Salam Pax, analyzed again

Salam Pax, analyzed again
: Bryan Preston of Junkyard Blog dissects Baghdad blogger Salam Pax for the National Review Online. He covers pretty much the same turf David Warren did a week ago. They both conclude that Salam Pax is a privileged son of Ba’athist power in Iraq. But then they both go one step too far judging the man and his motives before knowing fully his stance and his role. Not saying that’s right, not saying that’s wrong, only saying that’s premature. Preston concludes:

As a supposed insider, his opinions carry weight with his numerous readers in a way that official Pentagon briefings or U.S. press reports do not. They shouldn’t, because those opinions still flow from his old elite ways, and from a lifetime of steep indoctrination in party thinking. He is interested in reworking the truth about the Baath party both to assuage his own guilt and to get himself a leg up in the chaotic new Iraq. But that doesn’t make him an official agent of influence. It just makes him a quirky, iconoclastic Iraqi whose life of irresponsible leisure has come to an abrupt end. His anti-American spin reflects an unconscionable irresponsibility and an effort to save himself, and truth just gets in the way of that. Thus, he is an untrustworthy witness to history.

: Update: Bryan Preston has more to say in my comments.

  • Salam will always be that way…no political sense of direction, very centered on how he will be going as a privileged person, and easily led [and misled]. Too many have tried too hard to make him out to be much more than he is.
    …a quirky, iconoclastic Iraqi… is the perfect description.

  • Scott Harris

    “Not saying that’s right, not saying that’s wrong, …”

  • SayWhat?

    Everybody from every point on the political spectrum has tried to take a bite out of Salam’s hide, it seems, to suit their own political agendas. He is just what he appears to be– a very smart, very brave, very candid observer of events that have and are running out of control. He has travelled, has clearly enjoyed the privileges of rank. But this is loose change compared to his perspicacity and humanity. I think it is really specious to project hidden devious political motives on someone whose great value is his frankness. If the American right wing insists on seeing that kind of thing everywhere, it is only because these are the very tactics that they always have and always will employ to sway public opinion. They can’t be believed– so they are sure Salam Pax can’t be believed.
    I for one can tell the difference between honesty and manipulation– and so can a lot of other people.

  • Are there any trustworthy witnesses to history? We take what we can get.
    (See )

  • button

    It’s sad that this guy can’t find anything more important to do with his time than to hector salam and his blog. And what the hell is he so angry about?! I haven’t noticed anyone forcing him to read it.

  • You folks are reading more ill will and intent into my article than is warranted. There is no anger or malice behind its writing, and I know because I wrote it.
    Salam is what he is, and I’m not taking a bite out of his hide–just laying out the case, both for his Baathist connection and against his being any kind of sinister agent of influence. Warren and I cover much of the same ground because the facts cover much of the same ground. Warren and I differ as to Salam’s involvement in Saddam’s government. Warren thinks Salam is an agent, while I think he’s just a misguided son of a Baathist.
    Is Salam above reproach, simply because he’s brave? I agree that he’s brave, but there’s much more to his story than simple bravery. One of the commentors above cites Salam’s “frankness”–but what if that so-called frankness is really nothing more than his own spin based on a Baathist’s take on events? Is that not relevant, given the nature of that regime and its ideology? He’s no angel–he’s just a man, and carries the baggage of his history like the rest of us. Unfortunately, his history is tangled up in a very dark force, the Baath Party, which is a descendant of the Nazis in Germnany and the Vichy government in wartime France. That is worth examining. To pretend otherwise is to turn a blind eye to reality. His connections speak to who he is, what he believes and what he may intend. I have laid out the facts as I know them–you may do with them what you wish. Ignore them if you want. But don’t attack me personally, insinuate that I have nothing better to do than beat up on poor little Salam, or otherwise impugn my motives. That is ignorance–willfull ignorance–in action.
    Besides, if you want to take shots at me, at least do it on my own blog. Don’t pollute Jeff’s blog with your nonsense.

  • Bryan,
    As the person who demonstrated Warren’s flagrant dishonesty, I suppose you all can come pollute my blog. I’ll try to put up a post later tonight debunking some of the insinuations in your article.

  • Interesting comments! I started following Salam Pax before the war started and was worried when he went silent. What I see in his current blogging is the perception of another side of the war: a side which has been hidden from us. Has anyone read the interview with him? I should have bookmarked it, but I didn’t and I don’t remember where I found it. Googling should take care of that though.
    Why should we care what his affiliation was before the war? The entire episode was about change and escoriation of the past lends nothing to the future! I look forward to continuing to read his, and Raeds’, adventures!
    {Damn, after having been out of school for 35 years I have no idea where these apostrophes really go, but I will continue to wing it}.
    Everyone have a wonderful Memorial Day holiday!

  • button

    I do not consider my thoughts and opinions to be “nonsense.”

