Reposted below is the introduction and sample chapter from John Perkin’s “The New Confessions of an Economic Hitman” (also available in pdf form on his site here).
The New Confessions
I’m haunted every day by what I did as an economic hit man (EHM). I’m haunted by the lies I told back then about the World Bank. I’m haunted by the ways in which that bank, its sister organizations, and I empowered US corporations to spread their cancerous tentacles across the planet. I’m haunted by the payoffs to the leaders of poor countries, the blackmail, and the threats that if they resisted, if they refused to accept loans that would enslave their countries in debt, the CIA’s jackals would overthrow or assassinate them.
I wake up sometimes to the horrifying images of heads of state, friends of mine, who died violent deaths because they refused to betray their people. Like Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, I try to scrub the blood from my hands.
But the blood is merely a symptom.
The treacherous cancer beneath the surface, which was revealed in the original Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, has metastasized. It has spread from the economically developing countries to the United States and the rest of the world; it attacks the very foundations of democracy and the planet’s life-support systems.
All the EHM and jackal tools—false economics, false promises, threats, bribes, extortion, debt, deception, coups, assassinations, unbridled military power—are used around the world today,even more than during the era I exposed more than a decade ago. Although this cancer has spread widely and deeply, most people still aren’t aware of it; yet all of us are impacted by the collapse it has caused. It has become the dominant system of economics, government, and society today.
Fear and debt drive this system. We are hammered with messages that terrify us into believing that we must pay any price,assume any debt, to stop the enemies who, we are told, lurk at our doorsteps. The problem comes from somewhere else. Insurgents. Terrorists. “Them.” And its solution requires spending massive amounts of money on goods and services produced by what I call the corporatocracy—vast networks of corporations, banks, colluding governments, and the rich and powerful people tied to them. We go deeply into debt; our country and its financial henchmen at the World Bank and its sister institutions coerce other countries to go deeply into debt; debt enslaves us and it enslaves those countries.
These strategies have created a “death economy”—one based on wars or the threat of war, debt, and the rape of the earth’s resources. It is an unsustainable economy that depletes at ever-increasing rates the very resources upon which it depends and at the same time poisons the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the foods we eat. Although the death economy is built on a form of capitalism, it is important to note that the word capitalism refers to an economic and political system in which trade and industry are controlled by private owners rather than the state. It includes local farmers’ markets as well as this very dangerous form of global corporate capitalism, controlled by the corporatocracy, which is predatory by nature, has created a death economy, and ultimately is self-destructive.
I decided to write The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man because things have changed so much during this past decade. The cancer has spread throughout the United States as well as the rest of the world. The rich have gotten richer and everyone else has got-ten poorer in real terms.
A powerful propaganda machine owned or controlled by the corporatocracy has spun its stories to convince us to accept a dogma that serves its interests, not ours. These stories contrive to convince us that we must embrace a system based on fear and debt, accumulating stuff, and dividing and conquering everyone who isn’t “us.” The stories have sold us the lie that the EHM system will provide security and make us happy.
Some would blame our current problems on an organized global conspiracy. I wish it were so simple. Although, as I point out later,there are hundreds of conspiracies—not just one grand conspiracy—that affect all of us, this EHM system is fueled by something far more dangerous than a global conspiracy. It is driven by concepts that have become accepted as gospel. We believe that all economic growth benefits humankind and that the greater the growth, the more widespread the benefits. Similarly, we believe that those people who excel at stoking the fires of economic growth should be exalted and rewarded, while those born at the fringes are available for exploitation. And we believe that any means—including those used by today’s EHMs and jackals—are justified to promote economic growth; preserve our comfortable, affluent Western way of life; and wage war against anyone (such as Islamic terrorists) who might threaten our economic well-being, comfort, and security.
In response to readers’ requests, I have added many new details and accounts of how we did our work during my time as an EHM, and I have clarified some points in the previously published chapters. More importantly, I have added an entirely new part 5, which explains how the EHM game is played today—who today’s economic hit men are, who today’s jackals are, and how their deceptions and tools are more far-reaching and enslaving now than ever.
