John Perkins spent years inside the intrigue, greed, corruption and little-known government and corporate activities that America has been involved in since World War II. A self-described economic hit man, Perkins says he convinced developing countries to accept enormous loans and to funnel that money to US corporations. The American government and international aid agencies then coerced access to natural resources, military cooperation and political support.

His first book, a personal tale, ‘Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,’ spent nearly a year and a half on the New York Times bestseller lists. His new book, ‘The Secret History of the American Empire,’ also a New York Times bestseller, details the clandestine operations that created the world’s first truly global empire – America. The book zeroes in on hot spots around the world such as Venezuela, Tibet, Iraq, Israel, Vietnam, and exposes the network of events in each of these countries that have contributed to the creation of the American Empire and international corruption. The Perkins goes further and provides a compassionate plan for turning this around, for crafting a world that future generations will be proud to inherit.

Perkins comes to Incline Village on July 22, for a presentation hosted by READ Global. In early July, he took the time to speak with Moonshine Ink.


Moonshine Ink: You mention in both of your books that it was September 11 that pushed you over the edge and made you realize you needed to share your stories with the world. How did 9/11 push you to this point?
John Perkins: To go back a bit…I had started writing what became ‘Confessions of an Economic Hit Man’ in the early ‘80s. Each time I approached other economic hit men and jackals (C.I.A.-sanctioned assassins), to get their stories included in my book, I was approached by somebody who threatened me and my family or offered me substantial bribes. I had a young daughter and I took these threats very seriously because I knew what the jackals could do firsthand, so I didn’t write these books.

Then on 9/11, I was in the Amazon – I had formed a couple of nonprofits that work there ( and I had taken a group of 16 people to learn from the Achuar, an Amazonian tribe. We were there on 9/11, deep in the jungle, away from general communication. We had a two-way radio that we used to talk to pilots up in the Andes, every morning at 9 a.m. While I was on the radio with them that morning, they were listening to a commercial radio station and suddenly said, ‘Oh my god, your country’s under attack.’

For the next half hour, I stayed on the two-way radio as they gave me a blow-by-blow description. I shared the information with the people I was with and the Amazonian indigenous people – it was a very deep and moving experience.
Then shortly after I came back to the United States, I flew up to see Ground Zero. While I was standing there, looking down into the open pit, I knew I finally had to write this book. I knew the American people were very deceived and unaware about why there was so much anger and resentment in the world. I needed to expose at least my side of that. This isn’t in any way meant to condone the mass murders of 9/11.
But this time I decided I wouldn’t let anyone know I was writing this book, not even my wife or daughter. Then when the manuscript was done, it became my best insurance policy.

MI: With your history in the Peace Corps, how did you get recruited to be an economic hit man?
JP: Actually I had been recruited by the National Security Agency before I went into the Peace Corps. The reason I did that was I was looking to get out of Vietnam. I was married at the time and my wife’s father was very high up in the Navy and one of his best friends was high up in NSA, so I had an ‘in.’ I went through a series of tests, including psychological and lie detector tests, at Boston University. They determined I would be a pretty good economic hit man and offered me a job, basically as a trainee.

At the same time, I went to hear a Peace Corps recruiter speak. I have always had a fascination with indigenous cultures, so after he spoke, I went up and said, ‘I would like to go to the Amazon, what are my chances?’ He said, ‘Listen, nobody wants to go to the Amazon, so if you apply, you’ll probably get there.’

Then I called my friend who had recruited me for NSA and he encouraged me to go. As it turned out it was probably my informal training for NSA – I got to learn other languages and how to survive in another culture. So it was sort of a stepping stone to finally becoming an economic hit man.

In fact, while I was still there in Ecuador, still in the Peace Corps, a vice president for the consulting firm Charles T. Main, came and visited me, then asked me to write reports about what was going on in Ecuador, which I did. Then he offered me a job with Charles T. Main. The guy who recruited me happened to be a Colonel in the Army Reserve and a liaison with NSA, so there was a tie-in there. I ended up working with this private company but a lot of the work I did was as an economic hit man. All that sort of work today is farmed out to private corporations, and not a card-carrying NSA or CIA agent – those days are long gone, it would cast a pall on the government.

MI: Where is our American Empire headed, if we don’t change?
JP: We’re in the process of collapsing and history tells us that all empires end up collapsing. When they do, typically you get a void, and then you get wars, then a new empire steps in and takes over. But we don’t want that to happen.
We need to break that mold, we need to do something that’s never been done in history and turn this empire into a valid model that the rest of the world can look up to and follow – a model based on creating sustainable, just, and peaceful world for everybody on the planet.

I have a 9-month old grandson and I have to realize that he cannot possibly expect to inherit a sustainable, just and peaceful world unless every child in Africa, in the Middle East, in Asia, in Latin America has that same expectation.
For the first time in history, we’re a very, very small planet and we must recognize that we are extremely interdependent.

MI: You talk about the corporatocracy, the bringing together of government and corporate power – do you think a global market without corporations is possible?
JP: I’m very optimistic. The corporatocracy is the modern equivalent of the emperor, a group of people who run our biggest corporations. But this is not a conspiracy by any stretch of the imagination, these people are not meeting in secret to conspire to do something against the world. But they are all driven by a single goal and that is to maximize profits, regardless of social and environment costs. In striving to that goal, they all work in different ways to create a world that is not sustainable and not just – a very dangerous world for us, our children and grandchildren.

In the past we’ve been successful in getting corporations to change – we’ve basically gotten them to clean terribly polluted rivers, to get rid of trans-fats in foods, to stop selling things in aerosol cans, to open their doors wide to African Americans…now we need to ratchet that up a notch and say, ‘Listen, we’ve got to change the general goal of the corporations. Instead of maximizing profits at any cost, let’s make profit, but in the context of creating an environmentally sustainable and just world – let’s have that be the guiding principle.’

Breaking the Boundaries in Government Corruption
John Perkins, author of ‘Confessions of an Economic Hit Man’ and ‘A Secret History of the American Empire,’ speaks Tuesday, July 22, at 6 p.m. in the Prim Library at the Sierra Nevada College (999 Tahoe Blvd., Incline Village). The event, hosted by READ Global, includes a raffle and cash bar. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door and $10 for students/faculty. Call 775-832-5032 to reserve tickets.
There will also be a private book signing and cocktail party before the 6 p.m. presentation at a local lakeside residence. The cocktail party begin at 4 p.m. Tickets are $125 per person and include entrance to the SNC presentation.


  • Mayumi Peacock

    Hailing from a U.S. military family and a graduate of the University of Florida, Mayumi Peacock has lived in several corners of the country and globe, yet Tahoe/Truckee has been her home since 1999. She is founder and publisher of Moonshine Ink, the region’s award-winning independent newspaper, which continues to be created by, for, and of the community. Other passions include family, animals, books, healthy living, and humane food.

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