Saturday, April 24, 2010

Beer, Booze and Bribery

As part of our continuing series detailing the depths of depravity and corruption that Afghanistan has sunk to, tonight I point you towards this story in the London Times, online edition.

Last Monday night, the ANP* decided to mount one of their periodic raids on local Kabul establishments that sell alcohol. A total of five were targeted, four of which were shut-down immediately. The last one escaped being shut down because the district police commander is a regular customer and cut a deal with the owner. I know because I was there at the time.

*Jerome Starkey, writing for the Times, describes these units as the "vice and virtue" police but that's not really accurate. There are no "vice" police here (and there damn sure ain't any virtue). It's just the regular ANP, supported by units of the NDS.

As per SOP, the next day the police described these places as "the centres of immorality and the centres of alcohol." Note also the use of the word "guesthouses" to describe these establishments, which implies rooms for sleeping and perhaps other nefarious activities (i.e. prostitution). Only one of these places was an actual "guesthouse" and that happened to be the one I was at.* So the only true guesthouse is the only one that didn't get shut down.

*And, just for the dirty-minded out there, there is no prostitution at that establishment. I was only drinking in the bar.

I also love the use of the phrase "center of immorality," as if your average Afghan cop is even passingly familiar with the concept of morality. Moral and cultural relativism aside, there are at least a few basic concepts that should be considered beyond "moral" and buggering underage boys and coercing bribes from the destitute probably fall outside those parameters. Both of which the ANP excels at.

Also per SOP, the cops carted off all the booze. As the article points out, "1,164 bottles of wine and 5,194 bottles of beer" were confiscated, to be destroyed later.'s the thing: there's always way more hard liquor in these places than beer and wine. How come that stuff isn't mentioned in the press release? Because that's the valuable stuff. Anyone can get beer (and Afghans don't drink wine, generally speaking); it's the whisky and the vodka that's truly valuable. They don't mention that because it didn't make it into the official inventory. The hard stuff will be sold out of the back of ANP Ford Rangers for the next couple of weeks. I conducted a little experiment to confirm this and managed to procure four bottles of Johnnie Walker Red Label for $70 USD each (below market rates) from the ANP district chief who lives across the road. He even had a drink with me to seal the deal. So much for stamping out the vice of alcohol.

Next post: after the booze is carted off and the owners harassed and arrested, the truly despicable stuff starts. Everyone who thinks that all we need to do to solve Afghanistan's problems is to empower Afghan women should pay attention.


mud poisoned said...

Front line did a story on Bacha Bazzi tonight. It is so wrong on so many levels.

James G - Death Valley Mag said...

Excellent article man, great to read some first hand stuff

~James G

PaladinSix said...

I'll get back to the bacha bazi story and the Frontline documentary (which I haven't seen yet) in a later post.

Frankly, I can only handle so much distasteful stuff in one week.

Anonymous said...

I watched BBC 4's On Demand of "Dancing Boys in Afghanistan" over bacha bazzi and thought of you and what your thoughts were on it and if you notice it happening around you.

Anonymous said...

Hi, is it easy to get alcohol over there?
Could you tell me some more about the market rates for "normal" products?