SECTION TWO

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COLUMN 103, MARCH 1, 2003
(Copyright 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)

KANDAHAR 1971

                                    When you're wounded and left

                                    On Afghanistan's plains

                                    And the women come out,

                                    To cut up your remains,

                                    Just roll on your rifle

                                    And blow out your brains,

                                    And go to your Gawd

                                    Like a soldier.

                                               Rudyard Kipling

We pulled into Kandahar about three-thirty pm, me and Jill and the stolen beetle.  The first thing that we noticed on the road to the town center was that all the houses had balconies, and all the balconies had a soldier and all the soldiers had a machine gun.

Our kind of town, " I muttered.

So, we pulled into the official government tourist and post office. There, sitting at the only desk was a gentleman in Western dress with olive-oiled hair and pencil moustache. To me, he looked like Mr. Smedly, the maitre? d in a Marx Brothers movie. Aside from the desk, the office furniture consisted of two filing cabinets, a telephone with no connecting cord, two cane backed chairs, a clock minus its glass face cover on a fly-specked wall, and an outdated calendar with a picture of a pugdog pulling down a child's underwear.

I asked where I could change some money

Here is Government Office.  Change money."

I asked him what the rate was.  He said something like nine afghans (my figures may be a bit off. It has been thirty years).

Hey, wait a second!" I said.  "I got thirty in Herat."  

Yes,? he said, "but that was the black market. Here is government market, official rate."  

Well, where's the black market?? I asked him.  

Here,? he said, "but only after official hours. Office closes at five o?clock."   

Look, it's four o?clock, and we want to check into a hotel and get some swimming done.   I don't want to hang out here until five o?clock."  

No problem," he said, and reached under his desk and took a long blackboard pointer out.   He reached out and set the clock ahead one hour, and said, "Office closed!  How much money you want changed??

We worked out a deal.

 "You need hashish?? 

No, man, I'll just take the money now."  

On the way out, I looked over my shoulder and said:

By the way, do you know where I can get some cocaine??  

What kind you want?? he asked.  

What kind you got??  

He rolled his chair over to the government file cabinet, one of those vertical green ones with the five drawers.  And like a professional burglar would, he opened first the bottom drawer, and said:

Here, Mays and Baker, good English company."

He opened the second drawer and said:

Here, Roche.  French company, good for sex."  

Each drawer of the filing cabinet contained its own collection:  Merck, May and Baker, Engelheim and some thrills I can't define.  We copped a five-gram bottle of Merck.  The other cabinet contained Morphine and varied pharmaceuticals.   On the way out of the office I muttered, 'this is our kind of town."

So we check into the Manzel Bagh hotel:

"Hot water in every room," a relic of the days following the British incursions of the earlier part of the last century.  NOTE: during the Twenties, the R.A.F. bombed Afghan villages, making themselves the first nation to use aerial bombing of civilian populations.  This is added to the use of biological weapons of mass destruction against Native American Villages during the Queen Anne's Wars of the 17th century, the establishment of the first Concentration Camps (Boer Wars), and the Gatling gun against spear-carrying Zulus.  And, of course, the introduction of fire arms into central Africa:  the Burton/Speke expeditions. Britannia Rules.

So, we spear chuck a gram or so into our arms and dive into the slime-filled swimming pool.  When we climb out we find ourselves face to face with a jive-ass black hustler named Leroy who we knew from the States.  

Hey Leroy, watchya doin? here??

Hey Man, it ain't Leroy.  It's Sadeek.  I looked up my ancestors and I'm a prince of Afghanistan."

Facts and Fiction:  Leroy aka Sadeek was on a scam.  He had hooked this fish, one of those straight stupid types---a wholesale hardware salesman, who, having been recently turned on, was hoping for a score.  This mark took his cash, big ego, and teeny tiny brain and wound up in Afghanistan: a flounder led by a remora.

Of course the end result was a well-fed Afghan shark, a beached flounder and a desperate remora??".the usual story.  Later on, while we were in the pool, someone broke into our cabin and ripped off all our available cash. The police offered to arrest Jill on the theory that the wife always does it. 

The chief of police offered to buy our rented car.

The deal was set.  We were going to get twenty-five kilos of Hash plus the money for transport, plus our plane fares home and our stay at a sleaze bag hotel of which he had a piece---as well as a small amount of eating money and some grams of coke.  Now, the deal about selling a car in Afghanistan was that a car brought into the country had to be driven out of Afghanistan or left in a bonded customs storehouse. When I asked the chief how he would get around the "no sell cars? prohibition, he replied that the chief of customs was "my best friend, my brother."   O.K.

So, me and Jill said goodbye to the Manzel Bagh and trudged down the road, stolen car already in the police chief's hands.

In Afghanistan, we passed a large pool of water, man made.  On one side were three or four guys dipping a stick into the water and brushing their teeth.  On the other side were some other guys taking a shit or peeing.  You see, the Koran sez that water is clean and Afghans are very much of the Book.

It was hot.

Jill was thirsty.

There was a side road vendor selling homemade, home-bottled liquids.

Jill wanted a drink

I said," Honey, it's not clean".

Jill is stubborn.

Jill drank.

The next day, Jill was running a fever and dripping brown shit.

Cholera.

We didn't call her Twinkie for nothing.

We had no cash and medicine was available only on the black market at twenty-five dollars a pill.

Time to hustle.

Camera selling time.

During the early sixties some of the American pharmaceutical companies, looking to expand their market share and compete with "leakage? from U.S and R.O.K. supply stores, started stocking Thai pharmacies. The procedure was simple and well thought out.  A container would be delivered to the Thai pharmacy and six months later when the bill came due, the pharmaceutical


Everything
was for sale
in Kandahar


would be reimbursed.  Simple and easy, except for one thing.   The pharmacies would sell their stock, below cost, but for cash to interested buyers?Viet Cong or black marketers.  The cash received would then be loaned out by loan sharks at the normal Asiatic interest rates?36% or higher "and/or used to buy young girls for the Bangkok whorehouses".or morphine base from Chung Mai, much of which was later sold to American G.I.s on R&R.   This practice caused a shortage of medicines at Asiatic pharmacies and resulted in my having to pay twenty-five bucks a pill in order to save my wife's life.

When we'd sold the car, I'd again asked the C.O.P. if all was cool with customs.

He answered,

Not to worry. Customs chief my best friend."

So we packed the hash into a double bottom container, gave transit money to the shipping agent and set off to Kandahar airport ready make our run.  We get to the airport, accompanied by The Chief, and get to the first security officer.

'this man sell car," with a wink.  "Give this man little baksheesh," and points to my binoculars.

I give.

He stamps.

Next we get to Emigration.

'this man sell car."

Give this man little baksheesh," and points to my tape recorder.

I give.

He stamps.

Finally we walk across the tarmac and climb the gang-plank.  Suddenly, this guy in uniform and braids appears in the doorway and holds up his hands.

Chief of Emigration

No problem," sez the Chief of Police.  "He my best friend."

'these people no can leave. Sell car. Illegal. No pay taxes. No can leave Afghanistan."

The Chief of Police turns red. 

How you do this?  You my best friend! Why you do??

If I your best friend, why you no give me Baksheesh??

We returned to the hotel in time to see the hotel keep stealing my hash from the box.  The chief, a decent man, gave me ten pounds of hash, some money and a name and address in Herat.

He said, "My fault. My money."

That's why cowboys loved Afghanistan.

We sold the car in Herat to a Member of Parliament who was a diamond smuggler. He had to sign with an X and a thumbprint but he didn't forget the Baksheesh.

We bused to Kabul, stopping five times in route for obligatory prayers, except for Jill who wouldn't put her arse in the air, not for that crowd.

We had more adventures but later for that.

We left Afghanistan with a shipment in route, some money, cholera and hepatitis after a series of adventures during which we purchased customs and the post office, their motto being, "If you do business, why you no do business with us??

Everything's for sale in Afghanistan, including the country.

Lotsa luck, Rummy.  ##  

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