Dust in the Wind… and the Humvees

Last week. the president announced that the troops currently in Iraq will be home by the end of the year. That’s a big statement.

This post isn’t an endorsement or a criticism of that decision, but more of a caution about communicating huge promises like that.

When I got back from Iraq in 2004, I brought my camera to a friend of mine to see if he could clean it. “Can you clean all of Iraq out if it?” I asked.

“It depends on how much of Iraq you brought back in it,” he said.

And there’s the problem, folks. You maybe happy or angry about the fact that President Obama has promised to pull out the troops by the end of the year, but you probably have no idea what that means as far as logistics go.

If you’ve ever been to Iraq, you know that “sand” is barely the correct word to describe what’s on the ground there. Forget what you’ve seen at the beach in the Carolinas, folks. Iraqi sand is brown baby powder. Soldiers don’t follow one another closely while walking because the clouds that kick up with choke them if they do. Tissues turn black when you blow your nose. You have to shake your socks out at the end of the day – regardless what boots you wear. And, yes, even our poor cameras are full of sand after a couple of weeks. I remember the stores on base couldn’t keep cans of compressed air on the shelves…

So, that said, imagine what a Humvee looks like, or a Bradley, or an MRAP, after years of duty. In order to bring that stuff back, it needs more than a drive-thru car wash. In order to prevent the spread of invasive species and whatnot, all that sand has to be removed. All of it.

Plus, have you ever seen a helicopter get shipped? Pilots don’t fly Apaches home from Iraq. Those are washed too, then each one is shrink-wrapped. That’s not a five-minute process.

The president made a big promise to a group of stakeholders that doesn’t deserve any broken promises. I’m not a logistical genius, but I know that what the president promised requires more than a few thousand plane tickets. If he doesn’t deliver on this promise, it’ll be a public relations nightmare.

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