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.

Contracting in Afghanistan is turning that country into a deformed beast

My following investigation appears today in Crikey:

In the 10 years since 9/11, millions of people have been killed but countless firms have benefited from the explosion in Western defence spending. Brian Michael Jenkins, senior adviser to the president at Rand Corporation, recently told National Defence that “the war on terrorism cost $3.8 trillion in the first 10 years”.

Much of this money has also been used in American theatres of war including Iraq and Afghanistan. A just-released report by the US-based Commission on Wartime Contracting found that at least one out of every six dollars spent by the US on contractors in both countries in the past decade has been wasted or disappeared. That’s more than $30 billion.

A lawyer working on rule of law issues in Afghanistan exclusively tells Crikey from Kabul that nothing has changed on the contracting issue since Barack Obama assumed office and nor will it:

“People are tired of this war and it will be an issue in the forthcoming [2012] election. The news that the Obama administration is negotiating with Afghan President Hamid Karzai [to keep at least 25,000 troops in the country until 2024, according to media reports] would not be welcomed by American voters. Using [private] contractors is a great solution for Obama in terms of bringing the troops home while still maintaining a presence here.”

One of the key points of the Commission on Wartime Contracting is that America initiated wars after 9/11 without adequate planning, therefore relying on private contractors to fill the void. At times, more than 260,000 people in the contractor workforce has exceeded the number of US military forces in a conflict zone.

As The New Yorker revealed earlier this year, an army of largely invisible foreign workers populate American bases with little or no protection from exploitation.

America couldn’t fight its multiple wars without contractors.

The depth of the problem is shown by the presence of the controversial mercenary company Blackwater in Afghanistan, despite the Karzai government continually rejecting the presence of such forces.

Without them, however, the nation’s violence would spiral even further out of control, because the Afghan army is deserting in massive numbers and remains incapable of fighting an insurgency that is only strengthening as long as foreign troops occupy the nation.

Such dismal figures also put into perspective the role of Australia in Uruzgan Province as we’re constantly told that our role is to train Afghan soldiers to defend the country on their own. The possible success of this mission is highly questionable. Confirmation that Australian forces are using drones to kill supposed enemies in southern Afghanistan will only increase the local hatred of Western forces.

Furthermore, this week’s important article in the Fairfax Media about Australian special forces using legally and morally suspect covert means to target insurgents missed one important element; the use of private companies to assist this process, something I revealed in Crikey in late 2010.

Various sources tell Crikey that Australian and American troops increasingly rely on private intelligence contractors to gain information on suspected insurgents. Tragically this information is often incorrect, causing the wrongful abduction or death of civilians.

The lawyer in Kabul tells says that the nexus between huge amounts of foreign money, a corrupt Karzai regime and private contractors make the job of reform almost impossible.

“The Afghan government is not in a position to be serious about fighting corruption because President Karzai is holding together the most fragile of coalitions and he’s only able to do it by carving out gifts to everybody he needs support from,” she said. “Those gifts include high-ranking positions, opportunities to collect money through corruption, control of provinces and the narcotics trade. Karzai doesn’t really have the option to be sincere about fighting corruption. The Afghan anti-corruption institution is essentially a fake institution. It may well have been set up with clear marching orders to occupy that space without doing anything.”

This is the government with whom the West is betting its future in Afghanistan.

Contractors hired by NATO or the US military to provide supplies to the troops have to pay off the Taliban in order to be able to do their job. Enormous amounts of money are going from defence budgets into the pockets of the people the troops are being deployed to fight.

“The military has become a prep school that you have to get through and graduate to be a well paid mercenary,” the Kabul lawyer tells Crikey. “These [contracting] companies are publicly traded. They don’t have a philosophy or a set of values of their own; they have shareholders. Their only next goal is to get the next contract.”

A recent investigation in Caravan magazine explained how Indian aid money to the country was feeding the insurgency by bribing the warlords New Delhi says it wants to defeat.

One of the key reasons private contractors will remain in Afghanistan and countless other nations are because the war-making Western powers have no desire for it to stop. A war economy is thriving in Afghanistan due to ongoing occupation policies dictating a never-ending supply of security to insulate those implementing it. And since the occupation will continue for years to come, mercenaries will always be in demand.

I’ve seen the price list of Western contractors in Afghanistan who can charge a small fortune to protect individuals and these companies are only demanding what the market can sustain.

One human rights source in Kabul, who requested anonymity, tells Crikey that the occupying army in Afghanistan is fighting dual battles to establish any kind of peace and stability. Private contractors, without which the Americans and Australians couldn’t operate in the country, are relied upon despite a shocking human rights record.

For example, DynCorp is integral to the American war effort despite being accused of complicity in the illegal transfer of terror suspects through extraordinary rendition. This is the same company that a US government report recently found massively failed to deliver on its contractual agreement to train the Afghan National Police.

The Kabul source explains how the entire Western war machine is seemingly destined not to succeed, therefore requiring a foreign troop presence for the foreseeable future:

“The real issue with ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] is that everybody is on a six-month tour, including the people with desk jobs. I never forget a meeting I had with two ISAF people dedicated to fighting corruption. An American and a French man. One of them said to me, ‘Ma’am, ISAF understands that we aren’t going to be able to end corruption in Afghanistan in the next two years but ISAF’s goal is that within two years corruption will no longer be an obstacle between the people and the government with the people running into the arms of the insurgency’. I said that sounded ambitious. I said that you’re planning to be here for two years? He said, ‘No, ma’am, I’m here for six months’.”

*Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist currently working on a book about disaster capitalism

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