After spending time in the Peace Corps and screened by the NSA, at 27, John Perkins was recruited by Chas. T. Main, Inc. and was to be their economic hit man (EHM). As he became familiar with his duties, Perkins began to question the morals of what he was doing. He made excuses to himself, justifying his work as bringing economic prosperity to underdeveloped countries. But as time went on, he realized this was an illusion – very little economic benefit was going to the people of the countries that needed it most. Instead, money was simply being funneled back to American corporations. And worse the countries were being saturated with debt, making them further vulnerable to becoming puppets of their creditors.
As an EHM, Perkins’ job was to meet with high officials and leaders of under-developed nations (UDN’s) and convince them that they needed to take out expansive loans from various institutions such as the World Bank to build infrastructure for their people – roads, highways, bridges, water & sewer systems, electrical grids, communication systems, etc. Along with these loans, there was always the restriction that the money had to be used to contract with specifically authorized western corporations to do the work.
In order to convince the officials and leaders, Perkins was to purposefully over-estimate the future of a UDN’s economy some 25 years into the future, which would guarantee American corporations engineering, building and maintenance contracts for as many years into the future as possible. At the same time, while the UDN’s officials and leaders might become much more wealthy, their land, natural resources and indigenous people were abused horribly.
If Perkins was unsuccessful in seducing leaders to take the loans, the Jackals were sent in to provide more sinister motivation – threatening family’s lives, bombing, assassinations, etc. And if the Jackals failed, the US military would be sent in as it was in Iraq in 1991.
Perkins had already begun to question the ethics of what he was doing when, in 1972, he was sent on an assignment to Panama in order to start the economic estimates for a rather large development plan, including energy, transportation and agriculture projects. He was summoned for a meeting with General Omar Torrijos, the current leader of Panama. Torrijos was genuinely concerned for the people of his country and was wise to the scam Perkins’ company and others were planning and wanted to discuss some issues, face to face, with Perkins. Torrijos made it clear that because he was not willing to be ‘bought-out’ by the lure of luxury, the Americans probably wanted him out of the way by any means possible. He cited past examples to justify his fear:
- Iran: During World War II, Britain and Russia had accused the leader of Iran, Reza Shah, of working with Hitler and initiated a coup by which his son, Shaw Mohammad Reza Pahlavi took over control of the country. Then in 1951, the Shah was removed from power by his premier, Mohammad Mossadegh, in a democratic election. Mossadegh sought to renegotiate oil resource contracts with Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (the company now known as British Petroleum). Mossadegh offered AIOC a 50-50 split on the oil resource profits, to which AIOC refused. Mossadegh then decided to take it all for the benefit of Iran. This was unacceptable for the British – they, with the aid of the American CIA, initiated a coup (Operation Ajax) by which Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi retook office and re-established Standard’s oil contracts.
- Guatemala: In the early 1950’s a new leader came to power by the name of Jacobo Arbenz. Arbenz, in trying to help the poor, initiated a program to reform land ownership. At the time, 3% of the Guatemalan population owned 70% of the land. United Fruit Company owned a large chunk of the land and opposed the reformation initiative. In the US, United Fruit undertook a propaganda campaign to convince Americans that Arbenz was a communist in cahoots with Russia. The CIA then organized a coup in Guatemala in 1954. Guatemala City was bombed by American pilots and Arbenz was replaced by a dictator, Carlos Castillo Armas, who’s new government was more sympathetic to foreigners, especially United Fruit Company, and the land reform was reversed.
Torrijos had touched a soft spot within Perkins’ own misgivings about his job. Perkins admired Torrijos for trying to help his people instead of taking the easy road to riches for himself as so many other leaders had done. The two men agreed that Perkins and his company would get all the contracts they wanted as long as the economic benefits were realistic and the Panamanian people were not plundered. Perkins even went back and wrote an Op-Ed piece for the Boston Globe, which argued for the US to give back the Panama Canal to the Panamanians. After that Perkins began taking criticism from his coworkers for being to soft and even being labeled a “Commie.”
Torrijos went on to sign a deal with US President Carter that turned over the Canal to Panama in 1977. He made enemies in the consulting and engineering firm, Bechtel, which was made up of such names as George Shultz, Caspar Weinberger and other Nixon, Ford & Bush cronies. A new canal project was being conceived and a Japanese firm was being considered for the job. Not only would this prevent Bechtel from potentially huge profits from juicy contracts, this also put America’s Central American military school and base at the canal in jeopardy. Torrijos mysteriously died in a plane crash in 1981 and there were suspicions that the CIA was involved.
The same fate had just happened to Ecuador’s democratically elected president, Jaime Roldós. Roldós was battling against foreign interests, especially oil companies and their efforts to plunder the country’s resources for corporate gain. He and the Ecuadorian Congress passed a comprehensive legislation package which aimed at the preservation of the country’s resources and the protection of indigenous peoples by restricting foreign plunder. On May 24, 1981, Roldós died in a plane crash and again the CIA was suspected as being behind the incident.
Perkins gives many other details regarding US economic intervention in foreign lands. Most prominent was what had happened in Saudi Arabia in the 1970’s, which resulted in the use of the petrodollar to buy US debt and guarantee the status of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency.
Although Perkins makes it very clear that these large, multinational corporations are pulling strings behind the scenes, he points out that the alliances between big government, corporations and banks are only part of the overall problem. It would be simple to call it a conspiracy, but that’s not the main issue. Normal, everyday people like Perkins are drawn into the system, falsely believing that they are actually contributing to something beneficial for themselves as well as the UDNs. As time goes by and one becomes successful, personal greed starts to set in and concern for ethics and the common good is lost. For Perkins, he was an Economic Hit Man, but for many of the rest of us, we’re just peons working for big corporations and have even become dependent on them, the big banks and government for our existence. How do we even begin to fight against such a system when we’ve all become addicted to it as our source of daily bread?
If things are to change before the world is plundered and its citizens forced into indentured servitude, enough people must wake up and be aware of the big picture. We must educate ourselves and not be dependent on the corpatocracy’s media to tell us what to think. We all must learn that all our actions affect each other in endless ways. A kind of Renaissance of the 21st century is needed to reshape human culture on a global scale.