Sunday, January 07, 2007


Just What Is It With Painting Schools?

The New York Times reports that Bush's new [sic] Iraq plan includes a jobs program "intended to employ Iraqis in projects including painting schools and cleaning streets". Painting schools. Just what is this obsession with painting schools? Almost every time some Bushevik or other rightwinger objects to the news coverage of Iraq, their complaint that the good news isn't reported singles out "painting schools" as a sign of progress toward peace and democracy. When somebody claims that U.S. troops are beloved, not hated, by the Iraqis, they cite the example of the troops painting schools. I can understand the focus on schools. Think of schools and you think of children. Think of children, and you get a warm fuzzy protective feeling, and so by association you get the impression that the U.S. is keeping Iraq's children safe. There's also the association of education with "informed citizenry", i.e the mythical democracy that Bush is supposedly creating in Iraq. But painting? Call me picky, but I think Iraqi schools need other things besides clean walls. Like desks, and textbooks, and laboratory equipment, and electricity to read by, and teachers who aren't afraid to show up for work, and students whose parents aren't afraid to send them to school every day, and walls reinforced to resist bomb bla— Oh. Well, maybe "painting" is the only thing it's safe to mention without reminding people that there really is more bad news than good in Iraq. Or maybe Halliburton has the contract to supply the paint.

The thing is, as Al Franken pointed out last week in a think piece for the StarTribune, the reason that journalists don't report on school paintings is that the school principals themselves have begged the press not to do so, as they don't want to become targets of the insurgency.
That adds irony to the Bushevik obsession with painting schools, PW. But, still -- why painting? Or maybe it's the only thing we're doing that's remotely praiseworthy without calling attention to the shameful things we've done. For example, if the Busheviks bragged about building schools, too many people would point out that the schools are being rebuilt after being hit by American bombs.
That's exactly it, MEC. It's why Saddam was tried and hung for one of the most minor of his crimes (and one of the few for which he had some sort of justification -- the people he'd had killed had been trying to kill him), because it was just about the only one that was committed without US involvement, if not outright approval.
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