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.

What the MSM isn’t telling us about the war in Afghanistan

My following book review appears in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:

A journalist with access to a superpower’s military machine refuses to toe the line.

“I went into journalism to do journalism, not advertising,” independent American journalist Michael Hastings told The Huffington Post in 2010. ”My views are critical but that shouldn’t be mistaken for hostile – I’m just not a stenographer.”

Such a mindset is what makes this book a compelling read and ensures its status as one of the most devastating and incisive works on the Afghanistan war since Washington and its allies invaded in 2001.

Hastings concludes, after spending extensive time with generals and military advisers, as well as reporters who hang on their every word, that the conflict was lost years ago. The warped logic of the war, the author states, is that, ”we’re there because we’re there. And because we’re there, we’re there some more.”

Afghanistan today has nothing to do with September 11, 2001, ”terrorist havens” or al-Qaeda. ”It didn’t matter that in Afghanistan, the US military had come up short again and again,” Hastings argues. ”What mattered is that they tried. The simple and terrifying reality, forbidden from discussion in America [and mostly in the mainstream media in Australia], was that despite spending $600 billion a year on the military, despite having the best fighting force the world had ever known, they were getting their asses kicked by illiterate peasants who made bombs out of manure and wood.”

Hastings is that rare journalist who doesn’t believe in venerating military figures who give him access in Washington and American war zones. A key aspect of his investigation is its brutal excoriation of embedded media and the lack of accountability in the pundit class. His staccato writing feels immediate in today’s war debate.

He cites a meeting with a German reporter in Berlin in 2010, where the man says he backs the Afghanistan war and acknowledges fears it may not work out. Hastings is stunned: ”Julian was prepared to take ownership of the position he took and the consequences of it. I’d rarely heard an American journalist express any such regrets or take responsibility for the politics they promoted. Maybe it was a European thing.”

Hastings was commissioned in 2010 to write a profile for Rolling Stone, where he’s now a contributing editor, of Stanley McChrystal, the lauded then-commanding general of international and US forces in Afghanistan. The journalist was given nearly full access to the general and his staff as they travelled across Europe attempting to sell their counter-insurgency plan.

What Hastings found both shocked and pleased him. Though he loved the buzz of being close to McChrystal and quickly felt like a trusted member of the team – the allure of ”access” is what makes most corporate journalists little better than transcribers – he quickly remembered he was a reporter there to write a story. Despite being asked by senior military staff to exclude details of drunken adventures in European bars and meeting rooms, disparaging comments about President Barack Obama’s team are openly expressed and Hastings knew his aim: ”The access I’d gotten was unprecedented. But what do you do with it? Bury the story? Write a puff piece to ensure further access? Or write what actually happened?”

Hastings was under no illusion about how McChrystal and his team saw him. ”They weren’t talking to me because they liked me or because I impressed them; they were talking to me because they wanted the cover of Rolling Stone.” The magazine chose Lady Gaga for this coveted position, damaging the general’s desire to impress a younger generation with his prowess.

Hastings’s scoop was seen as shocking not because he was an anti-war activist but because he had seen the human cost of Iraq and Afghanistan on soldiers and civilians and refused to provide cover for those responsible.

The story was explosive and McChrystal was forced to resign. He was replaced by General David Petraeus (now CIA director), a man Obama believed could help salvage the failing Afghanistan war through an innovative counter-insurgency strategy. It failed spectacularly and Hastings explains why by quoting a former UN official in Kabul. ”There has never been a strategy to get rid of the warlords, who are the key problem,” John Matisonn says. ”The average Afghan hates them, whether they’re backed by the Taliban or the Americans. They see them as criminals. They know that the warlords are fundamentally undermining the rule of law.”

The Rolling Stone feature was expanded into this book and Hastings retains high-level access to a military and political establishment that often can’t speak for itself against misguided policies. Like Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks, Hastings believes in full transparency for our political class. The American and Australian mainstream media continue giving air time to people such as Petraeus and Australian counter-insurgency ”expert” David Kilcullen – who now runs the Caerus Associates consultancy firm in Washington DC – despite their disastrous records in Iraq and Afghanistan. In both nations, foreign forces merely empowered one group of thugs over another, with money and guns, and now the results are clear to see.

Hastings, whose first book, I Lost My Love in Baghdad, details his war reporting in post-2003 Iraq and the murder of his partner by a suicide bomber, doesn’t drink the Kool-Aid enjoyed by many of the ”national security” correspondents who populate our media landscape. For them, the ”war on terror” has been a wild decade of conflict. Private chats with generals and their minions constitute much journalism, while the public wonders why ”our” boys continue being killed by an effective insurgency. Afghan deaths and voices are largely invisible.

Hastings’s article about McChrystal was instructive, he writes, ”as the political and media class saw the story as a threat to their schmoozy relationship – their very existence and social life”.

After a decade observing the US in conflict, a superpower both uninterested in understanding its opponents and confused when being beaten by smarter forces, Hastings concludes that our leaders lie about the real purpose of the ”war on terror”. Embedded journalists must take their share of the blame for perpetuating the delusion.

Antony Loewenstein is a freelance journalist working on a book about disaster capitalism.


Michael Hastings

Orion, 432pp, $35

one comment ↪
  • examinator

    There is no doubt in my mind that Hasting's book is a reasonable representation of what took place.
    Having said that after reading/watching his other interviews I'm more inclined to judge the book and the author on their own merits.
    Base on what I've seen I'm not inclined to fan the BS that
    a. He's a heroic journalist
    b. His motives were 'just that of a stenographer' rather as a standard journalist with more than one eye to the main chance for himself.
    Neither am I convinced his motives went much beyond, a great opportunity for himself.
    He certainly doesn't deserve the same respect/accolades as Elsberg or Manning.
    Regarding change all he's achieved is change of deck chairs on the Titanic and made it harder for the next journalist to elicit a meaningful observations.
    Again I state that he, as all journalists was/are simply doing a job not necessarily supporting a noble passion.
    Simply put he could have effected greater change by doing it a different way but he wouldn't have got the same cudos or money.