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 Corby Case and Australia-Indonesia relations

The Schapelle Corby case continues to dominate headlines. Once again, the obsessive focus on this one case appears to be excessive and completely disproportionate. Scott Burchill, lecturer in international relations at Deakin University, has a few words to add:

“Jolted by public outrage at Indonesian state terrorism in East Timor following the September 1999 independence ballot, the Howard Government reluctantly intervened to liberate the territory, aware of the consequent damage to the bilateral relationship but unwilling to defy community sentiment ventilated in response to shocking TV images.

For a while relations deteriorated. The exploitation of events for domestic electoral advantage (Tampa and the ‘boat people’), bravado (failing to correct a journalist’s “deputy sheriff” phrase) and clumsy diplomacy (the policy of pre-emption), coupled with an incompetent and disinterested Indonesian president ensured that suspicion and paranoia would prevent a normalisation of government to government links.

In Australia this state of affairs was deeply troubling to those in and outside government who place a premium on stability and good relations with Jakarta at all costs. The Indonesian military (TNI) has always been seen by the Jakarta Lobby as the best guarantor of social and political control of the Indonesian population. The Lobby has therefore sought to present the best possible image of the Indonesian military to the Australian public, playing down both its domestic repression and regular massacres during its brutal 24 year occupation of neighbouring East Timor. Australia’s de jure recognition of Indonesia’s incorporation of East Timor in 1985, the Timor Gap Treaty in 1989, and the 1995 agreement on security signed by the Keating Government and the Suharto regime, were the high watermarks of the Lobby’s influence.

The challenge of rehabilitating the reputation of a military force guilty of crimes against humanity – particularly during a so called ‘war against terror’ – has not been easy for those who want to restore formal ties between TNI (including the notoriously brutal Kopassus) and the ADF. The gap between popular perceptions of the Indonesian Government and its military, and the view of the policy elite, has long been a yawning chasm. Until recently the Lobby has been furious with the Howard Government for its neglect of the bilateral relationship with Jakarta.

However, in the last three years the tide has turned again. Opportunity (co-operation between the AFP and Indonesian police investigating the Bali bombings), happenstance (replacement of Megawati with the more technocratic SBY), expressions of goodwill (Tsunami aid) and sacrifice (deaths of ADF humanitarian personnel on Nias) have repaired much of the damage caused in 1999 and following months.

The Indonesian President has visited Australia and agreed to sponsor Australia’s participation at a regional summit to be held in Malaysia later in the year. And in regular ritualised pledges, the Howard Government has expressed greater support for Indonesia’s territorial integrity than is evident amongst those who actually live in the Republic’s Western (Aceh) and Eastern (West Papua) provinces.

Like its reluctant intervention in East Timor six years ago, the Howard Government’s response to the Corby case is driven by popular pressure. On the one hand the Government instructs the population that intervention in the judicial affairs of another country is inappropriate while on the other it goes to extraordinary lengths to do precisely that.

A letter to the court about an investigation into QANTAS baggage handlers, the facilitation of a remand prisoner as a witness for the defence, suggestions of a one-off prisoner exchange agreement with Jakarta, the visit of the Australian Justice Minister to lobby against the death penalty, and the offer of QCs for the appeal process are extraordinary interventions by themselves. In contrast to the Government’s responses to more than 40 similar drugs trials across Southeast Asia involving Australians, they are even more remarkable.

The Government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono must be as bemused by Canberra’s attention to this case as many Australians are. Contrasting attitudes to sentences for the Bali bombers Amrozi, Muhklas and Imam Samudra, as well as the case of radical cleric Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, must look hypocritical at best and at worst – racist.

And how must the people of East Timor feel? An Australian gets 20 years for importing marijuana while those who orchestrated and committed mass murder in East Timor – including Wiranto, Zacky Anwar, Hendropriyono, Sjafrie Sjamsuddin and Mahidin Simbolon – are either not even prosecuted or receive no punishment for their crimes because as defence minister Juwono Sudarsono conceded, “we can’t go up into the high ranks as they were just carrying out state policy.”

