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quagmire | by Robert Couse-Baker
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The drainage project in my backyard is erupting with unintended outcomes, a quagmire of my own making. The mud sticking on my boots reminded me of winter in Iraq. Most people don’t think of mud when they think of Iraq, but I assure you, it has very special kind of mud.


When wetted, Iraqi dust becomes a mud of exceptional properties. Imagine an adhesive of industrial strength. Now imagine the consistency crunchy organic peanut butter blended with the unspeakably vile poo that newborns poo. It’s like putting water on the creatures in Gremlins while feeding them after midnight. Paths turn into bogs and parking lots into tar-pits. You grow three-inches taller on the way to the latrine.


Mud gets tracked into every building, tent and truck. Mud dries to dust, adding insult to injury. You carry two pairs of boots: one for hard surfaces and one for mud. Even that can’t keep the spreading mess under control. After a while, you begin to feel about Iraqi mud the way people in Chicago think about April snow.


All my mud boots stayed in Iraq. Still caked with adobe, I said “Yipee!” when I flung them into the Burn Pit. I imagine the greasy smoke took flight on the prevailing wind, later settling to the Mesopotamian earth as dust.


I’m watching the New War on TV tonight. Lots of familiar faces and places, yet unfamiliar forces are in play. Monsters swim under the surface of a dark sea. I worry about our coalition troops in harm’s way, I worry about the civilians, and most of all, I worry about the proverbial Rumsfeldian unknown, unknowns. It feels like winter in Iraq and the dust is turning to mud.


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Taken on January 7, 2020