Blast walls surrounding living quarters at Camp Liberty, part of a network of American bases around Baghdad International Airport. At its peak, the complex housed about a quarter of the total force in Iraq: forty-two thousand soldiers and twenty thousand support staff.
On most large U.S. bases enlisted soldiers lived two to a room in a network of trailers surrounded by high concrete blast barriers and sandbags. Army deployments typically lasted twelve to fifteen months, and soldiers tried to make their quarters as comfortable as possible. Posters of women were torn from FHM and Maxim and pasted on the walls. Pornography was officially forbidden but readily available. One Kurdish translator spent his off-hours trying to get Korean girls he’d met online to strip for him over webcam. The large bases had PXs selling TVs, video-game consoles, CDs and DVDs. The dining facilities offered dozens—sometimes hundreds—of food options. Crab legs, fried shrimp and steak were served every week at all but the most remote outposts. There were small stores run by Turkish contractors selling bootleg DVDs, cheap furniture, rugs and local kitsch: elaborately jeweled knives, supposedly antique muskets and anything with Saddam Hussein’s face on it. There was a Harley-Davidson outlet, offering reasonable financing rates and promising delivery upon return from the war.