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.

Disaster capitalism envelops us all

My following article appears in the Sydney Morning Herald today:

Last year’s cessation of hostilities between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers, after up to 40,000 Tamil civilians were murdered in the last months of the conflict, has heralded a Beijing-led invasion of the island.

The authoritarian Rajapaksa regime was assisted by Chinese weapons and intelligence in its defeat of the Tigers and now China is investing to reap the rewards. Kidnappings and extrajudicial killings in Sri Lanka are irrelevant in the pursuit of regional dominance.

Billions of dollars are being spent to build ports, infrastructure and roads in a country trying to recover from three decades of war, despite reconciliation largely absent from public debate. Referring to China, the Sri Lankan Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has said: “We have understood who is important to us.”

The economy is in such poor shape that its leaders are seemingly happy to auction assets, land and influence to friendly countries and corporations.

After the 2004 tsunami, Western multinationals flooded the country to capitalise on Colombo’s willingness to sell off its forests, water and beaches to the highest bidder. “A second tsunami of corporate globalisation,” said Herman Kumara, the head of Sri Lanka’s National Fisheries Solidarity Movement.

China has filled this role, extending the hand of unlimited finances, military hardware and diplomatic cover.

The concept of disaster capitalism, articulated in Naomi Klein’s best-seller The Shock Doctrine, revolves around “orchestrated raids on the public sphere in the wake of catastrophic events”, real or man-made, “combined with the treatment of disasters as exciting market opportunities”. But the definition of “disaster” is deliberately vague, allowing anything from post-conflict zones to water scarcity to be defined as needing corporate intervention. Profit is the motive and human rights an inconvenience. An ironfisted leadership is helpful but not essential to maximise financial return.

Think Iraq since 2003 and the price-gouging by the company Halliburton, or Haiti after the earthquake; latest reports claim the removal of countless refugees from desolate camps to make way for “industrial work zones”.

In Australia, the British firm Serco runs expanding detention centres, despite allegations of asylum-seeker abuse in its facilities. Even the ownership by French firm Veolia of some of Australia’s waste management, water treatment and desalination plants ignores the company’s building of a light-rail network through occupied Jerusalem and illegal settlements in the Palestinian West Bank.

The belief in privatisation and deregulation is shared by the major parties in most Western democracies. We constantly hear the language of “efficiency”, “better services” and “cost-savings”.

Overseas examples don’t offer much comfort. An April report released by the Australian Services Union revealed that, “the French private water companies [Veolia and Suez] have a large chunk of state ownership and they privatise other public water services while their own state ownership protects them from foreign takeovers in France”.

Downsizing the public sector is framed as the inevitable price of progress. We have seen privatisation by stealth, the purchase and management of key resources and infrastructure by local and foreign corporations with little accountability or discussion. Neo-liberal theories have become doctrine.

Sydney Chamber of Commerce said in 2008 that “there’s a raft of state government assets … that, arguably, have no reason to be in government hands”. The group argued that in a “weaker economic environment” there must be “efficiencies” found.

In these cases, the “disaster” is the gradual lack of public funds for infrastructure and willingness of corporations to step in. But there is no public debate over this and the public backlash over electricity and ferry privatisation indicates fierce resistance.

The recent financial collapse of public-private partnerships, especially road and tunnel projects, is a warning sign that business as usual is not delivering the best services to society.

An economist, Steve Keen, argues that the largely bipartisan political and media backing of privatisation is reminiscent of religious fundamentalism, with no analysis of the costs.

Take military outsourcing. ABC Online recently reported that the Australian government had hired Chilean mercenaries to guard its Baghdad embassy despite serious concerns over the conditions and behaviour of the hired men. The foreign affairs department defended the move but it simply justified the continued use of private militias hired by Western governments in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

I have spoken to security sources that confirm the defence force’s willingness to outsource key tasks in current and future deployments.

There is no discussion in Australia about the massive expansion of mercenaries since September 11, 2001, including by Australians, and the lack of transparency of outsourcing vital services to the private sector. The Washington Post reported recently there were nearly a million contractors in America working in intelligence and counterterrorism.

The reporting group ProPublica says this year was the first time that more contractors than soldiers were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, as governments rely increasingly on faceless corporations to fight their battles. The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill revealed allegations that Blackwater agents in Iraq fired indiscriminately into Iraqi homes while they were high on cocaine and steroids. Welcome to a rebranded, privately run occupation.

The unquestioning devotion to disaster capitalism and privatisation revolves around a belief in the market’s wonders. But what if a heart and soul is missing in the negotiation room?

Antony Loewenstein is a journalist, author of My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution and is working on a book about privatisation.

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