Eric Walberg is a Canadian journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. As an economics expert, he has written widely on East-West relations since the 1980s. Eric has previously worked as a UN advisor and currently writes for Press TV and Al Ahram. He is the author of Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games and from Postmodernism to Postsecularism: Re-emerging Islamic Civilization. What comes bellow is the transcript of Habilian Association’s interview with this Canadian journalist.
HA: Some analysts, including yourself, have written about a People’s ‘New World Order’ that is going to shape and mentioned Trump’s victory as a sign of it. What are the characteristics of this new world order?
EW: The idea of a people's New World Order is of course the dream of the masses, not elite politicians. Trump used his own version of this populist idea to inspire followers who were fed up with the current elitist order which has taken shape since 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed. The Soviet Union was the closest the world ever came to a people's New World Order, one based not on profit and greed, like capitalism. It was flawed, and was unable to carry out the necessary reforms to give it the strength to fight off capitalism.
The masses' lives worsened after 1991. In the most powerful and wealthiest nation in the world, the US, 45 million people live below the poverty line. The country's infrastructure is in shambles. The high growth industries are military, security and prisons. The US has the highest incarceration rate, and conditions in jails are condemned by Human Rights Watch. The American Civil Liberties Union writes "Overcrowding, violence, sexual abuse, and mistreatment of prisoners based on race, sex, gender identity, or disability pose grave risks to prisoner health and safety.
The promise in 1991 was to provide the world a peace dividend, and dismantle the Cold War institutions like NATO, but instead, they expanded. Wars launched against Iraq from 1991, Afghanistan from 2001, the overthrow of the Libyan government and attempts to do the same in Syria and Iran continue. The Cold War has been revived.
The hopes raised by Trump that he would stop invading countries, make peace with Russia, pursue a more isolationist policy, dismantle NATO, address the needs of his largely poor and middle class supporters, have all been betrayed. His only 'successful' policy is a ban on Muslim immigrants, purportedly to fight terrorism, but in reality, to appeal to his racist, bigotted followers, who fear Islam, who correctly see that it is a powerful force which opposes the militaristic, anti-people social order that the world has been forced to submit to since 1991. So my own hopes (more like dreams) for change were dashed, as the ruling elites in Washington reasserted themselves.
HA: You have described Christians and Muslims as natural allies and written about Islamo-Christian civilization that has risen and will be the dominant civilization in near future. In this regard, my question is where do powerful non-Muslim and non-Christian countries, especially China, stand in this civilization? What about Christian Zionists and neo-Wahhabis?
EW: The Christian and Muslim faiths are almost identical in their moral standards. Muslims never launched war unbidden on Christian-majority states through history. This contrasts with the Crusades launching in the 11--14th centuries to conquer Jerusalem. Rivalries between the Ottomans and Europe in the 16th--19th centuries involving war were part of power politics in the face of the warlike Christian nations.
Western Europe embraced capitalism, imperialism and technological revolution, leading to the invasion and subjugation of Muslim lands, attempting to break the hold Islam has on people's lives.
This backfired and continues to backfire, as Christianity and Judaism, the 'People of the Book', sacrificed their faiths to this new economic and political order, making profit and usury the heart of their social orders. Muslim-majority countries have also been seduced by this world order, but Islam remains true to its beliefs, and as the capitalist order continues to show its fundamental inhumanity, leading to ever worsening rivalry, war, environmental destruction, and moral decay, more people are rediscovering the power and beauty of Islam.
This threat to the West is not a military one, but a moral one. But to fight it, Islam must be portrayed falsely as condoning terrorism, though the terrorism in the world today is directly associated with the West itself, its history of invasion, its celebration of mass killing in global wars with every more lethal weapons. The ongoing warfare that the US economy and society is based on creates a 'new man' -- a fanatically nationalist one, intolerant of others, for whom killing is a way of life, lauded as protecting the US from foreign threats, tho the US is itself awash with weapons. In the first half of 2017 alone, there 154 mass shootings, 6,880 gun-related deaths, and 13,504 firearm injuries, according to the watchdog group Gun Violence Archive.
To a Muslim, this scenario is like what the Quran describes as the lot of those in Hell. The moral decadence the world is now descending into brings to mind the endtimes, when sexual immorality appears among people to such an extent that they commit it openly, and they will be afflicted by plagues and diseases unknown to their forefathers; corruption in business, famine, calamity, and oppression becomes widespread; God causes those who do not live according to His book to fight among themselves. In the Shama'il of Timirdi, the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) predicted the wealth and decadence of the modern world: learning is acquired for other than a religious purpose, the most wicked member of a people becomes its leader, a man is honored through fear of the evil he may do. “Look at that time for a violent wind, an earthquake, metamorphosis, pelting rain, and signs following one another like bits of a necklace falling one after the other when its string is cut."
Muslims do not sit idly awaiting the end, but must struggle to keep the faith alive, while the other faiths fall away. In this sense, Islam will triumph, though not tomorrow, and not without constant striving by Muslims to attract people to the faith through example and effort.
China is a civilization apart, though there are 22,000,000 Muslims in China (1.6%). It followed a trajectory similar to Russia in the 20th century, with communist dictatorship that evolved into a state-controlled capitalism that dwarfs all other countries now except the US, Japan, Germany, Britain and France (though the top five have per capita incomes of $26,000 or more, and China of $1,000). China is also embracing its ancient faiths of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. It is not following the western model of growth, and is an increasingly important counterbalance to the West, and potential ally of Islamic countries.
Christian Zionists represent the literalists, who read the Bible rigidly, like the Wahhabi read the Quran and focus on emulating the Prophet in dress and lifestyle, rather than focussing on the moral truths of the Quran in the first place. Thus the 'return of the Jews to Jerusalem' is taken literally, rather than metaphorically, and interpreted as a license for Jews to expel native Palestinian Muslims and Christians, violating all moral principles. This makes their Christianity heretical, just as Zionist actions in the name of Judaism undermine the Torah, and Wahhabi and neo-Wahhabi (ISIS and al-Qaeda) actions undermine the faith of those Muslims who become victims of those heresies.
HA: In his first open letter to the youth in Europe and North America regarding the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, Iranian Supreme Leader demanded them to try to gain a direct and firsthand knowledge of Islam in reaction to the flood of prejudgments and disinformation campaigns against this religion. In your opinion, how much is this desire achievable that the westerners, especially the youth, seek knowledge of Islam from its primary and original sources?
EW: The attempts to blacken Islam have backfired. The old saying 'any news is good news' means that when propaganda is made that Islam is a threat, thinking people will question why, and put two and two together.
'What's threatening me?' a poor, unhappy American will ask. S/he sees the injustices around him, the corruption and cynicism of politicians, the theft and cruel treatment by American ally Israel against the Palestinians, which have nothing to do with Islam. S/he sees a modestly dressed Muslim woman (or man), a model citizen, regularly praying, fasting, unbrainwashed by consumer culture. S/he reads the hysterical anti-Muslim propaganda and begins to ask questions, to investigate for themselves. Even a bit of the truth will begin to heal that downtrodden citizen of the 'greatest nation in the world'. The Zionists’ plan (for US policy is governed by Zionist supporters) to blackening Islam in the eyes of the masses is converted into a tool against themselves.
HA: What do you mean by postmodern imperialism? How can imperialism be ‘postmodern’? Do the terms neo-imperialism or neo-colonialism cover what you are describing?
EW: The origin, 'modern' imperialism is the Great Game of Kipling, a term coined in the nineteenth century to describe the rivalry between Russia and Britain. Britain sent spies disguised as surveyors and traders to Afghanistan and Turkestan and, several times, armies to keep the Russians at bay. The ill-fated Anglo-Afghan war of 1839–42 was precipitated by fears that the Russians were encroaching on British interests in India after Russia established a diplomatic and trade presence in Afghanistan. Already by the nineteenth century there was no such thing as neutral territory. The entire world was now a gigantic playing field for the major industrial powers, and Eurasia was the center of this playing field.
Afghanistan was Britain's only defeat in this imperialism. It managed to control much of the world through force and subterfuge. The 19th--20th century is the called the 'modern' period: imperialism/ colonialism, revolutions in technology, politics, ideologies. 'Modern imperialism' is the struggle of capitalism to dominate the world, fighting the enemy of capitalism, communism.
The collapse of communism signaled a new era. 'Neo' is just a synonym for 'post', used to describe the unsuccessful struggle by colonies to liberate themselves from the colonial/ imperialist system. Neo-colonialism is the same as postmodern imperialism. I prefer the latter, as it captures the transition from blatant invasion and theft to a more sophisticated form of domination, using propaganda about freedom and democracy to cloak the same imperialist reality underneath.
Postmodern art, literature, whatever, is the 20th--21st century culture of western society -- eclectic, supposedly democratic, where 'anything goes', where there is no need for ideology anymore, as 'there is no alternative' (TINA), as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher put it, to the capitalist world order. Only old-fashioned 'modern' people believe in anything strongly anymore. All beliefs are equally valid.
Postmodern nations are ones that look independent on the surface, but are really just captive to the system, following the directives from the capitalist hegemon, the US. They have no independent foreign policy. But that of course excludes Iran, Russia and China, and increasingly others disaffected with the current world order.
HA: In your opinion, is it the US that runs Israel or vice versa is true? What have been the significance of the creation of Israel with respect to the American imperial project?
EW: The imperialist hegemon today is US-Israel, though the fusion is not indestructible, given the volatility of the international system. I will quote from my forthcoming The Canada Israel Nexus:
“It is not so much the US controlling Israel or vice versa, but of a tight group of elite businessmen, all Zionists, trying to control the world economy. In Masters of Discourse Israel Shamir refers to the little known Mega Group of the 50 richest and most powerful Jews in the US and Canada, founded in 1991 by Jerrold Wexler and Charles Bronfman as an informal but all-powerful policy-making group to add greater clout to the Israeli lobby. 'Indeed, the Megabucks crowd, represented at the Bronfman gathering, influence us [Israelis] more than they influence the US. Our politicians are just as weak and corrupt as America’s, but they are easier to swing and cheaper to buy. Consider that California bingo-parlor owner Moskovitz could push our ex-prime minister Netanyahu to open the tunnel near the Mosques, causing major bloodshed. That is why, in Israel, we have a parody of democracy instead of a democracy.'
Shamir’s conflation makes sense. Zionism, gaining its toe-hold in 1917 and becoming a powerful movement by the 1920, paralleled the rise of Nazism at precisely the same time. Both Hitler and Herzl were, founders of an expansionist ideology based on race, which became more and more fanatical, violent and murderous, culminating in a state based on race, destruction of the people on its territories, lebensraum, and bent on world domination. We can forgive the Zionists for negotiating with the Nazis before124 and during WWII to buy up healthy Jews before slaughter, even as the Nazis were killing the weaker, older Jews who would make poor settlers. Ruthless, but at least saving some lives.
But Zionism then hitched a ride on US imperialism, and adopted the Nazis’ more virulent version of capitalism/ imperialism, with the neoconservatives drawing US-Israel into unending war in the Middle East. Has the death toll of the US/Zionism reached the ‘6 million’ mark yet? Is that an exaggeration? Perhaps it’s only 4 million. There’s no denying the ongoing slow-motion holocaust against the Palestinians, but now it is engulfing the Arab world as well.
HA: Does the defeat of ISIS in Mosul mean the end of the global jihadist cult and other terror outfits run by its ideological supporters in different parts of the Muslim world?
EW: ISIS are descendants of the Kharijites who murdered Muhammad’s cousin Ali, and have from the start represented “a powerful current of puritanism which has, since their time, surfaced again and again in the history of Islam, calling for a return to the ‘true values’ of Islam, as they were practiced in Medina in the lifetime of the Prophet.” They believed that history had come to an end after the revelation to the Last Prophet. … They developed a narrow and fixed, ahistoric interpretation of what it means to be a Muslim—to be in a perfect state of soul. Someone in that state cannot commit a sin and engage in any wrongdoing. Sin, therefore was a contradiction for a true Muslim—it nullified the believer and demonstrated that inwardly he was an apostate who had turned against Islam and could be put to death.
Today’s incarnation of these premodern revivalists, dubbed neo-Wahhabis by Seyyed Nasr, have their roots in the nineteenth century. Their equivalent in secular Europe were certain anarchists, who saw targeted acts of violence as a strategy to bring down the entire imperialist system, either by discrediting it, causing popular uprisings, or by inciting wars where the imperialists would destroy themselves. This scenario for revolution was adopted wholesale by the neo-Wahhabis.
This strain in human society is not unique to Islam, and can be seen in violent demonstrations, terrorism, launched by anarchists (Antifa) today against Trump. As long as injustice reigns, such groups will exist.
HA: What is the difference between the true Jihad and the Takfirists’ version of that? Why is the term 'Islamic terrorists' used instead of Wahhabi terrorists?
EW: There are many meanings to 'jihad', struggle. In the first place, it refers to inner struggle to keep to the 'straight path', to control one's actions and emotions in line with Islam.
Inner jihad, defensive jihad, expand-the-caliphate-to-give-opportunity-to-accept-Islam jihad eventually morphed via Ibn Taymiya and Wahhab into jihad against-pseudo-Muslim-rulers, and via al-Qaeda even against civilians supporting them or merely caught in the crossfire, a permanent damn-the-consequences revolution. This perversion of the original intent was not inherent in Islam, but rather motivated by frustration and humiliation under occupation by imperial powers.
There is nothing peculiarly Islamic about armed resistance against invaders and martyrdom in the cause of religion, which is common to all peoples, including Christians and Jews. One can only admire Aceh’s resistance to the Portuguese in the sixteenth century.
Because Islam stands against the terrorism of imperialism, Israel and the neo-Wahhabis, it is essential for postmodern imperialism to label the beliefs of Islam as terrorist, threatening the rule of the US-Israel. Saudi Arabia is the chief US ally in the Middle East after Israel, so it would be a direct insult for the US to use the term neo-Wahhabi to describe Saudi-inspired terrorists. That Saudi Arabia can live so amicably with the true enemy of Islam is a sad testimony to the power of money, oil, western consumerism and a weak, divided Muslim world.