fredag den 29. februar 2008


In the morning my two young cameramen picked me up at the theatre in a battered once red, now just dusty dented car, a younger cousin behind the steering wheel. The sun was shining and a caravan of twenty military police vehicles passed by at full digital siren song whirling up a mile long cloud of dust and for a minute everything was just grey mist and the scent of blinking blue lights sailing by and then slowly the cloud would dissolve sinking down dust to dust and again the day would be clear and the sky was blue and Kabul lay before us scattered dustbrown bits and parts blown over the plain all the way to the foot of the mountains and even climbing them as hardly visible patterns made of wood sticks, bricks and clay towards the steep and seemingly imperturbable and blinding peaks hovering everwhite over History and we got in the car and drove through the southern part of the city centre to the foot of Tapae Bemaru where the car gave a short try banging like a tractor and then gave in and rolled backwards and we stepped out in the sharp light and as a minor expedition of one white man and his two younger natives we slowly mounted the Bemaru and stood overlooking the city that had suddenly multiplied seemingly endlessly, behind each mountain yet another grey desert lay scattered with human destruction and I produced the forty years old, but classy “An Historical Guide to Kabul” that I had bought at the famous “Bookseller in Kabul” and unfolded the map and showed my two native boys the ideal route for the Walk and they translated it to reality pointing out roads and streets from up here to the central square and from there in a semicircle out towards the theatre at the foot of Tapae Maranjan and - quite exceptionally - I asked for their opinion, - okay, I said, - let’s do it!? - Well, one of them said (or the other) and pointed out the straighter way from Tapae Bemaru to Tapae Maranjan and the theatre, - maybe, sir, he said, - maybe you choose this road instead.

Alas, we have agreed on carrying out the controversial walk the American way - in this case being the Way of the Cowards and certainly not that of the European with the his aristocratic sense of the endless variety of urban structures and everyday life that one might encounter on ones way through a city like Kabul - we just go straight for the goal: Tomorrow at 4 p:m Afghan-Persian time Nielsen will set out on his (first) long walk from the mountains to the stage.


PS: On top of it (the Bemaru mountain) I had my portrait done: There in the dust balancing on the ridge the distant mountains in the background the shell of a military tank lay left behind by History (or more probably: it had been brought there dangling under a helicopter and dropped as a wish for the tourists that are so absolutely absent in this country) and on the tank a poor lonely ragged and hungry (etc. etc.) native sat silently and patiently and probably thoughtless and definitely unproductive mourning the failure of his people, - tres pictoresque! I thought and took my position in the picture and asked my boys to ask the man to please stay exactly as he had been when we found him, but of course he immediately turned and started to reel of his rigmarole of Afghan courtesies and even asked if I wanted him to tell the sad story of his life. - No, I said, - I just want a picture; please ask him to sit and remain exactly as he were when we came here! And so they did, but too late, he was already rattling ahead, and so I got another endless and certainly sad story about the peaceful Afghan who haunted by wars and foreign interventions had fled over the mountains to Iran and lived there peacefully and hard-working as a cook serving the Iranian people, until suddenly and without any warning the Iranians had thrown him out of their country and so, there he was: on top of nowhere with nowhere to go. - Sad, but not that bad, I said, - at least he has a nowhere with a viev! - He offer you to be your cook and make the best Danish food for you, said Mahmud. - No, thanks, I said, - teshekor! and finally he shut up and the picture was taken.

torsdag den 28. februar 2008


The Taleban have planned a coup for today, so the Americans have finally gotten permission to come out from Camp Cave whirling dust in the streets of Kabul with their Hummers and heavier gear, the helicopters whirring lower than ever before (Nielsen time!), and no one knows the End of the day, but from our plastic chairs on the roof terrace we have the most excellent view, the Parliament just three dust roads away, two freshly bought boxes of cold beer cans in the kitchen (1 Heineken, 1 Beck’s), alas, fully equipped with sunglasses and the first blushing springtime tan on the cheeks, we are now just waiting for the show to begin, hoping for maybe some fireworks at dusk or in the dark of the evening, my only worry right now being: how will I survive the last thirty, ten or fifty years of my life without music? will I be allowed to take a wife (and if yes, then: how many?) and, worst of all, how the hell will I be able to produce the compulsory beard, that I have never in my lifetime been able to grow?!

But except from that, just another overexposed day in the colonies:

This morning we were a bit late off for the theatre and so our Norwegian allied had to bring his coffee on the half hours ride in the van through the city, but owing to the very bad state of the streets (being merely just holes in the dusty plain and here and there the reminiscent of asphalt) he wasn’t able to make his coffee stay calm in the cup, it kept sloshing around and out scolding his hand and staining his suit, and so we agreed on the necessity of improving the roads of Afghanistan. And alas, by the way we had come upon the universal definition of civilisation: In the morning one has to be able to drink ones coffee undisturbed!

At noon my Afghan agent called and informed me he had found two young men probably willing to follow me with each one video camera on my long walk through Kabul. I had our driver take me to the remains of French Culture Centre and met them in there. Mahmud & Reza. They were not sure (“because of time, you know”) so I offered them 50 dollars a day. - You have permission from the authorities to do this? Mahmoud asked. - To do what? I said. - To film in the streets. - No, I said, - I never ask for permission, if you ask for permission from the authorities, no matter where, in Europe, in America, here, you just get into an endless bureaucracy and eventually you come out with a NO, cause, I said, they do not and they never will understand what we are doing, and so, I said, no matter where in the world, we just do it, we’ve done it in Denmark, Iraq, the US, Dubai and all the way up through Iran. - Yes, he said, - those are countries with normal situation, but here is different. - Let’s just do it, I said, - it is harmless, isn’t it? just a man walking into the city with a flag. - Exactly, Mahmud said, - it is a white man invading our city carrying this particular flag.
- We’ll do it! I said, - fifty dollars each and per day. - Okay, said Mahmud, - we’ll do it, but not for the money, for experience, it is interesting project. Good boys! I thought, - made of the right stuff! And they’ll survive, after all they are not the ones in the line of sight. I’m the one walking. They’ll just follow me in a car, filming through a window, one of them now and then jumping out in the street to get a closer up. - And if something like trouble, maybe someone come or military check points, what we do then? - You just duck, I said, - duck down for a moment, but please, I said, - don’t stay down the whole damned way!

onsdag den 27. februar 2008


THE MASTERPLAN (of yesterday)

In short: Nielsen come walking down from the mountain carrying the Flag into the capital of Afghanistan, he walks through the city to the National Theatre, he enters and step onto the stage in the last moment of the performance the Parliament, and after five years of wandering the world political reality he has finally come back home into fiction.

Beautiful story, isn’t it? It was. Yesterday we tried out the End on stage without having informed the native actors on beforehand. Nielsen just walked in carrying the Flag, he was received by one of the 13 children that our Norwegian allied has added to his staging to please the native’s wish for an “end with hope!” The child gave me his hand and brought me on stage and took the Flag and put it carefully on the ground and bade me sit down with every one else in the circle, the traditional Afghan “jirga”, which is the native form of democracy.

Then the rebellion began. The actors revolted: - This person cannot come into our performance! said the actor who plays the Architect and pointed at me, - he is a foreigner, and we cannot allow any foreigner to sit with us in the jirga! last time was when the British sat down in our jirga, and since then our history has been only war!

Meanwhile the secret information agent among the theatre workers had long since entered the second floor and informed the director and after the rehearsals we were invited to a meeting in his office. I carefully explained him the history of the Parliament, starting in a theatre play in Copenhagen, where I played the part of the People, the white man in the grey suit, who left the stage, the theatre institution carrying the Flag of the Democracy (which, in this context, I chose to call it) and who since then has been travelling the world stage, through Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan, the US, Dubai, Iran, and who finally, one of these days is to arrive at the theatre carrying the Flag and enter the stage and take place.

