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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Don’t mess with Salam

Salam has got a great post defending himself and his family. A lot is happening around him, not least the news that Guardian just hired him to write a “Baghdad Blog” for them.

Salam’s passionate defence of his father was sparked off by comments from those who see conspiracy theories behind everything outside their everyday experience. Salam is real, alright, I have my reasons not to doubt him. Those who challenge his identity and connections are simply ignorant of the workings of a world profoundly different from theirs. It does not fit the same categories and does not conform to the same black&white distinctions.

The fact Salam is disillusioned with American ‘occupation’ of Iraq and that he falls into the same ‘liberal mindset’ traps as many intellectuals in the West is not a sign of Ba’atish mis-information machine at work, as some have suggested. Simply, Salam has seen enough of the West not to believe that it has a panacea for Iraq’s woes. Can you blame him for that? He may take a very different journey from that point to the one we take at Samizdata.net but so what? That can happen to anyone and it does not make them a KGB agent.

I do feel a bit of regret that Salam has been dragged to the media spotlights, not because I begrudge him the popularity but because his idiosyncratic style and personality will get edited and analysed ad nauseam. Until, of course, something else becomes the flavour of the day.

I hope Salam’s future is safe and wish him best of luck.

33 comments to Don’t mess with Salam

  • mad dog barker

    Yes, I too worry that this “pale flower of free expression” may wither as it is bought into the full heat of the media spotlight.

    Salams writing’s are a description of his personal journay from Sadams archaic world into an uncertain future. I doubt if we can meaningfully judge his opinions right or wrong from a “Anglosphere” context. Hind sight will provide the best analysis of events he describes as the fact become known.

    Personally, I think his comments are akin to listening to the hubbub of the local souk. There are a thousand such stories and such is life. The difference for Salam is that he publishes his. Rather than intimately analyse what life is like now I am more intersted in where it is heading for the Iraqis.

    Salam is entitled to his opinion and we “liberators” and libertarians should encourage him to express that view, if only as some sort of cathartic exercise to help rid him of his past.

    What is quite interesting though is the reaction of some to this type of opinion. When a placard proclaiming support for the liberation was seen on television many were quick to say how this indecated widespread joy at the arrival of our forces. But when reading a reasonably stated contrary opinion, rather than accepting this as another valid view, it is dismissed as the ranting of a deposed Ba’athist.

    And even if he was a deposed Ba’athist does that qualify him for second class citizenship in the new Iraq? A dangerous precedent to set for our brave new world. Perhaps the Samizdata Inquistion could make a small detour to Baghdad too. They could probably use some cumfy chairs there.

  • Might I just second Gabriel’s suggestion that everyone go and read Salam’s defence of himself and his family. He puts it very forcefully. (There is an alternative URL here if you cannot get through to the first one).

  • Harry

    I just wish the Grauniad hadn’t deliberately stripped the context from the very first Salam quote it published, as Jeff Jarvis pointed out. Somehow I doubt the upcoming washed and tinted Grauniad version will replace Salam’s weblog.

  • Whilst I agree with the gist of your post, I think that

    Those who challenge his identity and connections are simply ignorant of the workings of a world profoundly different from theirs.

    is a little patronising. I will not take who he says he is as the gospel truth because I simply do not know – there is no way of knowing for sure. That said, I am not suggesting that he is a KGB agent either. But you are suggesting that anyone who does not believe wholeheartedly that he is who he says he is must be ignorant of the non-western world. That, IMO, is a rather sweeping and unnecessary generalisation.

  • T. Hartin

    As someone who was (and still is) suspicious of Salam Pax, I find the Guardian article next to useless for figuring out who he really is, and his most recent post similarly devoid of verifiable content.

    Frankly, until he really comes out into the light of day, as he has not yet done, we won’t know who he is, what his family connections are, how he came to have apparently unsupervised access to the internet in a total police state, etc.

    It may all be as he claims, but I find his assertion that both his parents quit their jobs to avoid joining the Baath party self-serving and dubious without knowing who they are and who he is. I also find the notion that his father is a farmer and his mother unemployed at odds with what he led us to believe in his earlier posts about where he lived (Baghdad; lots of farming in Baghdad, is there?) and what his lifestyle was (pretty nice, apparently, in a country where pretty nice lifestyles usually come at some political price).

    As a Salam skeptic, I am encouraged that he is inching toward the light, but his continued insistence on anonymity, after having courted international attention with his blog, is very odd. Remember, he has sought out international attention from what must be a position of some privilege in a totalist police state; this makes his current coyness about his identity somewhat suspicious, to my mind.

  • T. Hartin

    mad dog –

    “And even if he was a deposed Ba’athist does that qualify him for second class citizenship in the new Iraq?”

    Yes. See Germany, Postwar, Denazification of.

  • Tim Newman: But you are suggesting that anyone who does not believe wholeheartedly that he is who he says he is must be ignorant of the non-western world. That, IMO, is a rather sweeping and unnecessary generalisation.

    I never said that everybody who does not believe in him wholeheartedly is automatically ignorant. That said, most critics/doubters of Salam that I have come across are of that sort.

    I grew up in a totalitarian, non-Western regime and it still amazes me how ignorant (and unable to conceive of axioms different to theirs) many Westerns are. Not all, I hasten to add, see the sinister Samizdata bunch and many others who can imagine the horrors of tyranny.

    Therefore, if you feel that I am a little patronising, well, not more than you’d be if you though you know something than others don’t…

  • mad dog barker

    To suggest that we should hold it valid that there be two classes of citizen is a step back from universal democracy and is certainly at odds with most interpretations of being a “libertarian”.

    If this is a real proposal then one can see why the future of Iraqi democracy is uncertain, particularly in the minds of the Iraqis. More to the point, who will decide on the class of citizens in the new Iraq? Will we use our Western laws and values to decide or will we allow the local population to operate under its chosen set of rules. Which may well turn out to be Isalmic.

    As for the success of the “de-nazification” of Germany. Some my say that the medicine isn’t working as well as it once did.

    So I still contend that it is bad to be divisive at the start of this introduction to democracy. It leads to more serious fracture later. Aparently even Ba’ath party members have found salvation as police in the new regime. So in the local military commanders view, they can’t all be bad.

    Saddams favourite tactic was to foster suspicion and set neighbor against neighbor. I would prefer using a more enlightened approach before reverting to the “tried and tested methods”.

  • Neil Eden

    “Salam has seen enough of the West not to believe that it has a panacea for Iraq’s woes.”

    If you’re using the term “West” as a euphonism for “Military Occupation Forces from a few Western Governments”, isn’t Salaam more qualified to judge it’s effectiveness than you are. He is actually THERE, while most of the arm-chair liberventionist generals only have the view from their armchairs.

    Of course if these rag-headed Iraqi wogs were actually capable of choosing their own destiny, we wouldn’t need “libertarian” social engineers like yourself, would we?

  • mad dog barker

    Yes, Isalmic.

    It is practiced by a small group of dyslexic moslems. They don’t blog much due to people laughing at them….


  • Kevin

    Salam is entitled to blog anonymously if chooses. A consequence of that is people speculate who he really is, and how he manages to get the priviliges he obviously has. Anyone who draws attention and expresses strong opinions will get challenging e-mails. He’ll have to live with it if he wants to blog. Especially if he publicly sympathizes with the Communist party and whines about having his indoor pool taken over by the INC.

  • Neil Eden: I have certainly seen war up close and not just from an armchair… and as a result I think you have got it 180 degrees wrong. You are the one whose views are a product of an arse parked on a comfy cushion.

    It seem you had no problem letting Saddam Hussain continue to ‘socially engineer’ Iraqi society, but like so many Westerners I would guess that if some horror going on in one of the world’s various hellholes does not involve the USA or UK doing something, it does not really percolate into the emotional activators of the western mind. I note the lack of ‘million man marches’ through London calling for an end to the machete wielding madness in the Congo which is going on right now as I write this.

    It is very easy to pontificate about non-intervention when you have never experienced the smell of burnt hair and rotting flesh from a rubble filled ‘ethnically cleansed’ house, or seen the seething refugee camps that came about because of the sanctimonious moral equivalence that underpins non-intervention against tyranny (may Douglas Hurd burn in hell for all eternity).

    Of course I am not arguing that you have to experience something directly to have a valid view of it… that would just be using a version of the idiotic ‘chickenhawk’ argument against the very people who use it against others. Likewise even people with direct experience of certain world events may have a very poor understanding of the ‘why and how’ of what they are living through. Nevertheless, it does show that most of the tactics (for they are just tactics rather than reasoned arguments) being used by the people who supported the continuation of Ba’athist Socialism in Iraq can just as easily be turned against them… to horribly mangle an old saying: “People sitting in armchairs shouldn’t throw cushions”.

  • Scott Cattanach

    I’m still waiting for Perry’s “I feel so strongly about ending tyranny that I’m reenlisting” post. After all, Perry sounds like he’d be much more useful in combat than the editors of National Review.

  • I, too, am a Salaam-sceptic. Nothing I have seen recently convinces me otherwise. The fact that Guardian has given him a place for his writing makes him even more suspect. Do we honestly trust the Groniad to be able to judge whether he is koser? Course he fits right in with their line on the war and post-war Iraq.

  • mad dog barker

    To be fair to those acused of not re-enlisting to fight tyranny, I suspect that re-enlisting would not help as much as striving to promote wider discussion in an attempt achieve a common understanding of a difficult situation.

    And even if he likes interspecies communication technology it’s not a crime. Well not in 95% of the known universe….unless of course you’re the other species (in which case; sorry, but you’re not covered by the constitution anyway).

    So don’t re-enlist Perry, keep doing your blog thing. Eventually you may show, in that strange Samizdat way, that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword.

    Especially if you consider my high velocity semi-automatic model….

  • MLD

    Rag-headed Iraqi wog? Very nice, Neil.

    Why should American ‘occupation’ or anything else the West has to offer be any kind of panacea for Iraqi woes? Getting rid of Saddam is a start, and a damn good one at that. Now it’s up to the Iraqis. If they have the capability to develop a better system of government than those of the liberal democracies in the West, now would be the time to prove it. I’d be delighted to see them do it. Wouldn’t that be wonderful.

