Thursday, December 06, 2001

The Afghan Economy

I've commented before that on September 11, we didn't know much more about Afghanistan than the average Afghan knew about us. (That is to say, most of what both of us knows is wrong.) But I didn't know just how right I was until I stumbled across this story from, dated now but still moving.

You may have already seen it. In a surreal variation of "Jack and the Beanstalk", Afghans spend their last few afghanis (the local currency) on a flashlight bulb and battery. They take the makeshift light into the mountains, and anchor it to create the illusion of life, so the Americans will bomb the place. Then they can trek back up there the next day, harvest the scrap metal from American munitions, and sell it for some real money.

Let me try to establish a scale. "A kilo of the bomb metal is sold for about 500 afghani (about a Pakistani rupee)", the article says, enough to buy a piece of bread. The exchange rate (as of this morning, from is 4,750 afghanis to the dollar: 500 afghanis would be about eleven cents.

Let's see, that 25 million dollar reward we were offering for the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden converts to... over 118 thousand million afghanis.

Heck, why don't we just drop money? It'd be cheaper to drop a sack full of quarters, and we'd throw the local economy into utter chaos. I mean, more so.

Can any of us really, emotionally grasp being so desperate as to try to attract bombing in order to collect the shell casings?

Think of that the next time you're trying to decide whether a penny is worth bending over to pick up.

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