Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding

Opinion Editorials, November 2011


Al-Jazeerah History


Mission & Name  

Conflict Terminology  


Gaza Holocaust  

Gulf War  




News Photos  

Opinion Editorials

US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)




 For the Revolution to Triumph, Egyptian Debts Must Be Dropped

By Eric Walberg

Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, November 16, 2011


Egypt to IMF:  "Topple Their Debts!"

The Popular Campaign to Drop Egypt’s Debts was launched at the Journalists’ Union 31 October, with a colourful panel of speakers, including Al-Ahram Centre for Political & Strategic Studies Editor-in-Chief Ahmed Al-Naggar, Independent Trade Union head Kamal Abbas, legendary anti-corruption crusader Khaled Ali, and the head of the Tunisia twin campaign Dr Fathi Chamkhi.

Moderator Wael Gamal, a financial journalist, described how he and a core of revolutionaries after 25 January started the campaign with a facebook page DropEgyptsDebt. The IMF offer of a multi-billion dollar loan in June was like a red flag in front of a bull for Gamal, and their campaign really got underway after that, culminating in the formal launch this week, just as election fever is rising.

“Just servicing Egypt’s debt costs close to $3 billion a year, more than all the food subsidies that the IMF harps about, more than our health expenditures,” Gamal said angrily. “We are burdened with a $35 billion debt to foreign banks, mostly borrowed under the Hosni Mubarak regime, none of it to help the people.”

Ali explained the basis of the campaign, which does not call for wholesale cancellation of the debt, but for a line-by-line review of the loan terms and useage to determine: whether the loan was made with the consent of the people of Egypt, whether it serves the interests of the people, and to what extent it was wasted through corruption. He explained that the foreign lending institutions knew full well that Mubarak was a dictator conducting phoney elections and thus not reflecting the will of the people when they showered him with money, and they should face the consequences -- not the Egyptian people.

These are the internationally accepted conditions behind the legitimate practice of repudiating “odious debt”, which were used by the US (though mutedly) in 2003 to tear up Iraq’s debt, and by Ecuador in 2009. “Ecuador had an uprising much like our revolution and after the next election the president formed an audit committee and managed to cancel two-thirds of the $13 billion debt,” noted Gamal, leaving the conferencees to ponder what a truly revolutionary government in Egypt could do for the health sector and for employment.

Al-Naggar told how the loans propped up the economy as it was being gutted under an IMF-supervised privatisation programme from 1990 on, allowing foreign companies and Mubarak cronies to pocket hundreds of millions of dollars and spirit them abroad. Meanwhile, what investment that trickled down from the loans went to financing prestige infrastructure projects like the Cairo airport expansion, which was riddled with corruption and serves only the Egyptian elite. Virtually all the loans from this period should be considered liable for writing off.

No government officials deigned -- or dared -- to come to the conference. On the contrary, Egypt’s Finance Minister Hazem Al-Biblawi told Al-Sharouk that it defames Egypt in the world’s eyes, saying, "like the proverb 'It looks like a blessing on the outside, but is hell on the inside'.”

Both Gamal and Al-Naggar criticised Biblawi for distorting their intent, which is not to portray Egypt as bankrupt, like Greece, but to shift the burden of the bad loans to the guilty parties -- the lenders, and thereby to help the revolution. “It is the counter-revolution that is discrediting Egypt. And they are the old regime that got the loans and misused them, and are now trying to discredit the revolution. The international community should willingly write off the odious loans if it wants the revolution to succeed,” exhorted Al-Naggar.

The enthusiasm and sense of purpose at the conference was infectious. Indeed, this campaign is arguably the key to whether or not the revolution succeeds. But it requires a political backbone that only an elected government can hope to muster. The fawning of Al-Bablawi -- this week he hosted another IMF mission -- looks like the performance of someone from the Mubarak era, not someone delegated to protect the revolution. He welcomed the delegation and “the possibility of their offering aid to Egypt”.

Al-Naggar pointed out that the purpose of the IMF is not to aid the Egyptian people, but to tie the government to international dictate. Rating agencies are part of this, downgrading Egypt’s credit rating after the revolution. Why? Because Egypt is less democratic? Or because it will be harder to ply Egypt with more loans to benefit Western corporations, and to keep the Egyptian government in line with the Western political agenda. “Silence is golden,” Al-Naggar advised Biblawi, meaning, “If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything.”

Chamkhi brought Tunisian warmth to the meeting, though he further incensed listeners as he explained how the Western debt scheming is directly the result of 19th c colonialism. He told how France colonised Tunisia, stole the best agricultural land, and then how the quasi-independent government in 1956 had to take out French loans to buy back the land that the French had stolen, thereby indenturing Tunisia yet again, in a new neocolonial guise. The foreign debt really exploded with Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali’s kleptocracy, just as did Egypt’s under Mubarak. Chamkhi eloquently expressed how “debts are not for our development, but to make us poor. To create a dictatorship of debts.”

Tunisia’s first democratic elections brought the Congress for the Republic, which supports the debt revision campaign, 30 seats. So far in Egypt, according to organiser Salmaa Hussein, Tagammu, the Nasserists and Karama support their efforts, along with presidential hopefuls Hamdeen Sabhi and Abdul Monem Abul Fotouh.

There is an international campaign dating from the 1990s, the 2000 Jubilee debt relief movement, and the Cairo conference heard a report from London about efforts on behalf of many third world countries -- now including Egypt and Tunisia -- by public-spirited Brits. The Arab Spring success stories now have a determined and politically savvy core of activists who know what the score is and will be pushing their respectively revolutionary governments to repudiate the debts from the corrupt regimes they overthrew at the cost of hundreds of lives. As the fiery Independent Trade Union head Abbas cried, adding an apt phrase to Egypt’s revolutionary slogan: “Topple the regime, topple their debts!”
Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly You can reach him at His Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games is available at



Geopolitics and the Great Games




ISBN 978-0-9833539-3-5     300 pp.
June, 2011   $17.95

Clarity Press, Inc. is pleased to announce the publication of Eric Walberg’s POSTMODERN IMPERIALISM: Geopolitics and the Great Games, a riveting and radically new analysis of the imperialist onslaught which first engulfed the world in successive waves in the 19th–20th centuries and is today hurtling into its endgame.

The term “Great Game” was coined in the nineteenth century, reflecting the flippancy of statesmen (and historians) personally untouched by the havoc that they wreaked. What it purported to describe was the rivalry between Russia and Britain over interests in India. But Britain was playing its deadly game across all of Eurasia, from the Balkans and Palestine to China and southeast Asia, alternately undermining and carving up “premodern” states, disrupting the lives of hundreds of millions, with consequences that endure today.

With roots in the European enlightenment, shaped by Christian and Jewish cultures, and given economic rationale by industrial capitalism, the inter-imperialist competition turned the entire world into a conflict zone, leaving no territory neutral.

The first “game” was brought to a close by the cataclysm of World War I. But that did not mark the end of it. Walberg resurrects the forbidden “i” word to scrutinize an imperialism now in denial, but following the same logic and with equally horrendous human costs. What he terms Great Game II then began, with America eventually uniting its former imperial rivals in an even more deadly game to destroy their common revolutionary antagonist and potential nemesis—communism. Having “won” this game, America and the new player Israel—offspring of the early games—have sought to entrench what Walberg terms “empire and a half” on a now global playing field—using a neoliberal agenda backed by shock and awe.

With swift, sure strokes, Walberg paints the struggle between domination and resistance on a global canvas, as imperialism engages its two great challengers—communism and Islam, its secular and religious antidotes.

Paul Atwood (War and Empire: The American Way of Life) calls it an “epic corrective”. It is a “carefully argued—and most of all, cliche-smashing—road map” according to Pepe Escobar (journalist Asia Times). Rigorously documented, it is “a valuable resource for all those interested in how imperialism works, and sure to spark discussion about the theory of imperialism”, according to John Bell (Capitalism and the Dialectic).

Specializing in economics at the University of Toronto, then Cambridge, Walberg also lived, worked and studied in the former Soviet Union, experienced its collapse and aftermath in Uzbekistan, and is presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper Al Ahram. Known internationally as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia, his purpose is to deconstruct traditional western analysis with its Eurocentric bias, to show the twentieth century as it was experienced by the victims of the imperial games rather than the supposed victors, and to provide the reader with the tools necessary to analyze the current game as it evolves.

Walberg is a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on RT television and Voice of the Cape radio. His articles appear  regularly in Russian, are translated into Spanish, Italian, German and Arabic, and are accessible at his website Walberg was a moderator and speaker at the Leaders of Change Summit ( in Istanbul in 2011.


      View synopsis and table of contents

Available in the US from Clarity Press,

Available from Distributors in the USA, the UK/Europe, Middle East, Malaysia/Singapore  






"Eric Walberg’s treatise on the Great Games, on Empire, is an excellent read.  It is not a blow by blow account of the rise and fall of empires involved with the Great Games, but an accounting of their methods and raison d’etre.  It is a dense read, provocative, bold, touching on ideas that seldom appear in mainstream presentations.  It is a significant and important addition to the geopolitical and political-military thinking of the global cultural environment of finance and wars.” 





"Walberg's "Postmodern Imperialism" is a landmark text, written at a crucial moment in time. For the West, America and Americans, this may be a final wake-up call."



"Those who think that the “Great Game” played for control of Central Asia is a superannuated relic of Europe’s imperial past must read Walberg’s epic corrective to their egregious error. In extensive, richly textured and carefully documented detail he reveals the evolution of this competition into the planetary quest for dominance it has become, as well as the imperatives animating its new “players,” among whom many will find, to their surprise or consternation, tiny Israel and its symbiotic liaison with America Inc. Prime imperial architect, Zbigniew Brzezinski actually called the blood-soaked playing field The Grand Chessboard, but like all his rapacious forebears omitted to mention the pawns. Walberg places them at the heart of this much needed remediation of the sinister falsehoods propagated in a political culture manufactured from above and offers hope that this anti-human playboard may yet be overturned."

              PAUL ATWOOD, American Studies, University of Massachusetts and author of War and Empire: The American Way of Life (2010)


“Walberg’s book is a sharp and concise energizer package required to understand what may follow ahead of the Great 2011 Arab Revolt and related geopolitical earthquakes. It’s a carefully argued—and most of all, cliche-smashing—road map showing how the New Great Game in Eurasia is in fact part of a continuum since the mid-19th century. Particularly refreshing is how Walberg characterizes Great Games I, II and III—their strategies and their profiteers. Walberg also deconstructs an absolute taboo—at least in the West: how the US/Israeli embrace has been a key feature of the modern game. It will be hard to understand the complex machinery of post-imperialism without navigating this ideology-smashing road map.”

PEPE ESCOBAR, roving correspondent for Asia Times, author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (2007)

"Imperialism is as alive today as in the days of the original Great Game. Central Asia and the Middle East are as strategically important today for the US and Great Britain as they were in earlier games, if for different reasons. Postmodern Imperialism is a continuation of Kwame Nkrumah’s Neocolonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism (1965) and carries forward the struggle of the pen against the sword."

                  GAMAL NKRUMAH, international editor, Al-Ahram Weekly, Cairo

"Walberg’s provocative work traces the transformation of the imperial world through the twentieth century. It is a valuable resource for all those interested in how imperialism works, and is sure to spark discussion about the theory of imperialism and the dialectic of history."


                    JOHN BELL, author of Capitalism and the Dialectic (2009)








Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah & &