We are experiencing the mother of all dust storms.  The dust is more red than usual.  Satellite maps indicate that the storms are starting in Syria.   I wonder if that qualifies as a Syrian incursion into Iraq.

Below is me in the dust storm.

I went out to stand in the dust as you can see in the picture (or almost not see).  You have to be in on the experience after all, the bad ones too. The dust stings your nose and eyes.   I can only imagine how it would be to be exposed to it all day w/o shelter.  It quickly dries out you mouth.   We are not suffering too much, however.  Our new headquarters is fairly well sealed since it was renovated.  This is a big change from the old building and a quantum leap from the tents.  During previous dust storms, it just rained dirt inside our building.   Today I can observe it out the window with some measure of detachment. 

Coming out of the shower this morning was interesting.  Of course, we don’t have showers or toilets (what the Marines call heads) in our cans.  I am lucky in that my can is only a short distance from the showers/heads, so I can make the trip in flip-flops and running shorts.  I don’t usually bother to dry off very much.   It is unnecessary.  Stepping out into the Anbari summer wind is (as a Marine colleague described it) like being sprayed by a giant hair dryer.  Today I had the added experience of fine red dust blowing in the wind.  I was coated like a Christmas cookie by the time I got back in.  I exaggerate only a little.

This is us coming back.  This gives you some idea of the distances involved.

On the plus side, dust storms reflect the sun’s heat, so it is a lot cooler sheltering under the dust blanket.   But it cannot be good for you.  I didn’t go running this morning.  I don’t think it is healthy to run in this pea-soup of dust.  I was thought I would be encased in concrete with cement lungs, probably in mid-stride, turned into stone sort of like after seeing the Medusa, but when I look at the dust blowing around, I understand that it would probably be the much more attractive terra cotta.   Maybe that is how those famous Han Dynasty soldiers came to be.

BTW – I submitted by essay re success in Iraq to the official State Dept blog (blogs.state.gov).  They broke it up into bite sized pieces and have not yet published the whole think, but please have a look.