18 January 2010
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KabulPress recently received a pile of receipts from “The Diplomatic Duty Free Shops” in Manhattan, which supplies all manner of tax-free booze, caviar, cigars, and exotic chocolates to the world’s diplomatic elite. The receipts document thousands of dollars of purchases of Johnny Walker Scotch whiskey, Absolut Vodka, and a variety of French and Italian wines, and champagnes bought by the Afghan U.N. mission in 2007 and 2009. The receipts read: “bill to and ship to “Mission of Afghanistan 360 Lexington Ave. attn: Z. Tanin.”
Zahir Tanin, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the U.N.— appointed by Hamid Karzai
Dr. H.E. Zahir Tanin, whose title on the mission’s website is, “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations” has held that position since December 19, 2006. He heads a mission staff of seven from a 27th floor suite, just around the corner from U.N. Headquarters.
The receipts show that more than $2,200 in booze was billed to, paid for, and shipped to the Afghan mission during a three-week period in December, 2007. Was the Islamic Republic was gearing up for a Christmas Party?
Another order, filled in September, 2009, for several gallons of Johnny Walker and Absolut Vodka totaled $303.00, shows that the stream of booze might not be just a holiday splurge for diplomat jet-setters.
Not that alcohol is inherently evil—unless you’re a Muslim, where drinking and serving alcohol is strictly forbidden and un-Islamic. In Kabul, an Afghan citizen could be fined, imprisoned, or given 60 lashes with a whip, all in accordance with Sharia law, for possessing a single bottle of Johnny Walker. Dozens were shipped to the Afghan Mission in December 2007 alone.
It appears that Afghan U.N. diplomats have a different set of rules. And if government officials are willing to wink and nod about one set of rules, then other of their activities should be suspect too. Could it be that this level of hypocrisy in the privileged leadership is at the root of the Taliban’s appeal to the average Afghan?
Spending thousands of dollars on hard liquor is a special insult to Afghan children who spend their days carrying jugs of water a mile uphill to homes without plumbing or electricity, in neighborhoods without schools or medical care, due to the lack of government funding. It is a special insult to those journalists languishing in Afghan jails as punishment for articles critical of the government deemed “insults to Islam.”
With the heavy U.S. and European cash subsidy of the Afghan diplomatic corps, how do struggling taxpayers from those countries—many now unemployed—feel about footing the bill for thousands of dollars of booze for exclusive, posh parties in classy Manhattan office towers?
These receipts are evidence of just one more aspect of the Afghan corruption the Karzai administration and its international supporters must consider.
KabulPress assures there will be more.