He seemed to have decided I could go to hell my own way. ‘Then we should get you to one of the companies at Istalquaal.’
‘Istalquaal,’ I said, trying out the sound of the word, eager to get it right.
‘I think that’s how you say it,’ Bob said. ‘It means freedom. Or liberation. Or something.’
‘That’s nice,’ I said.
‘They didn’t name it,’ he said. ‘We did.’
'Istalquaal,' I finally said, trying to draw him out. 'Does it mean freedom, or liberation?'
He opened his eyes a crack and looked at me sidelong. ‘Istalquaal? Istiqlal means independence,’ he said. ‘Istalquaal means nothing. It means Americans can’t speak Arabic.’
– Phil Klay, “Money as a Weapons System”
A dark, hilarious story that would be funnier if it didn’t feel so deeply, fundamentally true. (There’s a subplot about teaching widows to keep bees that gave me flashbacks to grant-proposal-writing in Kabul.)