Blogs > Liberty and Power > Iraq: Whitewash, Cosmetics and Stinking Toilets

Jun 28, 2004 12:28 pm

Iraq: Whitewash, Cosmetics and Stinking Toilets

Americans have always believed that schooling -- even outside the context of a real liberal education - is, as the Jeffersonian mechanic William Manning, put it over two centuries ago,"The Key of Libberty."

Much of our"aid" in Iraq has supposedly gone in this direction, to"win the hearts and the minds" of the people by helping the schools.

A recent piece by Dan Murphy in The Christian Science Monitor,"Quick school fixes won few Iraqi hearts," illuminates some of the fundamental problems the Coalition Forces have faced in bringing"Democracy" to that country after bombing it for a dozen years.

American aid programs date all the way back to the unilateral policy of President George Washington's effort in Haiti in 1792 to keep control of the emerging revolution there in the hands of the Creoles rather than the Blacks. We all know what a great triumph that 212 year span effort has achieved!

In Iraq, the Bechtel Corporation, one of the Corporatist, supposedly private contractors, with a billion dollar contract, complains that dealing with sewage wasn't a part its whitewashing the walls of the schools program, and apparently much of the money appropriated never reached anyone but the company's stockholders.

The toilet problem reminds me of 1981, when the USIA sent me out to the Philippines to lecture for several weeks after the Vice President, one George H. W. Bush, later known as George I/41, had boo-booed by getting drunk in the Palace and embracing the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, in violation of careful instructions given him by the State Dept. My speeches, I learned later, were a means of inviting many of the Aquino people and informally telling them to disregard Bush's actions, and that American policy was moving away from Marcos.

I guess if Vice President Cheney can use the"F" word to a Senator, I can reveal that what the State Dept. officer really said was that Bush was"full of shit," much as are the toilets in many Iraqi schools.

I had been invited to Washington, sometimes unkindly referred to as"the anal sphincter of the American Empire," to serve for a semester as an Economist with the Joint Economic Committee of the Congress, to study affordable housing because, while I was a professor, I was also director of the Small Business Development Center at my university, and headed Marina Construction Co., developing affordable properties in south Florida. I was sent to the Philippines with less than a day's notice after it was determined I was the only one around with a Ph.D. in American Studies for a conference in Tagaytay City, spoke Spanish, and had written on the Philippines.

Since I was studying affordable housing, my USIA hosts happily took me out to a project of 500 houses outside of Manila that was supposed to be one of the" crown jewels" of the American aid program. There was only one slight problem; while all of the houses had nice new toilets, someone had forgotten such a system had to be hooked up to a central sewage system.

Not to worry, however, because the Filipinos are not only a patient people, but also a very inventive one, as their efforts in the"informal economy" have demonstrated for many centuries. They had discovered that a dry, empty toilet makes a wonderful place for a chicken to roost on some hay and lay eggs. Well, I suppose, an egg-aid program is better than nothing, and there was not the stench of sewage as in Iraq.

Maybe, what we really need is a program, not to"win hearts and minds," but rather a program"to save noses from smelling." I recall an ecologist pointing out that in the acid smog that surrounds many ancient cities today, almost the first thing to erode away are the noses on the old statues. A blessing to the ancients, that at least the statues don't have to breath and smell the acid smog.

With any luck, perhaps our aid to Iraq can soon tackle the shit-smell problem there as well. Let's begin by"winning the noses of the students!"

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More Comments:

William Marina - 6/29/2004

Dear Mr. Hughes,
I would welcome any good news from Iraq since my grandson, USMC, is being sent back for a second tour there instead of being mustered out of the Corps. as was the original agreement with Uncle Sam. I would call that conscription!
If you want to call a secret ceremony giving a cosmetic extremely limited authority to "our" Iraqis "good news," that's fine with me, but Vichy France probably had more real sovereignty than we are offering.
Our 140,000 troops still remain for an ongoing protracted conflict.
W. Marina

Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 6/28/2004

You seem to be talking about overflowing toilets, not the historic news from Baghdad today. Can't stand good news for Bush?