Sunday, March 02, 2008

Book reviews

SEE NO EVIL: Memoir of Robert Baer, retired CIA field officer. George Clooney's character in SYRIANA is loosely based on his life. A fascinating look inside a man's life dedicated to protecting our nation's security. In the book Baer clearly recounts what his #1 mission was - to turn the enemy into informants, or, as he puts it, to ask another man to commit treason against his/her own country. What follows is a memoir of extraordinary history as he spends 20+ years in Europe, Russia, Iraq, Asia and the Middle-east. Of particular interest the author left all the CIA edited areas in the book (you can see specific passages, dates, location & names blacked out by the CIA). Towards the end Baer was disillusioned by Washington politics and our reliance on technology rather than human assets. The book was written before the current Iraq war but the author offers a damning critique where he was essentially told to come up with evidence that fit Bush's war plans. Baer, a hero to this nation, left the CIA in disgust and bitter (note: author was also very critical of Bill Clinton, he is clearly a conservative)

CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HIT-MAN by John Perkins: A very fun read, but perhaps scary if the stories told inside are true. Perkins speaks about being recruited by the CIA to work as a ''contractor economist'' who would go and advice nations to produce outcomes favorable to the US. Example - Perkins would go to a 3rd world country, say, Panama. He would produce a fake ''economic'' report that concludes Panama's GDP would go up & sustain at certain % if only they would build certain hydro-electric power dams. Once Panama is convinced, wheels would be set in motion with loans from the US-controlled IMF and World Bank and contracts steered toward US corporations such as Bechtel and Haliburton. The said dams would be built at the cost of billions and, voila, does noting to Panama's economy. Panama would eventually default on their loan, and all of a sudden the benevolent US government would send in the ''economic hit-man'' to extract their pound of flesh such as to pressure Panama into allowing a US military base (to be built with more contracts to Haliburton) and/or a secret consent to vote a certain way at the UN. This book documents countless stories like this over 20 years and many administrations left & right alike. The government has come out & denied everything in this book, calling the author a fraud. Interesting side note: author went to the same alma matter of Adrian - Middlebury College in Vermont.

I highly recommend both books if you like political history without any idealogical bent (common theme is both authors hate Washington politicians)


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