January 1, 2005: Headlines: COS - Ecuador: Writing - Ecuador: Development: Economics: Across the Board: Ecuador RPCV John Perkins leaves the reader in an awkward straddle between a factually persuasive anti-imperialist tract and a novelistic get-even memoir

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ecuador: Special Report: Ecuador RPCV and Author John Perkins: January 1, 2005: Headlines: COS - Ecuador: Writing - Ecuador: Development: Economics: Across the Board: Ecuador RPCV John Perkins leaves the reader in an awkward straddle between a factually persuasive anti-imperialist tract and a novelistic get-even memoir

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-245-37.balt.east.verizon.net - on Sunday, June 26, 2005 - 3:16 pm: Edit Post

Ecuador RPCV John Perkins leaves the reader in an awkward straddle between a factually persuasive anti-imperialist tract and a novelistic get-even memoir

Ecuador RPCV John Perkins leaves the reader in an awkward straddle between a factually persuasive anti-imperialist tract and a novelistic get-even memoir

Ecuador RPCV John Perkins leaves the reader in an awkward straddle between a factually persuasive anti-imperialist tract and a novelistic get-even memoir

Dirty Business

Jan 1, 2005

Across the Board

by Richard J. Whalen

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

By John Perkins

Berrett-Koehler, $24.95

The Debt Threat

How Debt Is Destroying the Developing World

By Noreena Hertz

HarperBusiness, $25.95

Among the small consequences of the 9/11 terror attacks, John Perkins tells us, was to compel the onetime consultant to finish and publish his long-deferred chronicle of personal and professional selfloathing, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. The main crime he confesses: giving dishonest advice, which he believes had far- reaching, adverse consequences for the countries he advised. Fortunately, not all the world's guilty consultants feel obliged to expiate their sins at our expense by becoming grimly earnest conspiracy theorists.

"From 1971 to 1981," the book's jacket blurb informs us, Perkins "worked for the international consulting firm of Chas. T. Main, where he held the titles of Chief Economist and Manager of Economics and Regional Planning hut, in reality, was a self-described economic hit man. He continued to keep his EHM role under wraps until the events of September 11, 2001 convinced him to expose this shadowy and secret side of his life."

Economic hit men, according to Perkins' lengthy explanation, "build a global empire. We are an elite group of men and women who utilize international financial organizations to foment conditions that make other nations subservient to the corporatocracy running our biggest corporations, our government, and our banks. Like our counterparts in the Mafia, EHMs provide favors. These take the form of loans to develop infrastructure-electric generating plants, highways, ports, airports, or industrial parks. A condition of such loans is that engineering and construction companies from our own country must build all these projects.

In essence, most of the money never leaves the United States; it is simply transferred from banking offices in Washington to engineering offices in New York, Houston, or San Francisco.

"Despite the fact that the money is returned almost immediately to corporations that are members of the corporatocracy (the creditor), the recipient country is required to pay it all back, principal plus interest. If an EHM is completely successful, the loans are so large that the debtor is forced to default on its payments after a few years. When this happens, then like the Mafia we demand our pound of flesh. This often includes one or more of the following: control over United Nations votes, the installation of military bases, or access to precious resources such as oil or the Panama Canal.

Of course, the debtor still owes us the money-and another country is added to our global empire."

What global empire? America does not admit having any "empire." Perhaps Perkins is pulling our leg, or imitating Claude Rains' corrupt French police inspector in Casa blanca, who seems to wink at us as he says he is shocked-shocked!to discover die illicit gambling going on in the back room of Rick's Cafe. Perkins, in all seriousness, wants us to believe he has only belatedly discovered an empire based on commercial sharp-dealing and complicit bankers and advisers.

Throughout the 1970s, Perkins affected the autobiographical disguise of a rather nave but wellintentioned, late-blooming liberal hippie-turncd-hustler, a Peace Corps alumnus. He approached politicians running impoverished developing countries and dangled the shiny toys of modernization and globalization. Though not a trained economist, Perkins glibly used the language of economics to persuade these self-serving politicos to take on crushing debt. He was a con man, not a hit man.

As Perkins, in Indonesia or Panama, drew up grossly inflated electricity-generating projects for super-ambitious new power grids and similarly inflated budgets and loan requirements to finance them, he certainly knew that Main's clients, such as Bechtel and Brown & Root, and not the tooth fairy, would be paid to build them. Yet it took him a long decade and a series of illuminating events, including a vision in a Bandung hotel room of a brown-skinned Christ lugging an auto axle rather than a cross, to wise up. Gradually, we're told, he developed an affinity for the poor and oppressed and for such attractive populist and leftist politicians as Panama's late president Omar Torrijos, who recognized him as a kindred spirit.

