Wednesday, January 19, 2005
A Conversation with a Hit Man
Welcome to Loan Shark Nation
By Rosemarie Jackowski
John Perkins’ new book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, is a must read, even for the well informed who already have an understanding of the dark side of Capitalism. The book paints a mental picture of the hows and whys, the nuts and bolts, of how the Empire exploits and enslaves people around the world under the guise of helping them. John Perkins gives new meaning to the statement, “I’m from the government, and I am here to help you.” Now the entire world is put on notice to be on guard when anyone says, “I’m from the World Bank, or the IMF, or the consulting firm, or the engineering company and I am here to help you.”
Rosemarie Jackowski: Hi, John. First I would like to congratulate you, not only on the completion and success of your book, but the even greater achievement...the changing of the course of your life. The struggle and crisis of conscience that brought you to the point where you are today, I am sure was painful. It appears that you have overcome the many temptations and offers of reward that would have come to you if you had continued your work as a hit man for the empire. I read the book in three sittings. It was absorbing, depressing, and inspiring, all at the same time. I understand that you had been thinking about writing the book for about 20 years but did not do it because of threats and bribes. Have you had any unpleasant occurrences since the book was published? Have there been any offers to make a film based on the book? Somehow, the information in your book has to get into the mainstream.
John Perkins: As described in the Preface, one publisher took me out to dinner in NYC to tell me that it was a book that needed to be published but he could not publish it without fear of losing his job. After that over a dozen of the world’s biggest publishers followed suit. Now that it is out, it is making lots of waves—#1 on Amazon its first week in publication, and has been on NY Times bestseller list for a month.
RJ: When I first heard about your book, it brought to mind the ideas of Gen. Smedley Butler. I know that others have also made that comparison to “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”. After I started reading the book, it brought to mind things that happened in the mid-west to the farmers there in the 1970’s. I interviewed some of them at the time, and they described similar fraudulent practices that resulted in the loss of their farms...on perhaps a much smaller scale than the international saga that you describe. Do you have an opinion about that problem?
JP: No personal experience with those farmers. I don’t like to speculate, just talk about things I know about from my own experiences.
RJ: Could you name the top 5 or 6 companies which are presently involved in the kind of fraudulent exploitation that you describe?
JP: Of course we all hear about Bechtel and Halliburton. In addition, name any company that does lots of international work and/or uses World Bank money to build large projects, and you’ve got it. In the Preface I mention Monsanto, GE, Nike, GM, Wal-Mart—good for starters, but the list is long. Of the 100 biggest world economies today, 52 are corporations, not governments. They all participate in this.
RJ: Can you name anyone in Washington who has an enlightened view and who would be helpful in ending this system of exploitation?
JP: I believe change in a democracy must come from the grass roots. When we the people demand a government for, by, and of the people—rather than for, by, and of the corporations, the right politicians will step forward.
RJ: Is there anything important that you left out of the book that you can talk about now?
JP: Lots. It will be in the next book.
RJ: I really look forward to your next book! Within the past few days there was a news report that Argentina had considered simply not paying its debt to the World Bank. It seems to me, that that is the best way to fix the problem. What would be the downside, if the debtor nations just refused to pay?
JP: You asked the trillion dollar question! During recent elections, six Lat Am nations have voted in candidates opposed to US and/or corp globalization: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Many countries are discussing not paying their debts—in fact saying it is not really their debt at all but rather debt imposed on them by the corporatocracy and a few corrupt politicians in their countries who were our puppets. What if they all refused to pay? It is a big “What if” and not likely to happen given the current economic realities and of how most of the world views our power and our ruthlessness. What if journalists like you were able to convince the American public that we should demand debt forgiveness?
RJ: Ah, that is one of my greatest dreams. We have to get the word out to the debtor nations that they will be doing a service to humanity if they refuse to pay. That is the way to protect those in the future from such exploitation. Your book ends on an upbeat note. You say on page 222, “...Imagine if the Nike swoosh, MacDonald’s arches, and Coca-Cola logo became symbols of companies whose primary goals were to clothe and feed the world’s poor...”. I am not as optimistic as you are.
JP: How can you NOT be optimistic? 90 years ago women could not vote in the US. 50 years ago blacks could not ride on the same buses as whites in many parts of this country. Nelson Mandela was in prison for nearly 3 decades and then became pres of S Af and got rid of Apartheid. The US spent $ billions to overthrow the USSR and in the end it was a change of consciousness—led by a small group of labor leaders, playwrights, and poets—that brought the Soviet Union down, and on and on. Do you not think George Washington and all the signers of the Declaration did not face as a great an adversary as you and I today—the mightiest empire in the history of the world at the time? They stuck their heads in nooses—every one would have been hanged as a traitor and terrorist had we lost the Revolution. Pessimism is self-defeating and flies in the face of history. It is pure cowardice. We need courage today.
RJ: I believe that part of the problem is inherent in the Capitalistic System. Under the Predatory Capitalistic system, as it is practiced now in the United States, everything is contaminated by greed...the culture, the economy, the workplace, the educational institutions, and both foreign and domestic policy. It appears that the Court System would not be helpful in righting the wrongs that have been done. The fundamental aspects of our culture play a big role in furthering the evils of Empire. I think about what we teach our children, both in and out of schools. Thank you for calling for a revolution in our approach to education. Can you give any specifics about how you would change education? Also, please comment on the shocking failure of our Business Schools and Engineering Schools when it comes to teaching business ethics. Has the ability of our colleges and universities, to teach an accurate global view, been compromised because of government grants and government financed research projects?
JP: Yes. Let’s insist on something better.
RJ: I apologize for being so pessimistic. I have been very troubled by the recent actions of our government, especially the killing of so many civilians in Iraq. Every day I look at the photos of the children who were killed with U.S. cluster bombs. On the brighter side, your book has inspired me to come up with a plan of action. On the top of my list would be to encourage debtor nations to announce that they will NOT pay back the loans. Many loans were given in an obvious attempt to defraud and exploit. Second, we must call for reparations to the people who have been enslaved and exploited. Third, we must get the word out. Your book has done a great job of that, but we live in a country that is so morally bankrupt, and so lacking in compassion, that it does not even care about the more than 100,000 civilians we have just slaughtered, so I am not hopeful. I think that part of the answer is to get the information out in other countries, where people seem to be more open minded. In what other countries has your book been published?
JP: Rights already sold in Germany, Brazil, Japan, Korea, being negotiated in many other countries.
RJ: Is there anything else that you would like to add here before we close?
JP: I understand your pessimism. but please know that these are exactly the times that call for hope and action. My experience is that people in many other countries already know that we give them $ billions and that only their rich families and our corps benefit while their lives just get worse. Telling them is telling people who already are aware and essentially powerless. What can a peasant farmer or slum dweller do against us? It is we who must foment the change. It is our people you must reach and inspire. Only action on our part will create the kinds of change we need. We have more resources than any country in history and now we must use them to spread the dream of our founding fathers of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all people around the planet.
RJ: Thank you. Please stay in touch.
JP: My pleasure. Please keep up your good work. We must remain diligent and skeptical, and yet at the same time listen to the lessons of history—we can change things. Remember that within “Emergence” there is “Emerge”. . .
Rosemarie Jackowski is an advocacy journalist living in Vermont. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Share