Excerpted from the book, A GAME AS OLD AS EMPIRE release date, March 19, 2007
Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign “aid” organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources. Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization.
I should know; I was an EHM.
I wrote that opening paragraph to Confessions of an Economic Hit Man as a description of my own profession. Since the book’s first publication in early November 2004, I have heard TV, radio, and event hosts read those words many times as they introduced me to their audiences. The reality of EHMs shocked people in the United States and other countries. Many have told me that it convinced them to commit themselves to taking actions that will make this a better world.
The public interest aroused by Confessions was not a foregone conclusion. I spent a great deal of time working up the courage to try to publish it. Once I made the decision to do so, my attempts got off to a rocky start.
By late 2003, the manuscript had been circulated to many publishers—and I had almost given up on ever seeing the book in print. Despite praising it as “riveting,” “eloquently written,” “an important exposé,” and “a story that must be told,” publisher after publisher—twenty-five, in fact—rejected it. My literary agent and I concluded that it was just too anti-corporatocracy. (A word introduced to most readers in those pages, corporatocracy refers to the powerful group of people who run the world’s biggest corporations, the most powerful governments, and history’s first truly global empire.) The major publishing houses, we concluded, were too intimidated by, or perhaps too beholden to, the corporate elite.
Eventually a courageous independent publisher, Berrett-Koehler, took the book on. Confessions’ success among the public astounded me. During its first week in bookstores it went to number 4 on Amazon.com. Then it spent many weeks on every major bestseller list. In less than fourteen months, it had been translated into and published in twenty languages. A major Hollywood company purchased the option to film it. Penguin/Plume bought the paperback rights.
Despite all these successes, an important element was still missing. The major U.S. media refused to discuss Confessions or the fact that, because of it, words such as EHM, corporatocracy, and jackal were now appearing on college syllabuses. The New York Times and other newspapers had to include it on their bestseller lists—after all, numbers don’t lie (unless an EHM produces them, as you will see in the following pages)—but during its first fifteen months in print most of them obstinately declined to review it. Why?
My agent, my publicist, the best minds at Berrett-Koehler and Penguin/Plume, my family, my friends, and I may never know the real answer to that question. What we do know is that several nationally recognized journalists appeared poised on the verge of writing or speaking about the book. They conducted “pre-interviews” with me by phone and dispatched producers to wine and dine my wife and me. But, in the end, they declined. A major TV network convinced me to interrupt a West Coast speaking tour, fly to New York, and dress up in a television-blue sports coat. Then—as I waited at the door for the network’s limo—an employee called to cancel. Whenever media apologists offered explanations for such actions, they took the form of questions: “Can you prove the existence of other EHMs?” “Has anyone else written about these things?” “Have others in high places made similar disclosures?”
The answer to these questions is, of course, yes. Every major incident described in the book has been discussed in detail by other authors—usually lots of other authors. The CIA’s coup against Iran’s Mossadegh; the atrocities committed by his replacement, Big Oil’s puppet, the Shah; the Saudi Arabian money-laundering affair; the jackal-orchestrated assassinations of Ecuador’s President Jaime Roldos and Panama’s President Omar Torrijos; allegations of collusion between oil companies and missionary groups in the Amazon; the international activities of Bechtel, Halliburton, and other pillars of American capitalism; the unilateral and unprovoked U.S. invasion of Panama and capture of Manuel Noriega; the coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez—these and the other events in the book are a matter of public record.
Several pundits criticized what some referred to as my “radical accusation”—that economic forecasts are manipulated and distorted in order to achieve political objectives (as opposed to economic objectivity) and that foreign “aid” is a tool for big business rather than an altruistic means to alleviate poverty. However, both of these transgressions against the true purposes of sound economics and altruism have been well documented by a multitude of people, including a former World Bank chief economist and winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, Joseph Stiglitz. In his book, Globalization and Its Discontents, Stiglitz writes:
To make its [the IMF’s] programs seem to work, to make the numbers “add up,” economic forecasts have to be adjusted. Many users of these numbers do not realize that they are not like ordinary forecasts; in these instances GDP forecasts are not based on a sophisticated statistical model, or even on the best estimates of those who know the economy well, but are merely the numbers that have been negotiated as part of an IMF program. 1 …
Globalization, as it has been advocated, often seems to replace the old dictatorships of national elites with new dictatorships of international finance …. For millions of people globalization has not worked …. They have seen their jobs destroyed and their lives become more insecure. 2
I found it interesting that during my first book tour—for the hardcover edition, in late 2004 and early 2005—I sometimes heard questions from my audiences that reflected the mainstream press. However, they were significantly diminished during the paperback edition tour in early 2006. The level of sophistication among readers had risen over the course of that year. A growing suspicion that the mainstream press was collaborating with the corporatocracy—which, of course, owned much of it or at least supported it through advertising—had become manifest. While I would love to credit Confessions for this transformation in public attitude, my book has to share that honor with a number of others, such as Stiglitz’s Globalization and Its Discontents, David Korten’s When Corporations Rule the World, Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival, Chalmers Johnson’s Sorrows of Empire, and Antonia Juhasz’s Bush Agenda, as well as films such as The Constant Gardner, Syriana, Hotel Rwanda, Good Night, and Good Luck, and Munich. The American public recently has been treated to a feast of exposés. Mine is definitely not a voice in the wilderness.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that the corporatocracy has created the world’s first truly global empire, inflicted increased misery and poverty on millions of people around the planet, managed to sabotage the principles of self-determination, justice, and freedom that form the foundations upon which the United States stands, and turned a country that was lauded at the end of World War II as democracy’s savior into one that is feared, resented, and hated, the mainstream press ignores the obvious. In pleasing the moneymen and the executives upstairs, many journalists have turned their backs on the truth. When approached by my publicists, they continue to ask: “Where are the trenches?” “Can you produce the trowels that dug them?” “Have any ‘objective’ researchers confirmed your story?”
Although the evidence was already available, Berrett-Koehler and I decided that the proper response was to answer such questions in terms that no one could ignore and that only those who insisted on remaining in denial could dispute. We would publish a book with many contributors, an anthology, further revealing the world of economic hit men and how it works.