KORTEN: How the Richest of the Rich Steal from the Poorest

2004-11-10

Richard Moore

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From: "Brian Hill"
Subject:  November 2004 - Dragonfly Review of CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HIT MAN
Date: Tue, 9 Nov 2004 19:04:29 -0800

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  http://www.dragonflymedia.com/review/2004/nov/lead.html 


Confessions of Empire 

How the Richest of the Rich Steal from the Poorest of the Poor 

BY DAVID C. KORTEN 

John Perkins was for 10 years a player in a high-stakes game
of global empire. CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HIT MAN
(Berrett-Koehler, $25) is his very personal account of the
events that forced him to choose between conscience and a
glamorous life of power, luxury and beautiful women. It is
also an adventure thriller worthy of Graham Green or John Le
Carré that connects the dots between corporate globalization,
American Empire, and the dynasty of the House of Bush.

During my own 30 years as a development worker in Africa,
Latin America and Asia, I came to realize that the
institutions of the aid system and the global economy
persistently serve the interests of the rich at the expense of
the poor. I sometimes wondered whether the outcome might have
been orchestrated by some secret inner circle of power brokers
who knew exactly what they were doing.

By Perkins' account, he was recruited and trained by just such
a circle. He served their cause until he defected in a fit of
conscience and, later, decided to spill the beans. Confessions
tells stories of deals Perkins helped to broker with key oil
exporting countries such as Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Iran,
Iraq, Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia. Naming names, he
explains in riveting detail exactly how the system works-and
illuminates the reality behind the hostility of those the
United States now condemns as terrorists.

Perkins' job as chief economist for Chas. T. Main, a secretive
consulting firm with close ties to the U.S. intelligence and
corporate communities, was much like that of an Enron
accountant. He cooked the books in a gigantic international
con game. More specifically, he produced and defended grossly
inflated projections of economic growth that were then used to
justify super-sized infrastructure projects financed with
debts to foreign banks that could never be repaid.

Intentionally making unpayable loans to foreign governments
may seem the work of fools, but the money flowed directly into
the bottom lines of well-connected U.S. construction and
energy companies like Bechtel and Halliburton, and the
perpetual debts gave the U.S. government a stranglehold over
the economic and political resources of the indebted nations.
The ruling classes of the debtor nations who benefited rarely
objected; the people the projects displaced had no voice.

Selling bogus projections was specialized work that required
the social skills of a con man and the ethics of a hired
killer. By Perkins' account, recruiters from the National
Security Agency (NSA), one of the U.S. intelligence services,
decided he fit the bill.

Of particular interest is Perkins' story of his role in the
deal that tied Saudi Arabia to U.S. interests, created a
financial and political alliance between the House of Saud and
the House of Bush, and led to a partnership that channeled
billions of dollars to Osama bin Laden. Under this agreement,
the Saudis hold their oil earnings in U.S. Treasury bonds. The
Treasury Department pays the interest on these bonds directly
to favored U.S. corporations, with which it contracts to
modernize Saudi Arabia's physical infrastructure. In return
the U.S. government uses its political and military clout to
keep the Saudi royal family in power.

According to Perkins, the Saudi agreement was to be a model
for Iraq, but Saddam Hussein refused to play-which explains
why George W. Bush was so intent on invading Iraq to remove
him from office. The war was simply a different means to the
same outcome. Effective control of Iraqi oil reserves was
transferred to U.S. hands. Bechtel, Halliburton and other
corporate Bush cronies received billions in new contracts.

Perhaps, as implied by Perkins' experience, the assault on the
world's poor was orchestrated out of some super-secret NSA
project office charged with recruiting and training economic
hit men. Or perhaps it was the unintentional consequence of
playing out elite interests. In the end it makes little
difference. The power brokers and their minions win, and
hundreds of millions of losers are left to choose between
death and slavery. Either way, it's important to address the
deeper cultural and institutional causes of what is a
spreading global disaster. It's here that Perkins misses a key
point.

"The fault lies not in the institutions themselves, but in our
perceptions of the manner in which they function and interact
with one another, and of the role their managers play in that
processŠ," he writes. "Imagine if the Nike swoosh, McDonald's
arches and Coca-Cola logo became symbols of companies whose
primary goals were to clothe and feed the world's poor in
environmentally beneficial ways."

Yes, the perceptions are important, but so are the
institutions. Perkins should by now be aware of two historic
truths: 1) Between the demands of financial markets and legal
interpretations of the fiduciary responsibility of corporate
officers, global for-profit corporations face strong pressures
to maximize returns to their shareholders without regard to
social or environmental consequences; and 2) Any unaccountable
concentration of institutional power is an invitation to the
very corruption he so skillfully documents.

 

David C. Korten is the author of WHEN CORPORATIONS RULE THE
WORLD and THE POST-CORPORATE WORLD: Life After Capitalism.
Both are published by Berrett-Koehler.

Content © Copyright 2004, Dragonfly Review of Books .
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