There are a lot of euphemisms and epithets for Afghanistan. I think the one I use the most is probably Trashcanistan, because it doesn't take any more syllables than the plain old boring name does. There are others, of course, but many are context-dependent. I think it's probably referred to most often as "this", as in, "Fuck this!" accompanied by an arm raised and swept across the horizon. Or "What did I do to deserve this?" Or, my favorite, "Look at this bullshit," delivered flatly, and with the index finger of the firing hand on a rifle making an exaggerated, inchworm-like pointing gesture at the empty wasteland that surrounded us.

The most colorful description I ever heard was "Where trashbags go to die". It almost always makes me laugh just thinking about it.

See, most US military installations in the world are protected in some sense by concertina wire - C-wire for short - whether a single coil on top of a ten foot chainlink or block wall to discourage climbing over, or a triple coil all by its lonesome to discourage even thinking too hard about trying to cross to the other side.

C-wire is superficially like barbed wire or razor wire; you've probably seen it. It's sometimes called "NATO wire". C-wire is specifically designed to tangle, shred, and maim anything that touches it. It has a helical central wire coil covered in periodically spaced "barbs", as do the others, except the central wire of C-wire is actually sharp, and is hardened steel, so that it retains its coiled shape for easy deployment in huge masses. Also, instead of wrapped wire tines, as in barbed wire, or small round blades, as in razor wire, C-wire has double sided hardened steel razor blades that are hooked towards the center wire on both ends, to helplessly entangle and hold any sort of fabric or flesh that it touches. C-wire is so nasty that special gloves had to be developed to make it safe to even install the stuff - hardened leather gauntlets with no externally protruding seams, with heavy construction-grade staples driven through the palms and fingers in a two-ply X over X pattern.

So. Now that you understand the nightmare that is C-wire, imagine a ten foot wall made of nothing but coils stacked on coils stacked on coils of C-wire.

Now, imagine that these walls are the outer layer of the only obstacle in a flat, desolate wasteland that stretches beyond the horizon for hundreds of miles. The wind is constant and unbearable.

All the lighter detirus from the closest human habitation - styrofoam chunks, plastic strapping, clingfilm, and yes, plastic bags, are carried like petroleum-based tumbleweeds for hundreds of miles by the wind and end up getting caught in the C-wire like plastic particles in a whale's baleen sifters. There are thousands and thousands of them in the perimeter wall. The loose ends buzz in the wind. It sounds like a whole sky full of high tension wires humming and rattling, and it never stops.

The bags stay stuck in the c-wire forever. Or, at least it might as well be forever. Nobody's ever going to take the time to go pick 40,000 plastic shopping bags out of a wall of c-wire. Anyway, it'd be like disturbing a graveyard or a line of prayer wheels.

This is where plastic bags go to die.

My life is plastic. I am soft in the sun, and
Blown by the same winds that felled Alexander.
If I die here, my soul will be a plastic bag;
I will join the others in the wire.
I will sing my sins with plastic lips, and
They will increase the lamentations of the polyethylene dead.




JC asks, "Why not burn them?" And the answer is, they get all melty, and cover the business parts with a thick layer of goop that hardens and then makes them pretty harmless, whereas if you leave them be, the points have no problem shredding right through the bags and into whatever is putting pressure on them.

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