John Perkins Revisited
- I believe wrote a post or two here some time back about John Perkins when he was interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! He is the author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and The Secret History of the American Empire. It's a very informative read, not only to understand hatred against the US in certain parts of the world and catastrophies like 9/11 in 2001, but also the severe economc backlash of the present day on the global scene, I think.
I just stumbled across a piece from July 2007 on Greg Palast's blog that I would like to share:
by Greg Palast
5 July 2007
I remember John Perkins. He was a real jerk. A gold-plated,super-slick lying little butthole shill for corporate gangsters; asnake-oil salesman with a movie-star grin, shiny loafers, a crookedcalculator and a tooled leather briefcase full of high-blown bullshit.
This was two decades ago. The early 1980s. I wore sandals, uncombedhair down to my cheap collar and carried a busted ring-binder filledwith honest calculations and sincere analysis. It was Economic Hit ManPerkins vs. Economic Long-Hair Palast. I didn't stand a chance. The EHMwas about to put a political bullet hole through me wider than a silverdollar.
Hit Men have "clients." Perkins' was a giant power company, PublicService of New Hampshire. PSNH was trying to sell New Englandlobstermen and potato farmers on the idea that they desperately neededa multi-billion dollar nuclear plant. The fact that this bloated atomicwater kettle, called "Seabrook," would produce enough electricity foreveryone in the Granite State to smelt iron didn't matter. That thebeast could add a surcharge to electric bills equal to home mortgageswas simply smiled over by Perkins and his team of economic con artists.
To steal millions, you need a top team of armed robbers. But tosteal billions, you need PhD's with color charts and economicprojections made of fairy dust and eye of newt. Perkins had it all -including a magical thing called a computer-generated spreadsheet (thiswas well before Excel).
I was an expert witness for some consumer groups, trying to explainto state officials that Perkins' numbers were bogus as a bubble-gumbagel and his financial projections were from some New Hampshire onanother planet.
But this was the key point: Perkins slept in a suite at the Omni. Ihad truck-rumble insomnia at the motel off exit 68. He glared andgrinned and glad-handed. I tried to keep my eyes open.
Here's how it ended. The local Joe's jumped head-first into thePerkins fantasy and bought his client's power plant boondoggle. Withina couple years, the local electric companies had all gone bankrupt, thestate treasury was drained, electric bills went from lowest to highestin the nation causing factories to close and dump, I figure, about11,000 jobs.
Perkins' clients walked away with barrelfuls of billions.
And Dr. Perkins pocketed plenty for his mortal soul.
But, as in every moral tale, Perkins, the modern Dr. Faust, found redemption in confession.
And we're lucky he did. Because, in Perkins' confessionals, "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man," and his latest, the just-released "Secret History of the American Empire,"we find out what makes these guys tick. By "these guys" I mean thevultures who suck up development aide, the sharks who use the WorldBank as their enforcers, the corporate marauders, power pirates andhedge fund hogs with their snouts in the economic trough.
In "Secret History,"Perkins, from the inside, gives the details of the weird moralemptiness and pitilessness of men who waylay the riches of the planetfrom the people to whom it rightly belongs.
In New England, the pain imposed by the clients of the economic hitmen were financial; but, as Perkins wants us never to forget, in muchof the planet, the slick sales pitch of the economic hit man isenforced by squads of hit men with less subtle weaponry. Perkins writes:
"Three men toting AK-47s stood atattention outside. They saluted as we drove past. One of the threeopened the front door opposite the driver. Leather Jacket and I climbedin. He spoke into a walkie talkie. Tinted windows made it impossible tosee inside."
In lines heavy with Hemingway, Perkins takes us to Indonesia,Bolivia, even tiny Diego Garcia and other victim-states wheredoctorate-armed "consultants" put an academic gloss on militarizedplunder.
In the story of the guys with the AKs, Perkins is on assignment inGuatemala for an outfit called SWEC, a Bechtel twin trying to foistanother mad power plant horror show on the natives of Guatemala. (Aboutthe same time, I convinced the state of New York to bring racketeeringcharges against SWEC and its partners in a massive power plant buildingfraud. SWEC and co-defendants settled the civil charges for a paymentof nearly half a billion dollars.)
Unlike the yokels of New Hampshire who fell for the smooth Perkinsline, the Guatemalans were no pushovers. Skeptical locals, suspiciousindigenous shamans and a couple of improbably courageous politicianssimply wouldn't roll over to the corporate conquistadores.
The resisters, we are led to presume, will be dealt withaccordingly. As Perkins explains it, if his pie-charts don't make thesale, the little men in his darkened car know a little explosive wiredto an ignition could be persuasive.
However, by time he got to Central America on the corporateassignment, Perkins was already ill at heart with the SWECs of thisworld. Ultimately, he refused to back their destructive scheme.
Perkins had switched sides - and, in "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man"gets his soul back from Satan only a little soiled. In Secret History,the personal confession turns into an illuminating, world-spanningjeremiad. From Latin America to Africa to the Middle East, Perkinsleaps from his own story to the widespread misery caused by the greedarmies sent marching from the boardrooms of New York and London.
Today, Perkins is my confrere and colleague. He wears his hairlongish and I wear mine . . . well, I've stopped wearing hairaltogether.
And in his writings today, Perkins heart goes out to the Third Worldtargets of this new empire ruled by shock troops and spread sheets. Hisempathy extends to those in the occupied territory known as the USA.Because, says Perkins, when the wretchedly ripped-off of the Earth risein rebellion, the lash of the backlash is felt by the children of thelobstermen of New Hampshire, shivering under Humvees in Falluja, andnever the EHM's clients' fortunate sons, frolicking in their Ferraris.
***********To read an except from Perkins' latest book, The Secret History of the American Empire, go here.
Greg Palast is the author of Armed Madhouse: From Baghdad to New Orleans - Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild.
Also visit John Perkins' website, where you can watch the youtube recording of a Democracy Now! interview: