Live from Iraq

By Stewart Nusbaumer

Surviving in Mosul Stuggling to survive after a horrific explosion.

Street Without Joy
Will Bush’s surge secure Baghdad’s bloodiest block?

Good Morning, al-Adhamiya
In one of Baghdad's most dangerous neighborhoods.

Squiring Out Of Baghdad
Is the surge ending or dispersing the insurgency?

With PTT in Heet
A Marine unit training and equipping the Iraq Police.

Embed in Trouble
What is a journalist to do with attacked by a U.S. Army biggie? Go to the bigger?

Four Days in Dulab
In a small, dangerous town in the most violent province in Iraq.


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  Dispatch: A Different Fireworks

On the 4th of July, in Kabul there was a different type of fireworks for the Americans.
By Stewart Nusbaumer

Kabul, Afghanistan -- Not having a mental health profession to knot minds, not having the normal array of bewildering books to digest -- 80 percent find comic strips too bewildering -- not having kinky bars to kick-start fantasy to ignite suppressed weirdness, without modernity Afghans are a rather simple people. Complexity and confusion and perversion all cost money, and Afghans are generally broke. The vast majority remain holed up in the desperate trench of ugly poverty where they scrounge to live just another day.

Still, they are a hospitable people. It should not have been a surprise, although for many Americans it was more than a surprise, when fireworks erupted in Kabul on July 4. Undeterred by hardship and danger and even the threat of death, a dedicated band of Afghans insisted upon delivering some good old excitement to Americans on their national birthday.

With raw materials purchased in neighboring Pakistan, smuggled by human mule on treacherous trails over rugged mountains 10,000 feet high and across Afghanistan's desolate desert with blazing heat searing to more than 120 degrees, driven north through warlord-infested and poppy-growing paranoia -- where around the next bend insanity just might cross the line -- in Kabul the dedicated band assembled the fireworks to blow a severe shrill through the city.

The first bomb exploded sometime around 7:30 in the morning, but in another part of the city. I was so heavily sedated by the ravaging effects of mindless drinking if that bomb had gone off right under my bed it's doubtful I could have blinked an eye. A few hours more sleep, just past noon, a second bomb detonated, this one in central Kabul near the Ministry of Justice -- never knew Afghanistan had a Ministry of Justice. I wonder what it does. This nasty blast buckled the walls of my room bolting me straight up in bed -- I glanced at the end table insuring that my precious friend Jack Daniel's had not taken a dive and made the horrible boom. But a bomb boom has a deeper voice than a bottle boom, and although Jack Daniel's twists minds horrifically, I've never seen it buckle the walls of a room.

Paradoxically, a simple people when living together can create one mind-blowing delirious country with contradictions and mysteries that are inexplicable for an ordinary mind. Well, for any mind. Why is Afghanistan time traveling back to the ghastly medieval? Thirty years ago a mini-skirt was common in Kabul; today a mini-skirt would get her stoned to death in 30 seconds. Why do macho Afghan men, renowned as furious fighters, hold hands so much? Billions have been pumped into this country by foreign donors, all with professional staffs here, so why does half of Afghanistan remain desperately hungry? Why, whether it's a firefight or a bomb or a riot or an assassination, it is impossible to ascertain the number killed.

So I'm scratching my head wondering how many people were blown to smithereens on America's birthday. Initial reports ranged from one to twenty. Later, I read seven, still later fifteen. The correct answer seems to be whatever your nervous system can handle. I'm going with one dead.

As for the number of wounded, media reports seesawed from 50 to 5,000. But no one pays attention to the number of wounded in a country ranked at or near the bottom of every social index devised by the United Nations -- child mortality, life expectancy, etc. I guess you could say every Afghan is wounded.

Being a superpower, the world's only superpower, one day of fireworks is insufficient for our super-birthday. The next day, July 5th, more presents were delivered. Not sure how many, maybe two, maybe three, maybe four -- I stopped listening at four. Whatever the number of bombs, it was a loud exclamation point that Kabul, which has been a relatively safe island surrounded by an expanding war, is no longer safe. Kabul is now a target for terror and destabilization.

But a simple people are not destabilized easily, with starvation on the empty table they have no appetite to think about being blown to smithereens. Americans, in our sophisticated complexity, are freaking out. In the wake of shrapnel ripping through Kabul, rumor is now flying. This one hit the streets just yesterday: Jack Daniel's is coming! But I haven't been able to determine how many breweries the famed healer of stress and antidote to insanity will be building in Afghanistan. First I heard one brewery, then four, later ten. I guess our nervous systems will decide the number. Mine says a brewery for every block.

Post Note: On the heels of our national celebration, one dedicated nasty soul was caught red-handed planting a 22 pound bomb on the steps of the Minister of Information. I guess he had a message to communicate. The day before, six Taliban were caught loaded with bombs and remote-control detonators. It is quiet now, but we know it's the silence before a loud storm. And the latest rumor has the number of Jack Daniel's breweries rising to 355, rising to nearly one on every block.

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


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List of most recent articles posted:
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  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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Book Reviews




  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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