Here's a section the truncated version left out:
Remarkably, none of the designs appear to have suffered any significant vandalism or the type of graffiti on the naked blast walls, such as the scrawled slogans and advertisements for businesses hidden behind the concrete.
One barber tried to lure customers with a ditty that rhymes in Arabic: "Jump and you will find me."
The hands-off aura around the murals could be fear of the Iraqi security patrols or America's aerial surveillance. Badran likes to think it's respect.
"People know these murals represent a kind of hope," he said. "So why would they ruin them? That's like saying they don't want things to improve."
Yes, art provides a hopeful counter statement to the walls' concrete expressions of occupation, uncertainty and cultural erasure. Murals have been shown to work this way across the world, whether the gangs are Sunni or Crips.
But paint is still only paint.
Bryan Finoki at Subtopia has a long post about the business of blast walls, their effect on the city's identity and the political and economic chaos temporarily papered over with American dollars — the part of the surge that's really bought the Bush Administration some time.
I couldn't imagine living in the chaos of a city whose identity was a neverending shift and tilt of formal and informal detours, alternative routes, dangerous short cuts, and de facto mergers of hectic traffic, parallel systems of transit mobility; life inside a city of roving walls; a forced kind of experimental city; a captive city; spontaneous reconfigurations; a transmorphing urbanism hostage to the context of war.
He quotes Naomi Klein on how the actual manufacture of the walls does little to benefit the economy of the occupied country:
The ten-foot-high slabs of reinforced concrete are everywhere in Iraq, separating the protected—the people in upscale hotels, luxury homes, military bases, and, of course, the Green Zone—from the unprotected and exposed. If that wasn't injury enough, all the blast walls are imported, from Kurdistan, Turkey, or even farther afield, this despite the fact that Iraq was once a major manufacturer of cement, and could easily be again. There are seventeen state-owned cement factories across the country, but most are idle or working at only half capacity. According to the Ministry of Industry, not one of these factories has received a single contract to help with the reconstruction, even though they could produce the walls and meet other needs for cement at a greatly reduced cost. The CPA pays up to $1,000 per imported blast wall; local manufacturers say they could make them for $100. Minister Tofiq says there is a simple reason why the Americans refuse to help get Iraq's cement factories running again: among those making the decisions, “no one believes in the public sector.”