The hidden fist that guides the market

April 18, 2008

The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals, & the truth about Global Corruption

By John Perkins

Dutton Books, 2007

384 pages, $55 (hb)

There was a time when the United States was considered to be a bastion of liberty and democracy, a model country for others to emulate and its people were seen by many as the "good guys".

This is certainly not the case now, according to John Perkins, who describes the US as the world's "first truly global empire" in The Secret History of the American Empire.

When they are not overthrowing democratically elected heads of state and installing corporate-sponsored dictators, they are invading other countries in order to take control of their resources or otherwise imposing their will on subordinate nation-states.

John Perkins is the New York Times bestselling author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. His new book follows on from where Confessions left off.

In Confessions of an Economic Hit Man Perkins describes his younger days when he was recruited by the National Security Agency and then later moved on to work for an international consulting firm called MAIN.

This is where Perkins worked as an "economic hit man" (EHM), which gives him credibility to critique current US foreign policy. His job was to intimidate governments in developing countries in order to ensure their compliance with the policies of what Perkins refers to as the "corporatocracy" — collectively the individuals who control the media, businesses and governments.

In Secret History, Perkins continues to expose the corruption of US corporations, governments and organisations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. This corruption has been instrumental in the building of the US empire.

In the process of building its empire the United States has rigged elections, overthrown democratically elected governments and assassinated heads of state. Unlike other empires throughout history, this empire was not created by the military but rather mainly by EHM who help to exploit developing countries.

If the EHM do not succeed then they send in the jackals who are mercenaries for the CIA. If the jackals do not succeed then the United States employs military interventions to allow the policies of the corporatocracy to be carried out.

For example, the war in Iraq came about partly because of Saddam Hussein's failure to comply with US policies. Saddam Hussein became expendable and his US-sanctioned atrocities were used to help justify the invasion of Iraq.

At the beginning of the book Perkins identifies six characteristics of a global empire, and the US ticks all the boxes. For example, the US consumes 25% of the world's resources despite only making up 5% of the world's population.

Largely as a result of this empire more than 24,000 people die every day from starvation or other hunger-related diseases. These policies are having seriously negative effects on the people of developing nations and the environment that supports them. EHM and Jackals help the corporatocracy to obtain windfall profits, while the people in these developing countries continue to live in poverty.

Secret History takes a behind-the-scenes look at the building of an empire through an account of Perkins' life as an economic hit man. His overwhelming feelings of guilt for participating in such a corrupt system forced him to write this book, lecture at universities, and establish Pachamama Alliance and Dream Change — two non-profit organisations aimed at making a more peaceful and sustainable world.

This story of international corruption gives us an inside look into the true nature of capitalism. Perkins makes a strong case for arguing that such an exploitative system which keeps the majority of the world's population in poverty so that a minority can live in luxury, cannot be part of a sustainable future.

If you want to have a deeper understanding of current US foreign policy then you should read this book. If you liked Confessions of an Economic Hit Man then you will definitely enjoy The Secret History of the American Empire.

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