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.

Supporting BDS and Palestinian rights as a Jew

An open and frank debate about BDS against Israel in Australia is long overdue. Crikey blog This Blog Harms invited five people to write 1000 words on the issue. This is my contribution:

The logic of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) didn’t appear to me immediately. When my first book, My Israel Question, was released in 2006, the issue was barely raised, despite Palestinian civil society launching its call in 2005 “against Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.”

The vast majority of Israeli Jews claimed to be in constant fear of Palestinian terrorism despite living relatively free lives in a society that increasingly made Palestinians invisible. Palestinians under occupation were disillusioned with their leaders and after more than a decade of fruitless negotiations with Israel, the Oslo period, longed to be free.

But now, with Israel a state that even more brazenly boasts a fundamentalist Jewish minority as representing true Zionism, BDS is an essential tool to harm Israel’s economic and moral fibre. In the words of American Jewish dissident Philip Weiss, founder of the website Mondoweiss, “Israel isn’t good for the Jews anymore.” Most importantly, Palestinians under occupation are making this call, not a Diaspora attempting to impose a distorted vision onto them.

BDS is a key weapon to de-normalise the relationship between both the globalised economy and Israel and the constructed emotional ties that allegedly bond Israel and the West. Witness Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard recently tell an event sponsored by National Australia Bank that, “We are two countries separated by distance, but united by values. Liberal democracies that seek freedom and peace.”

An ever-expanding 44-year-old occupation is a strange way to crave freedom and peace.

It is the only the New South Wales Greens who are brave enough, despite a year of intense Murdoch media bullying and Jewish community pressure, to maintain in principle support for BDS and examine ways to “actively support the [Federal] Australian Greens position, including that the Australian government halt military cooperation and military trade with Israel.” This is a proudly BDS position, wherever the Greens call it this or not.

Israel/Palestine is not a balanced conflict, with two equal sides fighting over land, rights and dignity. It is, writes leading Israeli publisher of Haaretz, Amos Schocken, “a strategy of territorial seizure and apartheid. It ignores judicial aspects of territorial ownership and shuns human rights and the guarantees of equality enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.”

Although he doesn’t mention BDS, it is impossible to undermine daily, creeping oppression with yet more “negotiations” between Israel and the Palestinians while Washington remains Israel’s lawyer.

BDS is the non-violent weapon wielded to show Israel and its global backers that business as usual is unacceptable.

BDS makes many Jews distinctly uncomfortable, with wild claims that this is exactly the same tactics used by Nazis in Germany in the 1930s against Jewish businesses. It is nothing of the sort. Jews are not being targeted but businesses that directly support the Zionist state or receive funding from it. Israeli chocolate shop Max Brenner is a legitimate target because it proudly supports the IDF, an army complicit in daily human rights abuses.

Zionist cheapening of anti-Semitism has become endemic from seeing Nazis in inner Sydney protesting outside Max Brenner to American critics of neo-conservative plans to bomb Iran.

Despite these smears, BDS is growing globally because Israeli actions against Palestinians inside Israel proper and the occupied territories is becoming more repressive and outwardly racist. The litany of exclusionary legislation before the Israeli Knesset, some of which are being pushed by so-called “moderates”, rises weekly. BDS sends a message to these Israelis and Diaspora supporters who either remain silent or simply mouth platitudes about a two-state solution. It is designed to make blind backers uncomfortable and defensive.

It’s being grimly amusing to watch liberal Zionists in Australia and beyond express displeasure with BDS, arguing it is too inflammatory and extreme and ostracises potential allies inside Israel (namely Jews, as Palestinian allies are less important in their worldview). In fact, the opposite is true and BDS forces two-state advocates and fence-sitters to explain how their sclerotic process will do anything to advance peace in the Middle East.

BDS is the enemy of the status-quo and liberal Zionists in Australia, including Monash University’s Mark Baker and Philip Mendes, are paralysed in wishfully thinking the Israeli government will suddenly believe the Palestinians are worthy of being given a state. They recoil at BDS because they despise one part of an outcome that aims to bring true democracy for all citizens inside Israel and Palestine – the one-state solution – something a two-state result can never achieve. If not BDS to tell Israel that its Western-backed racism and occupation is illegal under international law, then what tactic? They have no answers, and desperately cling to an emotional claim as post-Holocaust children. This is no way to ensure rights in the 21st century, if it ever was.

BDS isn’t the answer to all the Palestinian needs. It is one part of a bigger struggle currently underway inside Palestine itself and the Palestinian Diaspora; a worldwide campaign that doesn’t rely on leaders to beg Israel for scraps or a state or rights. Popular, non-violent resistance, BDS and readdress for Palestinian refugees are key initiatives that must be supported to liberate both Palestinians and Israelis.

BDS is causing economic and sociological harm to the Zionist state, and this is something to celebrate. Were enlightened citizens of the world during South African apartheid asked to feel sorry for whites that ruled the blacks with an iron fist? Of course not, and BDS doesn’t aim to comfort the jarred nerves of Israelis or Diaspora Zionists.

It is about addressing a decades-old matrix of control that has only survived because of Diaspora Jewry funding and morally arming the Zionist state.

Antony Loewenstein is a Sydney-based independent journalist and author who has written for The Guardian, Haaretz, The Nation, Sydney Morning Herald and many others. His two best-selling books are My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution. He is currently working on many projects, including a book about vulture capitalism, a book on the Left in contemporary politics and another title on Israel/Palestine.

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Just what role does British government have in wanting war against Iran?

Jonathan Cook in Al-Akhbar English:

Last February Britain’s then defense minister Liam Fox attended a dinner in Tel Aviv with a group described as senior Israelis. Alongside him sat Adam Werritty, a lobbyist whose “improper relations” with the minister would lead eight months later to Fox’s hurried resignation.

According to several reports in the British media the Israelis in attendance at the dinner were representatives of the Mossad, Israel’s spy agency, while Fox and Werritty were accompanied by Matthew Gould, Britain’s ambassador to Israel. A former British diplomat has now claimed that the topic of discussion that evening was a secret plot to attack Iran.

The official inquiry castigating the UK’s former defence secretary for what has come to be known as a “cash-for-access” scandal appears to have only scratched the surface of what Fox and accomplice Adam Werritty may have been up to when they met for dinner in Tel Aviv.

Little was made of the dinner in the 10-page inquiry report published last month by Gus O’Donnell, the cabinet’s top civil servant.

Instead O’Donnell concentrated on other aspects of Werritty’s behaviour: the 33-year-old friend of Fox’s had presented himself as the minister’s official adviser and jetted around the world with him arranging meetings with businessmen.

The former minister’s allies, seeking to dismiss the gravity of the case against him, have described Werritty as a harmless dreamer. Following his resignation, Fox himself claimed O’Donnell’s report had exonerated him of putting national security at risk.

However, a spate of new concerns raised in the wake of the inquiry challenge both of these assumptions. These include questions about the transparency of the O’Donnell investigation, the extent of Fox and Werritty’s ties to Israel and the unexplained role of Gould.

Craig Murray, Britain’s former ambassador to Uzbekistan until 2004, when he turned whistle blower on British and US collusion on torture, said senior British government officials were profoundly disturbed by the O’Donnell inquiry, seeing it as a “white wash.”

Murray himself accused O’Donnell of being “at the most charitable interpretation, economical with the truth.”

Two well-placed contacts alerted Murray to Gould’s central – though largely ignored – role in the Fox-Werritty relationship, he said.

Murray has pieced together evidence that Fox, Werritty and Gould met on at least six occasions over the past two years or so, despite the O’Donnell inquiry claiming they had met only twice. Gould is the only ambassador Fox and Werritty are known to have met together.

In an inexplicable break with British diplomatic and governmental protocol, officials were not present at a single one of the six meetings between the three men. No record was taken of any of the discussions.

Murray, who first made public his concerns on his personal blog, said a source familiar with the O’Donnell inquiry told him the parameters of the investigation were designed to divert attention away from the more damaging aspects of Fox and Werritty’s behaviour.

Subsequently, the foreign office has refused to respond to questions, including from an MP, about the Tel Aviv dinner. Officials will not say who the Israelis were, what was discussed or even who paid for the evening, though under Whitehall rules all hospitality should be declared.

Also unexplained is why Fox rejected requests by his own staff to attend the dinner, and why Werritty was privy to such a high-level meeting when he had no security clearance.

Nonetheless, O’Donnell appeared inadvertently to confirm that Mossad representatives were present at the dinner during questioning from an MP at a meeting of the House of Commons’ Public Administration Committee this week.

Responding to a question about the dinner from opposition MP Paul Flynn, O’Donnell said: “The important point here was that, when the Secretary of State [Fox] had that meeting, he had an official with him—namely, in this case, the ambassador [Gould]. That is very important, and I should stress that I would expect our ambassador in Israel to have contact with Mossad. That will be part of his job.”

