A Message to David Cameron:War pays I can tell you. Kabul is a building site and the construction industry is booming off the back of reconstruction. Lebanon the same. What happens is this. Some foreign power, uninvited normally, bombs the hell out of your infrastructure until it resembles an archaeological dig. After 18 months everyone sits around a table in somewhere like Bonn, and pledges squillions of dollars to rebuild the place. The money floods in, and the construction industry that just two years before was on its knees, is now booming once again. In no time at all people are ambling through palatial shopping malls designed in the French Ottoman vernacular and dishing out piles of 'folding green' for something they never realised they wanted.
When things slide again, then you just repeat as necessary. Now Mr David Cameron of the swept back hair and boyish looks, you're a clever man, just this week you flew over Afghanistan, did you perchance bother to look out of the window? If you had you would have seen how capitalism really works. All hope is not lost for the floundering British economy. You had the right idea with those riots last summer, definitely a good start, but you need to stoke the fire a little. Now we need to incite civil war, let's say between whites and the middle classes. If we could get a foreign power to invade, I am thinking Belgium (it shouldn't be too effective), then in no time at all we will be the headliner at our own conference in Helsinki and countries will pledge billions as though we are a third world country. "What's that you say David, we are third world country already?". Repeat as necessary!
The Darul Aman Palace in Kabul - the legacy of 30 years of conflict
Power to the People: Most countries around the world do not have the facility, regardless of intent to recycle the detritus of life that threatens to swamp us all. In Kabul recycling is done by a combination of goat and paraffin. The roads are full of sweepers who brush and chivvy the rubbish into small piles, vans then come and collect all these up and deposit them on a crossroad somewhere in one big decaying mass. A local goat herder then comes along with 20 goats and they spend a day sifting through the rotting meat and vegetables and plastic bottles and faeces, until happy and content they presumably leave and vomit it all up. And bear in mind when you are eating goat here, that this is how your meat is cultivated. What remains after this feast of festering gunk is then doused and set on fire - voila, all your troubles have gone.
When we headed south out of Beirut on Saturday last and headed to the ancient Phoenician city of Sour, we passed a rubbish tip that was so high and wide it blocked the sun and nothing could grow in its shadow. It would be a lie to say that it was the size of the Malvern Hills, my home in the UK, but it was the size of the Malvern Hills. As the sky darkened and I removed my sunglasses I thought that there probably weren't enough goats in Lebanon to make a dent in this problem. And if they torched it you could see it from space.
Clearly though I am not the only one with this view because in Lebanon they have also pondered how to make benefit from the deluge of daily living. And their plan was perfect in every way, and yet somehow fell foul of the age-old problems of government. They have built a power station that will deliver electricity to countless thousands of Lebanese, a power station driven entirely by the mountain to my left. The beauty is that we will never run out of rubbish so they will never run out of power. The power station is built, complete and ready, and just waiting for someone to light a match and stick a two-pin plug in the wall. It has sat for two years, empty and idle, as the rubbish piles ever higher and higher, until one day I presume it will just become a ski resort by the sea!
And the reason it lies redundant? Well Lebanese politics is a deeply complex web of negotiation and suspicion between political and religious and business factions, and no one can agree who will run the power station. So they had the wisdom and the capacity to solve Lebanon's power problem, and yet personal power struggles have torpedoed the whole thing. People are people, that's all they can be it seems!
Rebuilding continues apace in Beirut - the business of war!
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