Africa to jackals in Venezuela, Perkins exposes a conspiracy of corruption that has fueled instability and anti-Americanism around the globe, with consequences reflected in our daily headlines. Having raised the alarm, Perkins passionately addresses how Americans can work to create a more peaceful and stable world for future generations.

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From the Publisher

From the author of the phenomenal New York Times bestseller, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, comes an exposé of international corruption, and an inspired plan to turn the tide for future generationsWith a presidential election around the corner, questions of America's military buildup, environmental impact, and foreign policy are o...

John Perkins is founder and president of the Dream Change Coalition, which works closely with Amazonian and other indigenous people to help preserve their environments and cultures. From 1971 to 1981 he worked for the international consulting firm of Chas.T. Main, where he became chief economist and director of economics and regional p...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 8 × 5.3 × 0.73 inPublished:December 27, 2005Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0452287081

ISBN - 13:9780452287082

Customer Reviews of Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Astonishing If there were ever a tale about how empires are built this would be the tale above all. This is said to be a a gripping tell-all book and in honesty, if it is true, it tells it all. The author has written an amazing book about corporate espionage, extortion, exploitation and much more all in the name of building an empire. If it is not true it is still a fantastic read. I highly recommend it to anyone and in particular, those looking to think deeper about the world we live in and the information that is pushed to us everyday through media outlets all in the name of journalism. No matter what level of reading you are at, this story applies to the American world and globalization of our economies as we know it. I will say, I am a tad bit skeptical on how much is true, but once you have read it, the stories (or contracts) are undeniably close to what we know politics to be today. This book validated all my concerns and skepticisms around media and politicians and how greedy people really are. If it's not true, it's still an entertaining read that questions the reader on what you know and where your morals lie.
Date published: 2011-02-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Confession Worth Hearing John Perkins' book deserves to be the bestseller it is. It is a personal and engaging account of his time as an Economic Hit Man (EHM), ensnaring unsuspecting or corrupt developing countries with excessive development loans that serve (American) foreign interests more than they serve the borrowers'. The book weaves together the author's personal details and not infrequent philosophizing with his active roles in several historically important global events: from the US turnover of the Panama Canal to the deposing of the Shah of Iran to the financing of Osama bin Laden. It will be of interest to students of history, foreign policy, economics, as well as those interested in a good, peripatetic yarn. Confessions of an Economic Hit Man will make many readers pause and think differently about familiar global events; this is truly a different viewpoint than most readers will get through mainstream media, one that's both personal and insightful. We are used to foreign policy executed by direct force or through diplomatic overtures; we are less used to viewing development aid delivered through the World Bank as an American tool to endebt and enslave the populations of the developing world. Many have written about the problems with US hegemony, but invariably from an academic standpoint or by weaving together facts and opinions to try to make a point (e.g. Naomi Klein in Shock Doctrine). As much as there is to commend this book, it is not without flaws. Perkins' story is interesting, but his style lacks the flourish or wit of the best writers. As well, Perkins spends a bit too much time musing about the ethics of his and others' actions. Some of the narrative either lacks essential details or is too farfetched to be believable. For example, during his initial training for employment as an EHM, Perkins is tutored by a mysterious woman working not for his employer but seemingly directly for the government or a government agency. This is the stuff of spy novels, but in spy novels there is usually an explanation at somepoint. Even after Perkins has risen to the most senior of ranks in his firm, he still sheds no light on his employer's mysterious links to EHM trainers. This book is striking and memorable in that it is completely different than other conspiracy theory book. It is thought provoking and fresh, and is more likely than many other similar themed books to get readers thinking about the balance and exercise of power amongst nations.
Date published: 2010-03-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hitman turned activist This is another of several books in the last decade written by an insider of the US establishment exposing a culture and practices of maintaining American preeminence. I found Perkins' account particularly interesting because he claims to have been involved in so many countries, identifying many people and firms along the way in his nefarious associations. He clearly prospered from his Hitman career, and there is an element, I think a major one at that, of catharsis and remorse in writing this book. Noting that some critical reviews have challenged the extent to his claims, I think accounts like these are important because without them we would only have suspicians and ignorance, and with them we have specific pieces to build a general picture for ourselves of how events seem to happen, and not always by chance. Perkins became an unabashed activist against the big establishment and he ends with an impassioned call of action to the reader, a kind of Paul Revere of today. This is a well written book, well-paced, very personal, with colour, and with sufficient detail to connect the dots of this world Perkins is describing. I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2009-02-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Recommended and Thought Provoking Perkins soul searching back flips are more drama than reality because his ultimate financial security is always the motivation. Much of the information he presents on the network of governments, banks and corporations, the "corporatocracy" has been published in news journals. However, the compilation of these scenarios provokes one's thoughts and analysis of the current state of global financial systems and national economies, including Canada's resource based economy. Canada is not mentioned but one only need project the methods of operation described by Perkins to understand our situation. I strongly suggest Canadians read more books, such as this, describing the expansion of global economic empires to understand the options for our country.