Despite his change of heart, Perkins acknowledges, he declined to come clean right away: In the 1980s, he accepted a half- milliondollar "retainer" bribe not to publish a book about his experiences. Confession finally breaks its author's silence on his past crimes.

Perkins doesn't restrict his memoir to recriminations about his role in large-scale scams-his allegations about global finance and its major players cast a far wider net. And that, ultimately, is where the author runs into trouble.

It is perfectly responsible for a writer to argue-factually, analytically, and with documentary evidence-as I have in these pagesthat an overarmed America, in the process of behaving as global Number One, became an inadvertent, illegitimate, and self-doubting pseudo-empire. As a result, the United States is currently mired in a classic imperial war that's all tragic loss and no gain.

But intellectually, it is not responsible for an author to exploit wardriven "anti-empire" emotions and merely assert as self- evident, as Perkins does, that America is a vast conspiracy run by nameless military "jackals" and CIA "assassins" who overthrow or murder such heroes as Guatemala's Arbenz, Iran's Mossadegh, Chile's Allende, Ecuador's Roldos, and Panama's Torrijos. Most of these leftist leaders had highly motivated local enemies-why blame America?

The reason is that Perkins has an ideological thesis to convey. His nonfiction book resembles a novel or a film. He uses very short chapters, straight-from-central-casting characters (e.g., a mysterious Main company handler named Claudine who solemnly instructs Perkins, "Once you're in, you're in for life"), and fiction-like passages reporting the author's personal thoughts and decisions alongside out-of-scale real-world events intended to provide dramatic validation-which they fail to do.

Instead of telling us a fictional or nonfictional story convincingly, Perkins leaves the reader in an awkward straddle between a factually persuasive anti-imperialist tract and a novelistic get-even memoir. It doesn't help that the former is woefully short on researched analysis and arguments and that the latter lacks emotionally convincing Big Scenes-though the author does introduce us in passing to Graham Greene in a Panama coffee shop.

As a result, Perkins' valid theme of America's slide into empire is merely asserted rather than investigated and demonstrated, while we discover the self-deceptive false allure of globalization for the credulous huckster and his Third World "mark" alike.

The same subject-of creating debt for ulterior motives-occupies Noreena Hertz's concise and lively book, an account of rock star Bono's attempt to win over conventional politicians to his crusade for Third World debt forgiveness. The Debt Threat shows us how far we are from understanding America's inadvertent "empire" and the unintended human consequences of our careless pseudo-imperialism. An internationally recognized expert on economic globalization, Cambridge-based economist Hertz underscores a painful reality: We have watched the world banking industry create in the Third World a devastating theater of the absurd at the expense of the world's poorest, most helpless peoples.

This debt "crisis" should make us ashamed, but Hertz uses it as the imaginative springboard for a positive, guilt-free proposal for practical relief.

Applying internationally some of the key principles of domestic bankruptcy-type law, she advances a radical-sounding but rather down- to-earth "blueprint" for using the money freed up by developing- country debt relief. Each misruled and impoverished country that receives debt forgiveness would pay the newfound money into a national "regenerative trust." The funds would be invested to improve public health, education, agriculture, and transportation infrastructure under the supervision of eminent, accountable international trustees. Instead of forcing poor countries to starve to pay their debts, wisely invested debt-forgiveness money would stay at home to finance, say, land reform and agricultural improvements to grow more food.

It sounds sensible and even feasible, possibly self-enforcing up to a point. One wonders what causes the sources of misrule and overborrowing-usually corrupt politicians such as those Perkins depicts-to magically go away. Perhaps really tough trustees who behave like colonial overseers? This promising idea needs work.

Perkins persuaded self-serving politicos to take on crushing debt.

Hertz offers a positive, guilt-free proposal for practical debt relief.

RICHARD J. WIIALEN is chairman of New York-based Whalen Consulting Group, a former senior editor of Fortune and The Wall Street Journal, and author of several books, including Trade Warriors: The Politics of Foreign Trade and Investment He reviewed two books on the Federal Reserve in the Sept/Oct 2004 issue.

Copyright Conference Board, Inc. Jan/Feb 2005

When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Ask Not Date: January 18 2005 No: 388 Ask Not
As our country prepares for the inauguration of a President, we remember one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century and how his words inspired us. "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."

January 15, 2005: This Week's Top Stories Date: January 15 2005 No: 375 January 15, 2005: This Week's Top Stories
Bellamy finishing term - Veneman to head Unicef 15 Jan
230 RPCVs volunteer for Crisis Corps 14 Jan
Peace Corps Fund needs silent auction items 12 Jan
Matt Gould in one-man Peace Corps show in Hollywood 12 Jan
Taylor Hackford's "Ray" Nominated for Golden Globe 12 Jan
Ambassador Johnson shares memories of Thailand 11 Jan
Senator Dodd suggests PC return to Venezuela 11 Jan
Ambassador Hull wants PC to return to Sierra Leone 11 Jan
Poiriers unhappy with PC investigation of missing son 10 Jan
Emile Hons reflects on the Deborah Gardner murder case 10 Jan
Judge Paul A. Bastine criticized for stalling Divorce 6 Jan
Volunteer Patricia D. Scatoloni dies in Macedonia 4 Jan
more top stories...

Coleman: Peace Corps mission and expansion Date: January 8 2005 No: 373 Coleman: Peace Corps mission and expansion
Senator Norm Coleman, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee that oversees the Peace Corps, says in an op-ed, A chance to show the world America at its best: "Even as that worthy agency mobilizes a "Crisis Corps" of former Peace Corps volunteers to assist with tsunami relief, I believe an opportunity exists to rededicate ourselves to the mission of the Peace Corps and its expansion to touch more and more lives."
RPCVs active in new session of Congress Date: January 8 2005 No: 374 RPCVs active in new session of Congress
In the new session of Congress that begins this week, RPCV Congressman Tom Petri has a proposal to bolster Social Security, Sam Farr supported the objection to the Electoral College count, James Walsh has asked for a waiver to continue heading a powerful Appropriations subcommittee, Chris Shays will no longer be vice chairman of the Budget Committee, and Mike Honda spoke on the floor honoring late Congressman Robert Matsui.
RPCVs and Peace Corps provide aid  Date: January 4 2005 No: 366 Latest: RPCVs and Peace Corps provide aid
Peace Corps made an appeal last week to all Thailand RPCV's to consider serving again through the Crisis Corps and more than 30 RPCVs have responded so far. RPCVs: Read what an RPCV-led NGO is doing about the crisis an how one RPCV is headed for Sri Lanka to help a nation he grew to love. Question: Is Crisis Corps going to send RPCVs to India, Indonesia and nine other countries that need help?
The World's Broken Promise to our Children Date: December 24 2004 No: 345 The World's Broken Promise to our Children
Former Director Carol Bellamy, now head of Unicef, says that the appalling conditions endured today by half the world's children speak to a broken promise. Too many governments are doing worse than neglecting children -- they are making deliberate, informed choices that hurt children. Read her op-ed and Unicef's report on the State of the World's Children 2005.
Changing of the Guard Date: December 15 2004 No: 330 Changing of the Guard
With Lloyd Pierson's departure, Marie Wheat has been named acting Chief of Staff and Chief of Operations responsible for the day-to-day management of the Peace Corps. Although Wheat is not an RPCV and has limited overseas experience, in her two years at the agency she has come to be respected as someone with good political skills who listens and delegates authority and we wish her the best in her new position.
Our debt to Bill Moyers Our debt to Bill Moyers
Former Peace Corps Deputy Director Bill Moyers leaves PBS next week to begin writing his memoir of Lyndon Baines Johnson. Read what Moyers says about journalism under fire, the value of a free press, and the yearning for democracy. "We have got to nurture the spirit of independent journalism in this country," he warns, "or we'll not save capitalism from its own excesses, and we'll not save democracy from its own inertia."
RPCV safe after Terrorist Attack RPCV safe after Terrorist Attack
RPCV Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, the U.S. consul general in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia survived Monday's attack on the consulate without injury. Five consular employees and four others were killed. Abercrombie-Winstanley, the first woman to hold the position, has been an outspoken advocate of rights for Arab women and has met with Saudi reformers despite efforts by Saudi leaders to block the discussions.
Is Gaddi Leaving? Is Gaddi Leaving?
Rumors are swirling that Peace Corps Director Vasquez may be leaving the administration. We think Director Vasquez has been doing a good job and if he decides to stay to the end of the administration, he could possibly have the same sort of impact as a Loret Ruppe Miller. If Vasquez has decided to leave, then Bob Taft, Peter McPherson, Chris Shays, or Jody Olsen would be good candidates to run the agency. Latest: For the record, Peace Corps has no comment on the rumors.
The Birth of the Peace Corps The Birth of the Peace Corps
UMBC's Shriver Center and the Maryland Returned Volunteers hosted Scott Stossel, biographer of Sargent Shriver, who spoke on the Birth of the Peace Corps. This is the second annual Peace Corps History series - last year's speaker was Peace Corps Director Jack Vaughn.

Read the stories and leave your comments.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Across the Board

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Ecuador; Writing - Ecuador; Development; Economics


Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.