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.

Pakistan: private security is a state within a state

My following investigation appears in Australian publication Crikey today:

The Pakistani city of Peshawar is situated an hour from Afghanistan. Driving there from Islamabad, the landscape was mostly lush green fields, poor villages and mud houses. After being stopped at five checkpoints along the way, an attempt to intercept foreigners and militants entering the sensitive city, on arrival there was a dramatic change in mood.

Dust filled the air and the roads were in various states of disrepair. Kidnappings and suicide attacks were common. During the days of President Pervez Musharraf, religious fundamentalists were empowered to rule the area and any photos of women were prohibited. Today, however, countless posters of women selling cleaning products were visible. All females wore burqas and men grew thick beards.

The city has become a focal point for the growing tension between Pakistan’s various political and militant factions. Pakistan, more than 10 years after the September 11 attacks, is a broken country. Militants are eating their host, launching attacks inside Pakistan and Afghanistan and demanding the overthrow of the central government. The ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) is effectively a state within a state, detaining, kidnapping and killing civilians and journalists at will.

Crikey spoke to some of Pakistan’s leading reporters in Karachi, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Peshawar to understand how Pakistan remains, as writer Ahmed Rashid calls his latest book, on the brink. The private security industry is integral to this equation, inflaming a militarised and unaccountable situation and providing vital surveillance to a heavily monitored state.

At a government building in Peshawar, everybody was on edge as I entered because militants continued to attack every few days. I spoke to a senior official who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject matter.

“Mohammad” was a wealth of knowledge about the role of privatised security and development companies in the area since September 11. He said that mapping of local communities in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) had taken place, conducted by private companies, that was then used by the US for intelligence against suspected militants.

It was a version of the “human terrain system”, a US army program that attempts to better understand local communities. Its record has been an abject failure, with accurate cultural sensitivity impossible when night raids, drone attacks and bombings accompany friendly chats in the village.

Villagers in FATA were asked personal questions about their children, ID numbers, families and how many people slept in the houses. Local Pakistanis were employed by Western contractors to do the interviews, due to language fluency, but locals weren’t told how the information would be used.

Mohammad told Crikey the company, Gulf Associates, did a survey of Peshawar on water supply and drainage. Every household was asked questions about family size but “people were told they needed to provide these details to get water”. This was the twisted logic of outsourcing essential services in the “war on terror”.

The nexus in Pakistan between the ISI, federal government, militants and private security operates with no official transparency.

Shaukat Qadir has been at the centre of these discussions for years. He was given official permission in 2011 to visit the Osama bin Laden house in Abbottabad and interview some of the key players in the Pakistani government and intelligence in an attempt to understand how the world’s most infamous fugitive was able to live in supposed hiding for so long.

A retired Pakistani Army brigadier, Qadir, in a white salwar kameez, invited me to his home in Rawalpindi to discuss his report’s findings. He said he believed only a few ISI and Pakistani officials knew the whereabouts of bin Laden before his death. “I refuse to believe it was due to incompetence or complicity,” he argued.

His most explosive allegation was that one of bin Laden’s wives eventually sold him out as a way to share in the $US25 million reward money. There was intense rivalry among bin Laden’s wives (some of whom are soon to be deported from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia and Yemen: but Qadir didn’t know if that reward had been paid.

He’d heard that al-Qaeda, “who were totally broke before this”, had received — not directly from the US although Qadir claimed Washington had unwittingly paid al-Qaeda this money — about $US12 million and his wife $US1.5 million.

Al-Qaeda, which had seemed irrelevant when the Arab Spring began and country after country overthrew autocratic regimes, was now back in the game, he believed. This was due to the crushing of the revolutions by US client states in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain that showed Islamists as key figures of resistance. Qadir wasn’t claiming that al-Qaeda was an all-powerful organisation, too many leaders had been captured or killed, but they remained a potent force.

Aside from the ISI, private security companies were another state within a state. Crikey has been given exclusive access to a list of 62 retired military men who joined private security companies. The national security journalist source told me that at least half of these men had been arrested and then released for corruption and working for the Americans. Although it was an open secret that many Pakistani officials worked with the US, these men were targeted briefly for pushing the murky rules too far.

The most revealing company name on the list was G4S Wackenhut Pakistan. G4S is a British-based behemoth in the industry with atroubling human rights record. It remains the world’s largest security firm on revenues, operating in 125 nations and employing more than 650,000 people. I saw countless men in G4S uniforms across the country.

In many nations since September 11, private security companies have too much power and often replace functions of the state. In Pakistan, however, the government uses former military people to work for private security companies, giving them unique access to the gathered intelligence. The war economy fuels an elite group of companies and individuals determined to make money from political instability. It is the definition of vulture capitalism.

Journalists rarely report this deep collusion between intelligence, private security and the state because they face threat of death or assault. According to the Committee to Project Journalists, Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to practise reporting.

Hamid Mir is arguably Pakistan’s most famous talk-show host and journalist. He interviewed bin Laden three times, including once after 9/11, the only journalist known to have spoken to the al-Qaeda leader after the attacks: ”His words and deeds were very different,” Mir told me. In person, he remembered, bin Laden was gentle and calm, far from the image of a radical. But his actions and desire to cause carnage showed him a person capable of extreme violence.

Mir has been the victim of countless ISI attacks and kidnappings, loved and loathed at various times by the Pakistani government, Taliban and militants. He has sent his son out of the country to ensure his safety. He takes big risks by naming and shaming ISI officials who threaten him and other journalists. Very few others follow his lead.

He claimed that recently President Asif Ali Zadari called him personally and asked him to cease criticising some military figures. He refused. Zadari then urged him to organise more security for his protection and use state-provided services. Mir said he didn’t trust them but he had arranged a guard to accompany him day and night. “Zadari is only President in the papers,” Mir mused, confirming that the real power in Pakistan lies with the military and intelligence services.

I asked him about the role of private security and intelligence and he reached for his copy of the Pakistani constitution; clause 256 states, “Private armies forbidden”. Mir said they operated far more frequently in past years, mostly former military men out to make more money in the private sector, but less often today.

Mir’s story was sadly familiar. If he was given a degree of protection because of his fame — this didn’t save journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad who was murdered by the ISI last year in all likelihood because he had uncovered a connection between al-Qaeda and the Pakistan Army  — such comforts were not shared by many other reporters.

Journalists who report on Waziristan, the area suffering US drone bombardment, face some of the toughest conditions.

The New York Times employee Ihsan Tipu is from the area and told me that incessant buzzing of drones is always in the air, bringing deep anger to villagers and psychological problems to families. Despite US claims that “terrorists” were targeted, countless civilians were being killed, he said. “A main driver there is revenge,” he said.

Crikey met several journalists who travelled from the tribal reasons to Islamabad to tell their stories. They felt threatened by militants, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, ISI and local officials. Leading investigative journalist Umar Cheema told me that this insecurity was exactly what the authorities wanted. Having been himself kidnapped and tortured by the ISI in 2010, Cheema said the ISI wanted to instil fear in anybody who challenged its behaviour and individuals to believe they could be reached, harassed or hurt no matter where they were.

America and the West have backed the Pakistani state’s brutality since September 11.

This is the enigma of Pakistan. It is a nuclear-armed nation that is seemingly always on the verge of collapse due to a desperate need for American money and to secure its regional position against India and Afghanistan. The result is a quasi- police state, backed by private security, silencing critics of its politics of capitulation towards militants and Washington.

It is only brave journalists and human rights workers who are showing a viable alternative.

Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist and author who is currently working on a book and documentary on disaster capitalism 

2 comments ↪
  • rehmat1

    Being from Peshawer myself – I disagree with this armchair narrative of Pakistan which is devoid of historical truths.

    Pakistan is strategically very important for American imperialist power. Washington has used Pakistan for its proxy wars in the region. It is the US which sponsored four military coups in Pakistan and finally the break-up of Pakistan in 1971. America always considered democratic rule in Pakistan very dangerous for Israel.

    Don't forget – it was Pakistan's ISI which made the US, sole superpower by training and arming Afghan Mujahideen to defeat the Red Army and thus dismembering of USSR.

    The price Pakistan receieved for being an American poodle since 1950s – is peanuts ($30 billion since 1960s) as compared to USAID to Israel ($3,000 billions since 1970s). While there are dozens of US citizens serving jail for spying for Israel – I have not read any US citizen apprehended for such crime.

    Pakistan was established to be governed by Islamic laws. The so-called Muslim extremist groups are mostly act as front for CIA, Mossad and RAW.
    http://rehmat1.wordpress.com/2010/12/24/zionists-

  • kaspiascaravan

    Work for the ISI, do you Rehmat1? Why else would you be white-washing the world's greatest terror outfit?