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.

Launching Profits of Doom at Curtin University in Perth

I launched my book Profits of Doom at Curtin University in Perth on 29 November to a packed house (more details and photos here and audio is here). The focus was on Australia’s privatised immigration detention system.

Dr Caroline Fleay from The Centre for Human Rights Education (CHRE) introduced me with a generous speech that I re-publish below:

Profits of Doom – Perth Book Launch

Centre for Human Rights Education

29 October 2013

Caroline Fleay

Curtin University

Book Launch Introductions

It is my pleasure to introduce Antony Loewenstein.

Antony is an independent journalist, blogger, photographer and documentary film-maker. He has written and co-authored a number of best-selling books, including My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution. He has written for The Nation, Huffington Post, The Sydney Morning Herald, Haaretz, and is now a weekly columnist for The Guardian. He has also appeared on a range of television current affairs programs on the ABC, the BBC, Al Jazeera English, and a range of other media outlets. And, of course, he is the author of Profits of Doom.

I first met Antony at the Perth Domestic Airport, very early in the morning, in November 2011. Antony had been persistently emailing during the second half of 2011 as he knew through some mutual acquaintances that Linda Briskman and I were visiting the Curtin immigration detention centre, and he wanted to come along for the purposes of his research.

So up we flew to Broome and then hired a car for the 2 hour drive to the detention centre which is about 50 km from Derby. I spent many long hours with Antony during the following four days and I learned a few things about him as a journalist and as a person. One thing that I did observe was his skill in finding out information from those who work within the detention system. But the thing that impressed me most about him was his empathy that was clearly evident as we sat and talked with the few people detained in that large centre that we were allowed to meet with. Antony’s response to what he witnessed, and to what he was told by the people we visited about being in detention for many months, I think speaks volumes about his understanding of the issue.

And this is reflected in the book we are very happy to be launching in Perth tonight.

Antony’s book, Profits of Doom, provides a much needed spotlight on the operations of some of the private corporations that make large profits in industries that emerge from government outsourcing. And they do so in an environment where the details of much of their operations

One of these corporations, Serco, is a big player in Australia and two of the chapters in the book explore their role in the immigration detention industry. One of the big problems of privatisation in immigration detention is that it deepens the system’s lack of transparency.

The involvement of private corporations in this area not only enables governments to expand immigration detention, it also helps to obscure what is going on within detention centres.Commercial-in-confidence clauses that apply to contracts between the government and private operators mean that it is exceedingly difficult to access information in relation to costs and other operational matters, as Antony highlights in his book.

Accountability issues around who is responsible for what happens within immigration detention centres become more opaque under a system of privatisation. For example, in the midst of a rooftop protest and following the death of someone detained at the Villawood immigration detention centre in 2010, Serco told media reporters to contact the Department of Immigration for comment. In turn, the Department said they could not comment in any detail on Serco’s operations.

Profits of Doom helps to lift a lid on the secrecy of Serco and its operations within Australia’s detention network. For one thing, the book highlights the hefty profit rates that Serco is making out of its immigration detention contract.

But Antony’s writing also allows us to get some understanding of the remote sites of detention at the Curtin airbase in the north of WA, and on Christmas Island. His writing helps us to get a sense of the people detained within those electrified fences, and those responsible for enabling this government policy. He highlights how this privatised system of imprisonment harms the people it detains. And he highlights how it harms some of the staff who become traumatised by what they witness, and what they have become complicit in.

As Antony expresses it: “desert prison camps are not normal”. Indeed, imprisoning people for indefinite periods of time in any site of detention is not normal.

Antony’s book is a compelling read and I highly recommend it.

Please welcome Antony to talk more about his book and these issues.


What next for the left? Public forum with Loewenstein and Greens’ Scott Ludlam

I was in Perth, Western Australia last week for a Profits of Doom book tour.

There was a large public event at Perth’s state library. I spoke alongside Greens Senator Scott Ludlam about my book, left politics, the Greens and how to effect positive change (I was interviewed on Perth Indymedia radio on similar issues).

