Interview transcript "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" Part 2

9. září 2007 v 0:59 | John Perkins versusTerry Lane
Radio Interview transcript "Confessions of an Economic Hitman"

Terry Lane: It also gave you an insight into and a sympathy for the politicians in some of these countries. Now of course all the world knows about the assassination of Salvatore Allende, probably because it was spectacular in the way that it was done. But you're convinced that the President of Ecuador and the President of Panama were also assassinated.
John Perkins: I have no doubt about it, and it was something that in fact I was fearful was going to happen because it never profiled. These men stood up to me and to the system, refused to play the game as we wanted them to play it, and it was especially embarrassing to the US in the case of Turrijos of Panama, because Turrijos had become a well-known figure. He was negotiating a new canal treaty with Carter, he was really standing up to the United States and insisting that they give back the canal, so the whole world was watching Turrijos, and when he wouldn't come around, this was likely to set a bad precedent, not only for Panama but something that other leaders around the world might follow. And of course, I think probably most of the rest of the world also knows what happened to his successor, Noriega, who wasn't nearly the integretist man that Turrijos was, but also stood up to the United States and as a result, we invaded his country in 1989 and killed several thousand people, wiped out a huge section of the city and brought him back as a prisoner where he still sits in a prison in the United States.
Terry Lane: And the important thing is of course, that he was succeeded by a family which had had power in Panama before Turrijos became President.
John Perkins: Part of the oligarchy, and they still rule to this day despite the fact Turrijos' son, Martin, is President of Panama, but Martin is very, unfortunately, unlike his father, very closely tied in with this oligarchy.
Terry Lane: So the point that you make is that even though the treaty that was negotiated by Carter and Turrijos is still in force, in fact, de facto, the United States now has control of the Panama Canal Zone again.
John Perkins: Exactly. Yes, if you control the political machine of a country, it doesn't really matter what the treaties say, does it.
Terry Lane: Well one of the interesting things you say John, that I hadn't heard of, but perhaps is better known in the Northern Hemisphere than in the South, was that the Panamanians contemplated building another canal, a sea-level canal using Japanese money and technology, and that this was anathema to the United States.
John Perkins: Well yes, the current canal revolves around a lock system and the largest ships in the world can't go through there, including US aircraft carriers. And so the idea was to build a sea-level canal that could take all ships. And the Japanese came in with a very strong proposal that they would finance it, and if they financed it of course they would want to build it. This was extremely disturbing to us in the United States that the Japanese would suddenly have such a strong influence on Panama and also that their construction companies would get perhaps the biggest construction job of the century. It was particularly disturbing to organisations like Bechtel, and some of our other engineering companies, and they wield a great deal of power in the United States.
Terry Lane: Now tell us a little bit more about Ecuador. It was in Ecuador where you served with the Peace Corps, and you obviously developed an affection for the country and for the indigenous people in Ecuador. What did the President of Ecuador do that he deserved to be assassinated?
John Perkins: Well, first of all, he was the first democratically elected President of Ecuador Jaime Roldos, after a long line of dictators who essentially were US puppets. And when Roldos ran for President, he ran on a very strong nationalistic ticket, opposing oil companies-I shouldn't say opposing oil companies, but insisting that the oil companies pay a fair share of their revenues back to the Ecuadorian people-and other such nationalistic policies. When he was finally elected, he started implementing these, and so we immediately went to him and tried to convince him to change his mind, and of course not only were we offering him substantial rewards if he changed his mind, and came around to our way of thinking, but also we were reminding him of what had happened to Arbens in Guatemala, who the CIA overthrew, and Allende, as you mentioned in Chile, who was killed in the process, and a number of others. But Roldos wouldn't come around. He introduced a Hydrocarbons Act, which was going to slap very heavy taxes on oil companies and, again, this would set a precedent that we didn't want to see happening in that hemisphere or anywhere else for that matter.
Terry Lane: And he was killed by blowing up his helicopter.
John Perkins: Correct.
Terry Lane: And in the case of Turrijos, he was killed by blowing up his aeroplane.
John Perkins: That's correct also. Just three months after Roldos.
Terry Lane: Now, John, even though you were working for Main , a private company, you had been recruited by the National Security Agency-how did the various agencies communicate with each other, the government agencies, the private companies, and so on-how did they keep track on what you were doing?
John Perkins: Well, you know, at the very highest levels of all these organisations, the people constantly are jumping back and forth, at least in the United States, we call it the Revolving Door Policy. So I mean for instance now you can look at a person like Condoleezza Rice who was very high up in the oil industry, and now is high up in government, or Cheney or Bush himself, or Rumsfeld or any of them, and this isn't just true under Republican regimes, it's also true under Democratic regimes. So at the highest level of our big corporations and our government and our banks, these are all the same people, so they're actually sometimes just communicating with themselves, or their buddies, who they've known all their lives who are in this business. So at the highest level it's done on that kind of what we'd call the Old Boy Network system. On the lower levels like the level where I was operating, it's much less formal. I was told by Claudine what I needed to do to make things work, and I was well rewarded when I did what I was supposed to do, and as I explain in the book, my predecessor, or actually a man who I worked with in Indonesia, refused to go along with the system, and he was fired. He refused to come up with the phony forecasts, the high forecasts, and he was fired. And I replaced him, and it was very clear what I was supposed to do. So I didn't have to communicate directly with my equivalent at the World Bank, I just had to produce the reports that would justify them giving out the big loans.
Terry Lane: I was surprised to read the other day that Dick Cheney, although vice-president of the United States of America, is still on the payroll at Halliburton.
John Perkins: That surprised you, huh?
Terry Lane: Well what amused me was the legal fiction that's used that he is being paid 'deferred remuneration', as though somehow that safeguards his integrity.
John Perkins: Deferred remuneration-isn't that an interesting one, yes.
Terry Lane: It's a good one, that one. Now John, it was not the case that all of the countries where you operated were poor, because probably your most spectacular success, I think this is the way you would see it and write about it in the book, was in Saudi Arabia, and so tell us what you worked on in Saudi Arabia and the part played in it by goats.
John Perkins: Well, Saudi Arabia, that a great example. The idea was it didn't have to be poor countries, we wanted to get countries into our empire, and we wanted to get money by which our big companies could develop projects in these countries. And so Saudi Arabia now in the early '70s was part of OPEC, which imposed this embargo basically on oil. And here in the United States we had cars backed up at gas stations for miles, trying to get gas, and we were afraid there was going to be another Depression like the one of '29. So the US Treasury Department came to me and other economic hitmen, and said, 'Look, you know, we can't allow OPEC to hold us up for ransom any more. You've got to come up with a system whereby this will never happen again.' Well I was in Saudi Arabia and saw this herd of goats, wandering around the streets of Riyadh, the capital city. Here was the capital city of what perhaps was the wealthiest nation in the world at the time, per capita anyway, and there were these goats. And I asked my driver what they were doing, and he said, 'Oh, they're the garbage collectors. No self-respecting Saudi would pick up garbage.' So people were just throwing garbage out the door and the goats were eating it. At the same time, this country is now becoming very wealthy, some of the princes of Saudi Arabia are bringing guests there, and they're bringing foreign contractors and they're taking great pride in this country. So the goats became an embarrassment for them. And I realised that herein lay kind of solution, that Saudi Arabia wanted to modernise at least some of its people, it's wealthiest people, and so this led us to work up this deal with the House of Saud, the Royal Family, whereby they would send most of the money they made from selling oil around the world, back to the United States to be invested in government securities here. Our Treasury Department would then use the interest, which ultimately amounted to trillions of dollars, to hire US companies to build, to modernise Saudi Arabia. One of the first things they did was get rid of the goats and replace them with a garbage collection system, of big, shiny trucks. And also we built desalinisation plants, power plants, ports, in fact we built huge whole cities, modern cities out of the desert. The other aspects of this agreement were that the House of Saud would guarantee to keep the price of oil within limits acceptable to us and we would guarantee to keep the House of Saud in power. And this whole system worked, and has worked very well up until these current times, except in the process of course, it's angered a great many Muslims around the world, including Osama bin Laden, who deeply resent this act that their most sacred sites, Mecca and Medina, are now being surrounded by Westernised cities, petrochemical plants and McDonalds et cetera.
Terry Lane: You suggest in the book, John, that Saddam Hussein could have had the same deal if he'd been prepared to accept it.
John Perkins: There's no question. After we were so successful in Saudi Arabia, we went in to Saddam Hussein and tried to convince him to do the same thing, and of course in the '80s, the United States and the world community poured billions of dollars into Iraq. We lent them billions of dollars, we gave them aeroplanes, jet fighters, tanks, to fight the Iranians. At the same time, we economic hitmen were trying to bring Saddam around. But he wouldn't buy. So our second line of defence are the jackals, the CIA-sanctioned assassins who we'd used with Roldos and Turrijos and Allende and others. But the jackals were unable to take out Saddam Hussein, his security was too good, he had too many look-alike doubles. And so the step of last resort is to send in the military, which of course we did in 1991, destroying his military. We did not want to take out Saddam himself, he was a powerful strong-man, he was a good deterrent against the Iranians, and so we kept him in power, but we figured that we'd sufficiently chastised him by destroying his military that now in the 1990s the economic hitmen could go in and bring him around.
However, once again, they failed, as did the jackals. And so finally the US military went in and took him out.
Terry Lane: And John, you finish the book on a sombre note. If the oil-producing states and Japan and China decide that they want their IOUs that the United States has undertaken, if they want their IOUs paid out in Euros, then the whole house of cards will come tumbling down.
John Perkins: Well, that certainly is a possibility, and it's another reason why we had to take out Saddam in the end, because he was threatening to do that. If OPEC should decide to go with the Euro, we'd be in deep trouble, because the United States is the single largest debtor nation in the world today. As long as the US dollar is sort of the standard world currency we're okay, because we print dollars. But if the Euro, or some other currency became the standard world currency-and OPEC could make that happen-and our creditors decided to call in their debt, we'd be in very serious trouble.
Terry Lane: Now you say that when you first talked about writing the 'Confessions of an Economic Hitman, you were bribed in a subtle way to drop the project. How did that happen?
John Perkins: Well yes. Legally speaking it wasn't a bribe but another large consulting firm, Stone and Webster of Boston, got wind of what I was doing and offered me a job as consultant, letting me know that I wouldn't have to do much work for them at all, and I would be paid, it ended up, about half a million dollars, but the one condition was I mustn't write any books about this business that we're in. And so this is how these things are done, that legally speaking I was not bribed, I was hired as a consultant, and that's legal. And so often, things are done this way, they're not actual bribes, but in fact they're incredible inducements.
Terry Lane: Why did you decide to stop taking the money and write the book?
John Perkins: Well it was 9/11. Gee, I was in the Amazon on 9/11 with the indigenous people who I'd now begun working with again to try to help them out of the trouble I'd gotten them into. But shortly after that, I went up to Ground Zero, and as I stood there looking down at it, that smouldering pit, I knew that I had to come clean. I knew that the American people had to know what we're doing in the world. Most Americans believe that our foreign aid is altruistic. It isn't for the most part. And they don't understand how angry it's making people at the way that we're exploiting people around the world. And I realised as I stood there, at that pit at Ground Zero, that Americans need to understand what's going on. And I really feel that if we understand it, or when we understand it, we'll demand change. And it's amazing, when people start really demanding change, we really get it, it happens. So I knew I had to write that book, and I had to do it for my daughter, who's now 23 years old, and her brothers and sisters around the world.
Terry Lane: John, now that you've written the book, have there been any attempts made to discredit you?
John Perkins: I'm not aware of any serious attempts to discredit me, certainly there's been a lot of discussion and debate around the book. It's been on The New York Times bestseller list for I think about five months, and every other major bestseller list, and mainly what's happened is the mainstream American press has ignored it, as have the politicians. Although it's been on the bestseller list, newspapers like The New York Times haven't even reviewed it or talked about it, and yet it's reaching this huge public. It's now been printed in 16, 17 languages. It's getting tremendous reaction. It was the No.1 on Amazon and in Germany a couple of weeks ago, it may still be. It's getting tremendous discussion around it, and the most common letter that I receive, email, people keep telling me, 'I suspected this sort of thing was going on, but whenever I talked about it, I was accused of being crazy or paranoid, and so I stopped talking about it. Now I've read your book, I know I'm not crazy or paranoid. I'm not only going to talk about it but I'm going to do something about it.'
Terry Lane: One last question, John. In this week in which we are talking, Tony Blair has been in Washington trying to persuade George Bush to forgive the debts of African nations. Now that either means that Tony Blair is naive and doesn't know what's going on, or that he has some other scheme in mind. What do you think is the truth?
John Perkins: Well it's pure speculation on my part Terry, I'm not involved in this business any more and I have no inside information, but I suspect it's pretty darn good politics, for one thing. You know, Blair's just won the election, he's certainly one of the stumbling blocks has been that he was too close to Bush, and now he's taking an opposite step. And anybody looking at this world, knows that Africa's in terrible, terrible trouble. Ten thousand children die every single day in Africa, just in Africa, from hunger or hunger-related diseases. Ten thousand children. You know, that's three times as many as died at 9/11. Terrible things are going on in Africa. It needs our help, and I'm grateful to Blair that he's doing this, and I'm very ashamed of my own country for not stepping up the plate and doing a lot more to help the Africans. But it's typical, because most of Africa doesn't have a lot of resources to offer us of the kinds we're looking for today, like the oil of the Middle East or Venezuela, or Ecuador, places like that. So we tend to ignore those parts of the world that don't fit in with the realm of what we're looking for in our empire, unfortunately.
Terry Lane: John, thank you very much for your time.
John Perkins: My pleasure Terry, keep up your good work of informing the public. This is what's most important in the world today.
Terry Lane: John Perkins, talking about his book, Confessions of an Economic Hitman, New York Times bestseller, as Mr Perkins himself said, and it's published by Berritt-Koehler in the United States, and is to be republished in paperback by Penguin.
Also the book that we referred to earlier when I was talking to Matthew Simmons is a book which has been published in the United States, but as far as we know is not yet available in Australia. It's called Twilight in the Desert - The coming Saudi oil shock and the world economy.

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