Spoils of war

Spoils of war

The departure of US forces from Iraq – also known as “planned retrograde” and “responsible drawdown” – is proceeding apace. Being far in the rear, I don’t see much change day-to-day as a result – except for the rapid proliferation of crap that’s filling up our office.

As can be imagined, the breakneck pace of the drawdown means that units are shucking stuff as quickly as possible, turning the whole theater into a scavenger’s paradise. Some of our guys were in Iraq and collected box after box of stuff, like the 68 (!) toner cartridges pictured at left. They sent back KVM switches, VOIP phones, laptop computers, hard drives, cables and wire, and fifty or a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of Cisco networking equipment. One of the big fiber switches was even labeled “Al-Faw-Core,” which I guess meant that it came out of Al Faw palace, one of Saddam’s big buildings that later became the headquarters for US forces in Iraq on Camp Victory.

There’s a scavenger yard here, mysteriously called “whiskey-two-november” (W2N), that I have yet to visit, but driving by it the other day, I saw nothing but trucks pulling in and dropping loads of…stuff. As far as I can tell, the storage yards here are enormous – I saw one yard full of nothing but giant truck tires, maybe taking up as much space as a football field. (Here’s an article about W2N, by the way.)

This incredible movement of stuff should come as no surprise; the end of every American war has been accompanied by a similar rush for the exits. Just one example, from Smithsonian magazine: “At war’s end, the U.S. military unwittingly enhanced the legend of their endless supply of cargo when they bulldozed tons of equipment—trucks, jeeps, aircraft engines, supplies—off the coast of Espíritu Santo.” The place is known now as Million Dollar Point; maybe we could call the reclamation yard here the Billion Dollar Litter Box.