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.

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.

Wikileaks Party meets Syria’s Assad and ignores reality of country

It’s the first day of 2014 and what a way to begin the new year.

Today’s Australian newspaper features this story on page one by Jared Owens and Rick Morton. As a Wikileaks supporter since 2006, right from the beginning (and I remain a public backer of the organisation), it’s tragic to see the Wikileaks Party in Australia, after a disastrous 2013 election campaign, descend into political grandstanding. My comments below were based around tweets I sent a few days ago to former Wikileaks Campaign Director Greg Barns.

The conflict in Syria is filled with Western and Saudi hypocrisy and brutality on all sides:

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has condemned the WikiLeaks Party’s “extremely reckless” meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, warning the foray is “deeply counterproductive” and undermines sanctions placed on the pariah regime.

But John Shipton, who is Julian Assange’s father and chief executive of the WikiLeaks Party, defended his decision to meet Assad, saying it was better than siding with “the liver-eaters and the head-choppers” of the rebel opposition.

Some of WikiLeaks’ most steadfast supporters, however, joined the government and opposition in condemning the “solidarity mission” to Syria that toured Damascus and was shown in state-run media visiting senior members of the regime.

Police also disputed the regime’s claims to the delegation that Canberra had “turned a blind eye” to a prominent Sydney imam who was allegedly “responsible for” the kidnapping of 106 women and children during a massacre of civilians by jihadi rebels on August 4.

The Foreign Minister warned that the WikiLeaks mission, which claimed to represent Australia, “could be interpreted as a show of support for President Assad’s behaviour”.

“I find it extraordinarily reckless that an organisation registered as a political party in Australia would seek to insert itself into the conflict in Syria and engage with a leader accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including using chemical weapons against his own people,” Ms Bishop told The Australian.

“Their actions could be interpreted as a show of support for President Assad’s behaviour. Further, the Syrian regime is subject to wide-ranging sanctions and WikiLeaks’ actions are deeply counterproductive.

“Australia, as a member of the UN Security Council, is actively pursuing humanitarian efforts in Syria. It is not a place for political parties to pursue their political ends.”

Mr Shipton insisted his party’s enemies would attempt to smear the “fact-finding” mission to Syria.

He claimed the mission mirrored international efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict after almost three years of bloodshed and more than 125,000 deaths.

“We’re clearly on the right side of history here, and who would want to be on the side of the liver-eaters and the head-choppers that plague the poor people of Syria?” Mr Shipton said.

“I have no interest in supporting the Syrian government at all, or the opposition. That’s their thing they fight about.

“I’m interested in the effect on the people of Syria and the strategies the contending (regional and world) powers are putting into place there.

“In Damascus they’ve got four hours of electricity a day and random mortar fire at night … You could smell the aftermath of gunfire in the air.”

Mr Shipton was spending New Year’s Eve with Mr Assange, who is being harboured in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Ecuador supports the Syrian government and has offered asylum to Assad and his inner circle if they ask for it.

Author Antony Loewenstein, a supporter of WikiLeaks, backed “peaceful dialogue” with Assad but insisted the WikiLeaks Party’s solidarity mission “whitewashes the crimes of the regime”.

“It’s sad to see the WikiLeaks Party visit Syria and show ‘solidarity’ with Assad, a brutal dictator who is responsible for the death of countless civilians. The Saudi and Western-backed ‘rebels’ are equally complicit in war crimes,” Mr Loewenstein said. The head of the Islamic Friendship Association, Keysar Trad, accused the WikiLeaks Party of blatant hypocrisy for giving Assad the publicity coup of being visited by an Australian delegation.

“It’s very disappointing to see WikiLeaks, which supports openness and human rights, to be meeting with one of the biggest human rights abusers of our time,” Mr Trad said.

“It’s disrespectful to all the families who have been victims of the Assad regime.”

Mr Trad defended the prominent Sydney imam whom Syrian officials claimed was involved in the kidnapping of 106 women and children during a massacre of civilians by rebels in the province of Latakia on August 4.

These claims were made to the WikiLeaks delegation.

