NOTE, 2012-OCT-15: I think it’s important to note that the Rachel Maddow report which I’ve cited below was intended by her to be seen strictly as a commentary on the situation in Afghanistan at that time. The connection which I’ve drawn between her report and a what potential Libertarian future might look like in the USA is strictly my own. ~ Mike
The Rachel Maddow Show | Aired on July 17, 2010
U.S. money leads to modern ‘castles’ amid Afghan poverty
Rachel Maddow, with NBC’s Richard Engel, tours the Wazir Akbar Khan district in Kabul Rachel Maddow, with NBC’s Richard Engel, tours the Wazir Akbar Khan district in Kabul where garish, expensive houses stand in stark contrast to the surrounding poverty – a consequence of the corrupting influence of U.S. money and the reason why some elites don’t want the war to end.
Transcript from MSNBC
MADDOW: neighborhood now. Kabul. Talking about the distribution of wealth, in Kabul and the effect of
ENGEL: There is no distribution of wealth. This is where it is distributed. This is where it ends up. All of the money from contracts and association with the government and association with the U.S. military has ended up here.
ENGEL: Because this was originally you can see there is no real pavement or anything like that. This was originally just empty land.
ENGEL: And when the Americans came in with the northern alliance, the northern alliance, which was the allies against the Taliban, took this land and then gave it away to all their cronies.
MADDOW: Oh, OK. So they created
ENGEL: They created
MADDOW: A new war wealth neighborhood out of nothing.
MADDOW: And so we`ve still got open sewers and we`ve still got no pavement, but we have rococo
MADDOW: Nouveau riche castle.
ENGEL: That lease for $10,000 to $25,000 a month, because it`s a safe area. But here`s the irony. Most of the government officials and these are almost all owned by government officials don`t live in them. They rent them out to foreign companies, contractors. And they live in Dubai or have their families in Islamabad. So they are purely investment properties.
MADDOW: There`s a sign right there in that one. It says, ” house for rent.”
ENGEL: Oh, yes. Exactly. And the reason the streets are still unpaved is that these government officials refuse to pay any taxes to the government. They are in a fight so the government won`t come and pave the roads or connect it to any kind of sanitation system at all because the same government ministers won`t pay to register the neighborhood.
MADDOW: So they won`t throw their weight around to get their neighborhood taken care of just because they don`t live here anyway.
ENGEL: They don`t live here anyway. So you have these large homes, and some of these homes you see this building right behind you?
MADDOW: That looks like a hotel.
ENGEL: No. No. No. They are all private homes.
MADDOW: This is a private home?
ENGEL: It`s a private home. It probably has 25 bedrooms in it and garish, colonnades and unusual architectural features. And then, they`ll rent that out to some western client and they`ll charge either by the bedroom or by the floor or for the whole thing. And if you were to build this one it`s obviously under construction that is a $1 million plus house in Kabul with no paved streets.
MADDOW: America, it`s your tax dollars at work. This is the war economy as translated to land-locked Central Asia. We dump a ton of money here thinking that we are paying for our military effort. Everything that goes along with our military effort ends up letting or in this case, directing like a squirt gun, instead of flooding –
ENGEL: Well, the streets flood. The streets become rivers of mud.
MADDOW: But the money doesn`t go to the country and trickle down its economy. It just goes to the elites and power brokers who can keep it for themselves.
ENGEL: A warlord system. There is a lot of money in war contracting, supplying, shipping. And if you have been in power, you keep those contracts for yourself and you build neighborhoods like this. And maybe, you don`t even live here. You live somewhere else, in a foreign country.
MADDOW: This is what it is like in Kabul. This is the exact same dynamic that we saw in Kandahar where you`re talking with these counterinsurgency doctors and soaked military officers who are incredibly smart and have far-reaching thinking about this sort of thing and they can because of that, they can see the basic contradiction at work that we`re trying to do. If the whole effort, all the money and everything, is to establish governance and if the whole effort is to establish governance, all of our money, all of our spending here is only supporting the elite, the warlordism
ENGEL: It can breed corruption. Just having so much money injected into an economy. Afghanistan is very poor and it was isolated from the world except for the last 30 years of war which was an unpleasant interaction with the world for hundreds of years. And now, you have a totally different scale of economy coming in, billions of dollars a month. This country never saw anything like that.
MADDOW: It is going to people who are it`s not going to build the country. It is going to people who have private armies. It`s going to people who are
ENGEL: Next to giant houses, these streets are not even paved.
ENGEL: I think that gives you an idea of how much the social services are spreading.
MADDOW: Right. You can see, though, why the elites don`t want the U.S. to leave, why they don`t want the war to end. The elites are doing awesome out of our money.
ENGEL: They`re making a lot of money. And you can see a lot of the houses have these screens like this fencing and the barbed wire. They are sniper screens. So you can move around inside and they`re not going to stop a bullet, but you won`t be seen so it would be hard to target you. You`ll notice all of the houses have that because almost everyone in this … this is very typical of the taste and the style and a lot of them have these sniper screens. Almost all of them have the sniper screens.
MADDOW: In a neighborhood where you have something this real closer. This like
MADDOW: Garish. You`ve also got a huge deal of open field of garbage.
ENGEL: No services. No services. Every each house has its own generator. They take care of themselves. And they`re not really connected to the rest of the city. The same way a lot of these officials aren`t really connected emotionally or otherwise invested in the rest of the country.
MADDOW: So when you hear the government, when you hear the leadership say, “We don`t want the Americans to leave. We don`t want the war to be over”
ENGEL: There is an incentive
MADDOW: Think about this neighborhood.
ENGEL: There is an incentive because war is a profitable business for many people.
MADDOW: Yes. And if you`re trying to stand up a government, funding this instead of actually funding things that work for the people, it`s kind of
ENGEL: That is some projects have helped. Some projects have helped people. We were in poor neighborhoods. They didn`t have power before. They have power. But the fact that you can there are entire neighborhoods, like this neighborhood which is quite big, of homes that are renting for $10,000 to $25,000 a month, and there`s certainly no distribution of wealth. I`m not saying there should be distribution of wealth, but there is a lot of corruption here.
ENGEL: I think this neighborhood is actually very symbolic of a lot of the problems with this entire world, frankly. And here, next to an incredibly big house is an open garbage pile, because no one cares about the common space. Nobody it is not anybody`s problem. That is what you see everywhere. You know, you have a giant
MADDOW: And it is just all spread out and ripped open. And people are going through it to see if there`s anything valuable in the trash?
ENGEL: Yes. I mean, kids here are some kids right here. They go through it. And it is quite sad. I mean, they`ll go to through it and pick through anything that can be recycled or used again or of any value –
ENGEL: Metal things. So in a way, it is its own environmental but it shows there is a lot of poverty here.
MADDOW: Yes. This corner is like the microcosm of the war. This and this
ENGEL: And these kids.
MADDOW: And us, too, because we`re here as Americans covering this because of the American initiative here that created the economy that made this all possible.
ENGEL: I saw yesterday driving down the street, not far from where we were today, a giant tinted window, brand-new BMW M series I don`t know what series it was giant BMW. And you know, in a country that had nothing like that before.
MADDOW: Yes. Amazing.
I promise, we will not continue to be the all-Afghanistan-all-the-time cable news show, but it is an honor to have been able to do this reporting. And as you can tell, frankly, now, I`m obsessed. I promise we will return to our regularly scheduled making fun of John Boehner and not booking Liz Cheney, no matter how many times we ask when we get back to Monday`s show. Until then, have a great weekend.