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University of Guelph
Political Science
POLS 2080
Adam Sneyd

Chapter 1- An Economic Hit Man Is Born Perkins begins his novel with a few pages describing his family and childhood in rural New Hampshire. He makes a point to mention that his family was middle class but they had very little spending money for extravagant purchases. His parents taught at a prestigious all boy high school, which he attended at no cost. He vividly recalls feeling like he didn't fit in with his wealthy classmates, which helped to construct a psychological framework that, later in life, led to his seduction into the underworld of dirty global politics. While growing up, he remembers constantly being reminded by his parents of social class placement and structure. They stressed attending a "good" university and staying away from questionable lower class, and largely poor, people. Once at university, Middlebury in rural Vermont, Perkins went through something of a rebellious phase. He rejected his parents incessant harping on class and achieving success in life. He defiantly dropped out of school, giving up a full academic scholarship, in order to attend Boston University. While living in Boston he became friends with his later wife, Ann. As a couple barely out of school in the late sixties, John was fearful that he would be drafted and sent to Vietnam. Ann set up an interview with an official from the National Security Agency for him because those working for the NSA were exempt from the draft. Through a series of events and interviews John was in line to receive a position as an economist within the Agency, however, life was about to take a radical turn for the newly married couple. On a whim John attended a seminar at Boston University focused on the topic of volunteering for the Peace Corps. John had always dreamed of living with native peoples and coming to understand their cultural practices so, after receiving some positive advice, he and Ann packed up and moved to Ecuador to live with a native tribe. While living in Ecuador, serving as a Peace Corps volunteer, a man from a private consulting firm came to visit John and Ann, which marked the beginning of John's association with the world of political domination through economic control. The consulting firm worked for the World Bank primarily. They submitted their analyses and opinions of whether foreign governments should be granted huge loans by the World Bank to fund development projects. The firm kept a very low profile. In fact, they were registered officially as an engineering firm but at that time they were beginning to take on economists to provide the World Bank with statistical information gathered on each project the bank was considering funding. The agent from MAIN International Consulting Firm praised John and Ann's efforts in the Central American jungle nation of Ecuador. He also requested that John analyze the local political, social, and economic environment and report back to the NSA with his observations. Perkins did so loyally. Upon the completion of their time with the Peace Corps John was offered a job as an economist at MAIN International. Soon after being hired Perkins came to realize that, although he was hired as an economist, his real job was much closer to that of a secret, or double, agent. Chapter 2- In For Life After accepting the position and beginning his daily work at MAIN International Perkins began to wonder what it was the MAIN International was in the business of doing. He observed the way the company worked and was structured but he was unsure as to what the goal of the corporation was as a whole. He remarks that there is an obvious gender bias with many women working at the level of secretary but almost none in the executive ranks. The public library was where Perkins spends most of his days researching his first assignment, the Indonesian island of Java, as well as a possible future assignment, Kuwait. He studied the history of the countries from economic and political perspectives. One day while studying up on the format of common economic forecasts an attractive woman, Claudine, approaches Perkins. She explains to him that she holds a very prestigious position within the corporation and she was to be his tutor, of sorts, in actual position. She goes on to inform Perkins that he was handpicked to be an Economic Hit Man. What that meant, essentially, was that Perkins was to make economic predictions for the prospect of a country that may be granted a huge loan from the World Bank. The requirement being that Perkins was to always produce statistics that favored the loan being granted and showed increased economic prosperity for the country as a direct result of whatever the loan was to fund. Basically, on the long term if Perkins could be depended on to produce the desired reports and statistics the loan would be funded by the World Bank. The money from the loans went directly to international firms, like MAIN International, Bechtel, and Halliburton, amongst others. The contractors were paid off and the country to which the loan was granted would be left with a huge debt burden for many decades to come. The debt that was owed would be used by the United States government to spread the American global agenda. Because of the huge debt the leaders of such countries would submit to supporting US military ventures, and providing political support. Claudine goes onto explain the