Play About Donkeys
How to convince the Iraqis to abandon several thousand years of ethnic and religious sectarian hatred? One Baghdad PRT's solution was to pay the local Iraqi artists' syndicate to produce a play, Under the Donkey's Shade. "The play focuses on an uproariously funny legal dispute that splits the people of a town into two groups," the description in the funding report boasts. "The matter in dispute is the value of shade cast by a donkey. The message is clear: Don't quarrel over minor differences. Those who see the play will get the message that political reconciliation is critical as we head into national election season." The production was staged at least once to my knowledge, with some coerced locals in reluctant attendance; political reconciliation did not spontaneously flower.
Road to Nowhere
In 2009, the U.S. Army hired a contractor to pave a short stretch of dirt road near the city of Salman Pak, with the idea of increasing commerce between two nearby neighborhoods. The contractor, however, took the money and laid down only gravel -- which made the road just passable enough that insurgents started to use it as a transit route. The local residents appealed to the police, who set up barricades, ending what little commerce the original dirt road had sustained.
One PRT hired a local artist to paint a mural on the side of a gym near Sadr City. The purpose was to "provide an aesthetically pleasing sight upon entry, helping to bring a sense of normalcy for the citizens in the area and for those passing through." What we ended up with instead was a group of oiled, homoerotic Steve Reeves musclemen.