Remember Smedley Butler?
He was perhaps the most decorated Major General in Marine Corps history.
In the early part of this century, he fought and killed for the United States around the world.
Butler was awarded two Congressional Medals of Honor.
Then, when he returned to the United States he wrote a book titled “War is a Racket” which opens with the memorable lines: “War is a racket. It always has been.”
“I was a high class muscleman for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers,” Butler said. “In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”
In a speech in 1933, Butler said the following:
“I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.”
Smedley Butler, meet John Perkins.
Perkins has just written a book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (Barrett Koehler, 2004).
It is the War is A Racket for our times.
Some of it is hard to believe.
You be the judge.
In 1968, after graduating from Boston University, Perkins joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Ecuador. There, he was recruited by the National Security Agency (NSA) and hired by an international consulting firm, Chas. T. Main in Boston.
Soon after beginning his job in Boston, “I was contacted by a woman named Claudine who became my trainer as an economic hit man.”
Perkins assumed the woman worked for the NSA.
“She said she was sent to help me and to train me,” Perkins said. “She is extremely beautiful, sensual, seductive, intelligent. Her job was to convince me to become an economic hit man, holding out these three drugs
–- sex, drugs and money. And then she wanted to let me know that I was getting into a dirty business. And I shouldn’t go off on my first assignment, which was going to be Indonesia, and start doing this unless I knew that I was going to continue doing it, and once I was in I was in for life.”
Perkins worked for Main from 1970 to 1980.
His job was to convince the governments of the third world countries and the banks to make deals where huge loans were given to these countries to develop infrastructure projects.
And a condition of the loan was that a large share of the money went back to the big construction companies in the USA – the Bechtels and Halliburtons.
The loans would plunge the countries into debts that would be impossible to pay off.
“The system is set up such that the countries are so deep in debt that they can’t repay their debt,” Perkins said. “When the U.S. government wants favors from them, like votes in the United Nations or troops in Iraq, or in many, many cases, their resources – their oil, their canal, in the case of Panama, we go to them and say – look, you can’t pay off your debts, therefore sell your oil at a very low price to our oil companies. Today, tremendous pressure is being put on Ecuador, for example, to sell off its Amazonian rainforest -– very precious, very fragile places, inhabited by indigenous people whose cultures are being destroyed by the oil companies.”
When a leader of a country refuses to cooperate with economic hit men like Perkins, the jackals from the CIA are called in.
Perkins said that both Omar Torrijos of Panama and Jaime Boldos of Ecuador -– both men he worked with – refused to play the game with the U.S. and both were cut down by the CIA -– Torrijos when his airplane blew up, and Roldos when his helicopter exploded, within three months of each other in 1981.
If the CIA jackals don’t do the job, then the U.S. Marines are sent in
–- Butler’s “racketeers for capitalism.”
Perkins also gives lurid details of how he pimped for a Saudi prince in the 1970s, in an effort to get the Saudi royal family to enter an elaborate deal in which the U.S. would protect the House of Saud. In exchange, the Saudis agreed to stabilize oil prices and use their oil money to purchase Treasury bonds, the interest on which would be used to pay U.S. construction firms like Bechtel to build Saudi cities.
For years, Perkins wanted to stop being an economic hit man and write a tell-all book.
He quit Main in 1980, only to be lured back with megabucks as a consultant. He testified in favor of the Seabrook Nuclear power plant (“my most infamous assignment”) in the 1980s, but the experience pushed him out of the business, and he started an alternative energy firm. When word got out in the 1990s that he was starting to write a tell-all book, he was approached by the president of Stone & Webster, a big engineering firm.
Over seven years, Stone & Webster paid Perkins $500,000 to do nothing.
“At that first meeting, the president of the company mentioned some of the books that I had written about indigenous people and said –- that’s nice, that’s fine, keep doing your non-profit work,” Perkins told us. “We approve of that, but you certainly would never write about this industry, would you? And I assured him that I wouldn’t.”
Perkins assumes the money was a bribe to get him not to write the book.
But he has written the book.
You be the judge.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter, http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, http://www.multinationalmonitor.org. They are co-authors of the forthcoming On the Rampage: Corporate Predators and the Destruction of Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press; http://www.corporatepredators.org).
© 2004 Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman