Apocalypse on the Beach, and Al Capone in Afghanistan

(8PM EST — Edgy zeitgeist stuff! – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

Most of the cops I know don’t use language from the Book of Revelation to describe a crime scene, but P.J. Hahn, a candidate for Chief of Police in Kenner, Louisiana and currently director of coastal zone management for Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish, somehow rose to the occasion as an enormous orange slick washed up on his local beach.

The oil has reached the shores of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. It has turned marshlands into death zones for wildlife and stained beaches rust and crimson. Some said it brought to mind the plagues and punishments of the Bible.

“In Revelations it says the water will turn to blood,” said P.J. Hahn, director of coastal zone management for Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish. “That’s what it looks like out here – like the Gulf is bleeding. This is going to choke the life out of everything.”

And meanwhile in Afghanistan, let me introduce you to Matiullah Khan!

Mr. Matiullah is one of several semiofficial warlords who have emerged across Afghanistan in recent months, as American and NATO officers try to bolster – and sometimes even supplant – ineffective regular Afghan forces in their battle against the Taliban insurgency.

His main effort – and his biggest money maker – is securing the chaotic highway linking Kandahar to Tirin Kot for NATO convoys. His company charges each NATO cargo truck $1,200 for safe passage, or $800 for smaller ones, his aides say. His income, according to one of his aides, is $2.5 million a month, an astronomical sum in a country as impoverished as this one.

In some cases, these strongmen have restored order, though at the price of undermining the very institutions Americans are seeking to build: government structures like police forces and provincial administrations that one day are supposed to be strong enough to allow the Americans and other troops to leave.

This is a full-tilt protection racket, on the model of Al Capone’s “safe streets” in Cicero Illinois, where nobody would mess with you, as long as you played ball with Big Al.

A protection racket is an extortion scheme whereby a criminal group or individual coerces other less powerful entities to pay money, allegedly for protection services against external threats (usually violence or property damage, and sometimes perpetrated by the racketeers themselves).

In this case, the “other less powerful entities” include NATO and the United States.

1 comment

  1. Matiullah has been running his little racket at least since October 2009, when Gareth Porter posted a report at AntiWar.com…

    In Uruzgan province, both U.S. and Australian Special Forces have contracted with a private army commanded by Col. Matiullah Khan, called Kandak Amniante Uruzgan, with 2,000 armed men, to provide security services on which their bases there depend. That case was reported in detail in April 2008 by two reporters for The Australian, Mark Dodd and Jeremy Kelly.

    Col. Khan’s security force protects NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) convoys on the main road from Kandahar to Tarin Kowt, where more than 1,000 Australian troops are based at Camp Holland, according to the The Australian in April 2008.

    Col. Khan gets 340,000 dollars per month – nearly 4.1 million dollars annually – for getting two convoys from Kandahar to Tarin Kowt safely each month. Khan, now police chief in Uruzgan province, evidently got his private army from his uncle Jan Mohammad Khan, a commander who helped defeat the Taliban in Kandahar in 2001 and was then rewarded by President Karzai by being named governor of Uruzgan in 2002.

    But apparently business has vastly improved since those humble beginnings, when “Big Matty” scraped by on a meager $340,000 per month, a figure which has now ballooned to $2,500,000 per month, as reported more recently in the article from the New York Times which I linked in my diary.

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