Close encounters with Salam Pax

Close encounters with Salam Pax
: I knew this was coming but couldn’t say anything about it….

Peter Maass, who has done some great reporting from Iraq, writes in Slate about his close encounters with Baghdad blogger Salam Pax.

I knew this was coming because, I’m told, Maass read my translation of Pax’ Austrian interview and through various clues realized that his translator for a few weeks in Baghdad was none other than the famous/infamous Salam. While in Baghdad, Maass didn’t know who Salam was or that his translator was the Salam.

Maass’ story doesn’t reveal anything earth-shattering: no Ba’ath or CIA ID cards dangling, you conspiracy theorists. There’s a surprising (for me) physical description: “chubby and cherubic and hip and speaks beautiful English, and often says ‘thingy.'” I would have thought gaunt and “gaunt and snarky.” Wrong. But then, many presumptions about this guy are wrong.

My favorite tidbit is his reaction to The New Yorker:

He was amazed at the length of the stories. “They go on and on,” he remarked. “They start in one place, go somewhere else, then to another place. They are, like, endless.”

At least the cartoons break them up.

: Meanwhile, Pontifex, a military blogger in Iraq, responds to Salam Pax’ complaints about the American occupation:

Alright, buddy: until you can come up with a better alternative, I don’t want to hear it. Yes, life sucks. What’s your point? If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Your innaction was enabling to Saddam in some small part, just like everybody else. We came in and did what you and your countrymen were unwilling or unable to do. And then people like you come out and say, “Well, what about this?” Deal with it yourf+++ingself, you ungreatful prig.

  • Mike G

    To think it wasn’t that long ago that we were genuinely worried that our attention to him could have gotten him killed. And now he’s a Flavor of the Month. That’s a real happy ending, in a weird ironic 2003/Coen Bros. kind of way.

  • button

    I wouldn’t describe Salam the way Peter did. I saw a photo of him holding a tile on his blog. At least I presumed it was Salam. But I thought it was a cute story anyway.

  • I loved that article. I always thought Salam was real because of his quirks and his charming touch for the perfect description, a born writer (notwithstanding any architectural training). Maass has the same touch and the little tidbits about his reading and music preferences zap me electrically through the ethernet. What a character; nobody could have made him up.

  • cw sebring

    why even highlight nonsense in the Pontifex vein? i have no time for folks who chastise individuals for not standing up to a murderous, many-headed apparatus such as Saddam’s Ba`athist govt. um, when an army–no matter how well-intentioned–invades a country to liberate its people without any idea how they may respond, they better have a thick enough skin to tolerate criticism. and that goes double for citizens of the us: part of the package.

  • Dark Avenger

    If he saw the New Yorker 16 years ago, he’d have seen stories that go on and on and on and on……..