Friday, June 30, 2006

Confessions Of An Economic Hitman - A review.

The first time I saw or heard of this book was during an election interview of Budhadheb Bhattacharya. The campaigning had been called off and it was a personal peek into the life of this marxist poltician.

Newscaster: "What are you doing today ?"
Budha: "Nothing, just catching up on reading"

Saying this, Budha brandishes a copy of this book. Time went by and one day I found myself within the higginbothom's stall in Chennai central railway station. I had an instant recall and made an instant purchase. Obviously I live an instant life :).

Authored by John Perkins , Confessions of an economic hitman is a story of the insider turned whistle blower.

This book talks of how corporations benifit from American imperialism. The things that they do, the lies they tell and how they leverage economic institutions like IMF, World bank, USAID to promote the economic interests of American corporations.

It begins with John perkins childhood, about his insecurity of having poor parents in an affluent school and his converting these inadequacies into a source of strength. He goes on to lay the foundation of the inner conflict which would dogg him for years to come.

John joins the peace corps to avoid getting drafted into the vietnam war and proceeds to work with Ecuador. He is guided by the uncle of his girlfriend/wife who works in the NSA. The NSA does an extensive testing of John's motivations in life and declares him as an ideal candidate to be an EHM (Economic hit man). NSA further advises him to join the peace corps and develop his skills and contacts.

While in ecuador John gets recruited by MAIN one of the biggest contracting companies then in the USA which appoints him as an economic analyst. John's worldwide sojourn starts. He is trained by Claudia on the techniques of economic manipulation, econometrics and high growth projection of statistics. According to john the procedure was simple. American consulting firms like his would be deputed to countries on statistical and economic assignments. These firms would depute their EHM trained executives ( just a few of them who are trained in liason with NSA and other US govt. agencies) to conduct econmic and statistical analysis and project growth based on cooked up numbers. These numbers would be based as reasons for extending large loans to the countries.

Developemental works like power projects, electrification etc would then be contracted to American companies most notably Bechtel, Haliburton etc. These projects would ensure that the loans granted would be immediately ploughed back into American companies. As time goes by the growth projections (sometimes as high as 20%) would not be achieved in a sustained fashion and the countries would bear high interest burden for the loan repayments (sometimes as high as 50% of national budgets).

The threat of this is used by American governments both democratic and republican to
leverage for votes, oil drilling rights, access to these countries resources etc.

John claims that the role of the economic hitman is to project cooked up statistics and economic growth and enslave the rulers of the nation using, kickbacks, sex and other western gizmos.

This in his opinion would ensure American domination across the world. He proceeds to add, "not of the common man but of a few corporates who are closely tied to the government". Bush Sr, Bush Jr, Rumsfield, Ford, Shultz, Cheney are all examples of this. He calls this "Corporatocracy". John proceeds to argue that the general American population are clue less of what America does to the world and elicits that as the reason why many are surprised of the backlash America receives.

Further EHM's are part of a larger 3 stage process of American corporotocracy.
Joh says, "If EHM's fail, The jackals step in.". By "Jackals", john means the assasination squad of the American government CIA. Panama's Richard Torrjos and Ecuador's president killed in quick succession of each other is given as failure of EHMs and success of Jackals. Both died mysteriously in plane crashes and had vowed to fight American Imperialism

The third stage is all too familiar to the world. John calls it thus. "When the jackal's fail, young men and women from rural america are sent to die in foreign lands". Iraq and Panama (under Manual Noriega) are given as examples of failure of jackals.

John calls all these a coordinated set of events and rips the masks surrounding US governmental AID to countries. He asks this questions "If so many people are against American Aid in the world ? and are so ungreatful of America, why is America so eager to promote AID ?, because it is profitable and it helps America". How ? was my first question as I sat confused ?.

towards the end of the book he explains. "American dollar is today the currency of the world. The currency of transactions between countries. Only America is allowed to print these dollars and the confidence and strength of American economy is what makes the world invest in America. America has printed billions of dollars and funded reconstruction and developement projects in many countries. This funding is unproductive and inflationairy. At the end of the day the american economy pays for it with high public debt (6 trillion USD). Some day if China calls for its loans back or if saudi arabia switches to euro's instead of America, this ghost will come back to roost".