Here’s the video from the fascinating evening:


Hussain’s Journey from Pakistan to Australia

Australia’s official attitude towards asylum seekers is based on cruelty and punishment. We too rarely hear from refugees themselves, the privatised system deliberately obscures their stories and faces.

The Global Mail has produced a stunning piece of multi-media, video journalism that details the reasons Hazara man like Hussein must leave Pakistan, due to threats on their life, and find safe haven somewhere. He films the journey from Pakistan to Australia.

Moving, revealing and telling work.


Profits of Doom receives positive coverage in Paraguay

The wonders of the internet. I was informed this week that a leading daily media outlet in Asuncion, Paraguay, Ultima Hora, published a great article about my new book, Profits of Doom. The journalist, Guido Rodriguez, emailed me to explain that the message of the book resonated with many people in his country.

The following is a Google Translate version of the article so read with that in mind:

I would translate the title of the book and Profits of Doom, the brilliant journalist, photographer and documentary filmmaker Antony Loewenstein.

His reading is very timely, because [President] Horacio Cartes has asked to end the antagonism between politicians and businessmen at the top of Panama.

Antagonism What is it?

The problem of the moment is the collusion between businessmen and politicians, forgetting others.

Cartes proposes a public-private partnership as a solution to our problems. Well, this alliance exists in Haiti (Loewenstein tells us) and has allowed the construction of an industrial complex.

Is not it very similar to the industrial complex that our government proposed to build on the Parana to Rio Tinto?

Comparisons aside, the fact is that in the industrial complex of Haiti are paid wages below the legal minimum wage (five dollars per day), and the happy resort aims to become a center for recruiting cheap labor for multinationals.

Needless to say that Haiti is a very poor country with huge problems: it has a 60% unemployment and need to import at least 75% of its rice.

What it shows is that Loewenstein overcoming those problems should not expect the entry of speculative capital.

After the devastating earthquake of 2010, the country received a good amount of dollars in international aid, the results were not as expected.

It was not only because of the inefficiency and corruption that was, but the error in judgment: speculative capital have no interest in developing any poor country.

By the way neoliberal little Haiti’s future, moreover with vast natural resources (gold, copper, zinc), now tempt multinationals.

This author calls the curse of natural resources, thinking about what happened in Papua New Guinea with the arrival of multinational corporations.

The most famous case is that of the Panguna Mine on the island of Bougainvillea, whose inhabitants took up arms against the exploitation of gold and copper which caused tremendous ecological destruction.

Rebels won, but at a high price: thousands of deaths, destruction, poverty. The culprit was the BCL company, formed by the public-private partnership of local government and Rio Tinto.

Iraq and Afghanistan are other cases studied in Profits of Doom. Iraq’s oil wealth is obvious, what is less known are the mineral deposits in Afghanistan, which attract the attention of companies not necessarily charitable.

Another common feature of these two countries was the privatization of war.

For reasons of supposed efficiency, was entrusted to private companies, the food, the intelligence services and security, say the privatization of war.

In late 2012 (says Loewenstein), had 109,000 private contractors in Afghanistan, nearly twice the number of soldiers.

It has the private sector efficiency, but that the mercenaries earn much more than the soldiers of the occupying armies.

Decidedly, this little privatizing model can promise to Paraguay.


Perth’s 6PR radio interview about Profits of Doom

A focus of my book Profits of Doom is mass privatisation in Western Australia, a state undergoing a gross experiment in enriching as many corporations as possible.

I was recently interviewed by Tony Serve on Perth’s 6PR radio about these issues:


The fallacy of Clinton-backed “support” in Haiti

When I visited Haiti last year I investigated the reality of industrial parks and how they largely shafted locals. I cover it in Profits of Doom.

A new report (via Common Dreams) reveals the fallacy of this Western elite pushed scheme:

Haiti’s Caracol Industrial Park—the U.S. State Department and Clinton Foundation pet project to deliver aid and reconstruction to earthquake-ravaged Haiti in the form of private investment—is systematically stealing its garment workers’ wages, paying them 34 percent less than minimum wage set by federal law, a breaking report from the Worker Rights Consortium reveals.

