Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein trav­els across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, the United States, Britain, Greece, and Australia to witness the reality of disaster capitalism. He discovers how companies such as G4S, Serco, and Halliburton cash in on or­ganized misery in a hidden world of privatized detention centers, militarized private security, aid profiteering, and destructive mining.

Disaster has become big business. Talking to immigrants stuck in limbo in Britain or visiting immigration centers in America, Loewenstein maps the secret networks formed to help cor­porations bleed what profits they can from economic crisis. He debates with Western contractors in Afghanistan, meets the locals in post-earthquake Haiti, and in Greece finds a country at the mercy of vulture profiteers. In Papua New Guinea, he sees a local commu­nity forced to rebel against predatory resource companies and NGOs.

What emerges through Loewenstein’s re­porting is a dark history of multinational corpo­rations that, with the aid of media and political elites, have grown more powerful than national governments. In the twenty-first century, the vulnerable have become the world’s most valu­able commodity. Disaster Capitalism is published by Verso in 2015 and in paperback in January 2017.

Profits_of_doom_cover_350Vulture capitalism has seen the corporation become more powerful than the state, and yet its work is often done by stealth, supported by political and media elites. The result is privatised wars and outsourced detention centres, mining companies pillaging precious land in developing countries and struggling nations invaded by NGOs and the corporate dollar. Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and across Australia to witness the reality of this largely hidden world of privatised detention centres, outsourced aid, destructive resource wars and militarized private security. Who is involved and why? Can it be stopped? What are the alternatives in a globalised world? Profits of Doom, published in 2013 and released in an updated edition in 2014, challenges the fundamentals of our unsustainable way of life and the money-making imperatives driving it. It is released in an updated edition in 2014.
forgodssakecover Four Australian thinkers come together to ask and answer the big questions, such as: What is the nature of the universe? Doesn't religion cause most of the conflict in the world? And Where do we find hope?   We are introduced to different belief systems – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – and to the argument that atheism, like organised religion, has its own compelling logic. And we gain insight into the life events that led each author to their current position.   Jane Caro flirted briefly with spiritual belief, inspired by 19th century literary heroines such as Elizabeth Gaskell and the Bronte sisters. Antony Loewenstein is proudly culturally, yet unconventionally, Jewish. Simon Smart is firmly and resolutely a Christian, but one who has had some of his most profound spiritual moments while surfing. Rachel Woodlock grew up in the alternative embrace of Baha'i belief but became entranced by its older parent religion, Islam.   Provocative, informative and passionately argued, For God's Sakepublished in 2013, encourages us to accept religious differences, but to also challenge more vigorously the beliefs that create discord.  
After Zionism, published in 2012 and 2013 with co-editor Ahmed Moor, brings together some of the world s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution. Time has run out for the two-state solution because of the unending and permanent Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different, unified future. Progressive and realist ideas are at last gaining a foothold in the discourse, while those influenced by the colonial era have been discredited or abandoned. Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably. This daring and timely collection includes essays by Omar Barghouti, Jonathan Cook, Joseph Dana, Jeremiah Haber, Jeff Halper, Ghada Karmi, Antony Loewenstein, Saree Makdisi, John Mearsheimer, Ahmed Moor, Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy and Phil Weiss.
The 2008 financial crisis opened the door for a bold, progressive social movement. But despite widespread revulsion at economic inequity and political opportunism, after the crash very little has changed. Has the Left failed? What agenda should progressives pursue? And what alternatives do they dare to imagine? Left Turn, published by Melbourne University Press in 2012 and co-edited with Jeff Sparrow, is aimed at the many Australians disillusioned with the political process. It includes passionate and challenging contributions by a diverse range of writers, thinkers and politicians, from Larissa Berendht and Christos Tsiolkas to Guy Rundle and Lee Rhiannon. These essays offer perspectives largely excluded from the mainstream. They offer possibilities for resistance and for a renewed struggle for change.
The Blogging Revolution, released by Melbourne University Press in 2008, is a colourful and revelatory account of bloggers around the globe why live and write under repressive regimes - many of them risking their lives in doing so. Antony Loewenstein's travels take him to private parties in Iran and Egypt, internet cafes in Saudi Arabia and Damascus, to the homes of Cuban dissidents and into newspaper offices in Beijing, where he discovers the ways in which the internet is threatening the ruld of governments. Through first-hand investigations, he reveals the complicity of Western multinationals in assisting the restriction of information in these countries and how bloggers are leading the charge for change. The blogging revolution is a superb examination about the nature of repression in the twenty-first century and the power of brave individuals to overcome it. It was released in an updated edition in 2011, post the Arab revolutions, and an updated Indian print version in 2011.
The best-selling book on the Israel/Palestine conflict, My Israel Question - on Jewish identity, the Zionist lobby, reporting from Palestine and future Middle East directions - was released by Melbourne University Press in 2006. A new, updated edition was released in 2007 (and reprinted again in 2008). The book was short-listed for the 2007 NSW Premier's Literary Award. Another fully updated, third edition was published in 2009. It was released in all e-book formats in 2011. An updated and translated edition was published in Arabic in 2012.

The friends we keep

George W. Bush gave a speech in November 2003 at the 20th Anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy at the United States Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. He discussed freedom and democracy in the Middle East and beyond:

“We’ve witnessed, in little over a generation, the swiftest advance of freedom in the 2,500 year story of democracy. Historians in the future will offer their own explanations for why this happened. Yet we already know some of the reasons they will cite. It is no accident that the rise of so many democracies took place in a time when the world’s most influential nation was itself a democracy.”

“The United States made military and moral commitments in Europe and Asia, which protected free nations from aggression, and created the conditions in which new democracies could flourish. As we provided security for whole nations, we also provided inspiration for oppressed peoples. In prison camps, in banned union meetings, in clandestine churches, men and women knew that the whole world was not sharing their own nightmare. They knew of at least one place – a bright and hopeful land – where freedom was valued and secure. And they prayed that America would not forget them, or forget the mission to promote liberty around the world.”

Praying for American help may be enough to convince conservative campaigners that the “world’s most influential nation” can bring democracy, but a report out this week by the New York based Arms Trade Resource Center challenges the underpinnings of such a naive assertion:

“…a majority of U.S. arms sales to the developing world go to regimes defined as undemocratic by our own State Department. Furthermore, U.S.-supplied arms are involved in a majority of the world’s active conflicts.”

Democracy for all the world’s citizens? Not quite.

“In 2003, the last year for which full information is available, the United States transferred weaponry to 18 of the 25 countries involved in active conflicts. From Angola, Chad and Ethiopia, to Colombia, Pakistan, Israel and the Philippines, transfers through the two largest U.S. arms sales programs (Foreign Military Sales and Commercial Sales) to these conflict nations totaled nearly $1 billion in 2003.”

“In 2003, more than half of the top 25 recipients of U.S. arms transfers in the developing world (13 of 25) were defined as undemocratic by the U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report: in the sense that “citizens do not have the right to change their own government.” These 13 nations received over $2.7 billion in U.S. arms transfers in 2003, with the top recipients including Saudi Arabia ($1.1 billion), Egypt ($1.0 billion), Kuwait ($153 million), the United Arab Emirates ($110 million) and Uzbekistan ($33 million).”

American responses to charges of gross hypocrisy are telling. Frida Berrigan, the report’s co-author, says that the sales are, “often justified on the basis of their purported benefits, from securing access to overseas military facilities to rewarding coalition partners [but] these alleged benefits often come at a high price.”

Countries benefiting from America’s largesse are routinely engaged in human rights abuses. Extremism breeds in such a toxic environment. Recruiters for al-Qaeda are given a gift with such revelations.

We are faced once again with a realisation that American, and therefore British and Australian, definitions of democracy are only for those who deserve it, whose resources we need or whose military we can defeat.

Amnesty International’s 2005 Report paints a depressing picture of human rights abuses across the world, including America, Britain and Australia. Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty, writes in the foreward of the report:

“The US government has gone to great lengths to restrict the application of the Geneva Conventions and to “re-define” torture. It has sought to justify the use of coercive interrogation techniques, the practice of holding “ghost detainees” (people in unacknowledged incommunicado detention) and the “rendering” or handing over of prisoners to third countries known to practise torture. The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay has become the gulag of our times, entrenching the practice of arbitrary and indefinite detention in violation of international law. Trials by military commissions have made a mockery of justice and due process.”

We expect abuses in despotic countries such as Sudan, Nigeria and Uzbekistan. We are now receiving information daily that American breaches make a mockery of its claim of spreading democracy. Today’s New York Times reports: “Newly released documents show that detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, complained repeatedly to F.B.I. agents about disrespectful handling of the Koran by military personnel and, in one case in 2002, said they had flushed a Koran down a toilet.”

The only people seriously swayed by Bush’s delusional rhetoric (echoed in Australia by our foppish Foreign Minister Alexander Downer) are those so convinced by the rightness of “our” mission in the Middle East, that human rights abuses are merely dismissed as an inconvenience. We will be paying the price for such cultural arrogance in the years to come.

5 comments ↪
  • Shay

    Great points in this post but I'm not sure if I agree with this paragraph:"We are faced once again with a realisation that American, and therefore British and Australian, definitions of democracy are only for those who deserve it, whose resources we need or whose military we can defeat."I don't think "deserving it" has anything to do with it. American foreign policy tolerates democracy if it doesn't get in the way of American interests. Australia and Britain also follow the American interest due to the wrong impression that it is their own interest. I also think the might of America and allies can defeat nearly any military in the world without too much trouble – although China and Russia would cause more trouble than they are worth. And resources are purchased from any country willing to trade without a thought for human rights or democracy, unless the political fallout outweighs the benefits (a la Burma). More to the point – a country's "democracy" is talked up if the country in question is playing ball with US business and the politicians can possibly get away with it (Israel, apartheid South Africa, Suharto's Indonesia, Nicaragua, the "death squad democracies" of countless Latin American countries, and Russia although it is now starting to wear a bit thin). A total lack of democracy is ignored and never mentioned by political leaders and the sycophantic press if helpful to Western interests (Shahist Iran, China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Pinochet's Chile). Undemocratic countries are slammed if they DON'T play ball (Cuba, pre-Deng China, Libya, North Korea). And even if a country is democratic but refuses to roll over to US business, their democracy is labelled a sham and subverted (Haiti, Venezuela, Sandinistas' Nicaragua, pre-Pinochet Chile).But the main thrust of your article has it spot on: democracy is a nice, but optional, piece of window dressing if it means Bush and his administration can get what they want.

  • Antony Loewenstein

    Fair points, Shay.A country being friendly to US business interests is key. The case of Indonesia, during Soeharto's era, is a classic example. My points were merely that Bush and his supporters talk about spreading democracy, but they're very selective which countries actually 'deserve' being liberated…

  • Horace Silver

    Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty, writes in the forward of the report…Sorry for the grammar and spelling Storm Troopers to butt in, but the word above should be "foreword," n'est-ce pas?Thanks for your fine blog.

  • Shay

    Antony,Yeah I was disagreeing with the wording of that one paragraph, but from the post as a whole I agreed with what your points were. Perhaps falling back onto the old chestnut of inverted commas around "deserve" and linking the three qualifications by an "and" instead of an "or" would have more directly made the point.Keep up the good work. You are now officially one of the firefox tabs I open every day.

  • Antony Loewenstein

    Thanks for the 'foreward' correction. Sorted.And, shay, glad you're liking what you read…