history of using economic power as a means of control and submission by the American government. There is a brief foray into the 1951 ouster of the democratically elected leader of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh. This event marks the first occasion the American government abandoned the typical pressure tactic of applying military might to affect the outcome of a foreign dilemma, and instead opted for the more subtle techniques of bribery and threats. Then she informs Perkins that he has a limited amount of time to decide whether or not he will accept the position for which he was hired. She promises a very rewarding future for him in his family but makes explicitly clear that once he accepts the job he is "in for life". Perkins is, at first, hesitant that his actions will not produce a positive result for all affected by his work. He concludes that he can do more good by working from the inside and that he was certainly the exception to the rule in his profession. He was not going to be seduced by money, power, and sex, although he had already been seduced quite completely by Claudine in the Boston Public Library. Chapter 3- Indonesia Lessons For An EHM This chapter is basically an extremely brief overview of the history of political dominance in the island nation of Indonesia. Perkins describes the long history of imperial domination by the Dutch who leaders saw Indonesia as the crown jewel in their empire because of its spices and rich fabrics. Early in the 20th century the Dutch finally gave up control over the islands of Indonesia, which began a brief period of independence. A coup in 1965 resulted in Communist forces aligned with the Chinese taking control. American fear of growing Communist powers throughout the world prompted the US government to take action in Indonesia. They came up with a program for providing electric power to Indonesia which would ultimately lead to an ongoing American presence in the region. John's first assignment was to take assessment of the proposed electrification plan. Before setting off, Perkins met Claudine for a private dinner in her apartment. Once there she warned him to never speak of their meetings or that fact that they had ever even met because she would deny it all. He also noted that, in fact, his relationship with Claudine was completely separate from MAIN International and untraceable as all their meetings had occurred in her apartment. Looking back in reflection Perkins sees that his relationship with Claudine was was one the major factors of his break up with his wife Ann. Chapter 4- Saving A Country From Communism The ideas and tales surrounding the ancient island nation of Indonesia enchanted John Perkins. He could not wait to experience first hand the exotic spices and women in elaborate colorful costumes. When he did arrive, however, he was confronted with a very different reality. The stuff of the stories was present but it was coupled with astounding poverty and filth. He mentions black rivers and cardboard housing for a large segment of the Indonesian population of Jakarta. The group of engineers and economists from MAIN International were all escorted to a posh dinner in the penthouse of the nicest hotel in Jakarta, where they were to live for three months while carrying out their mission. Charlie Illingworth, the project manager, is described as a war connoisseur. He collected memorabilia and read book after book documenting accounts from all kinds of wars throughout history. He explains that the mission is to provide electricity to Java, the most populous place in the world. Of course there was also a mission behind the mission which was to keep Communism out of the island nation and provide all the electricity related infrastructure required for oil extraction, production, and exportation. American corporations would be funded to provide the design and labor for the entire project, which would bring many westerners to the nation and it would also help to build a relationship between the Indonesian government and the American businessmen. America would then doubly benefit by obtaining oil from newly efficient Indonesian producers. Perkins, although on board with the mission, had trouble sleeping because he understood that his colleagues and his goals were selfish and greedy. He could see that electricity and the promotion of capitalism would not benefit the majority of Indonesian. It would make a few men at the top of the population pyramid rich and force everyone else deeper into debt, despair, and poverty. Chapter 5- Selling My Soul The group of eleven men spent about one week in the capital city of Jakarta before Charlie made the decision to move the group to a smaller city in order to escape the constant distractions of the metropolis of Jakarta. The men visited the embassy and got all the necessary paperwork for their stay in Indonesia in order. Then they were moved to Bandung, into a Dutch colonial style villa. They were given a full staff of various servants in the villa and they each had an off road vehicle with a private driver and translator at their disposal. Charlie explained that the first few weeks were for gathering data, then the economic projection for growth would be made, which would allow the engineers to design and build the necessary components of an electrical system that would supply the power to the region. Charlie stressed over and over again the importance of favorable economic