By Jim Miles
The American Trap: My Battle to Expose America’s Secret Economic War Against the Rest of the World. Frédéric Pierucci (with Mathieu Aron). Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2020.
It becomes more clear with more and more readings that the “American trap” is the US dollar, and that for some it is no secret. Frédéric Pierucci’s well-written personal story tells how he became a pawn in the greater game of economic control of the world’s finances and the world’s politicians and corporations.
This story reminded me of John Perkins’ Confessions of an Economic Hitman in that it is not an academic research paper nor a journalistic exposé, but the story of one person’s journey into the darker side of geopolitical manipulations.
The work exposes several main themes as it works through Pierlucci’s adventures, and like all geopolitical stories, all the factors are interrelated. The first theme is, as per the title, the economic war waged by the US against the rest of the world. It has become in my view the overarching component of US efforts to prevent the failure of the US dollar as the global reserve currency.
If that happens – as China has expressed it is interested in doing and along with Russia having taken steps to avoid major repercussions – the US is powerless financially and only has its military left as a threat. The military is powerful, and extremely dangerous, existentially so, and its main purpose is not freedom nor democracy nor human rights but to protect the use of the US dollar as the global currency.
Combined with that theme, supporting and underlying it, are Pierucci’s accounts of the manipulations of the Department of Justice of the US using its self-created extraterritorial powers to force compliance to US demands (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, 1977).
No surprise, this also includes the manipulations of foreign governments and corporations being forced to comply with the courts’ own manipulations and includes the assistance provided to domestic companies in order to control foreign enterprises. It shows clearly that corporation CEOs are only interested in the dollar value of the company to the extent they are willing to throw their own employees away in order to save their own skin from having to face a prison term in the U.S.
This leads to a smaller theme, that of the nature of the US For-profit private prison system. The conditions described by Pierucci are inhumanely terrible notwithstanding the argument that these are criminals and are receiving the results of their actions. The relationship between the threat of jail time, the threat of huge fines, the DOJ’s manipulations of the corporations and the prison system, all make for a system that is neither equitable nor just, nor capable of reforming any kind of criminal behavior.
Overviews in Hindsight
As the story draws to its finish – and arguably it will be a long time before it is truly finished – several powerful statements are made.
First the criminal justice system: “This ‘prison capitalism’, this race for profit at the expense of the most basic human rights, is degrading”. Another objective is to pressure inmates into plea bargains and thus “improving its already Stalinist statistics (98.5 percent success rate).”
In his own trial sentencing Pierucci, framed as the leader of a bribery operation, was lectured by the judge on corruption when his case involved the US’ corruption of Suharto’s Indonesia. “This judge fully embodies American hypocrisy in all its grandeur.”
Pierucci’s strongest statement arrives in the epilogue:
“This is a war that is more sophisticated than conventional warfare, more insidious than industrial war, a war that the public are unaware of , a war of the law….lawfare…which consists of using the legal system (the law) against an enemy, or an adversary designated as such, in order to delegitimize such an adversary, causing it maximum damage and forcing it to comply using coercion.”
He then reaches the crux of the issue: “By virtue of the power of their dollar (used for worldwide trade) and their technology [and be assured that Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, CIA, FBI are all part of that technology, the Cloud Act, 2018]…are they really the only ones in position to enact extraterrestrial laws and, above all, enforce them.”
Finally, “the Washington administration always serves the interests of a plutocracy who own its industrial, financial and more recently technological giants…And…is the first country to conclude phony deals in many countries under its area of influence…the brutality of American unilateralism and imperialism is staring us in the face.”
Frédéric Pierucci is not innocent as he did work for a corporation using bribery and kickbacks in order to gain an advantage over other companies and win contracts in foreign lands. He was involved indirectly with events between France’s Alstom and the Indonesian government; he became the fall guy for events between Alstom and GE’s takeover bid of the company.
The American Trap is honestly written and exposes much of what is not seen in the world of geopolitics. It adds support to the idea that the US’ greatest power is not its military, but its control of the global financial system. As it threatens Russia and China with sanctions and expulsion from the financial system – SWIFT in particular – it would seem it is threatening its own sagging hegemony for global financial transactions. Outside SWIFT, there are many countries dealing more and more with alternate systems of payment and transfers.
The clear idea from all the above is that it is the power of the US dollar supported by extraterritorial laws (stemming from its belief in its own infallibility) that control the world. The military is mostly an adjunct to that.