The real concern among government officials, Murray said, is that Fox, Werritty and Gould were conspiring in a “rogue” foreign policy – opposed to the British government’s stated aims – that was authored by Mossad and Israel’s neoconservative allies in Washington.

Brian Brady in the Sunday Independent:

They were the Odd Couple: the men with identical morning suits, matching jackets and jeans but from radically different generations. They commanded more column inches than any X Factor wannabe. The Mysterious Case of the Defence Secretary and the Strange Bloke with the Cheap Business Card gripped us all, until it culminated in Liam Fox’s resignation.

What on earth had they been up to, the nation wondered. The plot thickened somewhat when an official inquiry confirmed that the curious duo was in fact, at times, a trio. They had had two meetings with Matthew Gould, Britain’s ambassador to Israel, adding to claims that they were running a pirate (pro-Israel, or anti-Iranian?) foreign policy. Then, before we had got to know Adam Werritty properly, it all went quiet.

He has not been seen in the UK or abroad for several months; no neighbour has reported his presence at any of the various addresses unearthed when he was being sought by every news outlet in the country.

However, the trail has not gone cold because it emerges that Liam Fox and his adviser met Britain’s ambassador at least four times more than was previously admitted. So why were we not told this before? Isn’t this yet more evidence that they were operating outside the control of the Foreign Office?

The fog seems to extend even to the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell, whose report into the affair, which sealed Dr Fox’s fate, identified just the two meetings between the former minister, Mr Werritty and Mr Gould.

The three men met in Tel Aviv at “a private dinner with senior Israelis” and, before Mr Gould took up the ambassador’s post in Tel Aviv, for “a general discussion of international defence and security matters”. Sir Gus observed that Mr Werritty was invited “as an individual with some experience in these matters”.

Even this was a bit unsatisfactory, said Sir Gus. His report highlighted the September 2010 meeting in the UK with Mr Gould, then the UK ambassador-designate to Israel, ruling that “as a private citizen, with no official locus, it was not appropriate for Mr Werritty to have attended this meeting”.

Yet it has been left to the former UK ambassador Craig Murray to uncover four more similar meetings – although Sir Gus claimed last week that “some of those … took place before the election”.

The suspicion of even more secret meetings, an inquiry which did not cover all the ground and the spectre of a favourite bogeyman is a gift to conspiracy theorists. However there are legitimate questions to be answered. The IoS revealed last month that Mr Werritty had visited Iran on several occasions and was so highly regarded by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad that he was able to arrange meetings at the highest levels of the Israeli government.

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Likudnik at heart of the British Tory government

The Independent on Sunday:

Adam Werritty, the man at the centre of the Liam Fox cash-for-access scandal, has been involved in an audacious plot to topple Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it was claimed last night.

The self-styled adviser to Mr Fox, whose close personal friendship with the former defence secretary led to Mr Fox’s downfall, has visited Iran on several occasions and met Iranian opposition groups in Washington and London over the past few years, The Independent on Sunday has learnt.

Mr Werritty, 33, has been debriefed by MI6 about his travels and is so highly regarded by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad – who thought he was Mr Fox’s chief of staff – that he was able to arrange meetings at the highest levels of the Israeli government, multiple sources have told The IoS.

London Observer:

David Cameron has been accused of allowing a secret rightwing agenda to flourish at the heart of the Conservative party, as fallout from the resignation of Liam Fox exposed its close links with a US network of lobbyists, climate change deniers and defence hawks.

In a sign that Fox’s decision to fall on his sword will not mark the end of the furore engulfing the Tories, both Liberal Democrat and Labour politicians stepped up their demands for the prime minister to explain why several senior members of his cabinet were involved in an Anglo-American organisation apparently at odds with his party’s environmental commitments and pledge to defend free healthcare.

At the heart of the complex web linking Fox and his friend Adam Werritty to a raft of businessmen, lobbyists and US neocons is the former defence secretary’s defunct charity, Atlantic Bridge, which was set up with the purported aim of “strengthening the special relationship” but is now mired in controversy.

An Observer investigation reveals that many of those who sat on the Anglo-American charity’s board and its executive council, or were employed on its staff, were lobbyists or lawyers with connections to the defence industry and energy interests. Others included powerful businessmen with defence investments and representatives of the gambling industry.

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Those anti-Semitic Greens may well launch a pogrom next

Can you feel it, fellow Jews? The new Green Nazis are in town, talking all about Palestinian rights, as if those Arabs are under Israeli occupation. The shame of it all.

Yesterday’s Murdoch Australian continued its brave expose of a party that challenges individuals who accuse them of extremism and anti-Semitism:

Labor in NSW has accused the Greens of a “revenge attack” on a Jewish doctor who is being prosecuted by police because his anti-Greens posters did not include the name and address of the printer.

Luke Foley, Labor leader in the state’s upper house, yesterday called on the Greens to “drop their pursuit” of John Nemesh, who on Tuesday pleaded not guilty in Sydney’s Newtown Local Court to charges of distributing electoral matter “without particulars”.

Dr Nemesh, 55, distributed propaganda in the inner-western Sydney seat of Marrickville during the state election campaign in March, attacking the Greens candidate Fiona Byrne for her anti-Israel comments.

“This is simply a revenge attack by the Greens Party, given they lost Marrickville because of their extreme campaign against the Jewish state of Israel,” Mr Foley said.

“This was a minor technical oversight by Dr Nemesh, who is new to political activism.”

Dr Nemesh, the son of Hungarian Holocaust survivors, fears his career as a medical specialist will be threatened if he is convicted.

More evidence emerged yesterday to support his claims the Greens are involved in his prosecution — claims senior figures in the party, including Ms Byrne, did not deny.

The police fact sheet in Dr Nemesh’s case, obtained by The Australian, says the charges originated when “members of the public who witnessed the signs being placed on the telegraph poles took photographs” of the ute Dr Nemesh and his supporters had rented.

“Copies of these photographs have been given to police,” it says.

Ms Byrne ceased to be mayor of Marrickville on Tuesday evening, deciding not to recontest after a rocky year in office dominated by the issue of a council boycott of Israel.

Even the day’s editorial chimed in, asking for leniency for a decent man who simply wanted to publicly challenge the new Nazis:

Rules is rules and society functions best when they are honoured. But every now and then there is such a clear case for the application of common sense it is hard to believe it has not taken precedence.

Exhibit one: the prosecution by NSW police of Jewish doctor John Nemesh for a minor breach of electoral rules — failing to put the name and address of the printer on an anti-Greens poster during the last NSW election campaign. Are the Greens behind this court action? They’re not saying, but common sense suggests that if they are not, they should come out and deny it. Fiona Byrne, the mayor of Marrickville at the time who was supporting a “boycotts, divestment and sanctions” campaign while also standing for the NSW parliament, clearly had cause not to like Dr Nemesh’s poster, which accused the Greens of racism and homophobia. Certainly, her support for BDS was a turn-off for voters in the March poll in which she was narrowly beaten. Did the posters make a difference? Who knows? But common sense would suggest that the absence of the printer’s name on those posters did not determine Ms Byrne’s fate. The integrity of our voting system depends on clear laws around transparency and accountability, but we ought not lose sight of the need for discretion and a balanced application of those rules.

Murdoch’s rag cheapens the meaning of real anti-Semitism by continuing to accuse backers of BDS of Jew hatred. It may sound appealing in the paranoid mind of neo-conservatives who really wish there were more wars launched against Muslims in the Arab world, but BDS is growing globally, for the very reason the paper largely ignores; occupation.


Jewish neo-con joins Palestinian neo-con to expose those pesky Arabs

Yesterday I received the following email from Daniel Pipes:

Please join me on a visit to Israel on March 7-15, 2012. Heritage Study Programs, a leading tour company, has asked me to lead a one -time only informative, enjoyable, and inexpensive week.

Our focus will be on my special interest – the nearly 20 percent of Israel’s population who are Muslim, often called Israeli Arabs. The trip will offer special insight into current problems: Are Israeli Arabs integrating or isolating themselves? Are they Palestinians? What is the role of Arab immigration to Israel? How does this growing population affect the long-term welfare and survival of the Jewish state?

Shin Bet calls the Israeli Arab population a “genuine long-range danger to the Jewish character and very existence of the State of Israel.” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman questions its citizenship. I have called it Israel’s “existential danger.”

With current attention on other matters (Middle Eastern upheavals, Palestinian statehood, Turkish bellicosity, the Iranian nuclear buildup), this topic tends to get brushed aside. But when the other problems have been resolved, Israel must deal with its Muslim community.

Khaled Abu Toameh, the Jerusalem Post’s distinguished West Bank and Gaza correspondent, will co-lead with me an unprecedented first-hand exploration of this and related subjects.

The trip will include travels to key locations, informative meetings, and lively discussions. You will meet with Israeli-Arab leaders, academics and researchers, with intelligence, police, military officers, high government officials, policy makers and counterterrorism experts. We will participate in a conference at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center on Muslim attitudes toward Jerusalem.

I hope you will come with me to Tel Aviv, Haifa, the Galilee, and Jerusalem. You will visit some of Israel’s most renowned sites, including the Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee, the Western Wall, and areas around the Temple Mount.

Neither tour nor mission, this intimate fact-finding expedition will challenge and change your understanding of Israel.

Let’s be clear. Here we have a fusion between a Zionist fundamentalist, Pipes, and a Palestinian journalist with the pro-settler Jerusalem Post, Abu Toameh, helping to “expose” the supposedly existential threat of Arabs inside Israel.

Abu Toameh was recently in Australia as a guest of the Zionist lobby.

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Because that’s all many Jews have

From the new book by American Jew Jack Ross:

The writer Irving Howe, who came to bitterly regret his alliance with the neoconservatives in his final years, gave a speech in 1989 foreseeing that “because the religion of most American Jews is not serious, it has become almost totally defined by Israel, and a major crisis will erupt as Israel’s actions become less and less defensible.”

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How we are fed propaganda about Western-wars

Peter Van Buren, an American diplomat just back from a year running a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Iraq, writes about the talking heads that appear daily in our media praising the glorious US army:

I’m neither a soldier nor a journalist. I’m a diplomat, just back from 12 months as a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) leader, embedded with the military in Iraq, and let me tell you that nobody laughed harder at the turgid prose reporters used to describe their lives than the soldiers themselves. They knew they were trading hours of boredom for maybe minutes of craziness that only in retrospect seemed “exciting,” as opposed to scary, confusing, and chaotic. That said, the laziest private knew from growing up watching TV exactly what flavor to feed a visiting reporter.

In trying to figure out why journalists and assorted militarized intellectuals from inside the Beltway lose it around the military, I remembered a long afternoon spent with a gaggle of “fellows” from a prominent national security think tank who had flown into Iraq. These scholars wrote serious articles and books that important people read; they appeared on important Sunday morning talk shows; and they served as consultants to even more important people who made decisions about the Iraq War and assumedly other conflicts to come.

One of them had been on the staff of a general whose name he dropped more often than Jesus’s at a Southern Baptist A.A. meeting. He was a real live neocon. A quick Google search showed he had strongly supported going to war in Iraq, wrote apology pieces after no one could find any weapons of mass destruction there (“It was still the right thing to do”), and was now back to check out just how well democracy was working out for a paper he was writing to further justify the war. He liked military high-tech, wielded words like “awesome,” “superb,” and “extraordinary” (pronounced EXTRA-ordinary) without irony to describe tanks and guns, and said in reference to the Israeli Army, “They give me a hard-on.”

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Solving world’s problems requires first identifying them

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Attacking Libya isn’t about making us feel good

Bombing Libya is welcomed across the world from so many supposedly well-meaning types who haven’t a clue about what the country is like or what they’re really backing. But hey, Gaddafi is a bad man!

This Haaretz editorial weighs the risks:

While the joint Western and Arab action against Libya’s dictatorial regime has widespread support, it raises a complicated dilemma. Up to now, the populations of Arab states such as Tunisia and Egypt managed on their own to topple their regimes, and set the stage for democratic reform. Furthermore, the revolutionary developments in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and (two years ago in ) Iran won public legitimacy because they were viewed as authentic civil uprisings which were not assisted by foreign elements.

In Libya, however, the Facebook revolution is liable to turn into the Tomahawk revolution: The intervention of forces from Western states is liable to undermine the legitimacy of civilian movements there and perhaps in other states.

The Israel Lobby co-author Steve Walt blogs eloquently about the now default position of the American establishment. As for “liberals” who hear a few Libyan rebels calling for Western air-strikes and don’t recognise the inherent problems with rushing into a military conflict with no true end goals, get real and learn from history:

Last Wednesday I spoke at an event at Hofstra University, on the subject of “Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy.” The other panelists were former DNC chair and 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean and longtime Republican campaign guru Ed Rollins. The organizers at Hofstra were efficient and friendly, the audience asked good questions, and I thought both Dean and Rollins were gracious and insightful in their comments. All in all, it was a very successful session.

During the Q & A, I talked about the narrowness of foreign policy debate in Washington and the close political kinship between the liberal interventionists of the Democratic Party and the neoconservatives that dominate the GOP. At one point, I said that “liberal inteventionists are just ‘kinder, gentler’ neocons, and neocons are just liberal interventionsts on steroids.”

Dean challenged me rather forcefully on this point, declaring that there was simply no similarity whatsoever between a smart and sensible person like U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and a “crazy guy” like Paul Wolfowitz. (I didn’t write down Dean’s exact words, but I am certain that he portrayed Wolfowitz in more-or-less those terms). I responded by listing all the similarites between the two schools of thought, and the discussion went on from there.

I mention this anecdote because I wonder what Dean would say now. In case you hadn’t noticed, over the weekend President Obama took the nation to war against Libya, largely on the advice of liberal interventionists like Ambassador Rice, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and NSC aides Samantha Power and Michael McFaul. According to several news reports I’ve read, he did this despite objections from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon.

The only important intellectual difference between neoconservatives and liberal interventionists is that the former have disdain for international institutions (which they see as constraints on U.S. power), and the latter see them as a useful way to legitimate American dominance. Both groups extol the virtues of democracy, both groups believe that U.S. power — and especially its military power — can be a highly effective tool of statecraft. Both groups are deeply alarmed at the prospect that WMD might be in the hands of anybody but the United States and its closest allies, and both groups think it is America’s right and responsibility to fix lots of problems all over the world. Both groups consistently over-estimate how easy it will be to do this, however, which is why each has a propensity to get us involved in conflicts where our vital interests are not engaged and that end up costing a lot more than they initially expect.

So if you’re baffled by how Mr. “Change You Can Believe In” morphed into Mr. “More of the Same,” you shouldn’t really be surprised. George Bush left in disgrace and Barack Obama took his place, but he brought with him a group of foreign policy advisors whose basic world views were not that different from the people they were replacing. I’m not saying their attitudes were identical, but the similarities are probably more important than the areas of disagreement. Most of the U.S. foreign policy establishment has become addicted to empire, it seems, and it doesn’t really matter which party happens to be occupying Pennsylvania Avenue.

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US Jewish mainstream start looking favourably at anti-settlements BDS

Times are changing, Jewish neo-cons are furious and the long overdue conversation inside the American Jewish community is happening; do they back illegal colonies in the West Bank and if not what are they going to do about it?

As the Jewish community struggles to combat efforts to delegitimize Israel and still retain a “big-tent” strategy, a mainstream consensus appears to have taken shape in recent weeks that boils down to this: one can support a targeted boycott of Israeli settlements and even a cultural ban against the West Bank settlement of Ariel — as long as one also supports Israel as a democratic Jewish state.

Helping to crystallize the issue was the Oakland, Calif.-based organization Jewish Voice for Peace, which last week was rebuffed by the Hillel chapter at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. Hillel’s board voted to reject the group’s application to come under its umbrella of Jewish organizations because JVP’s support of a boycott of Israeli settlement goods runs counter to a position adopted by it and its parent, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.

Although the boycott issue was sufficient to place JVP beyond the pale for Hillel, that alone would not have been sufficient for most other Jewish groups, according to Martin Raffel, who is overseeing a multimillion-dollar Jewish communal effort (dubbed the Israel Action Network) to counter Israel delegitimization efforts.

Raffel’s thinking on the issue of “settlements-only” boycotts seems to have evolved since the Israel Action Network was formed in December. At the time, he told The Jewish Week, “I don’t know that a consensus has crystallized on this subject.

“If a person believes that Israel ought to do more to achieve peace based on a two-state formula, the question is, will boycotting a settlement advance the day that there will be peace? I’d argue that no, it will only harden positions and be counterproductive,” he said in December, “but being misguided in one’s policies doesn’t mean one necessarily has become part of the ranks of the delegitimizers.”

This week Raffel cited Meretz USA as a group that, though it might fit his earlier description of “misguided,” is safely in the tent, so to speak. The group supports the targeted boycott of Israeli settlement products and the cultural boycott of Ariel, but, Raffel said, “it is fully supportive of the Jewish state and it repudiates the BDS movement.”

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Moral bankruptcy of the American conservative

The good old days of America just invading, bombing and regime changing when she wanted. The days of empire are wonderful for armchair generals directing the carnage.

And then you have neo-con hacks like Michael Ledeen (the great man detailed here) who simply want to use American weaponary to kill people.

Here’s his latest advice over Libya:

Since our leaders evidently have no clue what to do in Libya, let’s give them a few ideas. The basic rules are easy: don’t do anything that is likely to make things worse, and you can forget about “negotiated settlements” once the bloodshed has reached the dimensions now engulfing Libya. Finally, forget the UN (see point 1).

The first thing to do is deprive Qadaffi of as many instruments of mass murder as possible. The most obvious of these is the Libyan Air Force, which is a small and outdated collection of aircraft, many of which belong in a museum. More specifically: some French F-1 fighters; some old Sukhoi’s, some old MIGs, and some helicopter gunships. (h/t Steve Bryen)

Destroy them. It’s easy. Our Air Force can probably wipe them out in less than half an hour. If we want to play “good ally” we can invite other NATO countries to join in. It seems the Brits are available (as they should be, after their disgusting liberation of the Lockerbie bomber), and I’ll bet you anything that the French and Italians, both of whom have decades of complicity with Qadaffi, will be happy to participate. And the French have the Foreign Legion in the area, if memory serves.

That won’t “solve” the problem, but it will ease the people’s pain, and it might lessen the dreadful impression we have created, especially during the Obama years, that we only talk or negotiate slow-acting sanctions; we don’t go in for decisive action (that is so Bush).

The destruction of the Libyan aircraft is a good start, but it would be nice to do more. Once upon a time, the CIA cultivated ambitious military officers (typically colonels) in such places for emergencies such as this. We’d give the word and they’d execute a coup.

I am not up to speed on the capabilities of the clandestine service, but I doubt they have any colonels on the shelf ready to move. I’d love to be wrong, needless to say, and I’m rooting for them, in the unlikely event the president pushes that button. Even if CIA can’t do it, maybe our military guys have someone.

Yes, I know it’s meddling in another country’s “internal affairs,” and a strike against the Libyan Air Force may be considered an act of war in some lawyers’ offices. But if we did those things we’d save a lot of innocent lives and enhance our chances of being more effective in the future.

We should have done it in Sudan years ago, by the way. We’d have saved a lot of southerners and speeded up the whole process.

Finally, the president should issue an executive order requiring the removal of all those bumper stickers that read “war never solved anything.” As the Marines say, except for fascism, Nazism, communism and warlordism.


What New Delhi can learn from Cairo

My following article is published by leading Indian magazine Tehelka:

The Middle East is the region where global empires lavishly exercise their chequebook. Since the Second World War, America has bribed, cajoled and backed autocratic regimes in the name of stability.

Israel, self-described as the only democracy in the area, has been insulated from the vagaries of democratic politics by simply colluding with dictatorships across its various borders.

Zionism has thrived due to Arab leader corruption and silence in the face of occupation against Palestinian lands.

But the mass uprisings across Egypt are threatening these cosy arrangements.

The Israeli mainstream is fearful of what Arab democracy may mean, but for the majority in Egypt decades of repression may be coming to an end.

The resignation of President Hosni Mubarak is the first necessary step in restoring dignity to the Egyptian political process, though it is only the beginning.

The millions of demonstrators won’t tolerate a military coup simply replacing one tyrant with another.

We can marvel at the success of a peaceful protest movement and wonder which other western-backed thugs may be next.

Today, the Muslim world sees what is possible with weeks of determined protest; America and Israel no longer control the agenda of who rules the Arab street.

Tel Aviv is already fearful of what true democracy may mean for its position.

While there is no unified message of the protesters for the future, a few key demands are clear; free and fair elections, an orderly transition, an end to torture, better employment opportunities and an end to being manipulated by foreign powers.

Sadly and predictably, many neo-conservative and Jewish commentators in America are whipping up fear of an Islamist take-over of Egypt while the situation remains incredibly fluid.

Besides, the western world has consistently refused to accept to its own detriment the legitimate positions of many Muslims since 11 September 2001 who wants their religion integrated into a democratic system.

Turkey is a model here, an imperfect example of an Islamic democracy.

Former Egyptian President Mubarak, wholly supported by Washington and Tel Aviv for three decades and much of the US corporate press, has shaped a state that routinely tortured its own citizens as well as suspects in the American-led “war on terror.”

New Vice-President Omar Suleiman is implicated in a range of crimes committed since 9/11, including overseeing torture himself against alleged terror suspects.

The New Yorker’s Jane Meyer wrote last week:

“Technically, U.S. law required the C.I.A. to seek “assurances” from Egypt that rendered suspects wouldn’t face torture. But under Suleiman’s reign at the intelligence service, such assurances were considered close to worthless.

As Michael Scheuer, a former C.I.A. officer who helped set up the practice of rendition, later testified before Congress, even if such “assurances” were written in indelible ink, “they weren’t worth a bucket of warm spit.””

In the last weeks, Egyptians authorities blocked Internet access and mobile phone services in an attempt to stop information getting out to the world.

It failed spectacularly but far too many western commentators were quick to jump to conclusions and claim this was a Facebook revolution or Twitter revolution.

But, despite Facebook playing a key role in initially organising outrage, the vast majority of Egyptians didn’t need a website to register their anger.

It was pleasing to read Google and Twitter joining forces to launch SpeaktoTweet, a service allowing Egyptians to call an international number and record a voice message that would then be tweeted from a Twitter account.

It is increasingly difficult to silence the masses in a globalised age, though we shouldn’t be seduced by the false belief that free Internet access automatically brings western-style democracy.

The western reaction to the Egyptian protests has been a mixture of awe and confusion.

The internal logic of many westerners is contradictory and hypocritical.

Backing the US-led invasion of Iraq, currently run as a Tehran-friendly police state, was seen as a noble gesture to liberate the oppressed masses but when the citizens agitate themselves without our help they’re lectured about remaining ‘moderate’.

Famed Slavoj Zizek wrote last week in the UK Guardian that the West so rarely sees a revolutionary spirit in its own countries that there is automatic suspicion when it occurs somewhere else, such as Egypt.

Ironically, post 9/11 paranoia about Islamic fundamentalism is due to its presence in nations the West has supposedly ‘liberated’, namely Iraq and Afghanistan.

Neither nation has a long history of religious extremism; foreign meddling has allowed these forces to incubate.

Dictatorships in the Arab world don’t just materialise, they are created and sustained over decades.

Washington funds Cairo to the tunes of billions annually (second only to Israel) and yet the results are clear to see; stagnation and political corruption on a vast scale.

This arrangement suits America, Israel and the West just fine; client states aren’t independent thinkers and that’s how their funders like it.

Take former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who told CNN that Mubarak had been ‘immensely courageous and a force for good’ in the Middle East over the Israel-Palestine ‘peace process’.

Blair was merely echoing the standard post 9/11 view of the region; political Islam must never be engaged, even if parties win legitimate elections (witness Hamas after its victory in Palestine in 2006).

But what comes after Mubarak? His infrastructure of terror must be dismantled but this can’t happen unless Western policy fundamentally reviews its attitude toward the Middle East.

Why should only Israeli Jews be allowed freedom in the region? Must Arabs be suppressed for the pleasure of the Zionist state?

Sixty years is more than enough of this paradigm. And Arab people-power has loudly announced that it won’t tolerate decades more living under autocracy.

Egypt provides salutary lessons for other nations, including India.

Mubarak created a highly centralised state of control allowing him to crush potential rivals. But the voice of the people has been bubbling beneath the surface for years – I witnessed it during various visits there, from bloggers, union members and dissidents.

Cairo, however, refused to listen, believing brute force would allow the status-quo to survive.

Responsive, democratic governments work best when the interests of the people, especially minorities, aren’t ignored but acted upon.

Blocking the Internet in a large country is almost impossible in the 21st century due to the economy’s reliance on it but Egypt joins an increasingly long list of nations attempting to shut out modernity (including Myanmar and North Korea).

Although the central government in New Delhi is unlikely to administer such a draconian plan, leaders should be open to robust debate on the most controversial subjects, including Kashmir and the Naxalites.

Mature democracies are ones that welcome disagreement and don’t threaten prosecution for those who dare challenge the mainstream view.

There are disturbing signs in many western nations of overzealous officials wanting to regulate the openness of the Internet in the fight against ‘terrorism’.

This must be resisted.

Likewise in India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would be well advised to listen to dissent due to the decentralised nature of his country; ignoring such difficult questions is not the sign of a leader who consults but a man who relies on harsh counter-terrorism techniques to quash dissent.

Hosni Mubarak could inform him of the dangers of this path.

Australian journalist and author Antony Loewenstein, 36, has published a best-selling book on the Israel/Palestine conflict, My Israel Question, and has spent time working and travelling across the Middle East and beyond. His book, The Blogging Revolution, examines the role of the internet in repressive regimes, including Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and China. He has written for publications such as the Guardian, Haaretz and the BBC World and regularly appears in the local and global media discussing human rights and politics.

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