Also in response to readers’ requests, part 5 includes new chapters that reveal what it will take to overthrow the EHM system, and specific tactics for doing so.
The book ends with a section titled “Documentation of EHM Activity, 2004–2015,” which complements my personal story by offering detailed information for readers who want further proof of the issues covered in this book or who want to pursue these subjects in more depth.
Despite all the bad news and the attempts of modern-day robber barons to steal our democracy and our planet, I am filled with hope. I know that when enough of us perceive the true workings of this EHM system, we will take the individual and collective actions necessary to control the cancer and restore our health. The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man reveals how the system works today and what you and I—all of us—can do to change it.
Tom Paine inspired American revolutionaries when he wrote,“If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.” Those words are as important today as they were in 1776. My goal in this new book is nothing less than Paine’s: to inspire and empower us all to do whatever it takes to lead the way to peace for our children.
Conspiracy: Was I Poisoned?
The situation has gotten much worse since Confessions of an Economic Hit Man was first published. Twelve years ago, I expected that books like mine would wake people up and inspire them to turn things around. The facts were obvious. I and others like me had created an EHM system that supported the corporatocracy. Together, the EHMs, corporate magnates, Wall Street robber barons, governments and jackals, and all their networks around the world have created a global economy that fails everyone. It is based on war or the threat of war, debt, an extreme form of materialism that pillages the earth’s resources and is consuming itself into extinction. In the end, even the very rich will fall victim to this death economy.
Most of us have bought into it in a big way; we are collaborators—often unconscious ones. Now it is time to change. I had hoped that exposing these facts, making people conscious, would inspire a movement that, by 2016, would have resulted in a new vision, anew story.
People were in fact shaken awake. Activities in so many parts of the world, including localized ones such as the Occupy movements,national ones in places as diverse as Iceland, Ecuador, and Greece, and regional ones such as the Arab Spring and Latin America’s Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), have demonstrated that we understand our world is collapsing.
What I had not anticipated was the flexibility in the EHM system or its absolute determination to defend and promote the death economy. I had not anticipated the rise of an entirely new class of EHMs and jackals.
I made it clear in the original book that I did not believe the EHM system was driven by some nefarious, illegal, secret plan devised by a small group of people determined to control the world; in other words, I did not believe in some unified “grand conspiracy.”
Then something strange happened.
In late March 2005, less than five months after publication of the book, I flew to New York City on a Monday. I was scheduled to speak at the United Nations the next day. I was in perfect health,as far as I knew. A man who identified himself only as a free-lance journalist had been hounding my publicist for an interview. Because his credentials were sketchy and I was receiving a lot of press at that time, she kept putting him off. But when he suggested picking me up at LaGuardia Airport, taking me to lunch, and driving me to the apartment where I was staying with a friend, she consulted with me and I acquiesced. He was waiting for me when I exited the airport. He took me to a small cafe, told me how much he admired my book, asked some of what had become rather standard questions about my life as an EHM, and then drove me to my friend’s apartment on the Upper West Side.
I never saw that man again, and meeting him would have been an unmemorable event—except that a couple hours later I suffered severe internal bleeding. I lost about half the blood in my body,went into shock, and was rushed to Lenox Hill Hospital. I ended up spending two weeks there and having more than 70 percent of my large intestine removed.
As I lay recovering in that hospital bed, I thought that perhaps my illness was a message to slow down, that my body was over-taxed and I needed to cut back on writing and the speaking tours.
The New York gastroenterologist told me that I’d suffered from complications due to a severe case of diverticulosis. I was shocked to hear this, because I’d recently had a colonoscopy. My Florida doctor had assured me that there were no signs of cancer, which had been my main concern. He mentioned that I had some diverticula, “like most people your age,” and ended by advising me to come back in five years.
Of course, my UN speech was canceled, as were numerous other media events. Word of my operation got out very quickly, and soon I was receiving lots of e-mails. Most supported me and expressed concern for my well-being. Some e-mails came from people who accused me of being a traitor to my country. Several assured me that I’d been poisoned.
When I asked my gastroenterologist, he responded that he was“quite certain” I hadn’t been poisoned, but that he’d also learned“never to say never.” In any case, all of it got me to thinking and reading more about conspiracies.
