Shipping sand to Iraq--Really

NY Times:

On the very long and expensive list of materials that the American military had to ship to Iraq since 2003 and is now shipping out again one might not have expected to find sand.

Yet there it is.

This might seem strange for a country that is 10 parts sand to 1 part water, 1 part oil and 0.1 parts electricity. Counterintuitive. Absurd, even.

However, American commanders overseeing the drawdown of forces and equipment currently under way from Iraq confirm that Iraqi sand was deemed inadequate for the blast walls that have become perhaps the defining visual feature of post-invasion Baghdad and other cities, stretching for mile upon mile around government ministries, airports, military bases and other important buildings.

So, at no little cost, boatloads of more resilient desert had to be floated in from other countries — namely the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. And not just for blast walls.

“When you start to ask why does it cost what it cost for this war, you are like: ‘Hey, when we build a wall in the United States it only costs you about $1,500 dollars, why are you paying $3,500 or $5,000?’ ” said Maj. Gen. Phillip E. McGhee, director of resource management for the U.S. Third Army during an interview at Camp Arifjan last month. “And so we were going, ‘Well, that’s a great question.’”

“And then you look to see that based on the specs that we have for blast walls, it takes a particular grain and quality of sand. That sand is not in Iraq, so you have to bring the sand in. So that sand actually has to get on barges down in U.A.E., down in Qatar, has to come all the way up here, gets processed through there. You can either do one of two things, you can make the concrete, or you can just bring the sand up into Iraq.”

...

I suspect the Iraqi sand was too fine a grain. I recall seeing complaints from troops taking care of equipments about the talc like sand that gets into everything, requiring greater maintenance. I can see why that type of sand would not make a very strong blast wall.

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