Foreign Minister Downer promised that these “rogue elements,” as he described them in 1999, would be prosecuted by an independent UN tribunal if they didn’t receive justice from the Indonesian legal system we are now told to respect for its independence. Judgement about the Corby case and the state of the Indonesian judicial system should therefore be reserved until those who have been waiting many years for justice see that the leopard has changed its spots.”

All I would add to Burchill’s incisive commentary is this: believing in Corby’s innocence is one thing (though the evidence presented in the Indonesian court by the defense was far from conclusive) but what is this kind of behaviour really going to achieve? Are people seriously suggesting that Corby should simply be released because we “think” she’s innocent? That they’re shouldn’t be an appeal? That she should be treated differently to every other drug case in Indonesia, or Asia or even the world? Dangerous precedents are on the cards. Let calmer heads prevail.

6 comments ↪
  • syed-m

    Hmmm, not sure if calmer heads alone will do it (but maybe I’ve misunderstood you post). It often takes significant courage to vouch for basic common sense. So I’d add intellectual/moral courage to those calm heads.

    Common sense would make you wonder why little black kids who get caught for selling dope aren’t fawned over by the media. I feel sorry for Chappelle, but frankly prison is a horrible place and there’s a lot of people to feel sympathetic for. Where has the Government been whilst Hicks and Habib languished in Camp X-Ray?

    The Corby case is yet another example of the media totally decontextualising a story. Turning it into an empty human interest story. In the process, either by design or natural momentum (probably both), the story acts to avoid real scrutiny over the issues that matter the most. Like the Budget, or the occupation of Iraq. Or the fact that fellow Australian citizens have been deported or detained for lengthy periods of time. Or what the Howard Government is doing to ‘indigenous policy’. That’s not an exhaustive list.

    What a sad hypocrisy we all face when the media and the Government shed crocodile tears for one lone girl in Bali yet turn a blind eye to so much other suffering it could more readily influence.

  • Fabian

    Antony, well said.

  • Antony Loewenstein

    Thanks, much appreciated.

  • Shay

    A "journalist's" deputy sheriff phrase? Surely once someone as moronic as GW Bush adds his approval to such a statement, in fact promoting him to "sheriff", it's a bit generous to Bush and Howard to go blaming that little piece of moronic diplomacy on a journalist. See: <a href="http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2003/s969604.htm.http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2003/s969604.htm… />Great points on the Corby case though. I agree that the whole thing stinks – not because I'm put off by the fact that she's young and looks innocent, but having travelled throughout Indonesia and the rest of Southeast Asia and seen how cheap and easy weed is to buy, I just can't believe anyone, even a beauty student from the Gold Coast, could possibly be stupid enough to risk their lives to bring it into the country. But that aside, there are plenty of people wrongly imprisoned in Australia who our legal system has failed, both foreigners (especially in our Immigration detention camps) and Australians (heck, ALSO in our Immigration detention camps), so who are we to play holier-than-thou with their legal system. The most despicable suggestion of all is the one about the one-off prisoner exchange. If they want to use this as a spur to broker a prisoner-exchange program, I'm all for it. But what justification could there possibly be for one person getting preferential treatment? Because she's innocent? Try finding a sympathetic judge or politician on that one.

  • Niall

    It's a moot point, surely, whether or not activities like Darp's have any impact. It is important, however, that people have the right to do those things and express their feelings on the matter. If we all sat on our hands over every issue which caused personal angst the establishment would simply steamroll the lot of us.Howard's reactions to the whole sorry affair is extremely interesting, especially in light of the fact that he's had absolutely nothing to say about the 'Bali Nine'. Does that infer an implicit guilt on those people, while Corby, with the attention of the Australian government focused, receives the benefit of the doubt?

  • Antony Loewenstein

    Of course Darp has the right to protest, express himself etc. No issue there. The problem is context and history. One surely can't be taken in fully by the Corby case, and campaign hard on it, while ignoring the many examples of other problems, both in the region re drugs and issues in Timor, Aceh and West Papua. Corby fits into this, not simply a lone case.As for Howard, he can smell the public mood on Corby. The public mood on the Bali nine is unlikely to be as sympathetic. No more, no less.