Impossible. Said director Qadr Faruq (minor star in the major motion picture the Kite Flyer). I might well, he said, have walked from city to city in all other countries in the world, in Europe, in the US, in Iran and even Iraq, but, he said (through his translating medium), this country is very different situation from all other countries in the world. This country have so many nationalities, who in the last thirty years have been at war with each other, and in the new so called parliament, Mister Faruq said, only two months ago, the parliamentarians were throwing bottles at each other. And so, said Mister Faruq, you cannot walk with this flag here in Afghanistan, because 1, he said, you are a foreigner, 2, maybe the different nationalities don’t like you and they will attack you and maybe kill you, 3. the Taleban might kidnap you. And, Mr. Faruq said, about this flag,

the true Meaning of the Flag

In all other countries of the world the white flag means peace, but here in Afghanistan, he said, the white flag is the flag of Taleban. And, Mister Faruq said, the hole in the flag means that in the dialogue there is no response, when you talk the people on the other side don’t like to listen, and the government won’t do anything to respond. Aha ...? I said. And, said Mister Faruq, in all other countries in the world they have something in the middle of their flag, some sign, like swastika or moon or maybe cross, but if you carry white flag with this hole into Afghanistan, means that something is missing in Afghanistan, means that in Afghanistan we have no democracy and nothing. So, Mister Faruq said, and his mobile phone started a spaghetti western motion picture melody, and he answered and talked in Dari, and switched of, and so, he said, to walk into Kabul with this flag means you are Taleban, and when you are Taleban, many people wants to kill you, the Hazars, said Mister Faruq, the Hazars will attack you, well, I said, then I’d better avoid the Hazar area, and I laughed politely, oh, no, said Mister Faruq, you cannot, impossible, cause, Mister Faruq said, the Hazar people are all over this city, all over Kabul, and so they will attack you and probably kill you. Aha, I said, and then maybe another, aha ...

At the end of the day in the darkness behind the walls and the guards in the opulent Pakistan-style villa with it’s kitschy pastel colours and semi-transparent bluish windows we had a meeting with our Norwegian allies who do obviously not like my Masterplan and who have troubles enough for a lifetime here and would be at least a little easier off without my being here with my sharp nose in my grey suit carrying this indecipherable Flag, that only inside the Beckwork has a bearable meaning, but to almost all other people on the planet means almost anything else, or worse: nothing, an enigma, provoking, threatening and insulting with it’s opaque Nothing opening a circular abyss in the centre, and so our Norwegian allied suggested that maybe I maybe could choose another way to the stage, that maybe I could go directly from the small, bare mountain behind the theatre and right down in and on stage, that maybe I do not necessarily have to walk all the way through the entire city centre with it’s multiple nationalities and clans and hates and fears and dark eyes, that would “høist sannsynlig!”, most probably kill me.

Well, so, here we are, at the end of another day that like all other days before this started bright and prosperous to the sound of the Mullahs, the helicopters and the barking of dogs, and from there on descended and ended beyond hope, beyond exhaustion in the darkness of yet another dead End (to the sound of the moaning mullahs, the helicopters and the barking of dogs)

tirsdag den 26. februar 2008


In the endless gaps opening between every ever so small attempt to gather the team of natives needed for the expedition - the long walk under the Flag of the New from the mountain and down towards the centre of Kabul - in the hours and hours of waiting and hanging around the theatre, I have thrown myself into some amateur archaeology. This is my first humble result:


On the edge of our excavation at the National Theatre in Kabul we have come upon this object:

In the early stratum (about 20 bt (before Taleban)) you see the reminiscence of a white porcelain object, a so called toilet or lavatory bowl. The users of this bowl - the bearers of the short era of Afghan modernity - seem to have appeared and done what they had to do (and what they possibly could do) and then disappeared. The descendants seem to have been of a completely different species, having absolutely no idea of the meaning or use of the white porcelain object. Nevertheless in their eyes the object must have had a certain aura, enigmatic, powerful like a holy object. Unlike the anti-modern Talebans and the Mujahedins who would have understood and thus destroyed the bowl as a sign of modernity, these present descendants haven’t dared to destroy or even move the white object. They seem to have feared or at least respected the white representative of an invisible god. And so they have had to built their more primitive form of civilisation on the enigmatic object: Two wooden boards have been placed on top of either side of the white object, and at the sudden the call of nature the user has had (and still have) to climb the construction and stand one foot on each board to be able to drop what was (and is) no longer bearable between the to boards through the hole in the white relic of modernity and into the everlasting (and everstinking) darkness of the present.

Though literally post-modern the present descendants are not to be categorized as completely ignorant. On the contrary the fascinating construction with its multiple strata of civilisations, the recycling of forms left behind by an earlier civilisation, shows us an ideal example of reformism. Unlike the revolutionary iconoclasm of the Talebans who blew up the thousand year old Buddha statues carved into the mountain in the north of the country, who closed down all TV-channels but their own and banned the women from almost any visibility in the public arena, and unlike the Mujahedins who - according to my research among the native actors at the National Theatre - used to threaten the kids in the villages from going to school because education was = the Evil, the present descendants with their recycling of forms left behind be an earlier civilisation, show us a patient though blissfully ignorant respect for the Lost Modernity, an exemplary form of reformism that from now on is to be known as:


mandag den 25. februar 2008


Tapae Bemura. The name of the mountain from where I am going to enter the city. A long naked, greybrown ridge, no buildings, just the huge swimming stadium with the leap tower from where the Taleban is said to have let citizens jump down into the empty basin. From there I descend into the city of dust and scrap, through crowded streets into the centre, past the ruins of the royal palace, the ruins of mosques, the ruins of museums, the ruins of all kinds of materials and ruins of ruins and ruins of still moving humans. No shape, no forms and almost no colours, just the vast nuances of dust. Except for the fruits and vegetables towering and pyramiding on the barrows along the streets, the red carrots, the oranges, the spinach, apples, the huge white radishes, the tomatoes red and shining in the blinding sharp light.

Went to the National Theatre where they were supposed to have staged the Parliament. A ruin populated by pigeons the sun shining down through the imploded dome. Down in the orchestra pit one of the war lords used to (sub)stage his torture chamber. In theatrical terms I suppose this is called realism. On the other side of the square our Norwegian allies are trying to organize and equip a new theatre hall. On my way there I had to cross through a refugee camp, wannabe tents and children with swollen red frostbitten hands. Had one of them polish my military boots. Went inside, zero degrees Celsius, stayed there for five hours, and when I left the snow on my jacket still hadn’t melted. Met the actors, proud men without any reason, no education, no real salary, no future as far as I could see. Surprisingly fond of European culture though. One of the actors had four grand swastikas and an eagle on his belt buckle. Hitler was greatest man in history, he said. And Auschwitz? I said. He had no opinion about Auschwitz. I guess you - as a people, a culture - have to have been through the age of industrialisation to understand the extraordinary significance of Auschwitz.

Had a young actor search the city for two cameramen willing to follow me on the walk. - I call you tonight, Mister! He said. He didn’t. The next morning I called him. - Sorry Mister, I asked to many camera peoples, but they cannot because of time. Time?! Here in Kabul there’s nothing but ruins and time, so how come they don’t have no time? - Just another way to say they are afraid of filming your project, our Norwegian allied said.

