Admit it: You don’t know where the !@#$% Tajikistan is
By Greg Palast, Published February 12th, 2008
Or Kyrgyzstan. Or Turkmenistan. But as your kids will be fighting there among the oil pipes, you should kiss Ted Rall’s crazy ass for going there first – and getting it all down in a book of dead-on cartoons and reportage, Silk Road to Ruin.
Rall almost didn’t make it back. The Taliban who was supposed to execute Rall spoke English – the gunman picked it up as an NYU grad student. As happens when two guys from New York get together, they talked about New York women. Rall told his executioner that you could learn a lot about women by looking at their legs. The Talib said he looks at their eyes. “Not like you got much choice,” Ted opined, noting the draped figures nearby.
This was, by definition, gallows humor. Lucky for Ted, the fanatic shooter needed a couple of chuckles. We all do. And Ted gives us plenty to laugh at in his journey through a horrific wonderland run by a gaggle of lunatic, blood-guzzling dictators (in other words, allies in our War on Terror) where locals play hockey with goat heads.
Silk Road even includes the recipe of Uzbekistan’s President, Islam Karimov, for boiling dissidents alive. (I suggest you skip page 160 where Rall includes a photo of a boiled father of four.)
Instead of a bullet through Rall’s head, the Taliban gave him a “safe-conduct” pass. But Rall’s conduct was anything but safe. When, recently, Bill Clinton flew to Kazakhstan to cuddle up to the dictator Nursultan Nazarbeyev, he was ferried in on private jet of a high-roller locking in a creepy deal for Kazakh uranium. Rall, apparently, missed the jet.
Instead, Rall caroms through the ‘Stans by bus, barfing and bribing and joking his way past sex-starved, over-armed fanatics and avaricious body guards. He’s too whacked by dehydration and diarrhea to worry about the stark-raving danger of such a journey in war-time (it’s always war time in the ‘Stans) to tell us the story you won’t find in the captions of Bill shaking hands with a despot du jour.
Ultimately, what Rall’s story is about is what everything’s all about: oil. The ‘Stans are drenched in it, floating on it, or in the way of it. Thus, the book’s sub-title, “Is Central Asia the New Middle East?”
Rall’s answer is, “Yes, but more dangerous.” Hey, thanks for that.
Read all of it here.