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 calculating chameleon

My following book review appears in today’s Weekend Australian newspaper:

The Man Who Pushed America to War
By Aram Roston
Nation Books, 400pp, $49.95

Ahmed Chalabi, the chameleon-like Iraqi exile who fed bogus intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to the Bush administration and to willing media, told Britain’s The Daily Telegraph in 2004 that he regretted nothing.

“We are heroes in error,” he said defiantly. “As far as we’re concerned, we’ve been entirely successful. That tyrant Saddam (Hussein) is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important. The Bush administration is looking for a scapegoat.”

Chalabi has been accused of being an Iranian agent, the key figure behind the Iraqi Government’s recent plan to back Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s withdrawal timetable from the occupied country and of aligning himself, as a secular man, with Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter recalls meeting Chalabi in Washington in 1998 and being shown a document drafted by the US-backed Iraqi National Congress that considered installing Chalabi in Iraq as a viable political alternative to the dictator.

“Chalabi’s plan struck me as simplistic at best and entirely unrealistic,” Ritter wrote earlier this year. Alas, an eerily similar plan eventually became the White House’s strategy for overthrowing the once-feted ally.

In 2006, Chalabi told The New York Times that he blamed the roaring insurgency in Iraq on the Americans for not handing over control to Iraqis as soon as they had deposed Saddam in 2003. He always blamed everybody but himself.

In The Man Who Pushed America to War, Emmy award-winning journalist Aram Roston has undertaken to explain this man, a maths genius and former diplomat, banker and fraudster. Chalabi refused to co-operate with his efforts. At times the writing is disarmingly conversational, but the journey reads more like a less-than-believable thriller.

Born to a wealthy Shia merchant family in 1944, “when the British still quietly pulled the strings in Iraq”, Chalabi was the last of his parent’s nine children. In the 1950s, Iraq’s prime minister Nuri as-Said was supported by the US in its global battle against communism. Brutality against the Iraqi regime’s internal enemies was extreme, but the Chalabi family wasn’t opposed to it; they were more concerned about losing influence in the new world of Arab nationalism.

Chalabi studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — one of his mentors, Warren Ambrose, was politically aligned with Noam Chomsky — and he excelled in mathematics. After working in Beirut as an academic, he helped found Petra Bank: years later, he was convicted and sentenced in absentia for bank fraud by a Jordanian court, though he claimed the charges were politically motivated.

It wasn’t until the late ’80s — Roston adroitly questions Chalabi’s opposition to Saddam and notes his willingness to provide loans to businesses doing deals in Iraq — that the chameleon adopted a new persona. He befriended several prominent US journalists — including The New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who published numerous false stories about Saddam through the years — and one of the key jobs of the INC became funnelling stories to the media. Chalabi found politicians and media receptive, as Saddam moved in the ’90s from hero to villain.

The picture of Chalabi that emerges is of a man possessed of incredible charisma, able to smoothly milk the post-September 11 angst and the Bush administration’s focus on deposing Saddam. Amid American unease over terrorism, the INC, regarded at that stage by the CIA as wholly unreliable, took its reasons and recommendation for invasion to willing members of the Bush administration. (Chalabi had backed John McCain for president in 2000, considering him more supportive of his aims.)

Since 2003, Chalabi has shown an amazing ability to rescue success from the jaws of defeat. Despite his pathetic showing in the 2005 Iraqi elections, last year he was appointed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to head the Iraqi Services Committee, which is in charge of the basic necessities for reviving life in Baghdad. His fortunes are on the rise once more.

One thing remains unexplained in the context of Chalabi’s relationship with leading US neo-conservatives: whether the Pentagon — including former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz and former undersecretary of defence for policy Douglas Feith — planned to appoint Chalabi as ruler of Iraq soon after Saddam’s fall. Feith, recently spruiking a book defending the invasion, claimed that there was never a plan to do this.

One thing is certain, however. Chalabi will inevitably play a key role in the future of Iraq, with or without US permission.

Antony Loewenstein is the author of The Blogging Revolution, published by Melbourne University Publishing this month.

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