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.

Australian troops involved in covert and deadly operations for the US

My following lead article appears in today’s edition of Crikey:

Elite Australian soldiers are involved in covert operations for the Americans in the “war on terror”, co-ordinated through the top-secret, Paris-based centre Alliance Base. There has been no public discussion about these missions, but Crikey understands the soldiers are involved in targeting, interrogation and assassinations in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Australians are recruited for the jobs, and nominally remain on the army’s books though they are not working for the Australian government while in the field. They don’t wear Australian uniforms but are trained and sometimes transported into war zones by American mercenary companies. Only men with SAS training or similar are eligible for the program and dozens not hundreds are reportedly involved.

Unspoken and unasked is the role of outsourced Australian soldiers in partly privatised missions for Washington.

During the Vietnam War, the Americans ran the Phoenix Program, covert assassination hit squads to kill supposed enemies. Tens of thousands were murdered. Recent WikiLeaks revelations detail similar activity in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Crikey understands Australia has been engaged in such behaviour in the past decade in the Middle East, leaving Canberra and its officials open to potential charges of war crimes and prosecution in an international criminal court. Several Australians engaged in the missions have concerns about the tasks, it’s understood, including the poor quality of intelligence provided to identity alleged insurgents to be captured for interrogation. For example, they are concerned that Afghans with a grudge are passing on suspect information to eradicate local enemies.

A 2004 article by Brian Toohey in The Australian Financial Review first raised the involvement of “Australian troops conducting clandestine operations in Iraq that go far beyond what has been revealed to the Australian public or the Labor opposition”. Toohey reported the CIA trained “Australian graduates” in “assassination techniques” but they “have not yet been asked to put it into practice, as far as can be ascertained”.

Crikey understands that this is no longer the case and that Australia has been involved in preparations for assassinations.

Toohey wrote that the covert teams work for very short periods of time, earn good money, take luxury breaks in Europe to unwind and remain based in a Gulf state. The program, initiated during the Howard years, has continued since the 2007 election of the Labor Party but it remains unclear which levels of government are briefed on the missions.

One source said that the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) could be sometimes involved, as Howard government legislation allowed our foreign spy service to carry weapons, allegedly only in self-defence.

Crikey has spoken to several national security journalists in Australia and overseas and discovered that very few concrete details of the program are available.

The recent cover story in The Monthly by Sally Neighbour on the intelligence services in Australia barely mentioned the role of Australia’s overseas intelligence services. Although she documented the excessive secrecy (compared to the US) of intelligence and counter-terror operations, missions involving illegality — kidnapping, assassination, rendition, etc — weren’t touched on extensively.

Crikey asked the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Mark Thomson about these top-secret Australian jobs and he said he had never heard of them. If it was happening, he stated, it was a “bad idea” because he wondered which local and international laws covered the tasks. Furthermore, possible breaches of the Geneva Convention concerned him. “There would be serious questions over accountability,” Thomson stressed.

Alliance Base was first named publicly by Dana Priest in The Washington Post in 2005 and revealed the establishment in 2002 of a Western counter-terrorist intelligence centre (CTIC) in Paris. It is headed by a French general and largely funded by CIA’s counter-terrorist centre. It hosts and trains officers from France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Britain and the US and “analyses the transnational movement of terrorist suspects and develops operations to catch or spy on them”.

Alliance Base was chosen as a name because al-Qaeda means “the base” in Arabic.

Ben Saul, co-director at Sydney Centre for International Law at The University of Sydney, also hadn’t heard of Alliance Base but told Crikey that there were some serious legal questions over the missions. The actual role of the Australian government determines its responsibility before the law. For example, Saul told me, if the individual being targeted was part of a terrorist group and this intelligence was accurate, killing them could be justified.

However, the involvement of private companies in the tasks opens up further transparency questions. The mercenary company “must comply with the laws of armed conflict, international, humanitarian law and a process of post-facto investigation into any killings”.

Saul worried that Canberra was deliberately turning a blind eye to the more extreme actions of the US in war zones. “If Australia is a partner in the program, it ups the legal responsibility.”

The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill reported in late 2009 that private mercenary company Blackwater was working at “the centre of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives, ‘snatch and grabs’ of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan.”

Scahill’s source claimed that the program is so “compartmentalised” that senior figures within the Obama Administration and the US military chain of command may not be aware of its existence.

Crikey understands the situation could be similar in Australia with high levels of the Australian government and defence establishment willing to use private firms to undertake some of the most sensitive “counter-terrorism” tasks. Plausible deniability is the name of the game, leaving no direct Australian government-backed fingerprints on actions that international law deems illegal.

The relationship between governments and private military contractors is massively expanding under the Obama administration. According to the essential “War is Business” blog:

“At the start of the Iraq invasion, the US military spent twice as much on its own personnel as it did on procurement from private sources. Within a few years’ time, the military was spending three times as much on outside contractors as on its own men and women in uniform.”

Australia’s bid to ingratiate itself with Washington was on display during the recent visit of Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates, with the South Australian government lobbying for more training facilities on its soil. The Gillard government pledged to open the country to even more US military hardware and opportunities and Gillard spoke of an open-ended commitment to Afghanistan.

Fairfax recently exposed Australian training of Afghan warlords here in Australia despite independent reporting that indicates a surging Taliban across the country, and it’s being reported today that Australian-owned security company Compass Integrated Security Solutions has been accused of abuses in Afghanistan — including theft and corruption — by the US Senate’s Committee on Armed Services.

*Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist, author of My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution and is working on a book about disaster capitalism.

2 comments ↪
  • S. Kenan

    Good research there Antony. So much for Gillard's rubbish about Australian troops only engaged in "nation building" in Afghanistan.

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