Date published: 2008-12-29
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Confessions of a boring hit man? If the life of an economic hit man (EHM) is as boring as this book, it is little wonder John Perkins ached to get out. This book is really an act of contrition from a man obsessed with his own financial position. If you are looking to be informed about the life of an EHM, or to really understand how and EHM transforms the countries he writes about, you will be left wanting. This book contains so few facts it is rendered useless. Let me cite a perfect example – Saudi Arabia. It is intriguing money was filtered through the U.S Treasury Dept. to build this country. It is also intriguing his often repeated example of garbage collection resulted in the sale of 100 bright new shiny U.S built trucks to the country (we learn that at one time in Saudi Arabia, goats cleaned the streets). But that’s where it ends – no more information – there are absolutely no facts on the scope of U.S. corporate greed or how the country was transformed, although we can use our imagination, but that is not why I bought this book. An interesting statistic to illustrate just how glossed over this book is maybe found in the number of separate chapters this book contains – a full 35 chapters in 259 pages, or about 7.4 pages per chapter. The Publisher sells this book by stating “this extraordinary true story exposes international intrigue, corruption, and little-known government and corporate activities that have dire consequences for American democracy and the world.” This is deceiving and misleading. Any web search will give you in 30 seconds what his book, by his own admission, took years to write and none of what he writes is earth shattering. Well, and by his own admission he is a bit late now, what he writes about is now common knowledge these days and perhaps his only mistake was not writing this 20 years ago, but that would have taken him away from the money he was earning, his sailboats and his five star hotels. Clearly Perkins wrote this book out of some guilt complex that resides somewhere in his conscious. He lays the foundation for this guilt from his very first experience as an EHM but his guilt ridden anxieties are not believable. Certainly he had an epiphany during his quest to satisfy corporate greed but at what point it happened is rather debatable as this book is simply too shallow, poorly written and lacks the intensity of someone who harbored a lifelong anxiety about the work he was performing. Ironically, and this is a coincidence that usurps the many he writes about in this book, I own another of his books, “Psychonavigation, Techniques for Travel Beyond Time.” When I read this tome I was baffled by its shallowness and lack of detail and it quickly became a door stop so it comes as no surprise his book about his life as an EHM is equally shallow. My only mistake was not remembering his name when I was rushing through the airport looking for reading material and stumbled across what I thought would be a book of intrigue about the shadowy world of an EHM. Basically, Perkins writes at first year university level and with the true facts he apparently has at hand as an EHM, he could have made this book much more exciting and stimulating. The lack of facts, comparative analyses and useful information relegates this book one of the many philosophical sections of your book store and at that, it is shallow and tepid.
Date published: 2007-08-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Global Transformation Confessions of An Economic Hit Man is one insiders view of how the global empire has successfully created itself to keep the cycle of U.S. wealth, self serving. John Perkins has found the courage to share this dark past in hopes that it is not too late for us to change our dreams and re-shape with immediacy, the future direction of this planet. Those who express disdain or lack of evidence of this greedy global game have clearly missed the point. John Perkins offers the reader an informative and enticing journey through the shifty ways of economic and political manipulation of how the U.S. moves into less developed countries, depleting the resources and leaving them with unpayable debt loads. Caught within the web himself, this book clearly calls attention to our individual responsibilities in our daily actions, no matter what we do or where we live. What I find so courageous about this book is John Perkins had clearly shape shifted himself away from the greedy world of EHMs into a life of helping indigenous peoples in the world: specifically the Shuar of the Amazon. In unveiling these hidden dark truths, he is now fully owning his past actions. It is with this level of accountability that we are able to create new openings for global transformation. This book is about the game of the global empire but behind this it is about changing our dreams. It is a wake up call to change our intentions. It is deeply concerned for the future. Simply put... it is about caring for the world's children, every one of them, today.
Date published: 2004-11-30

Extra Content

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Preface ix
Prologue xvi

Part I 1963-1971

1 An Economic Hit Man Is Born 3
2 "In for Life" 12
3 Indonesia: Lessons for an EHM 20
4 Saving a Country from Communism 23
5 Selling My Soul 28

Part II 1971-1975

6 My Role as Inquisitor 37
7 Civilization on Trial 42
8 Jesus, Seen Differently 47
9 Opportunity of a Lifetime 52
10 Panama's President and Hero 58
11 Pirates in the Canal Zone 63
12 Soldiers and Prostitutes 67
13 Conversations with the General 71
14 Entering a New and Sinister Period in Economic History 76
15 The Saudi Arabian Money-laundering Affair 81
16 Pimping, and Financing Osama bin Laden 93

Part III 1975-1981

17 Panama Canal Negotiations and Graham Greene 101
18 Iran's King of Kings 108
19 Confessions of a Tortured Man 113
20 The Fall of a King 117
21 Colombia: Keystone of Latin America 120
22 American Republic versus Global Empire 124
23 The Deceptive Resume 131
24 Ecuador's President Battles Big Oil 141
25 I Quit 146

Part IV 1981-Present

26 Ecuador's Presidential Death 153
27 Panama: Another Presidential Death 158
28 My Energy Company, Enron, and George W. Bush 162
29 I Take a Bribe 167
30 The United States Invades Panama 173
31 An EHM Failure in Iraq 182
32 September 11 and its Aftermath for Me, Personally 189
33 Venezuela: Saved by Saddam 196
34 Ecuador Revisited 203
35 Piercing the Veneer 211

Epilogue 221
John Perkins Personal History 226
Notes 230
Index 240
About the Author 248

