Book review — Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins

April 10, 2008

I have to start this post out by congratulation the Kansas Public Library System for making it to the 21st century in a big way. They launched a service last month called Kansas Audio books, music and more! which allows users to download audio books for 2 weeks and listen to them on computer, mp3 players, and even burn some titles to CD. Libraries are such fantastic institutions on so many levels. The public library was my favorite place in the world when I was a kid, and was one of the few places I could always go because my trips to the library always resulted in me coming home with knowledge and adventure in a bag and no money going out of my parents meager budget. Now that I am a parent, time to read is something that doesn’t come along as often as I would like. With this service, I can download a book and listen to it at work. There are many books that I have wanted to read for a long time and haven’t had a chance.

This brings us to last week when I was browsing the catalog and came across Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins. He explains that Economic Hitmen (or EHM’s as he refers to them) are people that go to developing countries and make economic predictions based on the revenues generated from infrastructure projects. Multi-national corporations then loan money to these countries to fund these infrastructure projects, contracts for which often go to subsidiaries of the corporation that made the loan in the first place. When the expansion doesn’t happen like planned (because the predictions were BS from the start) the loan goes into default and the corporations wring concessions out of these countries. If the leaders of the countries involved don’t like the idea of putting the soul of their country in hock to multi-nationals in exchange for personal gain, the multi-nationals send in what Perkins refers to as “the Jackals”. These are many times former CIA and State Department officials that foment rebellions, coups, and political assassinations.

The reason this book is important are the chapters on Saudi Arabia and Iraq. After the oil embargo in the early 70’s, American corporations came to the realisation that if the oil stopped, so would their money. Since Saudi Arabia had no need to go into debt they had to find some other way to get the royal family on the hook. Finally they came up with something the author refers to as “The Saudi Arabian Money Laundering Scheme.”

“The condition was that Saudi Arabia would use its’ petro-dollars to purchase U.S. Government Securities. In turn, the interest earned by these securities would be spent by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in ways that enabled Saudi Arabia to emerge from a medieval society into the modern industrialised world. In other words, the interest compounding on billions of dollars of the kingdom’s oil income would be used to pay U.S. companies to fulfill the vision that I (and presumably, some of my competitors) had come up with to convert Saudi Arabia into a modern industrial power.”

In exchange, the Saudis got internal and external security in the form of U.S. weapons and weapon systems and nobody telling them how to run their government. The truly frightening part is where the author states that if Saddam had taken the same deal we tossed at the Saudis, not only would he still be in power, we would be helping build and maintain chemical weapons plants!

This book really shines when it starts showing, step by step, how the purchases we make in this country make other people miserable. The corporations that smile at us and sell everything from soft drinks to shoes to the gas in your car starve people in third-world countries to get that stuff to you and make themselves filthy rich in the process. Everyone should go to John Perkins’s website to find out what you can do to help make a difference. 

Bread, Peace and Freedom!

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