Mr Trad said he personally knew the imam, describing him as an eminent scholar and respected member of the Australian community.

It was implausible that the sheik would have been involved in any form of violent activity in Syria, he said.

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Nick Kaldas yesterday said NSW Police had not heard of any such claims against the imam. Mr Kaldas said federal agencies would routinely alert NSW Police about any such allegations concerning someone from NSW.

Opposition frontbencher Chris Bowen described the WikiLeaks mission as an “extraordinary” and “irresponsible” development that was “surprising even for them”.

“The Assad regime has been widely criticised, and correctly criticised around the world, and for an Australian political party to think it’s sensible to go and have discussions and try to provide some legitimacy is something which they have to explain and they would find very difficult to explain how that’s a sensible, responsible or appropriate thing to do,” Mr Bowen.

But three other senior WikiLeaks party figures – former Senate candidates Alison Broinowski, Gerry Georgatos and deputy chairman Omar Todd – backed the delegation’s motives.

Mr Georgatos likened it to the first olive branches offered to South African leaders that ultimately dismantled apartheid.

The Greens declined an opportunity to comment.

Mr Shipton said individual delegates – himself, University of Sydney academic Tim Anderson (who was acquitted of the 1978 Sydney Hilton bombing), Sydney Shia activist Jamal Daoud and WikiLeaks activist Gail Malone – paid the “pretty weighty” cost of the tour. But he declined to estimate how much he had paid.

He denied seeking any favours from the Syrian regime, saying they “were getting impatient with us and were glad to see us gone”.

Mr Shipton said he had asked a team of Syrian journalists to become their Damascus “transparency office”, sending “proper information” back to Sydney about the conflict.

“We did find, wandering around the place talking to people, a lot of support for the government. They seemed to be quite warm towards their government and as the crisis has unfolded their support has grown,” he said.

Their translator, western Sydney-based Mr Daoud, is a well-known opponent of the anti-Assad insurgency.

Mr Shipton said there were no formal links between the WikiLeaks Party and Dr Anderson, a former member of the Ananda Marga religious sect who was jailed and later acquitted of the terrorist bombing of the Sydney Hilton that killed two council workers and a police officer in 1978.


UPDATE: The Guardian published the following story about this Wikileaks story on 1 January by Oliver Milman:

WikiLeaks has revealed it did not “know or approve” of its Australian political party’s visit to Syria to meet Bashar al-Assad, amid criticism from both the government and Labor over the trip.

A WikiLeaks party delegation, reportedly including its founder Julian Assange’s father, John Shipton, held talks with a number of high-ranking Syrian officials, with a picture released by the Syrian government of ameeting with the president himself.

Before the visit, the party stated it was going as part of its “peace and reconciliation” efforts, as well as warning over the dangers of western intervention into the bloody three-year Syrian civil war. Shipton said he wanted to show “solidarity” with the Syrian people and told a local TV station that WikiLeaks would be opening an office in Damascus this year.

But WikiLeaks has distanced itself from the trip, saying via Twitter that while peace brokering is a “good idea”, it “did not know or approve” of the delegation’s visit to Syria.

Julie Bishop, the Australian foreign affairs minister, said Syria was not a place for “political parties to pursue their political ends”.

“I find it extraordinarily reckless that an organisation registered as a political party in Australia would seek to insert itself into the conflict in Syria and engage with a leader accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including using chemical weapons against his own people,” Bishop told The Australian newspaper.

“Their actions could be interpreted as a show of support for President Assad’s behaviour. Further, the Syrian regime is subject to wide-ranging sanctions and WikiLeaks’ actions are deeply counterproductive”.

Labor has also criticised the visit, with Chris Bowen, the shadow treasurer, calling the decision “extraordinary”.

“The Assad regime has been widely criticised and correctly criticised around the world,” he said.

“And for an Australian political party to think it’s sensible to go and have discussions and try and provide some legitimacy, is something I think which they have to explain.”

It’s understood that the visit was initially intended as a “fact-finding” mission before meetings with Syrian government officials were brokered. Members of the visiting group, which included the academic Tim Anderson and activists Jamal Daoud and Gail Malone, are expected back in Australia next week.

Several former members of the WikiLeaks party have told Guardian Australia the trip has caused further consternation within the party, which was formed last year but endured a fraught federal election campaign after several of its candidates resigned amid dissatisfaction over preferencing and internal party processes.

Antony Loewenstein, an author and long-term supporter of WikiLeaks – although never a member of the political party – told Guardian Australia the situation was a “sad state of affairs”.

“I don’t think meeting Assad is the issue, although he is a brutal dictator, no doubt about it,” he said. “The problem is the optics of it, that they are being used as a prop by a regime that has undeniably killed tens of thousands or more civilians.”

The WikiLeaks party has been contacted for comment on the trip but not responded.

  • Verdant_One

    The Reality of Syria

    Dear Mr Bowen

    As Genghis Khan’s Right hand man in the “Arab Spring” can you publicly correct the record on your statement:

    “The Assad regime has been widely criticized and correctly criticized around the world,”

    – as published in the West Australian as it appears the New York
    Times have published a retraction to the slanderous allegations to which
    you refer which led to Russia shooting down two NATO ballistic missiles
    fired at Damascus from Spain on the Tuesday prior to our federal

    ———- Forwarded message ———-
    From: Tony Backhouse

    Date: 1 January 2014 09:00
    Subject: It is about time our Foreign Minister joins John Kerry in washing her mouth out with soap

    Keep in mind why your terrorist insurgency has so far failed to trigger WW3:

    Intibah Wakeup
    18 September 16:41

    alerted everyone to this last week and put it into English but Ghassan
    kept on feeling something important was missed. So maybe here is the
    explanation. Ghassan kept on wondering about the language used around
    what the Russians (“source”) said they did to the two missiles. Of the two missiles they said one was intercepted and destroyed high up in the atmosphere, but, the second one was “deviated”.

    How do you deviate someone else’s missile other than being able to hack
    into their system? When one reads this on the surface it appears that
    the Americans deviated it to avoid getting hit…but what would they
    actually gain from doing this?

    It would have been a lot better
    for the Americans to prove to the world that Russian technology was
    only able to get one out of the two missiles and even launch a war and win it on a 50% strike rate.

    Logic implies that is wasn’t the Americans who deviated the second
    missile. It had to be Russia, thereby giving America two strong messages
    (1) we can hit your missiles and (2) …even worse , we can hack into your systems and divert your missiles from their course.

    Here is the article we put up last week.

    Daoud Rammal from Assafir Newspaper, Beirut. 13 September 2013
    (from a link on Al Manar) * Please note Al Manar is very careful to only publish valid, verified information.

    Translated/Interpreted by Ghassan Kadi and Intibah Wakeup.

    The Offensive Came to an End When the Two Ballistic Missiles Fell in the Mediterranean.

    A well informed diplomatic source has revealed to Assafir very serious
    information that is relevant to the development of the Syrian crisis
    which clearly shows, first and foremost, Russia’s military capability
    and secondly, its diplomatic one in playing this game. It has placed the
    American aspirations and options subject to the ethical standing of the
    Russian administration which is exhibiting an icy Siberian temper,
    rationality and clear knowledge of what it wants and where it’s heading

    The source reveals that the American war on Syria has already started and ended the moment two ballistic missiles
    were launched, the full story of which remained subject to conflicting
    reports, Israeli denial and Russian confirmation. This culminated in an
    official Israeli report claiming that they were a part of a joint
    American-Israeli exercise and that they fell in the sea and had nothing
    to do with the Syrian conflict.

    But what’s the true story
    that is pertinent in this event? Are there any other relevant matters
    that were not brought out to the surface because of serious
    considerations, the most pertinent of which perhaps is the struggle on
    world domination after the monopoly of the United States ruled supreme
    in the New World Order?

    The same source reveals, assuredly, that those two missiles
    were launched by American forces from a NATO base in Spain. They were
    detected by Russia’s early warning systems and Russian defences were
    immediately launched to intercept them. One was shot down in mid-air
    whilst the other was deviated from its course and fell into the sea.

    The source added: the Russian Ministry of Defence Report, which refers to two ballistic missiles
    having been launched towards the eastern Mediterranean, has
    deliberately ignored two issues: the first, the source of the launch and
    the second one, shooting them down. Why? Because, as soon as this
    happened, the chief of Russian Intelligence contacted the American
    Intelligence and told them that targeting Damascus is tantamount to
    targeting Moscow. He added that they have deliberately omitted from the
    Report any reference to shooting down the missiles
    because they did not want to damage the (Russian- American) bilateral
    relationship and to prevent further escalation. He added that America
    needed to quickly reconsider its policies, directions and intentions
    about the Syrian conflict and they could rest assured that Russia cannot
    be kept out of the Mediterranean.

    The source added: this
    direct and undeclared confrontation between Moscow and Washington has
    further compounded Obama’s administration and its certainty that Russia
    will go all the way until the end in the Syrian crisis, and that there
    is no way out of this trap for America except through a Russian
    initiative that will save America’s face. It further means that there is
    no peace or war in Syria that excludes Russia, he said.

    The source also added that: to avoid further American embarrassment, and after Israel denied any knowledge about those two missiles
    in its first statement, which was the truth, Washington asked Tel Aviv
    to adopt the story in a way that saves America’s face before the
    international community. This was particularly because those two missiles
    were meant to be the first of a series of attacks last week and a
    signal for launching the American operation. Obama was then supposed to
    go to the G20 afterwards to negotiate with Russia (from a position of
    power) and make negotiations concerning the head of the President of Syria, Bashar al Assad and, instead, found himself going there looking for a way out of this trap.

    The source indicated that after the American-Russian missile
    confrontation, Moscow increased the number of its military experts
    inside Syria and bolstered its presence in the
    Mediterranean by sending more vessels. It further chose the timing of
    its initiative concerning the prevention of attack on Syria
    after the G20. Many meetings occurred during the period of the Summit
    which were followed by two consecutive visits (to Moscow) one by the
    deputy Iranian Foreign Minister and the other by the Syrian Foreign
    Minister. During these meetings the Russian initiative was cooked up
    with Syrian pre-approval suggesting the handing over supervision of
    Syrian chemicals to International Observers and assuring Syria’s willingness to sign up to the UN Chemical Weapons Convention.

    The source argues that one of the first results of the American-Russian ballistic confrontation was the UK House of Common’s “No” vote against partaking of war against Syria
    which was followed by several similar Europeans stands, the most
    prominent being that expressed by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.”

    Prince Bandar Ibn Sultan threatened to attack the Sochi Olympics and it
    appears his state sponsored terrorists are responsible for over 30
    deaths on Volgogradt

    If Saudi Arabia successfully attacks the Sochi Olympics I will know that Australians can surely hold you to blame.

    the Labor Party had won the Federal Election would Takfiri Cooking
    classes become part of the TAFE curriculum? I say this now that these
    cannibals are cooking their meals as they have totally cremated 80
    people in a sponge oven in Adra and NATO are guilty of sponsoring worse
    war crimes than the NAZIs were ever accused of.

    recently the Saudis have bought the Lebanese Armed Forces With a $3
    Billion Thales/ADI gift certificate after the Fatah/Al Qaeda linked
    assassination of Mohomad Chattah so as they will now try and invade
    Syria to re-establish supply lines to Mossad/CIA/MI6 led terrorists in
    Aleppo so I expect Thales/ADI’s Lithgow facilities will be providing
    more overtime to produce gunpowder for these terrorists – don’t worry
    the Blue Mountains can’t catch fire again this summer.

    Tony Backhouse

  • Marilyn

    Bowen and Bishop both supported sending Tamils home to die after meetings with the war criminal Rajapaksa, what hypocrites they are.

  • Kevin Rennie

    I have posted about this blowup for Global Voices Advocacy: Wikileaks Supporters Shocked by Visit With Syria’s Assad

    Quoted from this post – thanks.