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Meat cutters of Kabul hack at carcasses and praise Obama

November 7, 2012 | 10:15 am

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The late Illinois poet Carl Sandburg once called President Obama’s town, Chicago, the “hog butcher of the world.” Here in Kabul, the former Midwest capital of slaughterhouses has a kindred spirit in Butcher Street, a small road lined with lamb and cow carcasses and blood-splattered walls.

Here the thick-armed butchers, clad in smocks and hands wet from raw meat, offer praise to Obama in between hacking up ribs on huge tree stumps that serve as butcher blocks. They have quartered chickens, sheep and cattle for years on Butcher Street.

They frown at the mention of the Taliban and other fighters who have floated through their lives over the last three decades. They remember how the Taliban would buy meat one day and then haul someone away to detention the next. In the early 1990s, the Tajik and Uzbek mujahedin would have shootouts on the adjoining avenue.

But the mention of the American president brings smiles to their face and turns the older men to softies as they forget the stink of rotting chicken and the giant cow hooves on tables. Somehow, despite Afghanistan’s woes and all the literal blood and guts of the animals they cut apart, Obama makes them hopeful.

The cleaver-wielding men say they would like to invite Obama to Butcher Street. Sarbland Rasoul, 65, sitting on a stool outside his shop, urged Obama to come. He saw the warlords, such as the late Ahmed Shah Massoud and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar during the days of civil war. So why not Obama now?

“We would put 1,000 flowers around Obama’s neck and would serve him tea and lamb fillet and chicken. Any kind of meat he needs we will get it for him,” Rasoul said smiling. “I would ask him to bring more agricultural and work projects for Afghanistan.”

He and others on the street say they think Obama is still Afghanistan’s best hope. They worry about the planned departure of U.S. troops by the end of 2014 but believe Obama wants to help them. They complain that business is not the same since the U.S.-led coalition announced plans to withdraw troops; they think the country's businessmen have left for Dubai and taken their money with them.

“Obama should work harder for peace,” said butcher Raz Mohammed, 57.  And that was a thought everyone shared here as they passed the afternoon away with bees buzzing over the carcasses.

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-- Ned Parker

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