It has often been argued by progressive voices that the World Bank / IMF do more harm than good to developing countries they are supposed to be helping. Example 1 and Example 2. The criticism is that the World Bank's main goal is generating revenue for American business--that the World Bank loans US taxpayer dollars to poor nations with little chance of repayment for the building of huge infrastructure projects by American companies. Not only does the American treasury get ripped off but the loan recipient countries are saddled with huge debt. But doesn't it seem strange that x-military officials such as Robert S. McNamara and Paul Wolfowitz were made president of the World Bank? What do war-mongers like McNamara and Wolfowitz have to do with civilian aid projects?
According to John Perkins, World Bank loans to developing countries serve not only the desires of large American engineering / constructions companies such as Bechtel and Halliburton but, also, the American government. By saddling a country with debt, the American government (through the World Bank) is able to make this country dependent upon the US and, thereby, gain leverage over its foreign policy. Ever wonder how the US lined up so many countries in Africa and Central / South America for Bush's "coalition of the willing" to invade Iraq? Was it not further interesting that those countries who supported Bush on Iraq were given massive debt relief from the World Bank and other loans a few years later? Perkins tells us that the World Bank acts as an integral part of US foreign policy to control developing countries.
Who is John Perkins? He was a middle-class kid from New Hampshire who was afforded a much better education than the economic station into which he was born due to the fact that his father was a teacher at an elite prep-school. Perkins earned an academic scholarship to Middlebury College but partied his brains out resulting in a loss of his scholarship. Thereafter, he moved to Boston and attended Boston University while working at a newspaper. The short-happy life of John Perkins might have, at that point, been consigned to oblivion ... but it didn't. There was this thing called the Vietnam War going on at the time and Uncle Sam was drafting bright young men like John who lacked draft-deferment status (which was going to happen to John upon graduation from BU). Serendipitously, his then wife had a highly placed, family friend at the National Security Agency (NSA) who interviewed John for a job as a spy, a job that came with draft-deferment! Just as he was ready to become a spy to avoid the draft, our boy hits on an alternative grand plan: join the Peace Corps with his wife and go to Ecuador. "Uncle Frank" at the NSA encourages John to go to the Peace Corp to gain experience living native in a South American country.
Thus began the odyssey of John Perkins: three years of Peace Corps service in Ecuador taking him beyond the draftable age of 26. Apparently NSA/CIA kept its file open on young Mr. Perkins. A partner at the large, international engineering firm of Chas. T. Main, Inc. (a contractor of the World Bank and US governmental organizations) visited him in Ecuador and recruited him to work for the engineering firm. What possible talents could a guy with a BS in marketing from Boston University who had been living in a hut in the rain-forest for the last 3 years have to offer to an international engineering firm? Simple, in very short order they made John Perkins their head economist. How does a person with only two intro-level economics courses (followed up after he was hired by a few post-graduate courses) to his credit get to be the head economist at a multi-national company? By having no compunction about lying, lying his ass off and doing it convincingly. For similar reasons, Andrew Fastow rose to become CFO of Enron (note: Fastow was not a CPA nor an accounting major in college). The corporate world has traditionally been full of such highly compensated, under-qualified liars. Hopefully times are changing.
Here was John Perkins' role in the World Bank con: Main, Inc. sends a team into a developing country to study their electric power needs far into the future. American industry wants Main, Inc. to produce studies justifying the need for a massive power plant, one the country shall never be able to pay for and probably does not need for decades to come. The actual facts on the ground do not justify the huge power plant so John Perkins just makes up numbers. My view from reading the book is that Perkins had just enough smarts to put together graphs and charts plausible enough to pass the laugh test but, also, he could deliver high level presentations of these bogus numbers with a straight face and hardened enough as a liar not to crack under questioning.
How did Perkins know his real employer was the US Government? A mysterious economic hitman trainer--called Claudine in the book--told him so. She laid it all out to Perkins in black and white at the start of his Main, Inc. career. Unsaid in the book (but highly implied): Claudine laid Perkins as well (all their meetings took place in her apartment). Shortly after receiving "training" from Claudine, Perkins separated from his wife (and later divorced her). As Perkins rose through the ranks to become a partner at Main, Inc., he became wealthy and, from my vantage point, a self-indulgent blob of goo. He secured mistresses for foreign government officials, had sexual relationships with subordinates and co-workers at Main, Inc., continued to create bogus economic reports and coerce staff members to do likewise. According to Perkins, his career at Main, Inc. ended due to pangs of conscience but, co-incidently, he left shortly after his boss and benefactor was fired. I think John jumped rather than be pushed out of the company.
This self-indulgent golden-boy landed on his feet though. After launching and later selling an independent power company for significant personal gain, John Perkins has re-invented himself as a New Age spiritualist. He leads trips into the Amazon to bring awareness to a place that he did much to destroy. I applaud Mr. Perkins for his re-awakened conscience but I'm always leary of ex-conmen.
In closing, I'd like to cover one last topic in the book: the Saudi Arabia project. Saudi Arabia was a special case because the Saudis could actually afford just about any infrastructure project Perkins and the other economic hitmen could dream up. Thus, getting the Saudis on-board the program would be a gold rush for the American companies. John Perkins was one of the suits tabbed to woo the Saudi royal family and they were successful in the mid-1970s. FN1 This agreement would have an important collateral effect: bringing Saudi society into the 20th century and help convert them to a nation of consumers. As the Saudi populace suckles at the tit of western consumerism, it slowly draws them west (a fact the jihadists despise). America has built many billions of dollars in infrastructure projects in Saudi Arabia. Who was the American official who sealed the deal with the Saudis in the mid-1970s? Perkins guesses Henry Kissinger but I think not. FN2 Henry is Jewish and Jewish power in American political circles is the biggest single obstacle to American relations with the Muslim world. A more likely closer for what I'll call the secret "American--House of Saud Joint Cooperation Treaty" was George H.W. Bush (father of the current president). H.W. Bush founded Zapada Oil Company and had done business with the Saudis and other Arabs going all the way back to the 1950s. After the secret US-Saudi treaty was in place, H.W. Bush was appointed CIA director by Gerald Ford. Why? Bush had supposedly never before worked in the intelligence field. Apparently Gerald Ford understood papa Bush possessed credentials that qualified him to be CIA director. Might this have been a reward to papa Bush for pulling off the Saudi deal?
Final Thoughts. This book contains very interesting and important historical information regarding how the US government conducts foreign affairs from an insider. For that reason, I highly recommend it.
Footnote 1: The secret cooperation treaty struck between the US and the House of Saud in the mid-1970s, in my opinion, involved the following: What US promised: (a) US political support for and promise to defend Saudi Arabia, (b) military hardware and training for Saudi government, (c) agreement not to interfere with or condemn internal repression by House of Saud of its dissidents (i.e., no agitation for women's rights or free speech or other democratic freedoms in Saudi Arabia), (d) Saudis will have free access to US market for its oil v. What Saudis promised: (a) stable price of oil with no embargoes such as occurred in 1973 (Saudi will use excess pumping capacity to pump more oil when necessary to moderate prices), (b) use US companies to build huge infrastructure projects such as roads, hospitals, power plants, sea ports, airports, hotels, new housing, desalination plants, etc., and (c) in foreign affairs position itself as a moderate Arab country on the issue of the US.
Footnote 2: I'll go even further. In my opinion, John Perkins knows who closed the secret deal with the Saudis. If he had personal interaction with the Saudi royal family and spent significant amounts of time in Saudi Arabia during this time period (as he claims) with US Embassy and US intelligence community contacts, etc., it's inconceivable to me that Perkins does NOT know who was the US government front-man on this project. Thus, again in my opinion, Perkins is covering his ass by "guessing" in his book that Kissinger was the US government front-man. It's a misdirection meant to sooth any potential ill-will from the current US Administration with his book.
John Perkins speech, Part 1. The first of a three part speech given to the Veterans For Peace National Convention, Seattle, WA in August 2006. Among other things, Perkins says Saddam Hussein was a CIA assassin prior to become president of Iraq.