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.

A terror for our time

My latest New Matilda column is about the disintegration of the Iraqi state:

Andrew Bolt wrote in his Herald Sun column last week: ‘Almost unacknowledged by the Australian media, the tide in Iraq is turning. We can now dare to think Iraq will indeed survive as a democracy.’

How delightful it must be to walk in Bolt’s shoes. A shameless booster of the Iraq War, tireless defender of George W Bush and his policies, and brave fighter against Islamofascism, the Murdoch columnist was recently as excited as a cadet — confident that the ‘surge’ had finally vindicated the War Party’s tactics.

For a man who’s spent a few hours in Baghdad’s Green Zone with Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and who’s seen first hand the brilliance of US military strategy, Washington’s approved spin was terribly comforting. The price has been worth it, after all. The estimated million civilian deaths since 2003, four million refugees dispersed across the Middle East and the nearly one million internal refugees could be ignored. American ‘prestige’ was intact.

But Bolt is an irrelevance. The reality on the ground makes his ignorant pronouncements obscene. Iraq, even as a barely functioning entity, no longer exists. Whole communities are being ethnically cleansed. Sunni and Shi’ite death squads — supported variously by the US, Iran and a host of other nations — have recognised the most important fact of all: that America no longer controls the situation, its power drained after years of inept planning and criminal negligence.

My New Matilda archive is here.

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The sleazy details behind Allawi’s campaign

Arianna Huffington sums up the ugly truth surrounding Allawi’s campaign to ouster the Malaki government and assume the job for himself.

First, there is the detail about whom Allawi is aiming his campaign.

He clearly knows that despite Bush’s bathetic paeans to Iraqi sovereignty, the real deciders in Iraq are not the Iraqi people, but a few dozen folks in the White House and the Pentagon. They are Allawi’s true constituency.

So those purple fingers meant nothing after all?

But what about the $300,000 he is paying to Barbour Griffith & Rogers, Philip Zelikow’s lobbying firm?

When Blitzer asked Allawi who is paying for the $300,000 Barbour Griffith & Rogers lobbying contract, Allawi wouldn’t say. He was only willing to disclose that the “payment is made by an Iraqi person who was a supporter of us, of the INA, of myself, of our program, and he has supported this wholeheartedly, without any strings attached.”

As Spencer Ackerman of TPMmuckracker wrote, perhaps it’s being financed by Allawi’s old buddy Hazem Shaalan, who Allawi appointed as his defense minister. Shaalan is currently fighting charges that he stole $1 billion from the Iraqi defense budget (out of a total of $1.3 billion). That’s some way to endear yourself to the Iraqi people.

Wouldn’t that be fitting? Funds stolen from Iraq’s defense ministry (provided by Washington of course), are being used to bribe Washington power brokers to sell the idea of overthrowing Iraq’s so-called democratically elected government.

There is also the fact that on the eve of the Petraeus report on the state of the surge, the Allawi Coup may serve a secondary purpose to the Bush administration. Not only will Petraeus not be writing the report he is supposed to deliver, but it was revealed that he massaged the NIE to make it sound more rosy. The implication of a close colleague of Petraeus in the illicit sale and delivery of billions of dollars in weapons in Iraq is also bound to sully the re branded image of Petraeus as being all knowing and being reproach.

With few American’s willing to trust that things are improving in Iraq, Allawi may just provide a pretext to keep the war going for another few years. During his appearance with Wolf Blitzer, Allawi spoke of his “six points call for a full partnership with the United States” and that his “objective is to develop a plan to save Iraq and to save American lives, as well as, of course, Iraqi lives, and to save the American mission in Iraq.

In other words, if the surge doesn’t wash with the public, Bush’s other option is to convince them that Allawi is the man for the job and that we owe it to the Iraqi people (and the troops of course), to give the plan a chance to work.

Yawn.

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Self-hating right wing gays

The image of the right wing “family values” closet gay for an uncontrollable obsession with tasting the forbidden fruit, has almost become a stereotype, but these troubled souls continue to provide us with plenty of grist. Of course, the issue isn’t one about sexuality, but the hypocrisy of these individuals who not only claim moral superiority, but only campaign against the rights of gay people.

The latest episode involving Senator Larry Craig (a family values married) not only highlights this repression, but the inability of the right wing to come to terms with their own double standards. Gay activist Mike Rogers revealed that Craig has a fondness for having sex with anonymous men in public bathrooms.

As Rogers argued at the time, the story was relevant — just as the Vitter prostitute story was — in light of Craig’s frequent political exploitation of issues of sexual morality and his opposition to virtually every gay rights bill. Rogers’ story, as a factual matter, seemed relatively credible, both because of his history of accurate outings and because there is no discernible reason why, if he were intent on fabricating, he would single out someone as obscure as Larry Craig, who was not even up for re-election.

Nonetheless, it is hard to overstate the intense fury that this pre-election report triggered from the Right — not at Senator Craig for engaging in this behavior, but at Rogers for reporting it. A virtually unanimous chorus on the Right furiously insisted that nothing could be more irrelevant than whether the married family values Senator had sex with men in bathrooms (acts that are simultaneously criminal and adulterous). The same political movement that impeached Bill Clinton and which has made a living exploiting issues of private morality for political gain insisted that Rogers had reached a new and despicable low in politics even by reporting this.

As Glenn Greenwald points out, those that led the charges of sexual McCarthyism at the time included the usual suspects. They even went so far as to predict the backlash against the report would save the GOP during the last elections.

That was late 2006. Today is a different story. The same people who were wanting to lynch Rogers are now calling for Craig to resign.

Michelle Malkin yesterday called Craig a “weasel,” accused him of not caring about the “dignity of his office,” and demanded that he resign. Various other right-wing blogs — noting that a GOP governor will appoint his replacement — also are calling for Craig to resign.

So revealingly, Barnett’s blog colleague, Hugh Hewitt, demanded Craig’s immediate resignation while openly acknowledging that he does not believe Sen. Vitter should resign.

And the list goes on.

Mark Steyn echoes Hewitt’s demand that Craig resign and then proceeds to spew adolescent mockery comparing Craig to George Michael.

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Bush’s gift to the Middle East

Behold the fruits of the Bush doctrine.

Zalmay Khalilzad told the daily Die Presse the Middle East was now so disordered that it had the potential to inflame the world as Europe did during the first half of the 20th century.

“The (Middle East) is going through a very difficult transformation phase. That has strengthened extremism and creates a breeding ground for terrorism,” he said in remarks translated by Reuters into English from the published German.

This must be what freedom looks like when it’s on the march.

Surely, none of this is the fault of Washington.  Who could perceive the policies of the Bush administration as anything other than purely altruistic?  For example:

THE White House’s plans to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organisation are intended to give the Bush administration cover if it launches military strikes on the Islamic republic, according to a prominent former CIA officer.

Robert Baer, who was a high-ranking operative in the Middle East, has said that senior government officials had told him the administration was preparing for air strikes on the guards’ bases and probably also on Iran’s nuclear facilities within the next six months.

Any chaos that ensues as a result of these attacks, will be further proof that Islam is predisposed to self destruction.

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Welcoming civil strife

Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory is a constantly evolving beast, but one thing remains constant; Palestinians are losing their land and dignity:

The occupied West Bank, 1999. A group of Israeli settlers complain that their mobile phone reception cuts out on a bend in a road from Jerusalem to their settlements.

The mobile phone company Orange agrees to put up an antenna on a hill overlooking the bend.

The hill happens to be owned by Palestinian farmers, but since mobile phone reception is a “security issue”, the mast construction can go ahead without the farmers’ permission.

Other companies agree to supply electricity and water to the construction site on the hill.

In May 2001 an Israeli security guard moves on to the site and connects his cabin to the water and electricity mains. Then his wife and children move in with him.

In March 2002 five more families join him to create the settler outpost of Migron. The Israeli ministry for construction and housing builds a nursery, while donations from abroad build a synagogue.

By mid-2006 Migron is a fully fledged illegal settlement comprising 60 trailers on a hilltop around the antenna, overlooking the Palestinian lands below.

This blow-by-blow account of just one example of the ongoing Israeli colonisation of Palestine appears in the opening pages of a fascinating new book by Eyal Weizman, the dissident Israeli architect.

The occupation increases in size every day and the Israeli state is simply indulging the settler movement.

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Trusting fools

Remind me again why we should be supporting anything the US does in Iraq?

Iraq’s deadly insurgent groups have financed their war against U.S. troops in part with hundreds of thousands of dollars in U.S. rebuilding funds that they’ve extorted from Iraqi contractors in Anbar province. The payments, in return for the insurgents’ allowing supplies to move and construction work to begin, have taken place since the earliest projects in 2003, Iraqi contractors, politicians and interpreters involved with reconstruction efforts said.

A fresh round of rebuilding spurred by the U.S. military’s recent alliance with some Anbar tribes – 200 new projects are scheduled – provides another opportunity for militant groups such as al Qaeda in Iraq to siphon off more U.S. money, contractors and politicians warn.

“Now we’re back to the same old story in Anbar. The Americans are handing out contracts and jobs to terrorists, bandits and gangsters,” said Sheik Ali Hatem Ali Suleiman, the deputy leader of the Dulaim, the largest and most powerful tribe in Anbar. He was involved in several U.S. rebuilding contracts in the early days of the war, but is now a harsh critic of the U.S. presence.

When war pimps like William Shawcross continue to believe in the Bush administration – and this is a man who opposed the Vietnam war? – one knows that reality is setting in. Wake-up call, people: the US no longer controls events in Iraq. And for this we should be grateful.

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The containment lie

Noam Chomsky, Khaleej Times, August 27:

In Washington a remarkable and ominous campaign is under way to “contain Iran,” which turns out to mean “containing Iranian influence,” in a confrontation that Washington Post correspondent Robin Wright calls “Cold War II.”

The sequel bears close scrutiny as it unfolds under the direction of former Kremlinologists Condoleezza Rice and Robert M Gates, according to Wright. Stalin had imposed an Iron Curtain to bar Western influence; Bush-Rice-Gates are imposing a Green Curtain to bar Iranian influence.

Washington’s concerns are understandable. In Iraq, Iranian support is welcomed by much of the majority Shia population. In Afghanistan, President Karzai describes Iran as “a helper and a solution.” In Palestine, Iranian-backed Hamas won a free election, eliciting savage punishment of the Palestinian population by the United States and Israel for voting “the wrong way.” In Lebanon, most Lebanese see Iranian-backed Hezbollah “as a legitimate force defending their country from Israel,” Wright reports. And the Bush administration, without irony, charges that Iran is “meddling” in Iraq, otherwise presumably free from foreign interference.

The ensuing debate is partly technical. Do the serial numbers on the Improvised Explosive Devices really trace back to Iran? If so, does the leadership of Iran know about the IEDs, or only the Iranian Revolutionary Guards? Settling the debate, the White House plans to brand the Revolutionary Guards as a “specially designated global terrorist” force, an unprecedented action against a national military branch, authorising Washington to undertake a wide range of punitive actions. 

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The Great Iraq Swindle

A fascinating and disturbing account of how the corruption in Washington and the revolving door of lobbyists has led to the looting of the US Treasury.

How is it done? How do you screw the taxpayer for millions, get away with it and then ride off into the sunset with one middle finger extended, the other wrapped around a chilled martini? Ask Earnest O. Robbins — he knows all about being a successful contractor in Iraq.

You start off as a well-connected bureaucrat: in this case, as an Air Force civil engineer, a post from which Robbins was responsible for overseeing 70,000 servicemen and contractors, with an annual budget of $8 billion. You serve with distinction for thirty-four years, becoming such a military all-star that the Air Force frequently sends you to the Hill to testify before Congress — until one day in the summer of 2003, when you retire to take a job as an executive for Parsons, a private construction company looking to do work in Iraq.

Now you can finally move out of your dull government housing on Bolling Air Force Base and get your wife that dream home you’ve been promising her all these years. The place on Park Street in Dunn Loring, Virginia, looks pretty good — four bedrooms, fireplace, garage, 2,900 square feet, a nice starter home in a high-end neighborhood full of spooks, think-tankers and ex-apparatchiks moved on to the nest-egg phase of their faceless careers. On October 20th, 2003, you close the deal for $775,000 and start living that private-sector good life.

Read the whole article.

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The lies that can be bought with a spare 15 million

These are the sickening and cynical ads that Ari Fleisher helped produce, with a little help from some wealthy Republican donors. Most of the ads feed into the lie that Iraq was linked to 9/11 or that Iraq was a terrorist breeding ground before it was invaded.

Who exactly are they referring to when they say “they attacked us”?

They threaten the US with more attacks if we don’t stay in the war. And A pull out is “surrendering” to the terrorists. Note again that Iraq is now magically Al Qaeda again.

It has no end. Their hubris has no end. Justin did a good write up on it here. It says pretty much what I wanted to say. So that saves me time.

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Disappearing the insurgents

What’s a better way to defeat the insurgents that killed scores of Americans than by re branding them as “concerned local nationals” and giving them arms? After all, this is part of the surge, right?

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No really, the surge is working

Iraq Update

More that 600,000 Iraqis have abandoned their homes since the surge began.

The Iraqi Red Crescent Organisation said the total number of internally displaced has jumped from 499,000 to 1.1 million since extra US forces arrived with the aim of making the country more secure. The UN-run International Organisation for Migration says the numbers fleeing fighting in Baghdad grew by a factor of 20 in the same period.

Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland suggests that the Vietnam comparison is unecessary, because Iraq will go down in history as a failure in its own right

“For Americans, the most important comparison will be this one: As Vietnam did, Iraq has become a failure even on its own terms — whatever those terms are at any given moment,” Hoagland writes in the most-read story on the Post’s Web site Friday morning.

“Bush’s comparison of the two conflicts rivals Richard Nixon’s ‘I am not a crook’ utterance during Watergate and Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,’ in producing unintended consequences of a most damaging kind for a sitting president,” he writes.

Washington has decided that democracy is not such a big deal after all.

The U.S. effort to install a democracy in Iraq within three to five years was a flawed strategy with little chance of succeeding, U.S. Rep. Peter Hoekstra said Friday.

In spite of Bill Kristol insisting that GOP Sen. John Warner will stay on message, there are suggestions he wall back a Democrat bill for troop withdrawals.

GOP Sen. John Warner, who wants U.S. troops to start coming home from Iraq by Christmas, said Sunday he may support Democratic legislation ordering withdrawals if President Bush refuses to set a return timetable soon.

The Pentagon is having to pull troops from Japan to make up numbers in Iraq. Those recruitment drives don’t seem to be working.

As the British have pulled out from Basra, Sadr’s men have apparently taken control.

Shiite militiamen from the Mahdi Army took over the police joint command center in Basra on Sunday after British soldiers withdrew from the facility and handed control to the Iraqi police, witnesses said.

Who would have thought that a speech given to the National Guard calling for US withdrawal from Iraq would produce a standing ovation?

A call by Puerto Rico’s governor for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq earned a standing ovation from a conference of more than 4,000 National Guardsmen.

Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila said Saturday that the U.S. administration has “no new strategy and no signs of success” and that prolonging the war would needlessly put guardsmen in harm’s way.

“The war in Iraq has fractured the political will of the United States and the world,” he said at the opening of the 129th National Guard Association general conference. “Clearly, a new war strategy is required and urgently.”

Acevedo said sending more troops to Iraq would be a costly blunder.

The numbers of violent deaths in Iraq is going up, not down.

This year’s U.S. troop buildup has succeeded in bringing violence in Baghdad down from peak levels, but the death toll from sectarian attacks around the country is running nearly double the pace from a year ago.

Remember that the death rate had, according to the Lancet survey, doubled every year since the occupation began.

The latest NIE makes a mockery of any suggestion the surge is working.

The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate has effectively discredited the dominant American hypothesis of the past seven months: that safer streets, secured by additional troops, would create enough political calm for Iraq’s leaders to reconcile.

They have failed to do so in part, suggests the report, which was released Thursday, because the security gains remain too modest to reverse Iraq’s dynamic of violence and fear. Baghdad after all, remains a place where women at the market avoid buying river fish for fear that they’ve been eating bodies.

British troops say the war in Iraq cannot be won.

A belief that Iraq is unwinnable, fears that Afghanistan could go the same way and an overwhelming feeling that the government has not looked after the Armed Forces properly in return for the sacrifices they make.

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Proof the surge is working

Images of the “successful” US military campaign in Diyala province.

As you can see, only militants were targeted.

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