Bookclub Guide

INTRODUCTION"Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the world out of trillions of dollars...I should know; I was an EHM." —Confessions of an Economic Hit ManFollowing the treacherous road that winds down the Andes mountain range from the Ecuadorian capital of Quito, a Subaru Outback makes a Dante-esque descent into the heart of the Amazonian jungle, where an American oil company has transformed the once-lush rainforests into "flaming cesspools" awash with "oil, heavy metals, and carcinogens." Riding in the car, John Perkins feels a special connection to Ecuador, having first visited this Latin American nation decades earlier. He also bears a special guilt for the country's catastrophic decline over the thirty-five years that followed—after all, his work was instrumental in making it happen.As the title promises, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is the detailed mea culpa of a man with many transgressions to reveal. A social outsider who grew up envying the wealth and status of his affluent classmates at a prestigious New Hampshire prep school, Perkins found himself easily seduced into the ranks of "Economic Hit Men" (EHMs)—corporate professionals who employ "fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder" to mire developing nations in unserviceable debt and bring them under the control of American financial interests.Recruited first by the National Security Agency (NSA)—which identified his greed and vanity as exploitable personality traits—Perkins instead followed his more altruistic impulses and joined the Peace Corps. Assigned to Ecuador, he was enchanted by the untouched beauty of the land and fascinated by the ancient cultures of its many indigenous peoples. It is here that he met Einar Greve of the MAIN Corporation, an international consulting firm charged with assessing the economic potential of developing nations in order to qualify them for loans from the World Bank and other institutions. Seeing an opportunity to help countries like Ecuador join the modern world—and to gain the wealth and prestige he so craves—Perkins accepted a job as an economist at MAIN in early 1971.In a twist that might have been lifted from a novel by Graham Greene, one of his literary heroes, Perkins was soon approached by Claudine Martin, a beautiful "consultant" to MAIN, who had been asked to assist in his training. Playing on his NSA-identified weaknesses for women and money, she laid out the true nature of his job: to develop wildly optimistic economic forecasts that justify oversized loans to third world nations, the funds from which are then routed back to U.S. engineering firms, which receive exclusive construction contracts as a condition of these loans. Furthermore, when these nations inevitably default, they will then be under perpetual obligation to their creditors—the United States government and its corporate and financial institutions.Over the next decade, Perkins traveled around the world under the auspices of MAIN, carrying out his clandestine agenda and manipulating statistics to serve the interests of the American "corporatocracy." He became a rising star, catapulting up the corporate ranks at unprecedented speed and indulging in all the perks and privileges that come with it. But at the same time, his natural affinity for foreign cultures led him to explore the dark side of his profession: the widening gap between rich and poor, the virtual enslavement of native populations, the ruthless elimination of any foreign leader who dared refuse the Faustian bargain offered by the EHMs.As his status continued to rise, so did his discomfort with the role he was playing in the creation of this new type of empire. Through a series of encounters—a secret meeting with a mutilated Iranian dissident, a chance run-in with Graham Greene, an affair with a Colombian woman whose brother is an anti-American guerrilla, an audience with Omar Torrijos, the principled leader of Panama—Perkins began to grasp the true magnitude of the damage that he and his fellow EHMs have wrought around the world. Ignoring Claudine's long-ago warning that "Once you're in, you're in for life," Perkins resigned from MAIN in 1980.After being persuaded to remain silent for almost a quarter of a century, the events of September 11, 2001, convinced Perkins to finally share his story with the world. This Confession is not simply the clearing of one man's conscience; it is a call to action. "It is your story too," he writes, "the story of your world and mine, of the first truly global empire. History tells us that unless we modify this story, it is guaranteed to end tragically. . . . It is now time for each and every one of us to step up to the battle line, to ask the important questions, to search our souls for our own answers, and to take action."ABOUT JOHN PERKINSJohn Perkins is founder and president of the Dream Change Coalition, which works closely with Amazonian and other indigenous people to help preserve their environments and cultures. From 1971 to 1981 he worked for the international consulting firm of Chas.T. Main, where he became chief economist and director of economics and regional planning. Perkins has lectured and taught at universities and learning centers on four continents and is a regular lecturer for the Omega Center. A CONVERSATION WITH JOHN PERKINSIn your introduction, you admit that you put off writing this book at least in part because you feared for your life. Have you received any direct or indirect threats in response to its publication?Jackals don't threaten you; they kill without warning.And yes, I have been threatened. While the vast majority of the hundreds of letters and emails I have received are very supportive, there have been a few menacing ones—mostly from people who do not identify themselves. The "official" position of government and other organizations like the World Bank seems to be "no comment." I certainly understand this because, as an EHM, I was trained to ignore opposition whenever possible. We were taught: "Don't give it energy and it may go away." However, as I said, jackals don't issue threats. The fear is of the "crazy" person who comes up to you after a speech and shoots you without warning. "Crazy" people killed John and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and John Lennon. We never learned who sponsored them. These types of assassinations have been highly effective at stopping progressive movements in the U.S.You write at length about the "coincidences" that help determine the course of our lives. Have you ever considered what course your life might have taken had you never met Ann—an event that led indirectly to your career as an EHM?I used to wonder about such things, but I came to understand that it is the way we react to the coincidences that makes the difference. Meeting Ann was a coincidence. Given that, I had many choices. I decided to ask her to marry me and then to seek her father's help and get an interview with the National Security Agency. I chose to go into the Peace Corps and to accept a job with MAIN. Coincidences may have opened the door, but I chose to become an EHM.As you point out, Jimmy Carter is the only president in recent memory who seemed interested in steering the U.S. away from empire-building. Given today's political climate, do you think there is any hope for another Carter-like presidency in the near future?Jimmy Carter seemed to have this potential; however, he never defined a vision that stirred the American people. He was unable to mobilize enough support to get any sort of movement going, assuming that was his desire. Unfortunately, the fact is that during the Carter Administration the corporatocracy made great strides.What we need right now is someone who is not afraid to articulate a new vision—one that truly promotes justice, equality, environmental stewardship, and a commitment to creating a better world for our children—and is willing to fight to turn this vision into reality. We need leaders who are truthful with us, who honestly define the terrible crises we face, including global warming, overpopulation, the extreme gap between the few rich and the multitudes of poor, the anger and hatred directed at the U.S. by people who feel exploited and enslaved, and the irresponsible use of power by corporate and government officials. We need leaders who challenge us to make sacrifices now so that future generations may survive. In summary, the type of leaders who can save us from going the way of all past empires are ones who will honestly expose the problems, come up with a new vision, and inspire us to move forward. We've had plenty of leaders like that over the years—Tom Paine, Abraham Lincoln, Maria Stewart, the Grimké sisters, Rachal Carson, and Martin Luther King Jr., to name a few.After listing the many inequities that the American "empire" has created throughout the world, you ask, "And we wonder why terrorists attack us?" Some would label you a traitor for suggesting that we are somehow responsible for the events of 9/11. How would you respond?I am a loyal American. I believe we are a great country and I am committed to doing my part to uphold those values I was raised to respect as deeply American. Anyone who would deny that we have created inequalities has not traveled to the areas of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East that have been destroyed by U.S. oil companies, has not visited the shantytowns where people live who slave in sweatshops that produce tennis shoes and plastic goods for corporations whose executives zip around in private jets, and has not read about our opposition to international courts of law and environmental protocols. Such inequalities generate hatred. Hatred that has no other recourse breeds terrorism.A traitor is someone who abets attempts to destroy his country or erode its principles. Corporate executives, politicians, and government officials who place personal greed above the American ideals of justice, equality, and liberty for all—or who contribute to creating conditions that spawn terrorism—are traitors.The type of hatred that resulted in 9/11 is on the rise not because authors like me write about abuses on the part of the corporatocracy, but because millions of people are impoverished and have been exploited by the international business, banking, and governmental communities, including the World Bank, IMF, and branches of the U.S. government.Your view of the media—especially your admonition to "read between the lines" of mainstream reporting—strongly echoes Noam Chomsky. Would you consider him a kindred spirit?The very idea of democracy is based on the assumption that its members are educated. True education—as opposed to propaganda posing as education—requires that we question our leaders. We must constantly demand that they explain themselves, their motives, and their policies. Noam Chomsky is one of the voices seeking to educate us. I haven't met him personally and have no idea whether or not he is a kindred spirit, but I certainly encourage him to continue to ask questions and demand accountability on the part of our leaders.What are your thoughts on the work of George Soros and the Open Society Institute? Is this an example of a member of the corporatocracy using his power to change the system, or of one (however well-intentioned) who is simply perpetuating it through other means?Unlike the World Bank, many corporations, and branches of the U.S. government, I have never been involved with George Soros or the Open Society Institute. I try to limit my discussions to things I know about through personal experience. Anything I might say about Soros or the Institute would be speculation.Do you have any desire to follow in the footsteps of Graham Greene and write novels based on your experiences?You honor me by asking this question. Graham Greene was a great writer whose novels educated millions of people about conditions in many parts of the world. All my books have been nonfiction and I am hard at work on another, a follow-up to Confessions that goes into detail about things each of us can do to diminish the impact of the corporatocracy, transform the U.S. from empire-builder to a model for democracy, and make the world a better place for our children. For now, I think I should stick to writing about the facts as I know them. When I talked with Graham Greene in Panama, he advised me to write about "things that matter"; I have tried to follow his advice and will continue to do so. DISCUSSION QUESTIONSMany economic and political theorists would argue that the miserable conditions created by the modernization of developing nations are simply unavoidable "growing pains" on the way to a mature market economy—not unlike the conditions that existed in Europe during the Industrial Revolution. Do you see any legitimacy to this argument? If so, how would you defend it? If not, how would you counter it? History has repeatedly demonstrated that those who benefit from a grossly inequitable economic system will not allow that system to be dismantled unless forced to do so through violent means (such as the French and American revolutions). Do you think it is possible to overcome this historical truth and affect a peaceful "revolution"? Can you point to any modern or historical examples that might serve as a model for doing so? Perkins writes that "Saddam would still be in charge if he had played the game as the Saudis had. He would have his missiles and chemical plants; we would have built them for him. . . ." Even if this is correct, the fact remains that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who has now been deposed. Does this alone justify the war, even if it was not the reason for it? Do you agree with Perkins' assessment of the true motivations for the U.S. invasion? Pat Robertson has infamously called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, and the U.S. government was considering options for removing him from power before the "war on terrorism" took precedence. Before reading this book, were you particularly aware of Chavez and his alleged danger to the United States? If so, has the book changed your opinion of him? What about other Latin American leaders who have taken a stand against U.S. policies, such as Omar Torrijos and Jaime Roldós? In the epilogue, Perkins writes that one of the steps that we can take to change the system is to "shop responsibly"—that is, avoid products that are manufactured by exploited laborers. Do you think this sort of grassroots boycott can really have an effect on the policies of multinational corporations? And even if it cannot, do you think we have a moral obligation to avoid these products? Perkins argues that terrorism is a tactic of last resort that has been employed by exploited populations lacking any other means of challenging U.S. imperialism—much like the "terrorist" actions of America's founders in response to British imperialism. Do you agree with this argument, or do you see it as a case of moral relativism? If we accept Perkins' thesis that these populations have been exploited by the United States, what other, more justifiable tactics could they have turned to in response? Perkins details the great lengths that successive U.S. administrations have gone to in order to retain control of the Panama Canal. Given the canal's strategic and economic importance, does the United States have a justifiable rationale for usurping Panama's sovereignty in this matter? And even if so, do you see any way that this rationale could extend to blocking Japanese efforts to build a second canal? After reading this book, do you feel any personal responsibility for the actions taken by the American corporatocracy? Do you agree that we have a moral obligation to take action against it?

Editorial Reviews

“[A] gripping tell-all book.” —The Rocky Mountain News

“Astonishing.” —Boston Herald

“This riveting look at a world of intrigue reads like a spy novel...Highly recommended.” —Library Journal

“Here are the real-life details—nasty, manipulative, plain evil—of international corporate skullduggery spun into a tale rivaling the darkest espionage thriller.” —Greg Palast, author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy