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Squiring Out Of Baghdad
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Embed in Trouble
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Four Days in Dulab
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  Dispatch: An American Bombed in Afghanistan

With reality confusing and fear rising, illusions are being manufactured as fast as drinks can be consumed.
By Stewart Nusbaumer

Kabul, Afghanistan -- What a nasty week. The southern provinces turned into a desert Vietnam. Kabul had a kidnapping warning then a multi-bomb scare. My neighborhood store slapped a 30 percent price hike on peanut butter. And the ugliness was only warming up.

From the Gulf Times: "Nearly 15,000 bottles of alcoholic drinks and 1.5 tons of drugs went up in smoke near Afghanistan's capital yesterday as officials torched illegal substances confiscated…."

The day before this insanity, I barged into the office of the Minister of Interior pleading -- "begging" might be more accurate -- for a more civilized approach to the problem. My economic argument went like this: I could take the evil product off their hands for free, allowing the government to focus its resources on feeding its starving citizens. But economics is never enough when outside the window there is a raging war and the threats are flying and peanut butter has skyrocketed, so I added a moral element: the evil juice and sinful substance are loathsome, repugnant, satanic forces doing the devil's work in Afghanistan, no doubt about that. But for Americans they are moral necessities.

This was a time, then, for Afghanistan to shine, a time to help their struggling American friends. After all, in today's world it is not easy for an American to keep his head.

I knew my humanitarian effort to transfer the 15,000 bottles of booze and 1.5 tons of heavy drugs to my possession for the good of America was a long shot, but I don't live for odds. Still, I didn't expect to be laughed at and then manhandled off the Ministry compound.

"Drugs have brought nothing but shame and misery to Afghanistan," said Lieutenant General Mohamed Daud Daud, the deputy interior minister for counter-narcotics.” [Gulf Times]

That was exactly my point! Yet, these despicable and destructive substances should have been disposed of intelligently, humanely, morally. That is what I would have done. If the good General bonfires the price of booze and drugs in Afghanistan to the current price of peanut butter I guarantee he'll be witnessing some nasty superpower shame and misery right here in his home town.

American is a nation built of material obsession and drug energy. When material junkies and work addicts are thrown into the dark tank of crushing withdrawals and raging derangement -- well, Americans don't handle desperation well. And then the good General will be kissing goodbye his fat payoffs from the US Embassy

Yes, it was a nasty week. What I need is a bar. Although alcohol is banned in Muslim Afghanistan -- hence the giant bonfire of 15,000 bottles of booze -- heathen foreigners are free to indulge. Our bars run the gamut from cold Euro-plastic (Elbow Room) to palm tree resort (Le Atmosphere) to war-shocked dive (The Bunker). Most are tucked away on second floors, down narrow alleyways, behind high walls. It's not easy to find a good bar in Kabul, but it's possible.

The Shields We Create

Good bars excel at two things, at least two things. They kick the whining out of you -- barflies detest whiners -- and the more you drink the more you are filled with insight. Good bars are hostile to walls that separate you from reality. In the Mus Lounge, dark and cozy with a few 9mm bullet holes in its walls, Bill a portly American is firing some heavy insights my way:

“When reality is elusive, fear moves in to reshape reality … when truth is smothered by doubt, threats expand to fill the void … when nothing makes sense, Wild Turkey makes sense....”

Kabul is under heavy siege -- not from the Taliban, but from our doubts and fears, and probably from a river of booze. We’re clueless as to which way Afghanistan is headed, violent chaos or peaceful development? We have no idea if the alerts for kidnappings and bombings and assassinations are true or false? If the rioters’ chants “kill Americans” were genuine or fantasy? Yesterday they burned the booze and the dope, tomorrow will they burn me? Reality is in fast meltdown in Afghanistan. Threats are multiplying and subdividing and compounding. The abyss of doubt has married my right hand to a tall glass of Jack Daniel’s. Things are getting strange here.

“Good Times and Bad Times, you know I've had my share” Led Zeppelin screams from the CD speakers.

"We create shields of protection," Bob is saying.

I don't care what the neighbors say, Zeppelin insists.

"Hey, Fred" a man yells squeezing pasts us at the bar.

"Didn't you say your name was Bob?" I ask.

"Reality is falling apart in Afghanistan, right? I was saying we create shields of protection, so we say things like I'm safe because I'm a woman, because I'm a doctor doing good, because I'm a foreigner from a powerful nation."

Break on through to the other side, Jim Morrison now commands.

"Then we say those killed were up to no good," Bob (or Fred) takes a sip of Wild Turkey and swig from his Fosters. "We say they were sleeping with an Afghan's wife, sleeping with an Afghan teenager, involved in drugs, writing about the drug trade, whatever. We always have reasons for why they get killed and why we are safe."

I'm a backdoor man, Morrison screams.

"That's all true," I say, "But I'm an Internet journalist. That makes it different for me, right?"

"Right," Bob (or Fred) says, "No one wants to kill journalists here."

This is Stewart’s 6th dispatch from Afghanistan, his previous ones are:
1st: On the Road to Kabul
2nd: The Morning the Apple Exploded
3rd: The Kabul Rumble
4th: "Every Rocket Was a Painkiller"
5th: Kabul Erupts in Gunfire

Stewart Nusbaumer is based in Kabul, Afghanistan. You can email him at

Posted Thursday, June 22, 2006


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List of most recent articles posted:
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· Street Without Joy   (11/18/07)
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· Afghanistan on the Edge   (11/18/07) 

  Live from Kabul

By Stewart Nusbaumer

On the Road to Kabul
Is Afghanistan progressing and becoming more stable -- or slipping back into civil war?

The Morning the Apple Exploded
An inside view of an Afghanistan beginning to explode, one apple at a time.

The Kabul Rumble
There are many dangers in Afghanistan, but one is seldom mentioned.

"Every Missile Was a Painkiller"
Afghanistan is an enigma wrapped in pain with a future that is anyone’s guess.

Kabul Erupts in Gunfire
A spark becomes a riot and Stewart is surrounded by gunfire.

Bombed in Afghanistan
With reality confusing and fear rising, illusions are manufactured as fast as drinks can be consumed.

Unfinished Business
Defeat in Iraq would be a humiliation, defeat in Afghanistan could be a real threat.

A Diffferent Fireworks
On the 4th of July in Kabul there was a different type of fireworks.

Where Did The Dough Go?
Billions have been donated for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, so where did the money go?

On The Edge
It's simple why we're not winning the hearts and minds of Afghans and nation-building is a diaster.


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  Live from China

By Stewart Nusbaumer


Astounded in China
China’s development is stunning and its power is growing quickly; will America become a lapdog for the Asian dragon?

Bombed in Beijing
Yes China’s development is stunning, but not as stunning as the Goddess of Tiananmen Square.

Enigma or Bomb?
It's a weird world with weird Americans making it hard to tell what is really real.

Tongue-Tied & Stomach Pumped
While their language tells us about Chinese society, their cuisine tells us about a very dirty political secret.

Drinking & Driving
Driving in China teaches you to appreciate airplanes; drinking the booze will probably turn you into a tea drinker.

Sexpots Galore
When sex merges with politics, the Big Dog authorities never win.




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