Introducing A Game As Old As Empire

Introducing A Game As Old As Empire

Zahir Ebrahim

Feb. 4, 2007

[A version of this letter introducing John Perkins' new book “A Game As Old As Empire” was emailed to grass-roots volunteer friends and activists on Sunday Feb. 4, 2007]

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To: my social activist friends

Subject: Introducing A Game As Old As Empire

Attached is a preview of an about to be published book that its publisher just sent me with the above title.

I am sharing it with you because all of us are concerned about globalization to some degree in its many manifestations, and many of us don't actually understand what devious shapes and forms it often takes. We often view it only as black and white. The protagonists extol its virtues and the antagonists rail against its evils, neither really possessing any depth of understanding of why they take these positions. It's obvious to the antagonists that it causes poverty. It's also usually self-evident to many well meaning protagonists of its inevitability, and that is often cited as justification for acceptance, closing the doors to exploring other solutions spaces that might be more equitable. However, usually hard data and analysis is often missing on both sides among the ordinary peoples to whom this impacts the most. And we are indeed these ordinary peoples!

When participating at WSF 2006 in Karachi in a forum, I had made this seemingly strange statement: "Neoliberalism and Neoconservatism are two sides of the same imperial coin". In one other forum on water privatization, I had noted something equally bizarre to the effect (in Urdu): "deception is a key component in this game and you have to assume this as your working premise when you investigate or evaluate any proposal that is put your way on why or how water privatization will be beneficial to you - they wage war by way of deception".

It was simply remarkable how many people had thronged around me afterwards to learn more and ask for elaboration. That's when I realized that the real intellectual underpinnings behind the impetus towards globalization and the neoliberal agenda were not being addressed to their full unraveling and disambiguation anywhere. All of a sudden I seem to be the only one talking about it in these terms, often needing to even challenge the perceptions of many of the learned panelists themselves whom I felt were speaking at the most superficial levels - the outer most visible layer of the onion. In one other forum on "fundamentalisms", I found one person (a physicist) on the panel describing the term "fundamentalists" as if the mighty oracle, the illustrious progenitor of the war-mongering idea of "clash of civilizations", Mr. Bernard Lewis himself was speaking through him to justify the other side of the imperial coin! Almost everyone has heard this term "clash of civilizations" and Samuel Huntington's 1996 book of the same name. How many actually know that it was seeded into the public consciousness in 1991-92 by Bernard Lewis for an article in Foreign Affairs magazine? And what was happening in 1991 in the global space to synthesize such bombastic messages? No amount of field work or participating in grass-roots socialization events like WSF can unravel these mysteries.

People in general are ill equipped with the intellectual tools to either comprehend this problem of globalization in its multifaceted dimensions, or take on addressing its root causes. Grass-roots the world over has become synonymous with action in the streets, or working in the field doing good works and deeds. Few read, even fewer dig even when they might read. Even students at elite schools like my own, MIT, study poverty under a microscope in their laboratories (there is a poverty alleviation lab at MIT - do google it), and come up with the most interesting red herrings to pursue, such as reduce the birth rate for instance to solve poverty problem, or the newest fad in microcredit schemes. Both eminently reasonable propositions on the surface for many progressive minds to alleviate poverty. But as I had come to appreciate in computer science and as a practicing engineer in Silicon Valley, the highest order bits entirely determine where the page faults! And here, what is incredible to me is that they entirely end up ignoring the giant elephants trumpeting on the newlyweds' bed - debt cancellation of the third world; inequities of global trade treaties like WTO; economic conscription that generates a new class of labor camps in the wonderful duty-free zones where the employer reigns supreme and few labor laws that apply in the developed nations apply there; or that "free trade" has been the mantra of all dominant civilizations and mainly only favors them. None of these are studied as the primal first cause of global poverty, or how poverty is harvested for the benefit of multinationals when they offshore, or the fact that the third world is deliberately being raped by supporting dictatorships and kingdoms that can be more easily controlled than any fractious genuine parliamentarians ever could.

These same geniuses with fancy PhD. degrees in economics will then head various World Bank and its sister organizations and often not have a clue. And when they do get a clue, they are so complicit that extricating themselves can become quite impossible. This is how empires are built in neoliberalism. We have already witnessed how empire is extended using neoconservatism. The distinguished New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman said it the best in his now famous "Manifesto for a Fast World": "The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist - MacDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the builder of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps."

And a major aspect of this "hidden hand" is what John Perkins disclosed and confessed to in his first book in 2005, the "Confessions of an economic hitman" - the notorious EHM. See page 101 (of the hardcover first edition, page numbering may be different in paperback) to be shocked beyond belief how an MIT statistician is employed to create a pseudo science to prove to the tin-pot dictators around the world why it would be beneficial to their nations' growth to take on more debt by falsely projecting enormous growth rates which can be used to pay back the debts easily! Such growth projections of course never materialize - because they were conjured up out of thin air, and thence the tag team of WB-IMF get into their now infamous act of further structural-adjustment lending just to enable paying off the rapidly accumulating interest on the monstrous loans that now shackle every third world nation beyond belief. Can we relate this to our own nations taking on debts like a leaking ship?

Without a profound appreciation for the deep intellectual capital that lies behind the manifest reality of misery that surrounds us in the poor under-developed nations - that despite our tons of natural resources we are continually unable to harness for the betterment of our own peoples - we often cannot properly unravel the right cause and effect relationships due to the high degrees of separation from the first causes. The layers upon layers of obfuscation and deception that are usually woven around the issues often require almost doing a PhD to figure out. Unraveling this onion, layer by layer, requires far more intellectual capital than has been appreciated by the activists and other well intentioned peoples who worry about these things. Consequently, many well intentioned and hardworking friends end up spinning on the treadmill. This is why the World Social Forum (WSF), as a global grass-roots forum that was intended to be a counter weight to the ruling elites' World Economic Forum, has become a misplacement of well intentioned peoples energies. The first causes of the problems and their real solution spaces require addressing these issues at the right levels of abstraction to achieve any degree of efficacy that is greater than zero!

Reading and comprehending exposes' like John Perkins book and becoming an intellectual detective, helps orientate us to the real source of the problems, and thus also can enable focusing on the right problems to address in our respective activism rather than the many red-herrings we often end up addressing.

I hope you enjoy this attached 48 page preview of "A Game as old as Empire". Enjoy it to the point of anger. This new book is a sequel to John Perkins' "Confessions of an Economic Hitman". Other courageous authors have now come forward in the new book to explain how the "game" is even more pervasive today as entire nations are being stolen and plundered by the new imperial masters - "the corporations and their benefactors" - in a world that will soon be entirely ruled by them. The new imperial coin!

If all this is unfamiliar to you, you might also wish to read David Korten and John Pilger to get another perspective on this subject. And also do lookup the former chief economist of the World Bank, who seems to have finally also found his voice after he left that august institution and wrote his own book "Globalization and Its Discontents". And of course, we are all well acquainted with the accomplishments of the present day leadership of the World Bank, but I am sure no one has read any of the reports he wrote while at the State Department, or as the premier member of PNAC, right? But that's the story of the other side of the same imperial coin... for another day.

This pdf attachment requires Adobe Acrobat reader 7.x to open correctly. Works okay'ish with version 6.x, but not properly with version 5.x and below.

Please also see:

Feel free to share this message with your friends.

Best regards,



[Redux: A note on confessions and legal covers. The real question that apparently escapes all John Perkins admirers (like this one) is: After the Economic Hitmen retire from their cushy jobs of raping nations and peoples under “legal cover”, they write confessionals as victims of conscience; should the Jews have let Adolph Eichmann go had he too written a confessional, as an extreme example to illustrate the point? He also had 'legally' conspired the Holocaust! Why should the victims of the EHM espouse a different tolerance? Why should the uber-moralists in the EHM's society espouse a different tolerance? From 'legal' wars to 'legal' rape into economic conscription and bondage – is one continuous achievement of any super-morality throughout the pages of history who 'legally' commit monumental crimes and kill/subjugate a million under “the sound of trumpets” as “primacy and its geostrategic imperatives”! But only of course, until victor's justice is made to prevail! Then, all confessionals and that inner 'voice of conscience' only cement one's ascent to the gallows! Should the conscionable John Perkins be donating the monetary proceeds of his Confessions to the nations and peoples he helped rape and plunder, in restitution, just as he is now presumably helping them with forensic information on how he covertly did it to them? Selling books on one's con-game in the name of helping future victims only imputes impure motives to the enterprise: First be highly paid for orchestrating the rape, then get paid again writing about it, while also winning praise and fame in the process! Furthermore, it is interesting to observe another blatant dichotomy in crime and punishment. Adolph Eichmann was the harbinger of cataclysm to some six million Jews for a short span of 3 to 5 years with just the stroke of a pen or the drop of a word, and he was hanged in Jerusalem. Whereas the EHMs are the harbingers – with the same stroke of pen and some button pushing on calculators and fancy spreadsheets – of the continued entrapment of entire nations in inextricable systems of poverty and misery for generations that is no less cataclysmic for these victims. And yet, the EHM walk free among us in suits and ties, sometimes even heading prestigious economic institutions, and of course, nations. As the prime-mover DNA – the 'legal covers' – should we do something about this root cause that enables the multi-color-collared crimes against humanity by the emperors? Where else are we seeing such “legal covers”? Would it be pertinent to point to “shock and awe”, “Economic Sanctions”, and the “UN Security Council Resolutions”, to subjugate entire nations? To know right from wrong is indeed not too complex – the Bible has already taught it to us through the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you have others do unto you” – there are few shades of gray for the commonsensical un-hypocrite! Thus I have little sympathy for the cat who goes for Hajj after eating 900 mice! Crimes are not absolved or made less abhorrent by confessionals. Nor its victims restituted by the voice of one's conscience! Payment still needs to be made in full. Thank you.]

The author, an ordinary researcher and writer on contemporary geopolitics, a minor justice activist, grew up in Pakistan, studied EECS at MIT, engineered for a while in high-tech Silicon Valley (patents here), and retired early to pursue other responsible interests. His maiden 2003 book was rejected by six publishers and can be read on the web at He may be reached at

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