    I hate to say this in a ‘room’ full of bloggers, but sometimes talk is cheap.

  • Dodge: Guardian’s ‘scooping’ Salam has absolutely nothing to do with my conviction that Salam is genuine. I linked to him well before all this media exposure back in October, if I remember correctly, based on my own conclusions regarding his veracity.

  • Scott Cattanach

    If this war spreads like some want it to (and nobody here seems to strongly oppose it spreading to Syria, Iran, etc, even if they don’t actually demand it), that could very well lead to a draft – large wars breed conscription.

    People have been enticed into the military w/ promises of college money and training. You can call them idiots for not realizing that spending a couple years backing up Saddam’s cops as they go door to door could be involved, but getting people to fight via fraud isn’t that much better than the use of brute force.

    Giving money to help the less fortunate is charity, and good. Forcing others to give is socialism, and bad. Using the govt to ‘liberate’ Iraq is more socialism than charity.

    I put ‘liberate’ in quotes because we don’t know how this will ultimately work out. It could be that whoever we install kills more people than Saddam to put down Kurd and Shiite unrest, but that will be considered unfortunate circumstance instead of democide (which is why Saddam killed his own people, while Lincoln “saved the Union” despite killing 600,000 fellow Americans).

  • Scott Cattanach

    Sorry, my response to Perry’s comment is getting this thread off track. I’ll drop it.

  • arclight

    scott just keeps on plugging away long after his views have reduced him to absurdity. he would rather risk nothing and just leave the murderers of the world in charge of far off places killing folks he regards as ignorant savages anyway. does that make him is a chickendove?

  • I have already answered you, Scott.

  • T. Hartin

    I suppose that, to be consistent with his chickenhawk baiting of Perry, Scott should be denied any credibility until he goes to Syria or Iran and begins to actively oppose the governments there to bring about peacefully whatever changes he wants to see in those countires.

    Do keep us posted on that, would you, Scott?

  • snide

    And what are you useful for, Scott? Probably not combat I would guess. Your views are tantamount to arguing that (interspersed with cheap insults) if you are not prepared to go to medical school, you have no business voicing your views on healthcare.

    As pointed out before, you are just another useful idiot to the depot-de-jour looking to hang on to his sovereign domestic murder rights.

  • Scott: People enter the armed forces because there are promises of college money and training. This is an incentive, sure. But they also know that if a war comes they may have to fight. Nobody hides this, and that is the bargain you make if you enter the armed forces. Most servicemen would probably prefer a quiet life and peace, but now that it hasn’t ended up that way, they are doing what they knew was a possibility when they signed up, and are mostly doing this without complaint. For this they have my admiration. Suggesting that this is “fraud” is ridiculous. Suggesting that it is the same thing as involuntary service is also ridiculous. That would be a very fundamental encroachment on my liberty, and I am opposed to it in all circumstances.

  • Scott Cattanach

    I suppose that, to be consistent with his chickenhawk baiting of Perry, Scott should be denied any credibility until he goes to Syria or Iran and begins to actively oppose the governments there to bring about peacefully whatever changes he wants to see in those countires.

    Do keep us posted on that, would you, Scott?

    To be consistent, I’d have to go to Iran to Syria myself if I was demanding that others go (or forcing them to go). I’m not asking why Perry isn’t going to the Congo, because he’s not demanding a war there (I assume).

  • Scott Cattanach

    By “demanding that others go” I don’t mean my “put up or shut up” to the chickenhawks. I mean the demand for the war in the first place.

  • Scott Cattanach

    Y’all have a good weekend.

  • The road to war was led by the American Right-Wing who are traditionally isolationist. We don’t want to be there… we will get out as promptly as possible… eg. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia… we can be there unobtrusively… eg. Turkey, Egypt…

    But make no mistake… we didn’t want to go there… we don’t want to be there… and we’ll leave ASAP.

    And by ASAP I mean like Bosnia, Kosovo… ( yes we’re still there ) not Somalia… cause sometimes ASAP ain’t pretty.

  • Jeremy

    I believe after Nazi germany fell, some Nazis went as far as getting numbers tatooed on them, to try to convince people they were Jewish, and so had nothing to do with the Nazi party.

    Most Nazis didn’t go that far, but they came up with stories rather like Mr. Paxs.

    It’s also funny that he’s fond of the one type of government (communism) that has killed more people than his previous one (socialism). Again, a lot of ex-Nazis were like that, too.

  • Dishman

    I think it’s safe to say that Salam Pax really is blogging from Baghdad.
    He’s got a spin of some kind. Big shock there, every body does. Get over it. His spin seems fairly simple and straightforward. Filter it out. A lot of what he says is pretty good meat for the mind.

  • T. Hartin

    It just astonishes me the ease with which people are willing to give Salam Pax a pass on just how it is that he enjoyed the privileges that he did under Saddam. Those privileges didn’t come free; they were purchased with the blood of a million innocents. It seems to me that the question of whether any of that blood sticks to Salam’s hands is not insignificant in determining how to evaluate his blogging.

  • That was really interesting.