  • Bryan Preston writes, “Warren thinks Salam is an agent, while I think he’s just a misguided son of a Baathist.”
    Warren does not think “Salam Pax” is or was an agent; Warren instead thinks he MIGHT have been. On balance, it does not seem likely, however.
    On the other hand, Warren does not think Salam is the son of a prominent Ba’ath Party functionary; Warren knows this.
    Salam’s present association with Marla Ruzicka, “CIVIC”, & Electronic Iraq, in association with Electronic Intifada, reveal a great deal about his political commitments. Go to:
    … & look around.

  • button

    Warren– so what?! He is entitled to express his point of view just like everyone else.
    I have published my reaction to Preston on my little spot in cyberspace.
    Notice how these guys who can command space on mainstream publications can’t tolerate some obscure guy expressing himself on an obscure spot in cyberspace. Nor can they acknowledge my existence either. They want people to be required to get licensed in order to express themselves. They just can’t stand this blogging free-for-all because it’s too OUT-OF-CONTROL… that means THEIR control!

  • stefan k

    wow wow wow, another round in salam pax bashing – it seems to be pretty cool at the moment – turning a web superstar, who made history during this war – into a baathist evil .
    thats a kind of ethic journalism which I like to read – objectively with a lot of background facts – and no speculations at all, congratulation !
    but there are a few questions I want to ask bryan and david: did you ever asked salam all these things? did you ever tried to talk with him?
    So I cant find any statements from salam pax in your articles. thats why I am wondering how you know all these things?
    Question: Isn’t it a obligation for every journalist giving people, over whom one writes, the chance to give there statements?
    Or is it normal to write a lot of stuff about a person who has no chance at all to react.
    Welcome American boulevard.
    Let me tell you one thing: What you did in your articles is a kind of horrible Menschenhatz (dont know the word in english, its like hunting people).
    The truth is, you know nothing about the real Salam Pax, all you did is to read the blog like you like to read it. Sorry to tell: you are killing the credibility of a young man which you never met before in you life.
    Thats your journalistic achievement. Well done boys.
    That makes me very thoughtfully over your motivation these articles to write.
    stefan k
    PS 1: sorry jeff using your blog for my little statement, and sorry about my terribel english

  • From her Den, MB has observed some bloggers using Salam Pax as a weapon against each other…not very illuminating and most unkind to Salam. MB has read almost all of Salam’s 2 blogs, missing very little of his output over quite a period of time. Little samples of those blogs do NOT give a clear picture of him.
    He never set out to be a reporter; he never set out to influence the world in any sense; he just started his first blog as a way to communicate with Raed, who was moving around the Middle East, hence the title. Little by little his readership developed and grew a life of its own, beyond his control. As with many bloggers, he tended to be quite open about himself, his little environs as he saw them, and the circumstances within which he found himself, only realizing from time to time that there might be some serious problems for himself if he said too much.
    If people would just relax, appreciate some of the glimpses he gives us, and go about our business as usual, we’d all be better off!

  • Mike G

    I agree with Jeff, this article clearly crosses the line between calling him “a kid of privilege” (which I think is self-evidently true) and “a running dog traitor to the people from the upper classes,” which is a pretty funny thing for National Review to be calling people. If there’s anything that’s unearned it’s for safe comfy Americans to be denouncing average Iraqis for the non-criminal ways in which they’ve adjusted to life under a regime like that. It doesn’t make you a torturer to have benefited a little in some way from things– and it doesn’t make you a hero to have never had to make such choices.
    I actually find that one of the more fascinating things about his writing, that level of conflictedness about what’s happening. If he were simply chanting “Down with America” or “Save us America” he wouldn’t be half as interesting, would he?

  • David Warren, how nice to see you here! Would you care to explain what I describe above as the flagrant dishonesty of your column about Salam Pax (click link for details)?
    Given the inaccuracies that you treat as fact in that column, it strikes me that “Warren knows this” may be one of the least meaningful phrases in the English language.

  • Katharine

    Question: Isn’t it a obligation for every journalist giving people, over whom one writes, the chance to give there statements?
    Or is it normal to write a lot of stuff about a person who has no chance at all to react.

    Can’t he respond on his blog?

  • Katharine

    There was something wrong with the itals in the comment above–I meant it to stop after the word “react.”

  • I have responded here. Whack away at me.

  • Kathy

    I think everyone ought to go scout out ElecronicIraq and it’s various other links. Quite an eye opener. I would be quite curious to hear Salam’s take on the “Sanctions did not cause the deaths of innocents.”
    I would like to say that everything anyone writes should be taken with a grain of salt, including all of us who comment. Everyone has an agenda, whether they admit to one or not.
    I am not quite sure why Salam is being defended as if everything he writes is true. No one knows him and he wants it that way. I, for one, could care less. It’s a story, folks, just a story. Not even particularly well-crafted. Thank God, we have Freedom of the Press – something Salam knows little about for his country.

  • Salam was very much opposed to the sanctions, saying they hurt the people without affecting Saddam Hussein at all.
    But then, it’s not like he’s required to agree with every statement on the website just because his recent posts are hosted there, is it?

  • button

    Every time I read this, it just rankles me more and more.

  • For anyone checking this thread rather than the one above, I’ve posted the response to Bryan’s article that I promised.

  • Oops, botched the link above. Here’s the reply to Bryan’s article.