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.

Haiti is disaster capitalism ground zero

My following investigation appears in New Matilda:

When Antony Loewenstein visited Haiti earlier this month he found a country still struggling to recover from 2010’s devastating earthquake – and foreign NGOs doing little to empower ordinary Haitians

The earthquake shook Haiti’s National Palace to its core. The moment tremors hit on 12 January 2010, the iconic building swayed and partially collapsed. Video footage shows the chaos and destruction of a structure that symbolised both the centre of Haitian political life and its dysfunctional relationship with Washington.

When I visited the site earlier this month, it was the day actor Sean Penn’s NGO J/P Haitian Relief Organisation removed the dome section of the palace during a lightning storm. Penn has become one of the most high profile Americans working in Haiti and is now the country’s ambassador, going around the world supporting the presidency of Michel Martelly in its efforts to rebuild the country.

The New York Times positively reported on the demolishing of the palace by Penn’s group, barely acknowledging the deep unease that many Haitians feel that an American-run organisation is once again running the show in their nation. Sovereignty is outsourced.

travelled around Haiti to investigate the role of the American government, NGOs, foreign corporations and the Haitian authorities in keeping the country deliberately on its knees, dependent on outside forces, economically weak and politically insecure.

Armed UN forces still patrol the streets around Port au Prince though there’s little evidence that the security situation requires it. “Haiti is controlled by foreign powers”, long-time activist and former politician Patrick Elie told me.

After seeing Papua New Guinea, Pakistan and Afghanistan this year, Haiti defines the toxic reality of disaster capitalism. It’s an ideology that operates largely out of the public eye and with stunning efficiency. The political and media elites sell it as “development”, a helping hand for poor nations that just happens to enrich multinationals.

What I saw in Haiti I also witnessed in the other places: the uncanny ability of NGOs to exaggerate a situation to ensure a never-ending flow of donor aid and weak, local politicians who are still adjusting to a quasi-democratic reality after decades of US-backed dictatorship.

The influence of Washington remains deep, evidenced by a strange press conference in March where President Martelly produced eight passports that he claimed proved he was a Haitian and not American citizen (leaders must only be the former). The then American ambassador, Kenneth H Merten, confirmed in Creole that this was true. A local journalist told me that this was despite the fact that some of the passports were fake and evidence remained that Martelly was still an American citizen.

A culture of US-backed complicity hangs in the air. It’s surreal driving past the home of former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier in the hills overlooking Port au Prince knowing that there’s little international pressure to prosecute him for years of brutality and human rights abuses during his 1971 to 1986 rule. He returned to Haiti in 2011 after years of exile in France and lives in carefree luxury. Duvalier, unlike many African despots targeted by The Hague, remains a friend of the West and is therefore untouchable.

A key mantra of the Martelly government is the phrase “Haiti is open for business“. When Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe appeared in Washington with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in July, American “leadership” was praised as essential to the country’s future. Clinton’s “love” for the Haitian people was mentioned. “The US is doing a lot of good things in Haiti”, Lamothe told the press conference. Haiti has just celebrated 150 years of independence from America but the relationship today has mostly changed in rhetoric not reality.

Lamothe acknowledged that, “Haiti’s government in the past have made a lot of bad decisions as well about governance that created a situation where Haiti depends on international assistance for just about everything”.

Today the situation is different, he says. “The northern industrial park is a development model we want to replicate and that we want to support.”

The Prime Minister refers to a massive US-led initiative in the town of Caracol near the country’s second largest city, Cap-Haitian. With unemployment hovering around 50 per cent, Lamothe said that “over 100,000 to 200,000 people will benefit from that park.”

After a nearly nine hour drive through the country on crumbling roads through spectacular mountains and tiny, hill villages, I arrive in Caracol to find a modern structure with only one working factory. It’s run by the South Korean company Sae-A, accused of serious labor rights violations in Guatemala and underpaying staff. Hundreds of workers come streaming out after a long day at work and a few say that they’re upset to be only receiving US$4 per day, half of which is spent on travel expenses and food. The Haitian minimum wage is US$5.

The New York Times published an investigation into the park in July that accused Bill Clinton’s organisation, the Clinton Foundation, the Haitian government and American authorities of ignoring the countless warnings about the sustainability of the industrial park but going ahead anyway. Anything to show “progress” in the country.

The Clinton Foundation’s record is already compromised, accused of sending to Haiti the same kind of toxic trailers used in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina that were found to have worrying levels of formaldehyde. I met virtually nobody in Haiti with a kind word to say about Clinton himself, a man seen as enriching his friends and himself at the expense of developing projects that bring true independence to Haitian business.

I walked around the industrial park, after being told by a senior Haitian manager, Alix Innocent, that all locals in the area support the project and any environmental issues have been sorted. He told me that the Inter-American National Development Bank is currently working out a master plan to manage any environmental problems. This is happening after the project is nearing completion.

The vast majority of factories are currently empty shells, soon to be production houses for clothes destined to sell at The Gap and other foreign clothing outlets. I briefly glimpsed the sole operating factory before being asked to leave by a security guard. It didn’t look like the cramped sweatshop I was expecting.

Instead, union organiser and human rights activist Yannick Etienne told me this is a new form of slavery. Haitians have been told they must embrace a “new form of imperialism” that pays poorly, isn’t sustainable and ignores worker’s rights.

Anthropologist Timothy Schwartz, a man with vast experience both inside and outside the aid sector, understands the dependency that is forced on Haiti, principally by the US government and USAID. Many of the USAID people he knows — including some very close to Hillary Clinton in the State Department, he told me — only know one model for a place like Haiti: foreign, corporate investment.

Caracol is just the latest example of this. Even though it hasn’t worked in the country for decades, the same policies are simply repeated because the USAID people on the ground only stay for a few years and then they’re moved to another place. “The plant at Caracol was decided by Washington, the Haitian government had nothing to do with it”, Schwartz says.

Schwartz is also a ferocious critic of the NGO industry in Haiti — he alleges the UN and many NGOs continue to inflate numbers of dead and homeless since the earthquake in order to continue receiving international support — and demands a far more accountable system is put in place.

It’s hard to disagree after visiting the centre of Port au Prince, the epi-centre of the earthquake’s fury. Half demolished buildings sat precariously above workers selling used shoes, and fruit. Water runs through the streets. Rubbish and the smell of faeces fills the air.

At a massive refugee camp in the city, Sou Piste, I spoke to many Haitians who have been languishing in squalor since the earthquake and only given flimsy tents by USAID. They’ve seen no help from the government or international bodies. They asked me where all the billions of pledged aid has gone. A small amphitheatre, originally designed to host sporting events, is now where people relieve themselves. The odour was pungent with children running around barefoot. Men play make-shift checkers and sit and stand around while women carry young infants.

The site, and countless others around the country, is a damning indictment of the UN, NGOs and international governments. Rubble from the earthquake still sits in many parts of Port au Prince despite Sean Penn’s group and others beginning the task of removing it. I was refused access to the refugee camp that Penn runs in the capital.

It’s yet another example of the feeling of powerlessness conveyed by many Haitians, a sense that they don’t control their own country, that outside forces, some of whom may mean well, are doing little to empower locals to make Haiti truly independent again.

After all, this country was the first in history to fight a slave rebellion and win.

no comments – be the first ↪