lørdag den 23. februar 2008


I didn’t read that many books on Afghanistan or Afghan culture before I got here. Who cares about Afghan culture or the History of the peoples surviving here? I thought that if there was any, culture or history, it would all be present when I got here. And so it is: Yesterday our Norwegian allies kindly informed me that the flag of Taleban used to be (and I guess it still is) white. Which means that the flag that I am going to carry from the outskirts of civilisation through the entire city towards the centre of Kabul and the National Theatre is the flag of Taleban with a hole in it’s centre. And the question is: What does that mean? Or rather: What is it going to mean? In the eyes of the Afghan peoples that I am going to pass on my way: A skinny bleak Westener dressed in a grey suit, white shirt, grey tie and a pair of second world war military boots carrying the flag of Taleban with a hole in the centre into the capital of Afghanistan, what does that mean? That is the question. And the answer is: Nobody knows. That’s why - against all these odd odds - I have to do it: So that we & the world will finally know. What it meant.

And then again: I can’t help wondering: Will they start shouting or, better, shooting at me? And if, then who? The new NATO-trained Afghan soldiers who think that I am an incredibly disguised agent of Taleban? Or the disguised Taleban agents who thinks I am a walking three-dimensional Muhammed-caricature? Or the special Operation Enduring Freedom fighters who think that I am some kind of albino son of a Pakistan madras mullah sent off to be trained in a subterranian London mosque and now returning as the avantgarde of the updated version of Al Qaeda, a new incarnation of bin Laden? God knows. No. He doesn’t. I’ll just have to do it. And then we’ll see. Won’t we? God?!

torsdag den 21. februar 2008


KABUL, Afghanistan. Another plain of recently raised ruins. Streets of mud, the faint green reflection from the open sewers. The women black tents moving along the collapsing walls. And the mountains, far away so close. Why? Why do they have to send us to places like this? Why always democratize the illiterate and revolutionize the ruins? Why not Vienna, Monte Carlo, Palm Springs, Mont Blanc or even Reykyavik? Starting off in southern Iraq back in 2004 in the ruins of Basra, I slowly worked my way up through the hot spots of far too obvious agents, Amarah, Baghdad, Amman, Bandar Abbas and all the way up through Iran to Tehran. But now, once off a sudden I’m back where I started: In the mud between ruins, moaning minarets among veiled women. Why? In the Terminal 2 of Dubai Airport I spent my eight hours hanging out with a couple of Blackwater guys. Two six foot tall 250 pound meat chunks. Flatfaced, no profiles, born and raised (but obviously not schooled) in the outskirts of Chicago, sentenced to spend their youth in the fitness center, no brains, all muscles and fat, but not fit like soldiers, rather fatfit like losers, covered with tattoos and heavy metal beards and gothic words, they’ll never be able to read, one of them hunched over his triple meal, the other one having 3 cans of Pepsi and 3 cans of some power drink in ten minutes, - so where are you guys going? - Something Something. - Never heard about it, I said, - what plane are you on, the one to Kabul? - Don’t remember, he said. - Don’t Remember? I said, - you don’t remember what plane you’re supposed to be on? They looked briefly at one another. - We’re not really supposed to say. - Okay, I said, - Blackwater. They talked about their days off in Dubai, call girls in Copenhagen, in Kuwait last month they’d finished the entire bar on top of a five star hotel. - Four more years, one of them said, - I decided to take four more years and then I’m off. - To where? I said. - Don’t know, he said. Two hours later I saw them boarding the bus for the plane to Basra. That’s all. My life with the ghosts of Bush.

I came down in “Kabul International Airport”. Just a grey brown barrack. I walked right out in the mud. It was raining, zero degrees, behind a sheet metal barrier a vast plain of scattered materials, “new airport by Japan”. I crossed the ruins of a parking lot looking for our Norwegian allies supposed to meet me somewhere. A native soldier or cop or guard or Taleban terrorist in disguise joined me. Nice guy, gave him a telephone number and he called it and somebody answered. He gave me the phone. - Mister White? I said. - Mister Nielsen? the voice said.

Our Norwegian allies sent in three men back in August to build up the camp. As I crossed the Park C between rusty cars and lines of telephone card sellers they came towards me. Had to be them. Didn’t look like Norwegians, though, rather a couple of Russian kulaks. The third one is off for a week on the beaches of Dubai. They have a nice van, the driver speaks English. On the way into the ruins of a city they told me about the work at the National Theatre. I told them about my mission, the long walk from the outskirts of nowhere to the stage centre. Later the rain became snow. We went for a walk, the broad streets almost empty, just mud, puddles and chunks of blown-off concrete, into the dusk, lines of street lights, but no light, all mist, and above our heads a chaotic pattern of power lines winded with strings from the kids kites. Men floating out of the mist towards us, smiling, or begging, mild, in rags and slightly Mongolian. Most of the houses just low and square and greyish, mud, bricks and plates of concrete. Here and their a new house, Pakistan style, opulent and with those gasoline-shimmering non-transparent windows they used for banks and office buildings in Europe back in the sixties. Our house, “the Centre”, in a side street, behind walls, a gate with a guard and “please take off your boots at the entrance”.

onsdag den 20. februar 2008



They call me Nielsen. I began my career in the foreign services as a multiple character in a play staged in a Danish suburb and written by some late Danish author back in the old century. The play was called The Parliament and I was the People. Then in February 2003, just before the Iraq war, I left the fiction to face reality. One beautiful morning (it wasn’t) I just stepped off the stage, left the theatre and took to the streets. Since that February morning I have been on the move. Constantly. For five years. I done service in Kuwait, in Iraq, in Jordan, Dubai and even in the US. Last fall they sent me into Iran. As an under cover agent. To start that revolution. Me and a colleague. Tall guy, red blonde, handsome. As bloody tourists. It didn’t really work, but at least along the way we had some beautiful girls and a lot of booze. But no revolution. In the end we got lost in the mountains north of Tehran. Since then I’ve been kept off the stage, out off service, as a sleeping cell. In some cave. Or in the midst of quotidian life. Can’t tell, really.

But now they sent me in again. For the final countdown. In Kabul. Of all places! Off course? Well, yeah, I guess. The War against Terror. Operation Enduring Freedom. Never ending story.


My job is quite simple. Almost as simple as a suicide bombers: One beautiful morning in late February 2008 I just appear. Out of thin air. In the outskirts of Kabul. Suddenly I’m there, cameras roll, I’m already marching, been marching the world stage for more than 5 years now. Same as ever: Grey suit, white shirt, grey tie, black leather boots. Carrying a white flag with a hole in the centre. They used to call it the Flag of The Democracy. Back in 2003. Now they call it the Flag of the New. What New? Never mind. I just carry on. It’s my job. No more asking. I just walk. From the outskirts of Kabul towards the centre. National Theatre of Afghanistan. That’s the target. Off course. Great symbol, stuffed with people. That beautiful night in late February when I come marching in. Me and the flag. Through the streets of Kabul, the asshole of Nowhere. But centre to the attention of God and Man in the twenty first century. National Theatre. Tonight is the premiere. “The Parliament in Afghanistan”. The story of a grand attempt to build and open a world parliament. Staged by the Afghans. But written by us. The Europeans. Of course. It’s a question of timing now. The play is a fiction. It has it’s own time. And me closing up from the outside. Pure reality. On my way to burst into the fiction. Blow it up. The actors all on stage now. Facing The End. In the moment they move into the cadence, I round the last corner. And there it is, old battered building, shot by the Soviets, Talebanned and left behind by History, but beautiful, still. I mount the stairs, I enter the doors. In the moment the actors open their mouths to strike up the Happy End (not the original, tragic, old European style, but a new bright and hopeful End written on demand from the Afghan people by our secret service (no matter what they say: their words will be written by us!)), against all odds, the Happy End, when the Afghan people finally unite as one, the Voice of Afghanistan, the last pathetic, nationalist monologue, the grand “WE”, that’s my cue! I enter the stage, burst into the lights, carrying the flag. I don’t say anything. No need of words anymore. Just action!