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.

Checking the Wikileaks record; Syria was friend and ally until very recently

As Syria continues to descend into deeper civil war, and a proxy war between Iran and various powers is clear, it’s worth remembering the reality of how the US and West viewed Assad until very recently. Thanks to Wikileaks cable, we can. A good piece by Elias Muhanna in Al Alkbar:

The cache of US government cables released by WikiLeaks in 2010 represents one of the most significant documentary sources on Syria’s recent diplomatic history. While the details of Asma al-Assad’s shopping habits and the saccharineemails between sam@alshahba.com and his fawning coterie provide a tantalizing glance inside Syria’s secluded elite, the original corpus of leaked cables is a far more valuable goldmine of information on the country’s foreign policy objectives and its strategic orientation.

There are several thousand cables relating to Syria, almost all of which were composed during Bashar al-Assad’s presidency. A full survey of this material has yet to be concluded, but even a targeted reading of a few hundred cables points to a yawning chasm between the Assad regime’s public rhetoric about mumanaa (anti-imperial resistance) and its actual maneuverings. Today, as Assad continues to be championed by some on the Arab Left as a Gramscian paladin, gamely leading a war of position against hegemonic Empire and the global capitalistic elite, it is worth revisiting the WikiLeaks corpus to set the record straight.

Assad’s assurance to Murphy about Hezbollah’s pragmatism is a leitmotif that is repeated in several other cables. It is regularly accompanied by Syrian earnestness about resuming peace negotiations with Israel over the Golan Heights. In 2002, Assad told Congressman David Price: “Off the record, I can say I want peace. But I can’t tell that to the media, because no one wants to hear it.” A couple years later, Assad took a further step by confiding to Spanish officials that he was willing to relinquish all water and navigation rights of Lake Tiberias, as long as Syria retained the symbolic significance of having recovered all of its territory.

By 2008, Assad had lost his squeamishness about publicly voicing a desire for peace, because his government was deep in negotiations with Israel. Lasting approximately eight months before they were interrupted by the Gaza War, Assad admitted to a US congressional delegation that “these talks had achieved more than several years of direct negotiations with Israel in the 1990s.” A flurry of cables speculated about the strategic re-orientation that a peace agreement might bring about. An advisor to Walid al-Muallim suggested that Assad was trying to a walk a tight-rope between Iran and Turkey, assessing the possibilities that Syria could slowly wean itself off Iran in exchange for stronger relations with the West and the Arab world. This, too, was the Israeli hope for the talks, and also that of high-ranking “moderate” elements within the Syrian regime itself.

From the perspective of Marxist admirers of Assad, however, such signals by the regime could only make sense as part of a canny strategy to disrupt Empire by distracting it with promises of docile behavior. In that event, Empire fell for it hard, as Assad was actively courted in European capitals in 2008, and by American congressional delegations in 2009, promising peace (plus a room for Ehud Olmert at the Damascus Four Seasons), strong bilateral relations with the US, and a change in priorities from national security to social and economic reform. This was all brilliant anti-imperialist maneuvering, one assumes, but it still made the Iranians jumpy.

No less counter-hegemonic was Syria’s active involvement in intelligence sharing with Western powers, which continued even through the toughest days of its isolation. From a cable dated September 2005, welearn that there existed a “long-standing liaison relationship between French and Syrian security services,” and that Assad’s brother-in-law and top security chief Asif Shawkat made a habit of visiting Paris no less than twice a year to compare notes with his opposite numbers. Another cable suggests that US-Syrian intelligence cooperation had previously run through Shawkat, whose value to the United States was touted by Walid al-Muallim.

In 2010, a meeting between Syrian General Intelligence Director Ali Mamlouk and US Coordinator for Counterterrorism Daniel Benjamin in February 2010 confirms that the Syrians were happy to resume intelligence cooperation provided they were given “a lead role” in the efforts (perhaps evincing a subtle desire to supplant the Jordanians as the go-to intelligence experts in the region). At this meeting, Vice Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad “spoke at length about his fondness” for Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman.

Syria’s involvement with the West extended beyond military and intelligence cooperation and began to include stronger economic ties, particularly after Barack Obama came into office. A major petroleum deal was signed with France in 2008, and Syria fast-tracked its efforts to sign an association agreement with the European Union in 2010. In 2009, President Assad welcomed a group of American hedge fund managers and private equity investors to Damascus as part of a bid to court more foreign investment in Syria (and to combat neoliberalism, presumably), and relations with Turkey and Qatar hit an all-time high.

one comment ↪
  • Sandifeet

    This is interesting as well as feasable as was your previous post regarding Al Jazerra's coverage of Syria. John Frieland got slammed in the Guardian recently for commenting on why Koffi Anan gave up trying to make peace. (You probably have seen this, I'm a bit behind with your posts), war & intervention will make so much mone money for the arms dealers they don't care about innocent civilains or the aftermath.