Yesterday I linked to an excellent piece in the Danger Room about the Land Warrior gear currently in use in Iraq. Today I check back and see that the comments section has degenerated into a spitting match about calling Tarmiyah a “filthy little town” and the definition and political correctness of the term “Islamist”.
That’s always nice to see on a site primarily about defense technology.
I won’t even get into the whole debate over what “Islamist” means.
Another commenter responded to the “filthy little town” comment with:
I’ve been to Tarmiyah. It is little and also filthy (but then the trash tht litters Iraq makes a good deal of it filthy).
But what does he know? He was probably too busy being deployed to Iraq to take all of his nice little PC classes. (That’s what I tell my buddy who was part of the invasion of Iraq…What could he possibly know about what happened? He was with the Marines in the middle of the desert with no internet. Sheesh.)
I first noticed it at a truck stop outside of Basra. Actually, I’d seen it happen all over Iraq, but hadn’t paid much attention before. Now, as people peeled bananas, unwrapped cigarette packages, finished soft drinks, then dropped their garbage where they stood, it dawned on me: littering is a way of life in this country. Not that this particular truck stop offered much in the way of trash receptacles beyond a rusty oil drum and soiled cardboard boxes. What happened to waste material was clear: about fifty feet to the right of the dingy tea house and accompanying vendor stalls stood a four-foot-tall heap of fly-infested refuse. A pair of dogs were rooting through the debris.
Meanwhile, across the oil-soaked gravel of the parking lot, hordes of teenagers washed, rinsed, and wiped down motorists’ SUVs, Chevrolet Caprices, Volkswagen Passats, and other cars until they glittered in the sun. “That’s Iraq for you’ grunted my traveling companion, Iraqi journalist Yahya Batat. “They turn the landscape into a trash heap, yet make sure their cars are clean.”
And not just their cars. Arriving in Basra later that day, I accompanied Yahya (pronounced ya-HEER) to his in-laws’ home, where, in true Arab custom, we were treated to a huge repast of fish, rice, salad, assorted condiments, and bread. Also in keeping with Arab mores, I noticed, the house was cool and comfortable, with immaculately clean interiors. Outside, on the street, it was a different matter. Down the block stretched small ridges of bottles, cans, rotting animal and vegetable matter, leading to a hillock of filth piled at the end of the road. Given the cleanliness of the house, the contrast was startling. Even more astonishing, people went about their business seemingly unconcerned with the trash laying about them slowly stewing in the sun.
It was the same across Basra–across Arab Iraq, in fact: spotless homes shielded by high concrete walls from the garbage that clotted the streets.
If you look through as many military photos from Iraq as I do, you’re sure to notice the trash that seems to be everywhere. This just seems to be the way that it is.
Here’s another bit from Vincent’s book that mentions trash:
Haider, for example, told me of acting as the translator for a German TV crew working outside of Baghdad in the summer of 2003.
The crew, he recounted, filmed a village trash heap, then reported, over his protests, that the smoldering compost was once “fertile farmland destroyed by Coalition bombs.”
Nice. If you haven’t red IN THE RED ZONE, you probably ought to.