forecasts, which made John understand his critical nature to the project as a whole. One of the men on the team was an older gentleman that was the chief load forecaster for the New England Electric System. Howard Parker is described as a bitter old man who never was able to reach his own career goals. He and John had a conversation about the plausibility of such a rosy economic forecast. The conversation upsets Perkins because Howard accuses him of being in it for the money and cooking the numbers for the benefit of a few. After much internal deliberation, Perkins comes to the conclusion that even if he held the company line and made predictions that were designed to please his employers rather than accurately predict the economic growth of the region, it would be no problem because Howard would make accurate predictions and the company would prefer his because of his seniority and rank. John Perkins slept well thinking he had solved his own dilemma. The next morning however, Howard Parker is struck ill with a severe amoebic attack and is forced to return to the United States. Chapter 6- My Role as Inquisitor Perkins meets the son of the caretaker of the estate that the group from MAIN are staying in in Bandung. His name is Rasmon and he is a student of economics at the local university. John assumes Rasy, as his friends call him, is going to ask him for a job eventually. Rasy teaches John Bahasa Indonesia, which is a local Indonesian dialect that is simple and easy for foreigners to pick up quickly. The men spend a lot of time together going on different trips to gather data. Rasy decides one day to show Perkins the true Indonesia, the real city around them. John remembers the night that he spent carousing with Rasy and his friends to be one of the most enjoyable evenings during his stay in Indonesia. After a few weeks in Indonesia, Perkins takes note that all of his meetings are planned ahead of time and the statistics and information he seeks is presented to him in an oddly impersonal manner. He comments that all the officials he set up meetings with would simply hand him a folder with data in it and that they would always refer to him as an American interrogator in the local dialect. A feeling that the data he collected was contrived by some higher government official, or perhaps someone holding a high position within an international corporation, was one he could not shake. Chapter 7- Civilization on Trial Rasy invites Perkins to be his guest at a traditional Indonesian puppet show, called a dalang. Perkins notes the beauty of the night at the outdoor setting of the show. He speaks of the food which is passed around for everyone to enjoy. When the show starts, it is described as a feat of true talent. Only one person operates all the puppets and does all of their voices. There is a classic section of the performance which features Indonesian folk tales and historic traditions and legends. Then the show took an unexpected turn. The characters of Richard Nixon, Uncle Sam, and other world leaders took the stage. A map of the Middle East and Far East dropped down as a back drop. The American president proceeded to take various countries off the map and toss them into the garbage while shouting anti-Muslim epithets. Perkins grew uncomfortable, but Rasy assured him that his presence at the show was acceptable and he was perfectly safe. That type of political show for the public was commonplace and the ideas presented in the performance were well known and accepted. After the show Perkins enjoyed talking and carousing once again with Rasy and his friends. He was surprised at the general level of knowledge of world affairs and international issues by common people in Indonesia. Perkins is urged to read certain philosophic offerings by well known American writers in order to increase his knowledge of the mindset of those in charge of American politics and foreign affairs. Rasy and his friends put forward the notion that the next big conflict in the world will be between Muslims and Christians because the West and the Christians have imperial goals and the only group big and strong enough to take them on is the Muslims. A few days after the memorable and thought provoking evening the local Indonesian politician featured in the dalang, who stood up for the Indonesian culture and all oppressed peoples throughout the world in the puppet show, was struck and killed by a hit and run driver. Chapter 8- Jesus, Seen Differently The night spent at the dalang affected Perkins in the days to come. He thought about the performance and the response of the crowd. He considered the role of the United States government in foreign countries and the role of American corporations in all levels of government, foreign and domestic. He wondered whether any aide given to foreign countries was done with the goal of altruism and generosity. All around him he saw corruption, greed, and despair. Eventually, he came to the conclusion that the men he worked for truly believed they were exporting freedom and economic growth to struggling people around the world. Interestingly enough he comments that those countries that enjoy international power and those whose citizens live in general ease are the same countries with the highest rates of suicide, violet crime, drug abuse, divorce, and crime. The wealthiest societies are also the least happy societies throughout history and all over the world. Perkins ponders whether the framers of the Constitution would have supported what has become of their governmental experiment. On his last night in Indonesia Perkins had a vivid dream of Jesus. Christ stood in front of him in his dream as a man with curly black hair and a dark complexion. This Jesus heaved a car axle up onto his shoulder and has a tire rim as a metallic halo. He said to Perkins, " If I were to come now, you would see me differently.”I asked him why and he replied...because the world has changed." Chapter 9- The Opportunity of a Lifetime Upon returning to Boston, John Perkins was summoned to the President of MAIN International. Perkins was intimidated by this figure, Bruno Zambotti. He was worried about the end result of their meeting. Bruno immediately told Perkins that Howard Parker had been fired due to his lack of ability to accurately assess economic growth in any region, specifically Indonesia. Parker had predicted a growth of only about seven or eight percent a year, which displeased many people at MAIN headquarters. His low forecast made it less likely that analysts from the World Bank would give their stamp of approval, which would detrimentally affect the possibility of a loan being granted to the Indonesian government. Thus, Parker was fired and Perkins was promoted to Chief Economist. After leaving the MAIN office building Perkins was eager to share the news of his promotion with Claudine. He called, only to receive no response. He went to her apartment and a young couple answered the door. They told him that they did not know any person by the name of Claudine, and no forwarding address by the previous tenant was left. Perkins was stunned. It was at that moment he realized how deeply he had embedded himself in a dangerous game. All of the fantastic spy stories Claudine told him about before he left for Indonesia were absolutely true. He left the apartment building in disbelief and a bit fearful for his own future. Perkins still had to present his findings to the analysts from the World Bank. He had to win their approval or his promotion and his job would be in jeopardy. After many hours of being questioned and grilled relentlessly the analysts approved Perkins findings stating a seventeen to twenty percent growth rate of the Indonesian economy as a direct result of the electrical infrastructure loan. After receiving approval John Perkins was sent on a whirlwind tour of major international cities to speak on behalf of the project and his companies role in it. Many powerful people from foreign government praised John and his work. He felt powerful but his doubts about the goodness and benevolent nature of his work stayed with him constantly. He thought extensively on questions of a highly philosophic nature about power, the nature of war, and who benefits from war. One afternoon Bruno summoned Perkins to his office for another meeting. Once again nervous Perkins entered the room not knowing what to expect. Bruno looked John squarely in the eye and offered him "the opportunity of a lifetime." Chapter 10- Panama's President and Hero While driving through a deluge of rain in Panama's capital Perkins sees a billboard featuring Panama's president Omar Torrijos. He tells a brief, but fascinating history of Panama as a nation, and the rise to power of Torrijos. The famed canal was actually began by the French in the late nineteenth century. The project was riddled with obstacles and suffered tragedy after tragedy. Eventually it was abandoned until Theodore Roosevelt took interest in completing it with American support and financial backing. At the time Panama was a part of Colombia. When the government in Bogota refused to sign over the canal zone to the U.S. Roosevelt sent a warship down to threaten the local population. Under much duress the Columbian government released the land and Roosevelt declared Panama "liberated" from Colombian rule. A puppet government was established and the canal zone was granted to the U.S. to do whatever it wished with. Panama was ruled by an elite group of families for eight generations before the populist leader Torrijos rose through the military ranks of the Panamanian national guard and got elected as President. He appealed to the poor and lower middle classes who had not been represented in government at all. Perkins makes it a point to recognize that Torrijos was neither aligned with Communist forces or the Western Anti- Communist forces. He was his own leader, bringing independence and freedom to his people. Perkins writes about the Monroe Doctrine and its ridiculous premise that the United States has special rights granted by God over all the hemisphere. Under the doctrine, the U.S. could invade any nation that refused to back U.S. policies. He also mentions the School of the Americas, which is located in the canal zone of Panama. This establishment was designed and run by the U.S. government as a tropical warfare training school which specialized in interrogation and covert operational skills. Chapter 11- Pirates in the Canal Zone John Perkins is introduced to his personal guide for the trip, Fidel. Together, the two men drive through various parts of the canal zone and surrounding environs. Like Indonesia Perkins is exposed to the poorest areas of the city. He sees standing fetid water and children with distended stomachs begging for change in the streets. Then the two pass into the canal zone, which is full of lush green landscaped lawns, country club resorts, and opulent mansions. Fidel confides in John to express his sadness that many American who visit Panama, or those that live in the canal zone, refuse to learn about the local culture. The two men run into an American family picnicking on an old fort used to fight off English pirates many centuries ago. The father underscores Fidel's point by extolling his gratitude for being American and living in the canal zone. He was happy he didn't have to expose his family to what reality was for the people "over there". Chapter 12- Soldiers and Prostitutes Fidel escorts Perkins to an area of Panama that borders the affluent Canal Zone. The area is run down, dilapidated, and Fidel warns John to never return at night without an escort. As the two men walk the street toward their destination,two boys playing in the street run right into them. After apologizing, they explain they were playing a shoot out game where the older brother was acting as the US General in charge of the canal zone, while the younger brother was a native Panamanian looking for revenge and shouting for the general to go home. Fidel and John arrive at a bar that features various women from neighboring Central American countries stripping for off duty soldiers from the Canal Zone. Fidel explains that the waitresses are Panamanian and are not to be touched by the men in the bar, however, the stripping women are foreigners with virtually no protection from the whims of the soldiers. The room is lined with Panamanian men with sharp eyes for everything going on in the bar. John and Fidel converse about the plight of the stripping women and how they have found themselves seemingly happy in such a depraved environment. Fidel illuminates the discussion with the background information that many of the women had chosen to flee their country of origin because of ruthless and brutal dictators. He said many of them had suffered through years of violence and had lost much, if not all, of their families. Fidel notes that to them stripping for soldiers is not so bad and it gives them the opportunity to make some cash to start out new somewhere. Chapter 13- Conversations with the General Unexpectedly, Perkins is summoned to General Omar Torrijos for a conversation. Perkins describes Torrijos as a typically dressed Panamanian but extremely well informed about world events and the role of the United States and the CIA in international affairs. The two men speak of the over throw of Mohamman Mossadegh in Iran in the early fifties that was orchestrated by the CIA. Torrijos makes it known to Perkins that he is aware of the game companies like MAIN and Bechtel are playing with poor countries around the world. He tells a fascinating, albeit brief, history of Guatemala and United Fruit. Torrijos and his chosen subject of talk makes John feel nervous as to what the nature of his visit is, so he asks directly, "Why did you invite me here?" Torrijos explains that in order to follow through with his mission to modernize Panama for the good of its people, including the poor, he must find a way to fund massive infrastructure projects. He is averse to giving the contract to Bechtel for reasons discussed throughout the chapter. He tells John that MAIN will receive the contract without dispute if John helps Torrijos to send the message to the world over that Panama stands alone without the aide or backing from China, Cuba, or the US. Perkins notes at the end of the chapter that an unspoken understanding arose from that meeting that he would receive praise and large contracts if he did the bidding of Torrijos on the world stage. Chapter 14- Entering a New Sinister Period in Economic History Perkins gives his account, from his perspective as chief economist at MAIN, of the formation, and impact, of OPEC in the 1960's and the subsequent oil embargo of the early seventies. At the beginning of this shift in economic practices, OPEC had the upper hand. The embargo crippled the American economy and the industrial petroleum corporations. During that time, Perkins would frequently meet with friends and debate the causes and effects that OPEC and the embargo would have on the global economy. No one, he said, could have fully understood what was really going to happen as a result of such actions. Perkins writes how the 1960's was a pivotal point in global economic philosophy and practice. Robert McNamara was, in Perkin's view, the single greatest influence in that shift. McNamara rose through the ranks of the Ford Motor Company, eventually becoming the first president of the company that was not a member of the Ford family in 1960. John F. Kennedy appointed him the Secretary of Defense during his presidency. McNamara was an economist himself and he utilized his statistically based economic theory to manage troop levels and funding for Vietnam. He promoted "aggressive leadership", which became the new popular teaching method at top business schools around the country. After his term as Secretary of defense McNamara moved on to become the head of the World Bank. To many Robert McNamara was the embodiment of the military-industrial complex. His various positions shocked many as they were an obvious breach in the separation of powers. He headed a major corporation, a government cabinet, and an international bank. Perkins notes that it did not surprise him in the least bit and he ends the chapter with a long list of notable figures that played the same game with their respective careers. Chapter 15- The Saudi Arabian Money Laundering Affair In the mid 1970's Saudi Arabia entered the international loan game, however, the House of Saud played under different rules than countries like Indonesia and Ecuador because their country had virtually infinite wealth. They could finance their own development projects. The job of the EHM, in this circumstance, was to get leading parties in Saudi Arabia to, first, want to develop the countries infrastructure, and then, get them to grant the contracts to American firms. Perkins explains how this all came to be and how this unlikely alliance between the United States and Saudi Arabia has endured and worked to both ignite tensions and subdue foreign power over both countries respective economies. The US essentially accepted Saudi Monies in Return for huge expensive contracts and favorable votes in all international governing bodies. Saudi Arabia also agreed to increase oil production in the event of another embargo brought on by other OPEC nations. This action basically undermines the power of OPEC because the American consumer will never again have to feel the pinch of an oil shortage. This shelter has become an issue revisited over and over again in the subsequent years since the agreement was made. The two nations have also endured criticism for their "sweetheart" deal from countries all around the globe. Perkins gives a very interesting personal account of how these agreements came to be signed, and how the governments, international agencies, and private corporations all worked together to achieve huge payouts and political capital. Chapter 16- Pimping, and Financing Osama Bin Laden The House of Saud stood as a unified decision making body, which meant that all high level members of government had to be convinced to accept and sign the huge development contracts MAIN put forward. Each MAIN agent was assigned a key government figure to wine, dine, coerce, and convince. Perkins was responsible for Prince W., whose happiness and pleasure was the utmost concern. Perkins was asked, and was able, to locate a beautiful American women to entertain the prince during his frequent stays in Boston. Perkins was also asked to pay for the expense which he did by coming up with creative expense accounts and huge restaurant tabs. He knew he had to have the numbers to convince the prince but supplying whatever small things he may need may have tipped the tables in his favor. Perkins also fully understood if he failed to get the prince's approval and the contracts died then he would be blamed at MAIN, and the price for failure was very high. In the end, perhaps due to a United Airlines flight attendant, the entire package was approved by the royal family. Everybody involved breathed a sigh of relief before celebrating their impending success. The deal essentially reinvented Saudi Arabia overnight. What was desolate desert kingdom became a sprawling decadent glistening modern metropolis. Also, as a result of the alliance between the US and the Saudis both countries repeatedly found themselves unable to answer for their actions when they voted again and again to protect each others interests in international bodies. The most glaring example of this type of behavior that we are still living through today is the finding that many of the terrorists aboard the planes which crashed into the World Trade Center were Saudi nationals. Also, it was further found that Saudi Arabia although shaking the hand of the US with one arm, is and has been funding terrorist cells with the other. Chapter 17- Panama Canal Negotiations and Graham Greene The contract with Saudi Arabia advanced Perkins career to even greater heights. He had a staff which grew larger and larger and he was able to hire a Russian economist from MIT that had developed a statistical approach to economic forecasts which "proved" the righteousness of lending huge amounts of cash to countries that would never be able to pay it off. Torrijos, in Panama, and Perkins honored their secret agreement and their relationship grew closer and more complex throughout the seventies. Perkins published an article in The Boston Globe promoting the return of the canal zone rights and property to Panama. Many of his peers were disappointed with his position but his boss, Bruno, however, knew it would please Torrijos and thus praised John for the decision to publish it. If Torrijos was happy, MAIN would continue receiving huge contracts. Graham Greene, the fiction writer, had also written many articles in support of Torrijos and his mission. The two had fostered an exceptionally close relationship based on the common goal of wealth redistribution to aide the poor. In fact, Greene published a nonfiction novel, titled Conversations with the General, about General Omar Torrijos. Perkins met Greene one day in a Panamanian hotel lobby. This conversation was especially meaningful and important to Perkins, as he was just barely becoming aware of how insidious his work was. Chapter 18- Iran's King of Kings This chapter focuses on the situation in Iran in the late seventies and how that country was enticed into the fold of the corporatocracy. Iran, like Saudi Arabia, was oil rich and could finance its own development. The shah, or king, was in power because when his father was deposed of by a democratically elected president, Mohammed Mossadegh, the United States sent CIA agents to
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