Critics charge that poverty wages illustrate the deep flaws with corporate models of so-called aid. “The failure of the Caracol Industrial Park to comply with minimum wage laws is a stain on the U.S.’s post-earthquake investments in Haiti and calls into question the sustainability and effectiveness of relying on the garment industry to lead Haiti’s reconstruction,” said Jake Johnston of the Center for Economic and Policy Researchin an interview with Common Dreams.

Caracol is just one of five garment factories profiled in this damning report, released publicly on Wednesday, which finds that “the majority of Haitian garment workers are being denied nearly a third of the wages they are legally due as a result of the factories’ theft of their income.” This is due to systematic employer cheating on piece-work and overtime, as well as failure to pay employees for hours worked.

WRC charges that the wage theft at these 5 factories is “typical” across the country’s garment industry, leading to the suppression of national wages at deep poverty levels. As a result, workers have trouble affording food, shelter, and medical care, the report finds.

Through a series of in-depth interviews, as well as review of pay records, researchers discovered that the problem of wage theft throughout the country’s garment industry is “egregious” at Northern Haiti’s Caracol Industrial Park, which sits at the center of U.S. ‘reconstruction’ efforts and is slated to employ an estimated 20,000 people.

Financers included the Inter-American Development Bank, the U.S. State Department, and the Clinton Foundation, who invested a total of $224 million with promises to uphold high labor standards. Its anchor tenant is the Korean S&H Global factory, which sells garments to Walmart, Target, Kohl’s, and Old Navy, according to the report.

The largest post-earthquake U.S. investment in Haiti, Caracol’s backers have championed it as a model for privatized reconstruction. In a July press release, the U.S. State Department champions the park as a chance to “spur economic growth and bring jobs to Haiti’s underserved regions.”

Then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former U.S. President Bill Clinton attended Caracol’s opening ceremony a year ago. “We’re sending a message that Haiti is open for business again,” Hillary Clintondeclared upon the announcement of the opening.

The Clinton Foundation did not immediately respond to a request from Common Dreams for an interview.


Mineral Policy Institute reviews Profits of Doom

The following review, by Charles Roche, is published by this NGO:

Prolific author, blogger and commentator Antony Loewenstein has targeted disaster capitalism in his new book, Profits of Doom.  It’s an ambitious book seeking to not only build on Naomi Klein’s work from the The Shock Doctrine but to ‘generate a global debate’. A wide ranging text; part philosophy, part travelogue, built on a frank and unrelenting account of disaster capitalism as it applies to the resource sector, war, environmental catastrophes, foreign aid and detention centres. While only time will tell wether it achieves it’s ambition, it does provide a valuable insight into mining in Australian and Papua New Guinea [PNG] – two of the Mineral Policy Institute’s favourite subjects.

The PNG chapter, entitled Papua New Guinea – the resource curse, roams from Panguna to Ramu Nickel to the PNG LNG terminal near Port Morseby. Along the way it discusses the effectiveness of Australian Aid in PNG, the social and environmental impact of mining, attitudes to Australia, the Bougainville crisis and much more.  Supported by interviews and numerous [footnoted] media accounts, Loewenstein delivers a personal narrative account of people impacted by the resource industry or working to reduce it, mixed with his own opinion on the impact of the resource curse in PNG.

Along the way we meet a number of people and either hear from them directly or via Anthony’s own words.  Willy from Bougainville has a ‘faint hope that Australia will start thinking beyond money and mining’. Rosa Koin, from our friends at BRG, is critical of Australian aid, rejects mining and believes in empowered communities feeding themselves.  Frank tells a short, but confronting story on what happens when families lose ownership of land and access to fishing.

While Loewenstein is not a extractives or PNG specialist, his work in other areas, including in this book, offer a valuable insight into the impact of the Australian Government and mining industry in PNG. While hard to choose, these concluding quotes go the heart of the problem and echo perspectives from our recent Hidden Valley documentary.

On economics …. “Nations with vested interest in PNG don’t overly care about its economic system as long as they can perform their resource extraction effectively…”

On PNG’s future… “What needed in PNG is a new model of investment, one that doesn’t treat the country’s natural wealth as jewels to be admired then taken. [and later] PNG shouldn’t be condemned to remain a land that offers little to locals and much to Western shareholders. Twenty-first century independence is possible”

Whether you share Loewenstein’s views or not, you will be confronted and challenged by the impact of [disaster] capitalism on the ground.


Breaking news; privatisation and resource exploitation don’t bring prosperity

A key theme in my book Profits of Doom is how an agenda of privatisation never brings the prosperity that its proponents push.

New information, from the World Bank of all places, confirms this so listen up:

The World Bank is admitting that so-called economic growth in Africa, rooted in privatization and resource extraction by foreign companies, is not benefiting the vast majority of the continent’s people.

This comes from an institution has been widely criticized for pushing these very policies of ‘growth.’

Despite Africa’s much-vaunted ‘growth’ over the past decade, deep poverty and inequality are “unacceptably high and the pace of reduction unacceptably slow,” reads Africa’s Pulse, an analysis released Monday by the World Bank. “Almost one out of every two Africans lives in extreme poverty today,” and by the year 2030, a vast majority of the world’s poor will be located in Africa, the report finds.

Francisco Ferreira, Acting Chief Economist for the World Bank Africa Region, states, “Africa grew faster in the last decade than most other regions,” with a steadily climbing GDP noted in the report. Yet, this so-called growth is highly dependent on relatively few commodities sold for export, including oil, metals, and minerals. “Nearly three-quarters of countries rely on three commodities for 50 percent or more of export earnings,” the report reads, with countries like Angola and Nigeria depending on oil for up to 97 percent of all exports.

“[H]igh dependence on one or a few commodities makes Africa’s resource-rich countries vulnerable to sharp movements in prices of these commodities,” explains Punam Chuhan-Pole, Lead Economist of the World Bank’s Africa Region and author of Africa’s Pulse.

Furthermore, this wealth is siphoned off to foreign investors, with 2012 exports to the EU and U.S. reaching $148 billion, and exports to BRIC countries reaching $144 billion that same year.

Overall privatization is skyrocketing, with Gross fixed capital formation rising from 16.4% of GDP in 2000 to 20.4% in 2011, indicating the expansion of business assets.

“Higher economic growth does not automatically translate into higher poverty reduction,” the report states.

“[The report’s Findings are] unfortunately pretty typical of what we’ve seen in global terms, particularly in the global south, where increases in economic growth overlook how citizens are impacted and reinforce the power of elite elements,” said leading scholar Stephen Zunes in an interview with Common Dreams. “Economic structures are still rooted in neo-colonial model.”

“Historically, the World Bank has pushed big mega-development projects that basically increase the rate at which you take stuff out of country, and increased the push for exports of raw materials and increases in consumer goods that only elites can afford,” he added.

“The problems of resource extraction in Africa are many,” writes Godwin Uyi Ojo inPambazuka News. “Collectively, they are bleeding Africa dry.”


Australian Book Review tackles Profits of Doom

The following review of my book Profits of Doom is written by Virginia Lloyd:

One of the literary legacies of the financial crisis is a type of travel writing focused on the local social, economic, and environmental effects of unfettered global capitalism. There are two types of such books. Michael Lewis is perhaps the best known and most widely read author of the first kind, in which the reporter becomes a kind of tour guide to the financial freak show. In Boomerang (2011), Lewis shows how greed overwhelmed both the lenders and the borrowers of cheap money in places like Iceland, Ireland, and the United States. Reading him is like watching the circus through binoculars. The spectacle is both vividly close and comfortably distant; we enjoy the show but feel no direct involvement in the unfolding action.

The second type, exemplified in Antony Loewenstein’s important new book Profits of Doom, is written with the fire of the political activist. Loewenstein acknowledges the influence on his work of Naomi Klein, whose The Shock Doctrine (2007) defined a predatory ‘disaster capitalism’ that seeks to exploit war or natural disaster for private profit at the expense of local populations. Loewenstein writes: ‘Vulture, or predatory, capitalism has easily taken root in Australia and many other self-described democracies because of the limited ability and willingness of the public to scrutinise it and demand change.’

Profits of Doom is squarely a post-9/11 book, focused in large part on the unprecedented expansion of privatised surveillance and detention services on behalf of governments and even the United Nations since September 2001. We begin in remote, if familiar, territory at the Curtin Detention Centre in Western Australia. Leaked documents from the British multinational Serco, which manages refugee detention on our behalf (Australia is the only country in the world to outsource all of its detention centres), reveal price gouging, ‘extreme rates of self-harm among detained refugees’, and the ‘non-reporting of mistakes’ to avoid government penalties. Here and in chapters on Afghanistan and Christmas Island, Loewenstein illustrates the disparity between the argument of most Western governments that outsourcing is cost-efficient and the expensive facts of private service delivery. Instead, he argues that the real value of private operators like Serco is to provide governments with ‘a convenient scapegoat for systemic failures’, and reveals the tactics by which those companies avoid or minimise government oversight. ‘This blurring of responsibility and accountability is a fundamental flaw of exploitative capitalism,’ he concludes.

On Christmas Island, witnessing the arrival of a ‘visibly overcrowded boat,’ he asks those standing at the water’s edge whether ‘anyone cares that a private company is making money from greater numbers of refugee arrivals’. One local man says ‘he feels uncomfortable about it, while a tourist isn’t aware of the fact’. After reading Profits of Doom it would be difficult to remain unaware of the merry-go-round of public policy and private profit in the privatised security industry, let alone comfortable about it. Still, it is hard to agree with the book’s assumption that all outsourcing is potentially corrupt: a privatised rubbish collection and disposal service, for example, is only problematic if the service does not make the savings stipulated in a contract or if that contract is not enforced.

The exploitation of natural resources at the expense of local populations is Loewenstein’s second major theme. In Papua New Guinea, he explores the ‘resource curse’ of poor nations with rich mineral deposits. He travels to Bougainville, twenty-five years after infuriated locals forced the closure of the polluting Panguna mine and sparked a civil war, just as talk of reopening the mine has begun. In Port Moresby he listens to angry locals and records the voices of the otherwise silent majority who seem powerless in the face of a web of vested interests. These moments are among the book’s most powerful.

Some of Loewenstein’s harshest criticism is aimed at non-government organisations (NGOs) in post-disaster zones. He regards them as a ‘conduit that ensures business for Western firms’, concluding that despite noble intentions the ‘NGO-isation of humanitarian relief’ weakens local governments by channelling donor country funds through their own agencies instead of supporting local initiatives.

In the context of these perhaps overly simplistic assessments, the author remains upbeat about the power of democracy, which he optimistically conflates with awareness. As you would expect from the author of The Blogging Revolution (2008), he encourages individual citizen bloggers and social media users to provide the ‘view from the ground’. ‘Awareness doesn’t necessarily bring change,’ he writes, ‘but it’s the first, vital step in doing so.’

Profits of Doom presents research and argument rather than potential solutions. In pressing for greater regulation of NGOs and forms of investment that transcend neo-colonialism, Lowenstein writes: ‘NGOs that are locally accountable, internationally connected and financially independent have made a difference and contributed to the greater sovereignty of those nations.’ It would be easy to think that in all the book’s distressed venues of vulture capitalism there are few such models. Among the despair in Haiti, however, Loewenstein mentions the growth of the renewable energy sector there under a ‘unique model … where local NGOs partner with government departments to reduce deforestation’. This tantalisingly brief reference feels like a missed opportunity to demonstrate what is working amid disaster capitalism’s catalogue of failures. Perhaps it is the beginnings of another book. If so, I for one am looking forward to it.


3AW Melbourne radio interview on Profits of Doom

3AW is one of Melbourne’s biggest radio stations. I was interviewed by Alan-Pearsall last weekend on his overnight program about my new book, Profits of Doom, and we mostly discussed privatised detention centres for refugees and war contracting in Afghanistan:


US selling drone warfare to impoverished African nations

The future of surveillance and warfare, and US-based arms manufacturers are very happy about it.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Taking a cue from the U.S., more African governments are spying from the skies.

From Kenya to Nigeria, African air forces are acquiring surveillance drones—often made in the U.S.—to track militants, poachers and drug traffickers moving across vast and often inhospitable terrain.

The drive to expand Africa’s air surveillance comes as the U.S. seeks to outsource some of its work fighting terrorism in the world’s most remote places.

“Controlling the borders, the arms trafficking,” said Col. James Birungi of Uganda, in explaining how drones can meet his country’s security challenges. “We have seen that this equipment can do all that for us.

After a flurry of terrorist attacks across Africa this week, governments on the continent are looking for a quick fix. Shooting sprees in Kenya and Nigeria each left scores of people dead, illustrating why governments that already struggle to give their citizens tap water or electricity might spend millions of dollars on 21st century surveillance planes.

In recent years, Nigeria and Ethiopia have purchased small fleets of drones to track militants and pirates, according to air force officials in Nigeria and the U.S. Last year, the U.S. agreed to give eight small drones to Kenya to monitor al Qaeda-backed rebels there, according to Pentagon documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, two U.S. Air Force officials said Botswana has approached them requesting drones to track their endangered population of elephants.

For the past few years, the U.S. Air Force has dispatched about a hundred small groups of advisers annually to Africa, said these U.S. Air Force officials, who weren’t authorized to be identified by name. Those U.S. Air Force advisers say they are training mechanics, pilots, technicians, and intelligence analysts in roughly 20 African countries.

At a higher level, U.S. Air Force generals say they’re talking regularly with defense leaders in Africa—and increasingly are pushing surveillance aircraft as a cost-efficient way to quash the many insurgencies cropping up across the continent.

Two of those officers, U.S. Air Force Gen. Frank Gorenc and Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, spoke about the initiative in broad terms, describing it as an effort to farm out some of America’s anti-terrorism work.

For the U.S., African assistance, however minimal, could help ease pressure on America’s own fleet of drones. The U.S. Air Force keeps tabs on Africa, a continent three times the size of the U.S., with only two drone bases. They are 2,500 miles apart, in Niger in West Africa and in Djibouti in the east.

“This continent has too often been land-centric; we solve our problems with land forces,” said Gen. Franklin. But he said he’d seen a change: “From the smallest countries, you have air chiefs that…are thinking about: ‘OK, with this amount of resources, what can we do?'”

U.S. military assistance to African countries comes as many of them are growing richer and the cost of surveillance equipment is sharply falling. It’s an auspicious confluence of trends for defense contractors in the U.S. and elsewhere that are seeking a toehold on the continent.

Last month, the U.S. Air Force created a private website for African defense chiefs—a social network where they could share product reviews, and go in on bulk purchases together.

Earlier this year, Ghana purchased a DA42 surveillance plane, manufactured by Austria’s Diamond Aircraft Industries. Defense industry analysts estimated the price at roughly $10 million. U.S. and Ghanaian officials say the country flies the aircraft over the ocean, inspecting ships plying pirate-infested waters. The plane maker’s chief executive, Christian Dries, says he’s sold similar surveillance planes to Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and South Africa.

“We have steady orders,” he said. “Definitely, this market is growing.”

A half dozen other countries—among them Senegal, Uganda and Mauritania—are looking to purchase similar aircraft, say U.S. officials. “We have a real need for these things,” said Senegal’s General Ousmane Kane. Asked what surveillance assets his air force currently possessed, he pointed to his face and said “above all, what we have are our eyes.”

For defense contractors, African air budgets represent a still-small but fast-growing market. Having failed to maintain their previous air fleets, many African governments are paying vendors this time around to toss in contracts for maintenance, technical support and training, said retired Air Force Col. Cedric Leighton, now a defense consultant with experience working in Africa.

“It’s a great business for these folks,” he said. “There is a lot of gold in those hills.”


The Wire interview on Profits of Doom and poor Serco care

A theme in my book Profits of Doom is the role of multinationals in running Australia’s detention centres for asylum seekers.

I was interviewed by The Wire radio program on these matters: