Anywhere, here's my answer, in all its stream of consciousness glory:
Iraq, 2003–2004, 14 months. (This was my third war.)
It sucked, I’m glad I did it, I never want to do it again. I didn’t hate Arabs before I met them. Most disgusting people I’ve ever met, and I’ve been to over 40 countries, all around the world. Everything Evan Friend mentions in his answer, plus ubiquitous pedophilia - the curse that keeps on cursing. I had an eight year old boy try to sell me his little brother for “ficky-ficky”. MedCap missions routinely treated little boys for prolapsed colons. They don’t have anything remotely similar to what we Americans would describe as morality. Their moral code (the real one, not the formal one for company) consists of “Do whatever you want, as long as you don’t get caught.” Except for the rules of hospitality: if a man invited you into his home for tea, you were his guest and safe from harm. By him. While you were inside the house.
Arabs lie constantly, pointlessly. And they’re not even very good at it. They can’t shoot worth spit, which is why they use so many bombs. The vast majority of them don’t understand the concepts of self discipline, cooperation, courage, and loyalty. The one word that best describes the men is ‘craven’. On multiple occasions, companies of over a hundred Iraqi police or soldiers, armed with AKs and RPKs, in a reinforced concrete building with steel doors, would surrender to two or three men with pistols.
I will admit that I met one respectable, decent Iraqi man. Bravest, most dependable guy I ever met. He kept a PKM next to his door, and never went anywhere without a pistol. It was funny watching the kids, including the baby, pointedly not touch the loaded machine gun on the floor. His wife could really cook, too.
I had a different experience from most. I was on an independent CI/HUMINT team. That meant we got to run our own missions. It also means we got almost zero support from anybody. Our own command betrayed us at levels I really don’t want to go into here. It was fun tooling around with just two, soft sided HMMWV’s, one with a SAW on a cast-iron pedestal in the back, with a bench from an old truck tied to a slab of plywood for a rear-facing gunner’s seat. Sometimes, we talked some support guys into going out with us to be a third truck. There got to be a waiting list for that eventually, after they passed the word that we bought lunch and sodas out on the economy. The chicken was some of the best I’ve had outside Peru. (Never eat the fish over there. Or the vegetables - they wash them with their own water, which has been polluted for all of recorded history.)
Almost everything we (US forces) did in Iraq back then was pointless or actively counterproductive. We built schools - but let the Saudis provide Wahabi teachers. They taught the Arab boys (never girls) to hate America and kill infidels. Where do you think the ISIS supporters came from? Funny story - we built a school on the west side of a main road. A couple months later, the people on the east side of the road complained about their children being hit by cars, and asked us to build a school on their side of the road. We told them no, and explained the concept of the crossing guard. They didn’t get it. Why would anybody care about any children but their own? They just repeated their demand that we build another school.
I reduced a commo officer to tears one day after he asked me, “So, what’s really going on outside the wire?”
The weather sucked most of the time. It’s a desert, so it’s either too hot or too cold. In the summer, when it cools down to 95 Fahrenheit at night, you shiver. You sweat so much that when you take off your shirt, it’s white with salt and can stand up on its own after it dries (in about 5 minutes). Nomads plant and harvest the wheat, then let their sheep and goats graze on the stubble. They also got paid to block the roads with their flocks, so the bad guys could ambush us when we stopped. If you killed the sheep, you had to pay $100 each for them out of your own pocket.
Did you know that a .50 BMG round will go through a cow and then 12 inches of mud brick wall?
The coffee and tea are hot and they drink them with lots of sugar. They don’t use filters, so never drink the bottom 1/4 inch of the cup.
When it snows, the kids immediately build snowmen and have snowball fights. It seems to be built in.
Hummingbird moths are fascinating.
Every spring, millions of hedgehogs migrate across the desert. They move at night, and burrow into the dirt to disappear during the day. You can’t help but run over scores of them when you drive anywhere at night.
Every fall, millions of ravens migrate south from Turkey. The flock is miles wide, and runs from horizon to horizon for three days.
Dust devils come in waves across the desert. It’s not really sand so much as dried, powdered dirt. From land that sheep have grazed on for at least ten thousand years. It gets into your food no matter what you do.
There’a village made entirely out of sheep dung. They cook with it as fuel, too. You can imagine the smell. Especially after it rains.
They still make mud bricks the old fashioned way. It still works.
Not being allowed to shoot back when you’re being shot at really sucks. Politicians are stupid and a little bit crazy, and many of them wear stars on their shoulders. Intelligence reports have dates for a reason - raiding a house three weeks after the meeting seldom produces useful results. The smaller the scorpion, the more painful the sting. The bigger the wasp, the more it hurts. Camel spiders are to be shot on sight. Biting flies are smaller than the mosquito mesh, and don’t care about DEET. There are five separate species of mosquito. Mice get into everything. Gatorade is a literal life saver. You can drink a liter every hour and still not need to pee all day. You can hear a serious burn victim from a quarter mile away - even when the doors are closed on the ambulance. Mass graves have a distinctive smell. Putting a cow or sheep on top of the bodies just makes it that much more unpleasant to dig through. They will never send out power equipment until you dig down far enough with a shovel to be able to take pictures.
There is nothing Iraqis won’t pretend to do, if you offer them enough money. There is very little they will actually do, even when their lives are in danger. Kurds are way better than Arabs - but that’s not exactly a high bar to cross.
Lieutenants are stupid yet arrogant, and think they know everything. This is a universal truth, and never changes. It takes a special sort of genius to order several armored vehicles, one at a time, into the same swamp.
Arab officers are chosen for family connections, ability to pay bribes, and incompetence. (Competent officers would be a threat to their superiors.) The better Arab officers treat their men like illiterate, superstitious peasants. (To be fair, most of them are.) The normal officers treat their men worse than animals. (They generally remember to feed and water the sheep, and seldom beat them for no reason.)
They don’t have enough trees to have toilet paper.