The Garbage in David Finkel's Superb Iraq Book

This recommendation from David Quigg made me put the Finkel book on my Amazon wish list:

The Good Soldiers is nearly unbearable. Relentlessly so. Commendably so. Whether you’re a combat veteran, a soldier’s mom, an Iraqi, the 43rd U.S. president, an ordinary American, or some pundit who likes to make bold, loud, baseless, unshakeable declarations about the glory or evil of war, reporter David Finkel’s intimate chronicle of the troop surge in Iraq could — and should — anguish you. I won’t even try to replicate the book’s impact. Instead, let’s just look at a telling passage about garbage in eastern Baghdad.

The passage about garbage interests me because it fits with the overall aim of this blog. It’s a look at one — just one — of the small details that add up to define a place.

In the passage about garbage, Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich is trying to work with an Iraqi to tackle the massive problem of trash in the streets. With restraint and diplomacy, Kauzlarich mentions that Americans, rather than putting their trash out on the street, arrange for trucks to come and haul it away. The Iraqi responds with a story, explaining why that won’t work in Iraq.

Kauzlarich suggests putting trash cans out on the street. The Iraqi responds with a story, explaining that the trash cans will certainly be too tall for the kids who take out the family trash.

Kauzlarich suggests putting out shorter trash cans. The Iraqi responds with a story about short water containers — containers that led to poisoning when people sometimes used them for water and sometimes used them for petroleum products.

{snipped out all the best bits here}

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