I still do not believe in the grand conspiracy theory. In my experience, there is no secret club of individuals who get together to plot illegal, world-dominating strategies. However, I do know that part of the power of the EHM system is that it foments many small conspiracies. By “small,” I mean that they are focused on specific objectives. Such conspiracies—secret actions to accomplish illegal goals—happened when I was just beginning school, such as the CIA coup that replaced the democratically elected Iranian prime minister, Mossadegh, with the shah, in 1953. They continued during my high school years; consider the CIA-supported Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, in 1963. But I became most aware of them when I was an EHM and the CIA arranged the assassinations of my two clients, Ecuador’s Roldós and Panama’s Torrijos, in 1981. Then, as I began writing the original of this book in 2002, there was the US-led conspiracy to overthrow Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez. After that came the conspiratorial lie about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This was followed by a flurry of conspiracies against leaders and governments in the Middle East and Africa.
While I was an EHM, the goals of most conspiracies were to further US and corporate interests in the economically developing countries—to do whatever it took, including overthrowing or killing government leaders, to enable our companies to exploit resources. After my colon operation, as I lounged around my home reading various reports, it became obvious that the tools I had used in Indonesia, Panama, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other countries were now being applied in Europe and the United States. Fortified by the so-called threat of global terrorism after 9/11, these conspiracies have given excessive power to the very wealthy individuals who control global corporations. Among the most striking are conspiracies to implement “free” trade agreements such as NAFTA and CAFTA, and the more recent Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which empower corporations to assume defacto sovereignty over governments in countries around the world; to convince politicians to pass laws that permit the rich to avoid paying taxes, to control the media, and to use media to influence politics; and to terrify US citizens into fighting endless wars.
These and many other conspiracies took the EHM system far beyond where it had been in the 1970s. Despite all that I had writ-ten, I had to admit that I’d missed much of what had been going on beneath the surface. The old tools had been sharpened and new ones invented. The heart of this system remained the same: an economic and political ideology based on enslavement through debt and enforced by paralyzing people with fear. In my day, it had convinced the majority of Americans and much of the rest of the world that all actions were justified if they protected us from Communist subversives; the fear had now switched to Muslim terrorists,immigrants, and anyone threatening to rein in corporations. The dogma was similar, but the impact was now much greater.
Recuperating from that operation also sent me into the dark abyss of guilt. I’d wake up in the middle of the night haunted by memories of leaders I’d bribed and threatened. I had not yet come to terms with my EHM past.
I asked myself why I’d stayed in that job for ten long years. And then I realized how difficult it had been to escape. It wasn’t just the seduction of money, flying first class, staying in the best hotels, and all the other perks. Nor was it the pressure exerted by my bosses and fellow employees at MAIN. It was also the aura of the job, my title—the very story of my culture. I was doing what I’d been schooled to do, what I’d been told was the right thing to do. I was educated as an American whose job it was to sell America and to believe and convince everyone else that Communist regimes were out to destroy us.
One day, a friend e-mailed me a photograph of a poster like one that had hung on the wall of the boys’ bathroom in my elementary school. It depicted a sinister-looking man who asked, “Is your washroom breeding Bolsheviks?” It was an ad for Scott paper towels, and the subtitle read, “Employees lose respect for a company that fails to provide decent facilities for their comfort.” It sent a strong message that not buying American was akin to treason.
That photograph got me thinking about those most formative years in my life. After the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first satellite, we all became convinced that nuclear warheads were on the way. The chilling scream of sirens sent us scampering under our desks in weekly drills, to hide from imagined Soviet missiles. Movies and TV shows like I Led Three Lives, a gripping drama based on the memoir of an FBI agent who infiltrated a Communist cell in the United States, warned us to be vigilant; Red provocateurs, like the evil Bolshevik in the poster, lurked among us, ready to pounce.
By the time I entered the EHM ranks, it had become apparent that we were losing in Vietnam, a nation portrayed as a Sino-Soviet puppet. We were told that there would be a “domino effect”—that Indonesia would go next, then Thailand, South Korea, the Philip-pines, and on and on. It wouldn’t be long before the Red tide would sweep Europe and then engulf the United States. Democracy and capitalism were doomed—unless we halted the onslaught. And that meant doing whatever it would take to promote companies such as Scott, which portrayed themselves as bulwarks against communism.
Delving into my feelings of guilt helped me see the ease with which I had deceived myself in those years. It opened my mind to understanding that millions of people are in positions similar to mine. They are no longer taught to fear communism, but they still fear Russia, China, and North Korea, in addition to al-Qaeda and other terrorists. They may not travel to foreign lands and confront, face-to-face, the consequences of what their companies do. They may not personally stand beside oil spills in the Amazon or see the hovels where sweatshop workers sleep. Instead, they anesthetize themselves with TV. They succumb to assurances by their schools, banks, human relations experts, and government officials that they are contributing to progress. But in their hearts they know other-wise. Deep down, they—we—realize that the stories misrepresent. And now it is time to admit to our complicity.
On a trip to Boston, not long after my operation, I reconnected with my former Boston University professor and the author of A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn. Now in his eighties, he was still actively campaigning to reform a system he saw as an experiment that hadn’t worked. When I shared with him the guilt that so often threatened to overwhelm me, he urged me to keep opening to it.
“Don’t be afraid of it,” he said. “You are guilty. We’re all guilty. We have to admit that although the big corporations own the propaganda machine, we allow ourselves to be duped. You can set an example. Show people that the way out, redemption, comes from changing it.”
I told him that I often thought of middle-class Americans as being like the medieval bourgeoisie—the majority of the people, who lived in the bourgs outside the castle walls. “We pay our taxes so soldiers and jackals will defend us from the knights in the neighboring castles.”
“Exactly,” he said, with that smile of his that had enchanted and inspired so many students. “We will do anything to maintain a system that has failed us.”
I came to understand, during those days following my operation and in discussions with Howard, that my most important lesson since the publication of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man was similar to the one I had learned as a Peace Corps volunteer working with Andean brick makers: the only reason the EHM system works is because the rest of us give it permission to work. At best, we look the other way; at worst, we actively support it. One of the things that most bothered me was having to admit to myself that I not only had looked the other way but also had convinced many people to actively support that system. I made a commitment to myself that I’d be more diligent; I’d watch more closely what was going on in my own community, my country, and the world.
Although I was determined to follow Howard’s advice, I also found myself envying another man, who did not struggle with his conscience—a friend who became an immense support during my physical recuperation in Florida and who seemed to have no problem justifying his own violent actions. He was a jackal, taking a short leave of absence from the Middle East.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Chief Economist at a major international consulting firm, John Perkins advised the World Bank, United Nations, IMF, U.S.Treasury Department, Fortune 500 corporations, and leaders of countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.
The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man(2016), a follow-up to John’s classic New York Times bestseller, brings the story of economic hit men and jackal assassins up to date and chillingly home to the U.S. It goes on to provide practical strategies to transform the failing global death economy into a regenerative life economy. Confessions of an Economic Hit Man(70 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, 32 languages), The Secret History of the American Empire(New York Times bestseller) and Hoodwinked were ground-breaking exposés of the clandestine operations that created the current global crises; they set the stage for the revelations and strategies detailed in The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.
John is a founder and board member of Dream Change and The Pachamama Alliance, nonprofit organizations devoted to establishing a world future generations will want to inherit, has lectured at Harvard, Oxford, and more than 50 other universities around the world, and is the author of books on indigenous cultures and transformation, including Shapeshifting, The World Is As You Dream It, Psychonavigation, Spirit of the Shuar, and The Stress-Free Habit. He has been featured on ABC, NBC, CNN, CNBC, NPR, A&E, the History Channel, Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post,Cosmopolitan, Elle, Der Spiegel, and many other publications, as well as in numerous documentaries including The End of Poverty?, Zeitgeist Addendum, and Apology of an Economic Hit Man. He was awarded the Lennon Ono Grant for Peace 2012, and Rainforest Action Network Challenging Business As Usual Award, 2006.