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 very murky legal world when Australia wants to kill the “enemy”

My story in Crikey this week that alleged Australian soldiers are involved in the targeted killings of “terrorists” in Afghanistan and beyond has already drawn predictable hysteria from men who can’t think of anything better than a long and glorious “war on terror” against “them”.

A more mature response has appeared by Ben Saul, Sydney University’s Law Professor, though there is a virtual absence of any discussion over state terrorism, a far more serious threat than the rest:

A recent report that Australians may be involved in covert missions for a multinational counter-terrorism centre in Paris, Alliance Base, raises questions of law and accountability.

Little is known about the operations, such as whether they include killing suspected terrorists or whether Australians or their government are involved.

One hopes that allegations of Australian involvement in “assassinations” are not true. As one who specialises in the law of war, I am not aware of any such official role by Australian forces and it would be contrary to their rules of engagement. Of course, it is hard to know what private citizens, including former soldiers, may get up to when working overseas, including working as mercenaries or for foreign armies.

Whatever the truth of the report, it raises a broader public interest question of when it may be lawful to kill suspected terrorists. Their lawfulness of such killings depends on who is involved, who they work for, what they do, and where they act. If Alliance Base is simply coordinating western counter-terrorism intelligence sharing and training by national agencies (such as the CIA and Australia’s ASIS or military intelligence), then legal concerns would be fairly limited.

Intelligence cooperation must ensure, for instance, that privacy laws are not violated by the sharing of information obtained by surveillance in one jurisdiction with foreign agencies. Cooperation must not encourage or condone the obtaining of evidence by torture, or share evidence where it would expose a person to death or torture elsewhere.

If, however, Alliance Base is also involved in operations in the field, such as “assassinations” or the killing of terrorists, the legal questions become more acute. Would such operations be lawful killings – or illegal, extrajudicial assassinations? The answer depends on four key factors under the law of armed conflict.

First, the location and context of a killing matters. There is only a “license to kill” where an “armed conflict” exists – as in Afghanistan, where there are ongoing hostilities against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Outside the theatre of hostilities, there is no lawful authority to kill (other than in the strict circumstances of self-defence under criminal law). That means, for instance, that killing suspected terrorists outside a war zone – whether in Dubai, or on an Australian street – could rightly be called an illegal, extrajudicial “assassination”.

Second, if the killings take place in an armed conflict, the target matters. A person who takes a “direct part” in hostilities can be attacked for so long as they participate in the fighting. Ordinarily “direct” participation means acts of physical violence against an adversary or civilians. That means “terrorists” can be targeted when mounting such attacks, or when immediately preparing attacks by, for example, placing explosives or rockets. Strong evidence of such participation is also needed before they are targeted.

But not any terrorist can be killed. Merely being a “member” of terrorist organisation, financing or recruiting terrorists, or providing political or spiritual leadership does not equate to “direct” fighting. Such acts may indeed be necessary to sustain the fighting capacity of the organisation, but they are not so dangerous in a direct military sense as to justify killing.

For the same reason, it is not lawful for an enemy to kill Australian taxpayers just because they finance our military, or to kill the Australian Prime Minister because she ultimately orders soldiers into battle. To so widen the zone of who may be killed is to go down the path of total war, where any civilian becomes fair game because they contribute to the war effort.

The law accordingly seeks to minimise civilian harm by distinguishing between those who pose an immediate risk of violence and those who provide indirect support for it. The latter can be dealt with through other, less violent means, such as through arrest and prosecution for terrorist crimes, or even by using emergency powers of administrative detention.

Third, only certain people enjoy a legal “privilege” or authority to lawfully kill on behalf of governments in war. Regular, uniformed members of national armed forces, acting for a government, may fight. So too may certain irregular forces belonging to a government, where the fighters wear a uniform or emblem, carry weapons openly, and respect the laws of war.

But a central requirement is always this: the legal authority of governments to fight wars is an essential characteristic of state power and sovereign responsibility. It cannot therefore be delegated or contracted out to private actors, including military personnel acting in a personal capacity, for profit or otherwise, for a foreign entity.

It is thus unlawful to use mercenaries to fight wars on our behalf, or to authorise “private security contractors” to perform combat functions. It is also unlawful to knowingly authorise another government to use one’s own forces to carry out unlawful acts.

Finally, anyone targeting terrorists must fight fairly and within the rules of combat. That means that those attempting to kill terrorists cannot, for instance, conceal themselves in civilian clothes while carrying out the attack, or use prohibited weapons (such as poison). Detainees must not be tortured and must be treated humanely and given access to the courts.

In sum, the legality of Alliance Base’s operations would depend on who is killing whom, on whose behalf, and where. As with president Obama’s drone wars in Pakistan or Israel’s targeted killings in Palestine, few of the legal or accountability questions can be adequately answered unless the public is provided with much more information.

Who is on the target lists and why? Where are they killed? Are Australians involved and in what capacity? Is it authorised by government? Are governments unlawfully assassinating people in our name – or are they only doing what is necessary, within the law, to ensure our safety? Australia’s answer is likely simple: we never assassinate, and we fight within the law.

Associate Professor Ben Saul is director of the Sydney Centre for International Law at the University of Sydney and a barrister.

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