Thebastidge: More impressions
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    ********************Southwest Washington Surplus, your prepping supply store********************

    Sunday, September 24, 2006

    More impressions

    It doesn’t take long in this heat for a porta-jon to get pretty ripe.

    I’ve been hearing stories about this place from the guys who’ve been here for a while. Everyone knows that Arabs consider the left hand to be irredeemably dirty because traditionally, they use it to wipe their ass bare-handed.

    They also shake hands in a very limp-wristed fashion, but that’s a different topic. The guys tell me of shared camps where the Iraqi’s lack of hygiene and basic care for their environment has made conditions really nasty. I see it for myself as well. We fly over Baghdad at very low altitudes when traveling. This place was a ghetto long before we bombed it. It’s obvious that much of the ‘damage’ is just long term neglect. Most of what I can see of Baghdad from the air (often at 100 meters or so) looks like the worst of Bakersfield; dusty, dirty, and vandalized with piles of trash. Burning seems to be the most enlightened form of trash disposal, when they can be bothered. The haze of dust and trash fires over Baghdad combine to make visibility a matter of a couple-three miles, even from the air.

    Iraqis throw trash anywhere. They drop water bottles into the porta-jons and even into toilets, when they can be talked into using toilets. The money quote from my first mission: “you’re going to turn this network over to Iraqi control when?!? We can’t even get these guys to shit in toilets!”

    Apparently another aspect of Iraqi/Arab culture is that it’s offensive to take a crap on a toilet because others have sat there. This is not a matter of hygiene concerns: they’ll crap in their own tents, on the designated paths, wherever. It’s only consistent bitching that gets them to crap outside the berm that surrounds the camps. When they do crap in the porta-jons, they’ll drop their water bottles etc. in there with no concern for whoever has to clean it out. Iraqi recruits (and I visited a basic training facility) don’t even have to do “police calls” on the grounds- they pay TCNs (third country nationals in military parlance) to pick up trash around their barracks. That kind of work is beneath their dignity, so they have no discipline about picking up after themselves.

    The IZ is a confusing place. There are no maps available to new people to orient themselves: these would quickly make their way outside the fence and be used for targeting, so they just don’t hand anything out. Even inside the IZ, there are checkpoints everywhere, and internal compounds that you must have clearance and a badge to enter. Each of these compounds is surrounded by “T-walls”; 10 foot-high concrete barriers that have a t-shaped foot. This means that sight-distance is very limited, maybe 50 meters at the best. It makes navigating around very difficult until you get things memorized. You may know where you are, and where you want to go, but you won’t know how to get there. Everything is a literal maze or warren of bunkers, t-walls, piles of sandbags and trailers.

    Pedro and the guys roped me into a game of Texas Hold’em last night and took me for $20- bastards. :) I don’t even like playing poker. I wonder what that NAZI bastard Saddam thinks of mongrel coalition troops playing poker in the rotunda of his palace. I hope it burns his ass.

    Started reading LTC David Grossman’s “On Combat” today. Main thing I’ve taken from it so far: get more sleep.


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