He ends that book with a warning of what will happen to the world if we dream it and build it the American way. Amazonian jungle tracks in Ecuador are lost forever because of texaco oil company. The indegeneous Shaur's are displaced in their own land and their way of lives lost forever.

This book is a tremendous eye opener and illustrates beautifully the politics of middle east, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia.


1953 Mossadeg a democratically elected ruler in Iran was overthrown by American propoganda machinery who stirred up the oil companies, businessmen and labour unions. The Shah was propped up as the ruler.

Verdict : EHM - failiure, Jackals - success.

Saudi Arabia (Hose of Saud)

The house of saud was coopted using money, Sex, status, to clean up saudi arabia and build palaces, electrification projects, construction, defence and the whole gamut of stuff we call as developement.

Verdict : EHM - resounding success.


Saddam propped up by USA for its opposition to Iran and vast oil resources (next only to saudi arabia). Sold billions of dollars of weapons and help build WMDs. Fomented a war against Iran which went for a decade. WMDs which America helped to build was used to gas kurds, shias and other minorities.

Saddam nationalised oil companies and attacked Kuwait. War declared on iraq.

verdict - EHM failure, Jackal failure, young men and women sent to die.

teritorial war did not gaurentee them oil access as UN took over oil management in iraq. War declared again and occupation of iraq was launched.

Verdict - Young men and women sent to die. This time, they did die.

Meanwhile Haliburton, Bechtel and the American oil companies are benifiting from the spoils.

The american corporatocracy interest in Saudi arabia forced them to turn a blind eye to the extreme relegious fanatism the House of Saud was promoting. The house of Saud pumped billions of oil dollars into Hamas, Pakistan, Mujahideen and ismalic jihad.
These islamic relegious orgainsations was the foundation for taliban and Alqaeda. The most virulent of all.

Finally the shit hits the fan september 11 happens.

The cycle is long. Too long for common public memory, but according to john the connections are unmistakable.

My take on this book

1) Absolutely authentic in terms of facts and events.

2) Poorly constructed in terms of the narration.

3)I think this book is another case of profiteering and lacks genuineness from the
author. e.g. john claims to be morally torn about his choices all through his life
about the work he is doing and yet continues to do it for 20 long years.
After quitting from this, he goes on to form a alternative power company called
IPS and sells it off to an oil company. His explaination of threat and fear rings
hollow. Looks to me that he played with the big guys all along and snitched for a
lucritive book deal.

4) Some of the later events which John claims to be not involved with appears
sketchy and dubious. Some thrash this as conspiracy theory.

Vasu's Recommendation : Buy it. Good read and perfectly plausible. If its true that John did work for MAIN, I would even say a lot of the things he says is credible. But I am not the one to buy he was a noble soul.

I dont need to, at the end of the day I still credit John Perkins for having told this story however badly written or with illdisguised intentions it might be

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Being Sardar

When I was a kid, I used to love Laxmi Kara's geography class. Geography was the closest thing to travel which I later figured out was my source of energy in life.
Kara herself was stately in her appearencce. With silver white hair she had a perfect face. She must have been atleast 60. She had that sense of calm and clarity in her face. Very very similar to Nafisa Ali in looks.

Laxmi Kara single handedly made me dream about being a pigmy. I loved the fact that one can climb trees, live in the forest, be free of homework, school and uniforms, eat all the exotic foods. This image stayed on till quiet late in life. The whole idea of living without any possessions as a tribal does is extremely appealing. Especially sleeping on a treetop some 250 feet above ground. Watchng a clear starry sky, black as ink studded with a zillion diamonds.

Ofcourse all this lasted till I saw that episode on pigmys by NatGeo. Their exisstence and livelyhood in the 20th century. It was stark, devoid of myths and quiet literally showed them as "as humans as anyone else".

Even then the whole image of a pigmy remained etched in mind. No amount of realism could erase those.

To dream of being a pigmy when I was 12 turned to dream of being a sardar. If you think of any section of people in the world who have embraced life as whole heartedly as possible, they are the Sardars. Sikhs is the politically correct term, but thats just a relegious identity. To be a sardar is something else.

Firstly it is super human. Its dildhar (all embracing). Its filled with fun and goodness (as good as the lassi) and most importantly it is about the laughs, throaty, gutteral and at times self-deprecating. No one can dispute the fact that no one can say a sardar joke as well as a sardar.

The word sardar has come to mean dumb, stupid, loser. But one look at this world would say that there is very little truth in that stereotype. The only source of reasoning is because of the hordes of sardar jokes.

We had one pappe sardar in our team. Every morning we would ask him "Bhupi, Kuki ki ondhi ?". Every morning he would say in his trademark smiling style "Madrasi, it doesent mean anything". Well, in those days I would have taken grave offence and sprung in defence of anyone making fun of tamil iconography. Be it curd-rice, or Rajnikanth or silk smitha. How can these north indians do that ? But then as I lived more in north india (I still believe mumbai to be more north than south), I realised that the hindi speaking community especialyl the sardars dont have such a bipolar view of India as we think. Its more multi polar. The bumbling bong is as much a curiosity as a touchy tamilian or the mystic mallu or the shrewed gujaratis. That way Identity played its true intended role. To identify.

This identity pride thing is a mechanism to psyche a community to strive harder to overcome imaginary enemies. Something similar to the drummers on a dragon boat in kerala. The drum beat of identity, pride is more to get the group of boatman to act in synchrony to the drum beat. Idnetity icons are similar in nature. Gujarati Asmita, Tamilian pride etc.

I am not saying there isnt gujarati asmita and tamilian pride. There is infact a sense of commonality. But we make those commonality too much a centerstage phenomena than necessary. Its got its benifits, but the key question is are we over stretching it ?

Harpreet my senior in coimbatore is a sardar with a difference. Ask him where his native is ? he would say salem. Though thats not what people want to know. With time people started accepting Harpreet from salem as a plausibility although with a slight bit of suspicion. The funny thing was the look on people's face when harpreet spoke tamil. Some of us (including me), were taken aback when harpreet spoke flawless tamil (you know the beat, otha.. koodhi etc.)

Well it said more about the rest of us than about harpreet. Identity is real but its not always as stereotypical as we define it to be. Mahmood's padosan cast the death knell for many tamilians. kamalahasan's ek dujhe ke liye personally robbed me of anonymity at my workplace and made life difficult. Vasu meant Vasu-sapna as if sapna happened to be my surname(For more on this Read Morarjee Files - Parallel Run ). It dint help, I dint have sapna. But it helped to ease out tense situations, throw in some laughs and make people open. But how this identity issue will pan out is no gaurentee. All that matters is do we have the mindset to take something like that and make it positive ? or are we going to be confused, filled with angst and stressed out as the ABCD identity (American born confused desi). Are we going to make our identity the epicenter of our existstance ? Are we going to judge everything in the world through those lenses ?

Deep questions, but thats as deep as I can go today. Anyways I cant forget this one incident.

Andy was sitting down to play a game of Dave. Its 2.00 a.m. in the morning. Bhupi is impatiently waiting behind him for his turn to play. We had finished our shift and had 2 hours to kill before the first train came into lower parel. What do we do, but play Dave. Slowly it was becoming participative. "Left jao, right maro" rang the rarified morning air. Andy's reflexes were taking a beating at two and as everyone would say "old age was catching up". Andy got shot, by the revolving fireball. Immediately there was a loud laugh from behind Andy. It was bhupi, who was soaking himself in the situation andy was in. Andy sat there embaressed and fumin.

"Kya sardar bangaya yaar ?", managed bhupi amidst the laughs. Everyone joined in. Andy retorted. "Abhe, thu already sardar hai..". Bhupi was in form that day. "Haa par thera jaisa nahin.." And the laughter went on for a long time to come.

The ability to laugh at one's identity and not feel any less proud about it is sardardom in my definition.

I now dream of being a sardar as much as I once dreamt of being a pigmy. As for being a tamil, I already am one. Dyed in the wool. Unabashed. I can be both cant I ?

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